Deadly Force Decisions: The First Step

Image of a man pointing a revolver close up

We live in a violent society.

When I first became a police officer, I carried a six-shot revolver. Portable radios were bigger and heavier than bricks. There were no cages in the patrol cars, and the patrol cars had a red light and a blue light on top. At least I had TWO lights on my car! The idea of in-car computers was science fiction.

After a little over a year on the street, I was in my first shooting with that six-shot revolver.

Technology has changed a lot of things related to police work and personal defense, but the primary weapon has never changed.

You are the weapon. The gun is a tool.

We live in a violent society. If you carry a gun for personal defense, you must be fully prepared for an armed confrontation. For most of us, that means we go out and buy a gun. We may buy some practice ammunition and go to the range. Some of us may even get good training on how to shoot the new gun. But we haven’t started our weapon training, because YOU ARE THE WEAPON. THE GUN IS A TOOL.

Like any good warrior, you need to prepare yourself mentally for battle. The first step is to ask yourself one simple question.

Am I prepared to kill another human in self-defense?

Image of woman digging in her purse with man following

This may not be an easy question to answer at first, and that is OK, as long as your indecision occurs in the safety of your own home or in a training environment before you carry the gun. Most of us have been hardwired to be kind and gentle. That is a healthy thing in day-to-day society. The problem is, not everybody plays by those rules.

We live in a violent society.

To prove this point, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that in 2009 there were 1,318,398 victims of violent crime in the United States. That same year 15,241 of our citizens were killed by violence.

As of this writing in the fall of 2010, the U.S. Government reports that 5,721 service personnel were killed in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001 after the September 11 attacks. We can all agree that the loss of 5,721 brave American service personnel is a terrible loss.

The shocking fact is that during that same time period from 2001 to 2009, we had 146,078 people killed within our own borders! Nearly 30 times more people were killed in the U.S. than were killed in two wars.

We live in a violent society.

Are you prepared to kill another human in self-defense? It can be a scary and difficult question.

In his book On Combat, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman cuts to the heart of this question:

  • If you have no capacity for violence, then you are a healthy, productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath: a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking in the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

Are you a sheepdog? Are you a warrior?

You may need to ask yourself some religious questions. Do your spiritual beliefs allow you to kill in self-defense? Some belief systems completely prohibit the taking of a human life. If you believe that, then follow through with your beliefs, but do not carry a gun unless you are willing to use it.

Image of a knife attack

You must understand that there is a difference between killing and murder. As a legally armed citizen, you have the right to protect yourself and others from serious physical harm or death. Having killed in the line of duty as a police officer, I am grateful to know that I am not a murderer. The laws of man and my spiritual beliefs allow me to use deadly force in defense of myself and others.

As a young police officer, I asked myself how I would feel if I had to kill someone. I thought about “Thou shalt not kill.” My personal research led me to understand that the Commandment actually means “Thou shalt not commit murder.” That was my personal conclusion. If that is an issue you need to address, seek guidance from spiritual leaders you trust. Research the texts of your beliefs. Be at peace with whatever conclusion you decide upon.

Your social beliefs may prohibit you from using deadly force. Many kind-hearted people try to change the world every day but could not shoot someone to defend themselves. Unfortunately, this occurred in the police department where I worked.

The following description of the event is from the FBI Uniform Crime Report on Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted in 2002:

A Dayton police officer with nearly two years of law enforcement experience was critically wounded after responding to a domestic disturbance call at 3:30 p.m. on May 15, 2000. The 40-year-old officer and her partner were in their patrol vehicle en route to the residence where a man was reported to have shot at his girlfriend and her four-year-old son. The suspect was leaving the residence as officers arrived, and a short car chase ensued. He stopped his vehicle, exited with a .30-caliber semiautomatic rifle and aimed it at the victim officer’s partner. Both officers exited the patrol vehicle and took cover, the partner behind the vehicle and the officer behind the vehicle’s right front fender as four other officers arrived at the scene.

The first officers at the scene ordered the man to put down his weapon, but he replied that if they didn’t drop their weapons, he would shoot them. A little more than a minute later, the suspect reportedly approached the officer, who had taken cover behind the right front fender of the police car and told her to drop her gun or he would “blow her head off.” The officer, who was wearing body armor, placed her gun on the ground and raised her hands. The suspect then shot the victim officer in the neck from less than five feet away. Her partner returned fire and shot the man six times.

The 21-year-old offender, who was on conditional release pending criminal prosecution, was known to law enforcement as a drug dealer. He was treated for his wounds, then charged with three counts of Felony Assault, two counts of Aggravated Robbery, one count each of Child Endangerment, Failure to Comply, Carrying Concealed Weapon, Having Weapons Under Disability, and Unlawful Possession of Dangerous Weapons. The victim officer was left quadriplegic as a result of the shooting and died of her injuries on August 25, 2002, at the age of 43.

 

I knew this officer and worked with her. I knew the other officers on the scene and worked with them. I was not on the scene of that incident. I do not know why the officers did not shoot the suspect before he fired. I do know that there were some people there who were not prepared to kill someone in the line of duty. As a result, Mary died.

Image of a knife attack where woman aims her gun

You must be prepared to use the gun if you carry the gun. I have heard people say that they will just “flash” the gun and that will scare the bad guys away. That is complete and utter foolishness.You have the gun to deliver deadly force under legal guidelines. Almost all states consider “flashing” the gun to be a crime. More importantly, you have just told the “wolf” that you have a gun. He may want to take it from you, and the “wolf” may just be crazy enough to try. You had better be ready to deliver accurate, lethal fire under appropriate conditions.

You must also consider how your use of deadly force will affect the people you love. They need to be a part of this discussion. You may carry the gun, but they will carry the burden with you if you ever have to kill in self-defense. Settle all the questions long before they can haunt you. Be settled in your mind that you are prepared to use deadly force as it is legally allowed where you live.

Consider these factors before you go forward with your self-defense plans. Make informed and intelligent decisions that you can live with, so if you do carry a gun, you will not hesitate. We all know that “He who hesitates is lost.” This is especially true in a gunfight.

Be mentally and spiritually prepared to protect yourself and the people you love. Then go get the gun, get good training, and always remember: You are the weapon. The gun is a tool.

Categories: All Articles and Defensive Training Concepts.

Tags: carrying concealed, ccw, conceal and carry, concealed carry, concealed weapons, deadly force decisions, pdn, personal defense, and personal defense network.

18 Responses to “Deadly Force Decisions: The First Step”

  1. Roy Edwards says:

    Great article. If you carry a weapon and don’t think you could shoot someone, you may as well leave it home. If you carry a gun, you have a great responsibility to control your feelings and actions, but you also have to be ready to protect yourself in a split second, if necessary.

  2. Cecilio says:

    Totally agree with the information. But we need to “spread” these thoughts to a wider audience. Every time I admit I am willing to take a life – in deserving and lawful manner – I am treated as a suspect rather than as a survivor. There are too many uninformed, biased and scared people who are unwilling to take any steps to change their positions. I am doing all I can, while staying away from scaring others. Tough job!

  3. Maj. Tom says:

    R U A Sheep, A Wolf Or A SHEEPDOG.

  4. DavidWilliams says:

    Thanks for the comments on the article. I always review these.

  5. gene s says:

    Good article, I think the pics are problematic. Can you describe a scenario where a knife assault is conducted at that range? The gun owners already have drawn their weapons, this takes some time. How far away are we to believe the knife attacker was when he raised his knife in a threatening manner and began his approach. I see this a lot, its a training scenario, its hard to imagine a real situation developing in this manner.

    1. Nichols says:

      See “21 Foot Rule,” By Dennis Tueller.

  6. smiley says:

    Excellent article and important message! Thanks for your candidness in explaining your experiences. It is part of my occupation to be mentally prepared in any situation. Having foresight and knowledge ahead of time only makes me more prepared to adjust to a changing cirumstance. Thanks again :)

  7. Bob says:

    Good article. Makes you have to think about the reasons to carry or not to carry a weapon, and if you would be willing to use it to defend yourself, your loved ones, and others who are not willing.

  8. BigMickey says:

    Excellent article that dovetails nicely with my experiences and observations of situations I see frequently.

    One observation (please don’t take this as a slam, but as a constructive criticism for future articles): the photographs depict people with sidearms pointed at other people. If they were “blue guns” I could understand. Otherwise, it is unwise to treat any weapon as unloaded at any time; it is even more unwise to depict others doing so when part of what we need to train ourselves and others to do is ” … never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.”

  9. Mike says:

    Great article, and an important message. Along those lines, however, the images of people pointing what appear to be real weapons at others are troubling. I was always taught never to point a weapon (loaded, unloaded, or even anything more realistic than a water gun) at someone or something I wasn’t willing to destroy.

  10. Derek says:

    Great Article. Very informative and needs to be shown to all people with their concealed carry. Also great actors in the pictures!!!

  11. DavidWilliams says:

    Hello all. Let me address several comments about using real guns in the pictures. Safety always comes first. We never compromise this. We did not compromise in these photos.

    I was responsible for photgraphy. We had an additional retired officer as a Safety Officer. The actors, with the exception of the female, are a certified instructor and a police officer. All weapons were triple checked. Even the head on shot with dummy ammo was done with a remote camera.

    The pictures augment the message of the article. Would the impact have been the same if we used blue guns?

    As far as scenarios go, I have seen all these in real life during my police career. Again, we used these to supplement the text.

  12. Pastor Willie says:

    Outstanding: Speaking from a pastor’s stand-point I completely understand the necessity should appropriate circumstances arises (justifiable homicide conditions) of being both mentally and spiritually prepared to stop the threat. Many Christians I have spoken to “slam on brakes” at the very thought of possibly having to defend ther lives with a firearm. They are sheep in the realm sense. Its the same old story; Exodus 20:13; Romans 13:9, their pastors are not teaching them the differences between murder and out right kiliing or the foolish act of taking innocent lives or shedding inncoent blood; Proverbs 6:16-17. God was the one who instituted war and revenge on His enemies through Israel. In war, the enemy must be killed or their propaganda and communism will infest other nations and destroy them. Romans 13 clearly explains the God given authority to those in governmental and other leadership position to execute due punishment on outlaws, rebels and those whom to choose to disobey the laws of the land. I am extremely thankful for those Christians as yourself who understand the Bible and the differences between mjurder and killing. If criminals come into our church with the intent to kill, steal or destroy innocent lives our well-trainned and armed security team will handle their business. Pastor Willie

  13. DavidWilliams says:

    Thank you Pastor. I train several church security teams and I have considered writing an article speciffically on the role of a Christian and the use of deadly force. I didn’t know if it would be appropriate for PDN. Any opinions?

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