Reinforcing the lesson of discretion

After the San Bernardino terrorist attack, I analyzed the lessons to be learned from it by armed citizens.  Among other things, I emphasized the value of discretion in our response.

One aspect that moves right to the top of our concerns must be the public response to any perceived attack.  I stress the word ‘perceived’.  There may or may not be an attack in progress;  but stimuli such as the sounds of what might be gunfire (but might also be a nail gun from a nearby building site, or a car backfiring, or the like) may cause some people to leap to the conclusion that an attack is in progress.  (In other words, they’ll panic.)  This holds great dangers for those of us who are lawfully armed.  If we reveal our weapons in any way – not necessarily drawing them or holding them in a ready position;  merely exposing them by careless movement, or someone detecting them by bumping into us – this might trigger an assumption that we are either terrorists, or their accomplices.

What if a bystander calls 911 and breathlessly informs the dispatcher, “Shots fired at my location!  There’s a man with a gun!  He looks like this!  He’s dressed like this!”  You may be sure that after San Bernardino and other such incidents, responding officers will be hyper-alert to possible danger.  They may not be willing to proceed slowly and calmly to verify our bona fides.  Instead, they may cover us with their own weapons, and open fire at even the slightest hint of non-compliance or any delay in our unquestioning obedience to their orders.

There’s also the risk that other legally armed citizens may react too strongly to a perceived threat, whether or not that threat is real … If we prepare for trouble, including drawing our weapon, will others around us recognize what we’re doing . . . or will they perceive us as part of the problem, and their own legally-carried weapons as a potential solution to the ‘threat’ we appear to offer?

I think it’s more important than ever to re-emphasize the need for discretion in our response … if we’re not in the immediate vicinity of an attack or criminal incident, it may be the soundest response to simply evacuate the area as quickly as possible, taking our loved ones with us.  There will doubtless be those who regard that advice as cowardly, and who want to intervene to save innocent lives.  To them I can only say, read my comments above.  Any outsider trying to intervene runs the very considerable risk – if not the near-certainty – of being mistaken for one of the ‘bad guys’, and treated accordingly.

There’s more at the link.

The truth of that was borne out by an incident at Disney World this Christmas.

Crowds spending Christmas night at Downtown Disney stampeded to safety after false reports of a shooting.

A reported altercation at a restaurant led some to believe that shots had been fired — a rumor quickly dispelled by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Nevertheless, in the moment, crowds panicked and ran for their lives.

Again, more at the link, including many tweets from those caught up in the panic, spreading the false rumor that shots had been fired.

Think how much worse that situation might have become if individuals had drawn their (legally owned and carried) concealed weapons, or even displayed them at their waists in their holsters.  When a mob panics, common sense vanishes.  It’s certainly worthwhile to get oneself and one’s loved ones out of the line of fire, and as far away from the scene of the problem as possible;  but it’s not at all worthwhile to add to the panic unless it’s absolutely necessary and unavoidable to do so.  What if fleeing people suddenly see you produce your firearm and they start screaming, “There’s another man with a gun!”  Can you imagine how security personnel would respond to that outcry under the circumstances?  Yeah.  Me too.

Food for thought . . .



  1. Very good points, Peter. We should all work out personal rules of engagement well ahead of time. I can't imagine drawing without the threat in sight and within effective range of my weapon. I can, however see moving to the sound of gunfire or screams out of my unhealthy sense of curiosity.

  2. Saturday there was an incident at a local mall. A friend was concerned because her son was working there. Posts on social media said shots were fired, the mall was on lockdown, and the police were being assaulted. Turns out it was a fight that grew to a tussle that involved over a hundred kids. The police kicked out everybody under 18 who wasn't there with an adult. That was it, no shots, no lockdown, no arrests, only one injury and that didn't require treatment. So if someone had even thought of drawing a gun it would have done nothing but escalate things and get them in trouble.

    Me? I have no plans to save the world, I just want to save me and mine. If I can leave I will.

  3. This is one of the reasons why I would have liked the Republican governors who made the completely useless and unconstitutional statements about not allowing immigrants into their state to do something that they can do constitutionally. They can train and arm enough people, not to mention nullify stupid gun free zones for those people, so that we actually have a civil defense against this stuff. The people (and the police) would become accustomed to having a larger armed population- not only by right, but by duty.

    I believe this would have interesting downstream political effects if it ever happened. When I conceived of this I was thinking about the problems these governors have with gaining traction versus someone like Trump. It is because they keep saying stuff, but not doing anything- not risking any political capital or actually solving a problem. They prefer to maintain the problems so that they can continue to campaign about them next time. But that makes them all weak to a perceived outsider like Trump.
    Anyway, after I thought of what would sound like a governor actually doing something, I thought of the after effects of a larger group of people engaged in a civic duty of being armed and keeping their training up over time. It would certainly be a source of strength for local communities and lessen disaffection.

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