Attacked in a Public Place: Should I Shoot?


You need some perfume and a new set of earrings, so you head to the local department store where you are browsing among the aisles looking for the perfect fragrance and jewelry that will turn heads without appearing gaudy.

Legally Concealed Pistol

Only needing a few items, you forego pushing a shopping cart and are moving through the department with your purse slung on your left shoulder. Inside your purse is your legally concealed pistol, stored neatly in a Kydex holster inside a dedicated pocket and attached to the inside of the purse with Velcro. You see a lovely set of silver earrings that you think might go perfectly with the outfit you’ve selected, so you stop to admire them. As you roll the jewelry over in your hands, thinking about how the earrings might hang and what you should do with your hair to show them off, you are jolted out of your thoughts by a sharp blow between your shoulder blades and a shrill voice screaming, “Bitch, I will kill you!”

The blow has knocked you off balance, and you tumble to the floor, instinctively clutching your purse close to your body. You hit the floor face down, using your arms and hands to break your fall. Before you even have a chance to move, there is a whirlwind of activity as blows and kicks begin raining down on your back, shoulders and head. Your sunglasses are knocked from the top of your head. You try to stand but immediately get stomped back to the ground. Your head hits the floor and things go bright at first, then dark, and you realize you can’t really see out of your left eye. Your head is throbbing. The blows keep coming, and you hear two distinct voices as you realize you are being kicked and punched from two sides.

Can You Access Your Weapon?

By some miracle, you are able to get to your feet and shove one person away from you, but the other grabs your hair and slams you back to the floor. Pain screams through your left elbow and the back of your head. You wonder if this is what it feels like to be knocked unconscious. Then you remember you have a gun.

Rolling to your left, you protect your purse and thrust your right hand inside — only to be stopped by the zipper protecting your gun. As more blows fall against your back, neck and head, you open the zipper, find the grip of the gun and pull it out.

You hear a woman yell, “You think you can shoot me, bitch?” You feel another blow to the side of your head. It is difficult to see.

Your Self-Defense Options:

  1. Fire at the legs of the closest assailant.
  2. Bring the gun into a retention position and try to get to your feet.
  3. Roll to your back and try to fire from the supine position.

Things to Consider Before Acting in Self-Defense in a Public Place:

You are responsible for every round that comes out of your firearm. Do you, in this situation, have adequate target acquisition, target identification and target isolation? The distance to the target is very close, but legs are very small targets. Who else is nearby? Has anyone stepped in to try to help you? Has another attacker joined the assault? What level of punishment is currently being inflicted upon you? Can you get to your feet or is that impossible? What is your current position? Are you on your belly or on your back? Do you risk losing your gun?

All of these questions — and more — have to be considered quickly in this situation. Your goal in any self-defense situation is to cause enough dysfunction in your attacker to allow you to escape safely. You must also make every effort to avoid injuring any innocent people who may be nearby. This means if you choose to use a firearm, you need to be confident of the shots you take. Firing from a compromised position can make it very difficult to ensure that you are on target and that your target is the only thing you are going to hit.

The ‘Reasonable Person’ Test

But this is not to say that you may NEVER fire from such a position. If you can reasonably articulate that you felt firing without target isolation was the only means to protect yourself from an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm, you may fire. You are still responsible for those shots, but your belief that your actions were the only way to save your life will be considered. Still, you will likely have to convince a judge or jury of the reasonableness of your actions.

Defending Your Gun

Keeping control of your firearm should be right near the top of your list of important elements in any fight. In the situation described above, it is paramount. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a serious physical assault, you must protect your gun.

Get your gun into the retention position: close to your body, drawn in near the right side of your chest (if you are right-handed) in a firm two-handed grip that will allow you to both control the gun and fire from the position if you must. As an alternative, you may need to protect your head and neck with your non-dominant hand by placing the hand on the back of your head and using your arm for protection. This also keeps the non-dominant arm out of your line of fire.

This position does not give you much assistance in getting to your feet because you really don’t get to use your arms that much. But considering the desperate nature of the situation, you should be looking to protect your gun and keep moving to avoid taking further blows. If you can get to your feet, you have a good chance to engage an attacker in front of you. If you do that, continue to move. Now, this is counter-intuitive, but you might want to move toward the person who continues to attack you. Doing so shortens the distance and increases your hit potential … and can get you inside the arc of a big, roundhouse-style punch.

Moving to a retention position and working to get up off the ground while being attacked will not be easy. The movement is something you might want to practice with a SIRT pistol, training gun or a completely unloaded and triple-checked firearm in a dry-fire scenario.

The Supine Position

Rolling on your back in a fight with the aggressor(s) still on you has some pros and cons. Getting into the supine position allows you to use your legs to defend against the attack. On your back, you strike at your attackers to keep them away with kicks toward the lower legs. It also allows you to scoot around if people are attacking you from different angles, but you don’t want to be on your back for a long time. The goal in going to the supine position it to get to your feet so you can be more mobile.

There is one solid advantage in the supine position: It’s a pretty solid shooting platform — as long as you don’t shoot your knees. Shooting from the supine position can be a great way to repel an attack, but keep your wits about you. If you have just been kicking at your attacker and using your legs to push yourself backward across the floor, your knees will likely be bent and could be in the line of fire. That old gun-safety rule of “know your target and what is beyond it” should also say, “Pay attention to what is between your muzzle and your target.” Get your legs flat down on the floor or ground before you fire. If your range allows it, you should practice shooting from the supine position. Just pay attention to where the bullets will impact. You don’t want your low-angle shots going over the berm.

Remember Your Responsibilities

These are three solid options but certainly not the only options in such a situation. Still, you must remember that if you use deadly force to stop this attack, you must be able to justify your use of that force by explaining that you believed you faced an imminent deadly threat. The fact that one of the attackers shouted her intent to kill you is a good start. It is also well-documented that someone knocked to the ground and stomped on is in grave danger. Just remember that you are responsible for your rounds and that once the attack stops, you must stop using force. The instant you can get away to safety, you must do so.

About Kevin Michalowski

Executive Editor of Concealed Carry Magazine Kevin Michalowski is a USCCA and NRA Certified Trainer. He has attended training as both instructor and student in multiple disciplines, including pistol, rifle, shotgun, empty-hand defense and rapid response to the active shooter. Kevin is also a fully certified part-time law enforcement officer in rural Wisconsin.

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