You hear a crashing sound outside at night. A moment later, you hear shouts and gunshots. You go out on your front steps. You see a stranger standing next to a car wreck and the stranger is shooting at your neighbors. You’re armed. You present your handgun and shoot the attacker. She stops shooting so you stop shooting.
You go to your neighbors and see how you can help. You holster your gun. Your neighbors are wounded so you call 911. You give the police a statement when they arrive.
The stranger was driving much too fast for the neighborhood and crashed into your neighbor’s car that was parked on the street in front of your neighbor’s house. The stranger shot your neighbors when they came outside to help her.
The murderer killed one of your neighbors. She also wounded two more of your neighbors. You are not charged with a crime.
None of us think this is the evening when we will have to stop mass murder. Fortunately, our defender was armed at the right place and the right time. He or she did a lot of good in very little time. The story doesn’t say how long ago he or she bought their gun. Given the speed of this attack, the defender had their gun with them or immediately accessible. They put effective shots on the attacker at night and at a distance. They stopped shooting when the threat ended. When the threat stopped they turned their attention to the survivors and called 911. They put their gun away and gave a statement to the police.
Few of us are used to a shooting in front of our house. Unfortunately, we try to interpret unusual events in our usual terms. We think we are hearing a very loud movie or video game being played by the neighbors next door. That must be an engine backfiring. Someone is knocked over a metal garbage can.. over and over again. Kids are screaming as they play paintball in the street. We waste precious seconds trying to explain away the sounds and sights of a gunfight in front of us.
We are lucky that the defender either recognized those gunshots or admitted that the sounds were unusual and went to investigate. That action saved lives.
There is a consistent pattern when we look at other attempted mass murders. We hear the first shot and we lookup. We see the second victim get shot. On average, we stop the murderer between the second and the third victim. The entire event is over in less than a half minute if an armed defender is present. People are shot quickly at first, typically another person is shot every ten seconds. Easy targets disappear once the element of surprise is lost and potential victims run and hide. If the murderer can’t find new targets, then the murderer will often retrace their steps and murder the wounded. Waiting for the police to stop the murderer adds a dozen more dead victims.
This story fits that pattern. The unsuspecting neighbors went to investigate the car crash and were shot before they could run. One was shot in the head and died at the scene. The other two victims were wounded and survived.
New gun owners often tell themselves that they will carry their gun when something dangerous is going to happen. Experienced gun owners know that threats rarely send invitations. We avoid dangerous situations so we won’t have to use a firearm in defense. We carry a firearm because we don’t know when deadly problems will arrive unexpectedly.
About 20 million of us have our permits to carry concealed in public. You don’t need a carry permit to wear your gun at home. Carrying on body saves time, and responding promptly saves lives. That is true if you’re defending yourself, a loved one, a friend, or defending a stranger.
Having a gun with you is good. Getting good hits on a murderer is better. If you’re like me, then you’re less sure of your shooting performance than you used to be.
Ammunition is hard to find these days. Ammo is also expensive when you can find it. This year, I train less often at the range. I also practice less each time I’m at the range. I compensate by dry-practicing more often. Our defender shot from his house to the street at night. When I looked at an overhead map, the front door of the houses are about 45 feet from the center of the street. We don’t know if the attacker was behind her car and using it for cover or if she was out in the open. It has been a while since I’ve practiced live-fire at night, but I have had dry practice in dim light this year. I’m not sure if I could make the defender’s shot quickly at night.
It is an easier shot if we cheat. At the range, we usually practice shooting from a standing position. The range doesn’t like it if we lean our hands against the side of the partitions between the firing points. I understand their concern because that position puts the walls of the partition very close to the muzzle blast of our firearm. We’re considerably more accurate if we use our resources and lean our hands against a railing, a column, or a door frame as we shoot. We’re also more accurate when we slow down. If you’re like me, then you forget to cheat because you don’t practice those techniques often enough.
It sounds like our defender shot accurately and shot no more than necessary. Every shot we take will stop somewhere. Looking at a map of the area around the attack, it is likely that a bullet will pass through someone’s home if we miss our intended target and the bullet skips off a hard surface. Our neighbors deserve better than that.
Look around from your front door. In my case the horizon is covered by people’s homes. Except for the possibility of hitting a few trees, that is where a missed shot will stop.
We use our guns to save lives. I hope you’ve taken a stop-the-bleed class or a trauma medicine class for the same reason. Judging from the stories I hear from my friends, we’re more likely to be called on to use bandages and a tourniquet than to use a firearm. I count myself lucky that I have both and have yet to need either. Your local shooting range or firearms instructor should know where to get trauma training in your area. The stop-the-bleed class only takes an hour.
We want to call 911. We want to help our neighbors. What do we do next?
We want to help the injured but it has to be safe to do so. We might be safe if the bad guy runs away. We might be safe if the bad guy is down and not moving. We want to put our gun away once the scene is safe. Depending on the circumstances, maybe the best we can do is monitor the attacker from a position of cover.
A gunfight draws attention. Lots of people are now looking towards the scene. They will report what they saw, and we don’t want them to report that we had a gun in our hands and were pointing the gun at innocent people. A holster gives us a safe place to put our weapon when we want to either conceal the firearm or do something else with our hands. We want to put our gun away before we help the injured.
We should assess the situation before we call 911. The dispatcher wants to know how many people are injured and how severely they are hurt. The dispatcher needs that information so they can send sufficient help of the type we need. Make a quick assessment and then call 911 to get help on the way. Make that quick assessment and call 911 before you start treating the wounded.
If you know trauma medicine then dive in and lend a hand. Often, you can be of help if you can simply follow instructions. Also, someone needs to stay on the call to 911 and let them know how things change. Shout for help if you need more hands to treat the injured.
I would feel relieved when police and EMS take over the scene. Despite that feeling, we want to say little to the police when they arrive. Be respectful and we give the officers the bare facts. We then ask to talk to our lawyer so he can issue a complete report. You might have just stopped mass murder, but you want to start your legal defense just the same.
We have to defend ourselves against criminal charges, but also against civil charges from the murderer’s next of kin. They might claim that the fact that the murderer was out of her mind on drugs had nothing to do with her car crash. They might claim that her violent behavior was because she was confused after the crash. They could claim she was confused by the crash and was trying to surrender when we murdered her. Start your defense the second the shooting stops. Help the injured and then call your lawyer as soon as it is practical to do so.
There is a lot we can learn from this story. There are many defenders out there. To all the defenders who can and will stop mass murder, I thank you.
Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve, join USCCA.