As we Americans prepare to ride out whatever coronavirus is bringing our way, we’re seeing some banks closing their lobbies in response to the pandemic. This can leave you with little choice but to use drive-up banking and automated teller machines, which can present unique safety challenges. If you’re withdrawing cash away from the security of a bank’s interior, keep the following in mind:
All of the Basics Still Apply
Ninety percent of what you will need to remember are the skills that you — as a disciplined, trained concealed carrier — already have. Be it a vehicle or a residence, lock the doors as soon as you close them behind you. When driving, keep your doors locked and your windows up. Open neither for anyone but uniformed law enforcement officers. If something feels “off” or you otherwise get a gut feeling that you might be in danger, get out of there.
Never go anywhere with your gun that you wouldn’t go without your gun. Never engage in anything that could be mistaken for “road rage” or any other kind of rudeness. Never draw your gun unless a reasonable person would agree that you are facing an imminent, unavoidable threat of death or great bodily harm. And never, ever forget that when it comes to strangers, you have no idea with whom you might be dealing.
Don’t Start Out Behind the 8-Ball
Never carry a child or anything else in your gun hand that you can’t instantly drop. If someone initiates an assault, you will need to respond quickly. And if your draw-hand is occupied, that’s a big problem. If you get attacked, your goal is to stop whatever imminent, unavoidable threat of death or great bodily harm you’re facing and escape to safety. Don’t make doing so any more difficult than it will already be.
Run a ‘Squad Check’ … Today
Law enforcement officers check the condition of their patrol vehicles before each shift, and you should do the same as soon as possible. You won’t be running function checks on lights and siren and radio or searching the backseat for contraband left over from the last shift though. You will be confirming that ALL the doors lock when you hit that “LOCK” button. If your vehicle has a hatchback, like on a minivan or SUV, confirm that it locks along with the rest of the hatches when you hit that switch. Mid-attack at the drive-up cash machine is a terrible time to learn that your auto-locking system got recalled last summer.
Danger prefers darkness, so if you can, only withdraw money during daylight. If possible, use a machine that is well-lit and ideally in an area or business frequented by law enforcement. The cash machine behind the overgrown vape shop that closed last year is a bad bet in GOOD times, let alone when the local hotheads might be running a little hotter than usual.
Do what you can to avoid withdrawing money alone. The individual you bring along doesn’t have to be a veteran streetfighter. He or she just has to be another set of trusted eyes to watch your back while you concentrate on securing funds. The kinds of predators who stake out cash machines watch for the most vulnerable targets. If they see one individual watching out for another, that’s a red flag in the stick-up game. They’ll think twice.
Get In, Then Get Out
Take a quick glance at your money to ensure you got what you requested, but once you’ve confirmed the transaction was successful, it’s time to move. You can properly and neatly arrange it all in your wallet or pocketbook when you are safely elsewhere.
Guns Remain a Last Resort
If you draw a gun anywhere — let alone near a bank or a cash machine — you are going to get a whole lot of the wrong kind of attention. As usual, stay ready, but do NOT draw that firearm unless you have no other choice. If you end up with no other choice, be ready to explain to law enforcement officers exactly what led up to that happening and then get your attorney on the horn (or, if you are a USCCA Member, call the Critical Response Team and let them handle it). Which reminds me…
If Something Happens, Call the Cops ASAP
Any time you have to display or employ any kind of force in self-defense, call 911 as soon as it is safe to do so and report what happened. The individual who is first to contact law enforcement is usually considered the “victim” of an incident. If the would-be carjacker you just thwarted gets to a phone before you do and starts telling ghost stories about a “crazy man with a gun,” your day could get even worse very quickly.
Get Your ‘Lines’ Down
“Lines” are all the options available to you when addressing a specific obstacle in a vehicle. Though it’s a term usually heard in the context of off-road driving, armed professionals are trained to constantly assess any and all “lines” available to them whenever they’re behind the wheel. This becomes increasingly difficult when you bring drive-up banking into the mix, as banks have no interest in anyone driving anywhere but forward between the concrete curbs and barriers. If you can, visit your preferred bank branch or ATM and take in just exactly what the arrangements are — i.e., get your “lines” down. This will be very important if you ever get assaulted in the drive-thru since, as usual, you will need to…
Be Ready to Move
Keep your vehicle in gear and do not lower the window any more than necessary. Know your vehicle’s blind spots and continue to monitor them when you’re not in motion. Have a decent handle on your available “lines” before you get to the machine or window. When possible, keep enough space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you in case you must break out. Internalize right now that whatever damage your vehicle might suffer if you have to hop a curb and drive through a decorative rail fence will be, as they say, “within the realm of acceptable loss” if doing so helps you safely escape an armed robbery.
Remember What’s Normal and What Isn’t
Don’t lose sight of the fact that people don’t just hang out around cash machines and people don’t just cut to the front of the line at cash machines either. People don’t just walk up to cars at bank drive-thrus and people don’t just back up into bank drive-thrus. Refresh yourself on what is and is not normal behavior, as doing so can keep you out ahead of the curve of an attack. On that note…
The Passenger Watches; the Driver (and Banker) Drives (and Banks)
If you can team up to go get your cash at the drive-thru, it would be ideal if your passenger were a competent handgunner with a cool head and a full-sized pistol. Keep the sidearms holstered and leave the long guns in the trunk or at home. Again, visible guns at a bank will only bring you trouble. What the passenger will be on the lookout for are individuals approaching your vehicle on foot or, even worse, vehicles trying to box you in from the front. People will pull up behind you at a drive-thru. This is how drive-thrus work, and there is nothing immediately suspicious about it.
If, however, anyone walks up to your vehicle or any vehicle begins to do anything that is going to immediately block you in from the front, you may be under attack. If you are attacked and you can drive away, the driver drives and the passenger stays ready to stop imminent, unavoidable threats of death or great bodily harm. I repeat: The driver does not attempt to draw; the driver concentrates on driving. All of this is a nightmare scenario and (fortunately) unlikely. But think about it now while there’s plenty of time for some basic planning. Don’t try to mitigate a disaster like that off-the-cuff. Speaking of disasters…
None of This Is a Game, and All of the Consequences Are Terribly Real
Spend a few minutes considering just how important trigger-finger and muzzle discipline become when you’re in a moving vehicle. You’re responsible for any rounds that leave your gun. That’s whether they’re intentionally sent into a murderous bandit or unintentionally sent into whoever’s driving. While we’re talking gunfire…
If Shooting Starts and You Can’t Drive Away, Bail Out
“That car’s your coffin” is a macabre catchphrase in many police academies because it is, unfortunately, all too true. If an attacker begins shooting and you can’t immediately nail the gas to escape, you need to exit that vehicle and get to cover. It is a lot harder for an attacker to hit you while you’re on foot than it is for that attacker to dump rounds into the front seat of an immobile vehicle. If you’re forced to bail, stay low, move to cover or concealment, and do whatever is necessary to escape to safety. Then immediately call 911 and get cops moving in your direction.
Maintain a Low Profile and High Alertness
How we react to the current circumstances will only be beneficial if the precautions we take don’t look out of the ordinary. If you very publicly hurricane-shutter your house and ring it with manure-covered razor wire, that’s going to draw a lot of attention. If you don’t go to the cash machine alone when you don’t have to and you stay on the ball while doing so, that’s below-the-radar stuff.
And that’s exactly where you need to be right now.
Stay alert, stay focused, stay smart and stay safe.