We had a bit of a go-round here at the USCCA offices recently when a couple of people took issue with the idea that it may be best to walk away from a fight that doesn’t involve you.
The scenario, as best I can remember, asked what you would do if you were witness to what you believed was a domestic assault. We suggested, and still believe, the right answer to be something along these lines: Call 911. Be a good witness. Only step in if you see an imminent deadly threat (and even then, think long and hard about what you are willing to risk for a stranger).
It’s a good answer. But some people were all too quick to call us cowards for not immediately stepping in to protect the damsel in distress. A few people spoke up with great vigor about the beatdown they would put on the attacker and the steps they would take afterward. I certainly don’t believe these people represented the majority of the readers of this column, but I do believe that some people still miss the point of the term “self-defense.”
We here at the USCCA advocate using violence only as a last resort. And you can bet that any investigating agency will be reviewing your actions from every possible angle, often with an eye toward figuring out a way to charge you with a crime. When you get involved in a fight, you risk everything you have and everything you will ever have. Think about that for a moment.
While I agree it is morally abhorrent for any man to physically abuse a woman, I also have to consider what will happen to me if I get involved in such a situation. The first big question to ask before entering any situation is simple: What if you lose the fight?
I don’t care how good you think you are — how well-trained or how motivated. In close combat, anyone can get lucky. There are plenty enough instances of people getting knocked out with one punch. If you are knocked unconscious and your head hits the pavement, you might never get up. Are you willing to risk permanent injury or death for someone you don’t know?
Don’t just blurt out, “Hell, yes.” Think about your life and all the things required of you. Do you have a family? Will the knowledge that you took the moral high ground sustain them, or would your presence be better?
There is no way to know what will happen during a domestic dispute. The attacker could turn on you, forcing an escalation of a situation that suddenly puts you in the middle of a shooting investigation. The “victim” could turn on you, leading to one of the most confusing and dangerous defensive situations anyone could face.
Whether or not you could “live with yourself” if you “did nothing,” ask how you would live with yourself if you got involved in a fight and the end result left your family with nothing. If you “win” the fight, you still have legal bills to pay and very likely years of dealing with the aftermath of the fight. If you lose the fight, and that is a very real possibility, you have, in effect, abandoned your loved ones (or, worse, saddled them with a lifetime of taking care of you after some catastrophic injury leaves you permanently disabled).
Yes, I may be focusing on the worst-case scenario, but these are real questions with real consequences. You must consider every option. These are not easy decisions with clear-cut answers, but I know one thing for sure: The best fight is the one you are not in.
Just carrying a gun does not mean we will automatically win a fight. Sure it increases our chances, but we are still taking a chance. What are you willing to risk for that stranger?