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.
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-Escalationcan 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.
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