This is a question I ask concealed carry students and instructors.
Think about that gun on your hip. Think about the feeling of comfort it gives you knowing that, if need be, you could take care of yourself or your loved ones. Now erase that feeling from your brain and think clearly and specifically about what would cause you to pull that gun from the holster, point it at another person and think about pressing the trigger.
You better believe I want you thinking about pressing the trigger before you actually press it. What if you pull out your gun and your would-be attacker turns to flee or simply surrenders? You might be in a position where you cannot legally fire.
But I want you to think about what would happen even before your finger hits that trigger. What would make you pull your gun from its holster?
“A deadly threat.”
What is that? What does a deadly threat look like? Recently, a man in St. Louis was beaten to death by a group of teens with hammers after he got out of his car to confront them for pounding on his car. That man clearly did not see our video series on situational awareness. He also clearly did not think a group of teens wielding hammers constituted a deadly threat. What would you do in that case?
I think I would have drawn my pistol but kept it concealed as I looked for a way to drive safely away from the scene. The reason for keeping my pistol concealed is that perhaps brandishing it would have prompted the teens with the hammers to escalate their aggressive behavior. The mob mentality may have prompted at least one of them to lash out with more anger and violence. I likely would have been justified in shooting him, but I would rather leave the scene with a few dents in my car than deal with the aftermath of firing at an aggressor who is part of a large group of armed and angry young men.
Notice I did not say I would fire on the group. In every case you must fire only at the person who poses an imminent threat.
But let’s get back to the “What if?” portion of this column.
When to pull your gun is the most difficult decision you’ll have to deal with. Pull it too soon and you could, depending on your jurisdiction, be guilty of brandishing. Pull out your gun and say, “Stop or I’ll shoot you,” and then see what happens. If your attacker calls the police, you could be charged with making terroristic threats. There could be an investigation with you as a suspect, so you had better be able to articulate exactly why you felt you needed your gun at that moment. That means you have to be able to tell an investigating officer, with your attorney present, why you felt the person or persons constituted an imminent deadly threat. (If you don’t have an attorney, you can find one at www.usccalaw.com.)
Was the person menacing? Did the person make movements or gestures you felt were indicative of someone preparing to attack you? You can’t just pull your gun because someone is giving you the stink eye. But maybe you can if the person is clearly moving to a position that indicates an attack is imminent. If you say, “Can you please move away from my car so I can leave?” and the response you get is, “Why you want to leave so soon, baby?” some red flags should go up. You should start backing away and look for an escape route or an effective barrier to slow a sudden assault. Still, you might not be justified in pulling out your gun. It all depends on your local laws and whether or not the atmosphere where you live and work is “gun friendly.” That’s why it pays to know those laws. It also pays to be willing to avoid a conflict if you can. Don’t press the issue. Back away and call police.
The only time you should pull your gun is if you wind up in a situation where you have no other options. But only you can make that decision.
There is no single answer, but lots of room for “What if?”