It seems the big cities and towns of America are becoming increasingly dangerous.
Here in Philadelphia where violent crimes are becoming more and more commonplace, not a day goes by without news reports of innocent folks getting beaten, shot, robbed, or murdered. Recently, a sleeping man on a Philadelphia subway at a quarter past midnight was awakened by a maniac with a ball-peen hammer trying to club him to death. He survived, but sustained serious injuries. His random attacker, who had a history of mental health issues, as well as a long criminal history, even had his five year old son with him on the train!
We cannot afford to fall asleep as we go about our daily business lest we be taken by a violent predator because we were unaware of our surroundings.
The Philadelphia Police Commissioner, who favors a total ban on handguns for all law abiding citizens, audaciously commented that he was surprised that no able bodied persons came to the victim’s assistance. In another news story, a senior citizen walked into a public men’s room at a Center City Philadelphia Mall and was beaten senseless by three teenage gang bangers who had stalked him and staked out the men’s room.
In yet another story, an elderly man was shot in the face by a teenager and an accomplice while sitting on his porch.
What do all of these victims have in common besides being victims of violent criminals? The answer is that they were all taken by surprise by violent predators. They didn’t see it coming.
While innocent bystanders of the subway clubbing called police and later came to the victim’s first aid after the perpetrator left the crime scene, can we blame any of them for not intervening?
The unprovoked attacker was a big scary guy. Are we surprised that they did not put their own lives and limbs at risk? We will never know whether or not any of them were carrying a concealed weapon, but what would you do if you were carrying and you witnessed such an incident? Philadelphia is not a gun friendly or self defense friendly jurisdiction.
Would you risk your life to come to the defense of a total stranger? Remember that an angry attacker with a club or a hammer is employing deadly force. Deadly force in defense of self or other innocents who are being subjected to unprovoked deadly force is legally and morally warranted. But the defensive deployment of deadly force comes with serious repercussions, especially in an anti-self defense, anti-gun jurisdiction.
I think what all three of these recent incidents underscore is the fact that we can never take our safety or security for granted. We cannot afford to fall asleep as we go about our daily business lest we be taken by a violent predator because we were unaware of our surroundings.
We must remain in a condition of total awareness and preparedness at all times so that we can see danger coming and take action to either remove ourselves from the threat or confront it. What good would a concealed handgun have done the sleeping victim of the hammer-wielding maniac? He was asleep when he was attacked!
Would the senior citizen who was attacked in the mall restroom have had a chance to acquire his firearm and use it to repel his attackers? I don’t think so. Each of these victims was behind the “action-reaction curve.” They didn’t have time to react to their attacker’s actions. Their reactionary gap was too narrow.
What lessons can be learned from these and similar incidents of violent criminal victimization? I think that the important lesson is that you have to act smart to survive in this violent world. You cannot rely on the police or the government. When the wolf comes for you, they will not be there. Neither the police nor government agencies care about your personal safety. Their order of business is on a different level. Ultimately you can only count on yourself to protect you.
I am sure that if any innocent bystander had intervened with deadly force as a Good Samaritan in any of these incidents, in this jurisdiction, the legal aftermath for them would not have been good. Furthermore, if a Good Samaritan were to intervene, one would hope that he would be prepared to handle such a violent situation. Otherwise, the thing to do is to call 9-1-1 from a safe place.
If you habitually carry a concealed firearm for personal protection, hopefully you have been trained to use it correctly, and you are aware of when it is appropriate or not appropriate to deploy it Hopefully, you are aware of the limitations of a firearm in close quarter confrontations and the dangers of deploying your firearm in public places. Hopefully you have alternative self defense tools at your disposal.
But what if you do not? What if a concealed handgun is your only hammer? What if you are a senior citizen or a physically challenged person? If that is the case, you had better habitually practice good mental awareness skills so that you can keep your distance from potential trouble.
You had better think before you walk head down into a public restroom, or fall asleep on the subway, or even ride the subway after a certain hour. And if you sit on your porch, (hopefully armed) you had better see the wolves coming for you before it is too late!
Naturally, I advocate being armed at all times. If you are carrying a substantial caliber handgun with which you have trained, practiced, and are proficient, there is no question in my mind that your chances of surviving a violent attack are improved. When you carry, and are well trained, your demeanor is different. You project self confidence and a “do not mess with me” kind of appearance.
And I am not talking about gun muscle or bravado. I am talking about a look that violent predators know how to read. When they see it, they decide to pass on you and look for easier prey.
When you carry, you must be aware of your surroundings at all times. You must protect your firearm from the hands of those who would take it from you if they could and use it against you. When you carry, if you are confronted with immediate and unavoidable deadly force, your first trained reaction should be to create distance between you and your attacker so that you have room to deploy your firearm.
However, if you remain aware of your surroundings—a 360 degree environment at all times—you should be able to see or sense in advance when something does not look or feel right. This will buy you time to take adequate steps so you can stay out of harm’s way or prepare to deal with the threat. You can never afford to let your awareness mantle down. You can never afford lapses in awareness in this dangerous world.
Whether we are going armed or not, we must all train to see it coming so we can avoid it or fight it if necessary. We should all plan and mentally rehearse in advance what we would do if such and such happened.
As law abiding citizens, we should never go to places carrying a gun that we would not dare venture into without a gun. We must act smart at all times. In this dangerous world, you will survive only if you are smart or lucky, and I wouldn’t count on luck alone. There are many kinds of intelligence, but basically intelligence refers to the ability to adapt to your environment, to solve the problems it presents, and to come out on top. We all need to cultivate street sense—street intelligence.
I’ll borrow a page from Presidential hopeful Senator John S. McCain, who wrote an engaging little book entitled Why Courage Matters: the Way to a Braver Life. McCain states, “We are taught to understand, correctly, that courage is not the absence of fear but the capacity for action despite our fears.”
I would say that acting intelligently requires courage because it demands that we face our fears in order to cope with potential danger. Stupidity, the absence of intelligence, is exemplified by keeping one’s head in the sand or in one’s lap, or keeping one’s eyes closed and ears shut.
It sometimes takes courage to make the right decision, choice, or call. This could mean not intervening in an incident, but rather taking safe cover and calling 9-1-1, or it could mean intervening if you know that right is on your side and you have the means to prevail. Courage could also mean venturing into places unarmed where you would prefer to be armed, but are not legally permitted. But the upshot of it all is to stay aware and to be informed. Be prepared. Be smart. Know your limitations and your strengths, but cultivateclear mindedness and the capacity to make decisions.
As my friend John Farnam likes to say, “Be decisive. Don’t dawdle.”
[ Bruce N. Eimer, PhD, is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, NRA certified firearms instructor, Florida and Utah concealed firearms instructor, and a professional writer who co-authored The Essential Guide to Handguns: Firearm Instruction for Personal Defense and Protection. As a co-owner of Personal Defense Solutions, LLC (www.PersonalDefenseSolutions.net), Bruce offers individual shooting instruction and teaches concealed carry and handgun safety classes. He can be reached at Dr.Bruce@PersonalDefenseSolutions.net ]