The Discretionary Mindset

With the recent headlines of the neighborhood watch shooting of Treyvon Martin by Martin Zimmerman in Sanford Florida, I thought it pertinent to touch upon the topic of discretion in relation to Concealed Carry and personal defense. Since the gun-prohibitionist movement wants to use this case to demonize ALL people who carry concealed firearms, I will be commenting on what we need to do as RESPONSIBLE gun owners and Concealed Carry License Holders to combat the type of behavior Mr. Zimmerman exhibited that night, as documented in the Sanford PD report. The bottom line is Zimmerman was within his legal means OWNING and CARRYING the weapon, but not how he USED the weapon. This I believe is a training and education issue that each individual concealed gun owner needs to address. We will reverse engineer this scenario and discuss in detail how we do that.

Firstly, let’s define Discretion from Webster’s:

“Quality of being discreet; careful in speech and conduct; prudent, cautious.”

I am going to start out with a credo that was taught to me when I first started carrying a gun concealed. These three basics are taught to Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) and security personnel worldwide. They are simple and easy to remember:

  • Avoidance:  Stay Away from Stupid People and Stupid Places and DO NOT Start Fights (“Rambo Syndrome”).

  • Deterrence: The act of detouring bad behavior

  • De-Escalation: If a fight starts, try to walk away at all cost from it and eat your pride, because if you have the only gun in the fight, on moral grounds alone, you are required to use more DISCRETION than the other guy because ultimately, you have the option of LETHAL FORCE if certain criteria are met.

Since we are using someone’s bad example of what NOT TO DO, the blatantly simple ideal of not starting confrontations needs to be discussed.

Most all States self-defense penal codes are clear on “Verbal provocation never being justified grounds for force against another“(Texas PC 9.31). Simply put, a civilian confronting somebody on suspicion (because of the type of clothing they are wearing for instance) or verbal accusations alone, is pure stupidity and NEVER legally constitutes USE OF FORCE.

People notice what type of clothing you are wearing, as we have already discussed in a previous article. Often first impressions of people are often deduced from the type of clothing alone and not their actions.

We need to exercise EXTREME caution in this area, both in how we dress and how we perceive others, as this is one of the factors that got Zimmerman in trouble.   The “Rambo Syndrome” typically stems from people who think they are the self-appointed “law enforcement” in their community or neighborhood.

Trayvon Martin

Let me be clear on this: If you don’t have a badge, you are not a cop. Don’t be a Hero! Report the crime (or suspicious behavior) and let the police do their jobs. Even if they fall short in this area, let the blame squarely rest on their shoulders and not yours. Be Smart and objective, not hotheaded and trigger happy. As a sidebar to this warning I will also say being “level headed” does not mean being STUPID and depend on the Police to protect you when some crack head has beat down your door and entered your home…the laws regarding Use of Force are not rocket science guys, just read them frequently and if you are not clear on them, have your lawyer explain it to you.

Deterrence can be readily defined as:

“The act of making someone decide not to do something. The act of preventing a particular act or behavior from happening.”

Although it is a hotly debated topic whether firearm carry laws actually deter or stop violent crime, anybody who is willing to look at the statistics honestly must give CCL some credit for the reduction in crime I feel. Although the actual numbers vary, since each state issue those statistics seperately. Texas for instance between the years of 1994 and 2008 had a reduction in violent crime of 6,274 and 648  homicides. I believe Carrying a gun legally deters crime. The more people who have a CCL, the better off we are as a nation.  The case in question in Florida is the exception and not the rule IMO. It is simply a case of a person who was poorly trained and overly enthusiastic to “fight crime”.  A very wise man once told me “Never confuse ENTHUSIASM for CAPABILITY.” Words to live by.

De-Escalation can be defined:

“To decrease the size, scope, or intensity of  a conflict (a war, for example).”

Once you have tried all the above and you still find yourself in a situation where violence is about to occur, your last obligation is try to diffuse the situation by all means. The two areas to diffuse are  language and gesture. If you have ever been in a fight, the verbal part of it, on both sides, is often the final straw.  We have to be the adult here and swallow our ego. We can start off by saying “I don’t want to fight, please, just leave me alone…I am walking away.”

Say this LOUDLY and within EARSHOT of any bystanders. While doing this, put your hands in a non-threatening posture, above your waist, but in a position where you can defend yourself and access your weapon.  Never take your eyes off your attacker; find a clear route of escape and start making your way there. If the “hostile party” wants to block your escape, now we have entered an area that technically (and legally) can be defined as Assault, and we need to now cross the bridge of taking action.

 Always consider the flip side of this coin also; are YOU, by your immediate actions, PROVOKING the other party? Zimmerman gave chase to Martin after being advised not to do so by the PD Dispatcher. Take into account this was at night and Zimmerman was yelling commands and expletives while running after him. This clearly is not “Standing your Ground” as set forth in the Florida Penal Code, so was use of force justified? We will come back to that.

Granted, we do not yet know the full story or Martin’s motives during this time, but put yourself in Martin’s shoes at that moment; you are holding a soda and a bag of candy walking down the street and a stranger starts chasing and yelling at you at night, would you be on the defensive? Would you react to defend your life?

When we reverse engineer a tragedy like this, we can readily identify where doing ONE thing differently could have changed the outcome and  POSSIBLY made the difference between life and death. That one thing in this scenario is Zimmerman chasing Martin.

When we look at the Penal Code Statute, as soon as Martin fled, Zimmerman was obligated to stop; it was no longer a Use of Force Situation. When Zimmerman pursued, he was “PROVOKING” Martin (Texas PC 9.32) and therefore, in the authors opinion from all the information available, Zimmerman  WAS NOT justified in the Use of DEADLY FORCE.

We would be amiss here not to discuss the use of “less than lethal” options as a deterrent and de-escalation tactic. Having this tool in your toolbox could prove invaluable when lethal force is not yet needed. Since the laws of each State vary dramatically in this area, I am going to once again, add this caveat:

Check with your local and State laws before carrying any device! This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for training by a qualified and licensed instructor.

The primary less than lethal option that I would consider is Pepper Spray or OC. In Texas, it clearly states in Penal Code Section 46 (14) a small Chemical Dispensing Device for personal protection is legal. A small 2 oz can of OC can easily fit into your front pocket or a key chain, which I recommend since your keys are with you 24/7.

Just like any other weapon, you need to realize the potential of harm that OC can inflict and you need to practice with it as often as you practice with your gun. The only way to realize the potential is to get sprayed, just like cops do in Police Academies across the nation. You also need to buy a few “inert” (harmless) cans to practice with. We will be doing an in-depth piece on OC coming up, so I will not go into the specifics of training here. Please visit our store for OC that we would recommend and also some excellent non-lethal training DVD’s.

In closing, there is no doubt that the recent shooting in FL was a tragedy. A young man was shot and killed due to another man’s poor judgment. Sadly, poor judgment shoots are more common in Law Enforcement than in Concealed Carry cases, but never the less, in either case, the subject of TRAINING and EDUCATION needs to be openly discussed. I am aware that Hindsight is always 20/20 and “tactical quarterbacking” situations like these can be unfair, but we have to learn from these debacles if we are not going to repeat them. I am not an advocate of the State’s or Federal government re-examining Florida’s Concealed Carry laws and instituting tighter restrictions or training, ultimately making it harder for somebody to get a CCL by more bureaucratic intrusion. The last thing this country needs more of  is bigger Government telling us how to live our lives.

I am an advocate of more PERSONAL responsibility in Concealed Carry License holders seeking more open source training for themselves and also being Educated on all of their State’s specific Personal Defense STATUTES. Knowing what “Stand your Ground” and “No Duty to Retreat” really means is every CCL holder’s responsibility.

Texas Penal Code Section 9.32(c)

“A person who has a right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used, who has not provoked the person against who the deadly force is used and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the deadly force is used is NOT REQUIRED TO RETREAT BEFORE USING DEADLY FORCE AS DESCRIBED BY THIS SECTION.”

Most States Concealed Carry License Class only teach the fundamentals and is never intended to be the ONLY training the licensee receives. I always tell new license holders…”Always budget for a GOOD Advanced Concealed Carry Class from a reputable teacher after you get your CCL… A good gun is useless without a GOOD plan.”

We can never prepare for all the eventualities in life. We can only train for the worst and hope for the best. But make no mistake, when you legally carry a gun, you are  making a choice to always take the moral high ground, meaning you have to be the one to know the LAW regarding self-defense, exercise self-control, good judgment and a cool head, without exception. You owe it to yourself and your family to train regularly and educate yourself to NOT get into the type of situation that happened in Sanford, FL.

Stay Safe and Stay Dangerous!

18 thoughts on “The Discretionary Mindset

  1. Pingback: Follow ups on recent posts | Personal Security for Cruisers

  2. You typed: “The bottom line is Zimmerman was within his legal means OWNING and CARRYING the weapon, but not how he USED the weapon.”

    My question is did Mr. Zimmerman have a permit to carry, and if so, having a recent 911 call in regards to domestic violence, and a battery on a peace officer incident in his past, WHY was he allowed to have a permit to carry?

    Why in the event of a homicide or a self defense shooting, was he not given a drug/alcohol test and have his hands tested to see if he did in fact discharge that weapon? Self defense or not, why didn’t Sanford P.D. not follow SOP?

    • From everything I have read thus far, YES he did have an active CCL from Florida. It is at current, trying to be revoked. As far as his past criminal record, I have read alot of conjecture, but nothing concrete as to why these charges were dropped.

      In regards to the Sanford PD and DA, I agree there are alot of gross irregularities on how this case is being handled. IMO, the Sanford DA is at fault more than the Sanford PD, as it is the DA’s responsibility to prosecute cases based on the merit of eveidence gathered from their Shoot Team and the PD.

      We shall see….

      • It starts with the shooting team, it can’t be the DA’s fault if the on site shooting team is busy kissing Zimmerman’s ass instead of recovering evidence, including prints, the actual gun, drug, blood & alcohol tests. First officers on scene and the shooting team started this fiasco….the DA comes much later but his hands are tied based on sloppy police work.

  3. Very well written, I will reserve passing judgment on whether or not Mr. Zimmerman was acting in self defense or not until I hear more from the findings of the police department but I do know if I was in a situation where I was getting the snot beat out of me (as reported in the police report) by another person I would certainly defend myself. I live in a state where it is not mandatory to have a CCW and I have my weapon on me everyday at all times but I also understand the law and I do everything in my power to defuse a situation before it escalates into a situation of me having to use deadly force

    • Thanks..I commented on the evidence available to me concerning Mr. Zimemrman and I really don’t think there is anything the defense can present to exonerate him at this point..the phone call tapes do not lie…despite all the character assassination attempts by both sides, which really have no bearing in this case..bottom line: Zimmerman acted foolishly and broke the law in doing so. The point of the article was to not to say ‘Don’t defend yourself” quite the contrary; it was to say, “Do Defend yourself at all cost”, but don’t get into stupid situations, like chasing people and starting fights, and break the law. People forget about the civil suits that are going to come out of this..Zimmerman may stay out of jail, but he will be lucky to have a cardboard box and a pot to piss in after that! That is the real killer in Concealed Carry Lawsuits: The Civil Side..where they destroy your life in every way…The old adage “There is a Lawyer attached to every bullet you fire.” IS TRUE!! There was one critical mistake Zimmerman made: he pursued the victim..that is the definition of “provoking” and not “Standing your Ground.” When the fight started in earnest and he started getting whooped by this kid, he did what any scared person does who has a gun..he pulled it and used it. When you carry a gun, you have a MORAL responsibility to use common sense and good judgement, Zimmerman used neither.

  4. Very well written article. I keep wondering what if Mr. Martin had a CCL? Me and my husband live in rural California and my husband grew up outside of Yosemite for a while. He was OBLIGATED to learn how to shoot a weapon, to hunt and for self defense because they lived down the road from the church of the creator and they are Black! I am also Black and feel that more Black youths need to learn how to shoot a gun, not from their friends who may not know how to properly handle a firearm but from taking courses in hunting and marksmanship. This increases confidence AND gives them a tool in their arsenals. It’s hard for all young people nowadays, but in particular these weird things keep happening with young Black people and they need to be able to have the tools to protect themselves!

    • If Martin had had a CCL, he would have to have met all the requirements of the “Stand your Ground” statute like anybody else….as I said EDUCATION of the law is the primary thing, then good solid TRAINING on top of that. No matter your race, religion or creed, having a CCL means you have to take the moral high ground and use good judgement and not let passion make your decisions.

  5. This is the most relevant, unemotional, common sense piece of writing I have ever read regarding carrying a weapon. It says much better the points I have been tring to make in every post on every blog I have been on. I have no desire to tread on anyones constitutional rights or the ability to defend themselves against some of the insane violence I know that all of us law abiding citizens might be subject to encounter. But I also know from experience that not all use this right to carry in the manner it is intended and they too kill unnecesarily, just as the common criminal does. This is a good piece of writing.

  6. Informative and well-written article. This is coming from a non-gun owner.

    Your article should be required reading for anyone who wants to discuss, report on or opine on the martin/zimmerman debacle.

  7. If every gun owner were as thoughtful and level-headed all the time as you were when you wrote this, gun control would not be an issue. How do we make sure that guns only belong to people who can use them responsibly? That’s the real problem. I’m not worried about the author wrongfully killing someone, but everyone who qualifies for a permit? That’s the unanswerable question for gun control advocates.

    • Ensuring that people who own and carry gun’s are ONLY responsible people is like trying to ensure everybody that gets a drivers license is a good driver..You can’t do it. It is a privledge, and privledges can be revoked. You can only set laws and punish those who break them. Carrying a weapon for protection carries with it enormous personal responsibility and therefore the punishment for not carrying thru with that responsiblity is harsh, both criminal and civil.

      The problem with gun control and people who think that it is the answer for stopping crime and violence, is most all anti-gun legislation is aimed at punishing the tax paying civilian and his ability to protect his family, not the criminal scum who commit the crime…when education and more training is what is needed, not more intrusion from big brother.

  8. Wow…as a non-gun owner and someone who personally holds a negative view of guns all together, I must say…if everyone were out advocating responsible gun ownership (and usage/non usage) like this, I’d be perfectly fine with it!

    I think with all the charged rhetoric coming from all sides, people miss an important fact that you’ve pointed out–Zimmerman PROVOKED this confrontation by chasing after Martin–who had NO idea who Zimmerman was, NO idea why he was following him (both in his car and on foot),and NO idea what his intentions were for following him.

    What is also missed is that when you do neighborhood watch, you are instructed to NOT carry a gun for this PRECISE reason! You’re also instructed to NOT pursue a suspicious person (for your own safety). Your job is to be the eyes and ears for police who may not be around to notice suspicious activity/criminal activity. Observe and report is what you do.

    All in all, a VERY well executed piece!

    • According to Zimmerman’s statement and the police report… Zman had stopped pursuit and returned to his vehicle where HE was acosted by Martin…this makes it a really tough call…in which Martin becomes the aggressor.

      Zman may have antagonized Martin but then retreated…in this version Martin becomes the thug Zman thought him to be…

      If Zman was attacked by Martin at this point he was within his legal rights to defend himself….mind you there is a witness that stated they SAW Martin on top of Zimmerman beating his head on the ground.

      Should Zman have followed Martin…most likely not…does that give Martin the right to do violence on Zman’s person…definately not.

      Here we have a case of stupidity leading to thug mentality which then leads to death.

  9. I am not a gun advocate, but I found your article to be both informative and level-headed. In fact, sensible folks such as yourself should be given a wider public platform to state what you just did here so effectively. The responsibility of owning a gun is tremendous. My problem is I don’t think enough gun owners take these responsibilities seriously, and too many become more emboldened when carrying one. I wish all gun owners were as thoughtful and safety-conscious as you. I will link my friends to your site.

    I would like to know your opinion regarding owners of “rapid fire” weapons that hold 30 or more clips.
    Do you think these weapons are necessary for one to adequately protect his family, home and/or self? Do you think those weapons are even appropriate for hunting?

  10. I really appreciate how you broke it down piece by piece of gun ownership and the responsibilty that comes with it, and how it applies to the Martin/Zimmerman situation. Your article has such a sensible and calming effect.

  11. Reblogged this on Home Gun Training and commented:
    This was posted about a year ago when the Trayvon Martin case hit the news. The principles in it are still very applicable even if the facts have changed. I believe ZImmerman’s next court date is JUne 10th. Pay very close attention to this case. Stay up to speed on unarmed combatives and the use of less than lethal weapons as well. The gun is not a magic totem that makes all evil go away by its very presence.

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