Every week our member service advisors at the USCCA get calls asking about self-defense strategies to help our older members. During a typical conversation, the caller will say something to the effect of, “I’m not as young as I once was and I can’t do those drills. What can I do to fight better?”
I’ll try to help out by sending an email discussing important elements to consider for those who may not be as fit or as active as they once were. That email usually includes the words, “Pull out your gun sooner then you think you should and shoot the bad guy if it appears he intends to do you harm.”
There is no magic self-defense technique that I can give a 75-year-old retiree that will suddenly put that person on par with a 20-year-old attacker who already has 10 years of street fighting experience. That is why the firearm is called “the great equalizer.” It is the only tool that puts you on an even playing field.
But you have to be willing to use the gun.
The biggest problem I see with older self-defense students is the hesitation surrounding the use of force. This hesitation often springs from a lack of understanding about when it is appropriate to use force. When we don’t know if it is OK to use force, it is right for us to err on the side of not using force.
But here is the real deal: If you are older, weaker or slower or if you suffer from any type of infirmity that prevents you from fighting or fleeing effectively, pull out your gun and prepare to fight with it. I am not saying to pull out the gun and start throwing shots willy-nilly. I’m talking about brandishing. I’m talking about giving a stern verbal command, backed up with the threat of deadly force, in hopes of stopping the situation before it goes any farther.
Think about this: If you legitimately believe that a situation could become dangerous, shine a flashlight in the eyes of the aggressor and offer a stern verbal challenge WHILE YOU DRAW YOUR GUN. You cannot let the aggressor get within 20 feet of you. Inside that space, he can be on top of you before you can get your gun into action — and one punch could knock you unconscious, leaving you completely at the mercy of that predator.
All the same rules for the use of force apply, but if you are older, you are allowed to use more force sooner than a younger, fitter person.
This is also why you need to remember to call 911 immediately following any such altercation and have a lawyer ready to help you.
Here is an example: You are walking to your car after dinner and some punk down on the corner sees you getting your keys and starts heading your way. For some reason, you can tell he is really focused on you and this gives you a bad feeling. When he is about 50 feet away, pull out your flashlight, shine it in his face and say sternly, “Leave me alone!”
You will likely get one of two responses: “Crazy old fool! I don’t want nothing from you!” or “What you gonna do about it?”
Pre-stage your handgun. Get your hand on the grip and say again, “Leave me alone!”
If the person keeps coming, pull the gun out, keeping your finger OFF the trigger, point it at the subject and say, “Get away from me now!”
IF the subject keeps coming, you will be forced to shoot. If the subject runs away, you must call 911 instantly and tell them, “I just scared off an attacker with my gun.”
Then get ready for the worst night of questioning you have ever gone through. That’s why you will need a lawyer. You can tell the police that you felt threatened because of the actions of the punk, and you believed you might have to use force because you have had knee replacement surgery, or you have a bad heart, or you’ve had a hip replacement, or you have a bad back, or that you are just older, slower and weaker than such a punk.
These victim/subject factors should allow you to use more force sooner than a person who is reasonably fit, young and healthy. But in some jurisdictions, brandishing without a reason is a crime. And you may come up against a district attorney who just hates concealed carriers. That is why you need a good lawyer to help explain your actions.
There is no magic self-defense trick. What you can do is use your gun within the boundaries of the law. But also remember those boundaries expand a bit as you get older, as long as you can objectively explain why you did what you did and you can show the amount of force you used, or threatened to use, was reasonable considering the circumstances.