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  • Robert Farago

When Do I Draw My Gun?

A rough guide to rough situations

If you’re an armed American who feels a moral obligation to come to the aid of an innocent soul facing kidnapping, rape, grievous bodily harm or death, those who cherish their natural, civil and Constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms salute you. That said…


If you’re the kind of armed American who sees an assault and decides to stay out of a potentially lethal encounter (for either side) – to be a good witness instead – gun rights advocates salute you, too. Well we should.


News flash: a gun in your hand makes you a target. A bad guy bullet magnet. I for one believe it’s acceptable for an armed American to avoid armed confrontation, to remain alive for the people who love and depend on them.


You certainly don’t have a legal obligation to defend anyone by force of arms, or any other way. (FYI neither do the police.) Drawing your gun and “getting involved” carries enormous legal and financial risk. A burden your family will have to bear.


Draw or not draw, the choice is yours. It’s not just a moral and legal decision. It’s also a practical and tactical challenge with pitfalls aplenty. That’s where things get a lot murkier.


This is not a negotiating position



Are there times when you should you draw your gun and NOT shoot? Brandish your firearm to interrupt a crime and prevent further violence without pulling the trigger?


I fall into the camp that says Joe Q. Pubic should not pull his concealed carry gun until and unless he’s going to shoot. (Also applies to Jane Q. and LGBTQ.)


Unlike the average law-abiding citizen, a criminal’s natural reaction to a gun pointed in their direction is to DO SOMETHING. Something you’re not going to like. At all.



No question: a drawn gun escalates hostilities. If you do manage to stop a criminal from their nefarious deeds, if they’re obeying your command to stay where they are, what then?


Assuming you don’t carry zip ties – something a prosecutor would gladly use against you – how are you going to keep the perp from absconding or attacking while waiting for the police?


When the police show up and see you pointing a gun at someone, what are the odds they’re going to think you’re the bad guy? That could be a really shitty way to die.


Let’s run through a few potential scenarios…


What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You



You’re in a convenience store (a.k.a., Stop ‘N Rob). Suddenly, you hear a commotion. You see someone pointing a gun at the guy behind the counter.


Question: who’s the bad guy?


Chances are it’s the guy with the gun. But it might not be. That might be the store owner pointing a weapon at the robber who jumped the counter. It has happened.


You’re walking the dog. You see two men trying to subdue/kidnap/rape a woman crying out for help.

Again, who’s the bad guy? You could be looking at two plain-clothed police officers trying to arrest a suspect. It has happened.


Unless you know the whole story, unless you saw events unfold from the start, there’s no way of telling who needs shooting if, in fact, anyone does.


Maybe, Maybe Not



Back to the convenience store. Same commotion, same situation.


You might want to draw your gun, hide (understanding that a shelf full of salty snacks is lousy ballistic protection) and wait to see what happens.


A robbery can be a relatively civilized affair. A relatively calm robber points a gun at the cashier, the cashier gives them the money, the robber leaves.


The bad guy’s not interested, maybe not even aware of you. If they are, they do not see a gun in your hand.

No one’s hurt, no one’s killed. You give a witness statement and return home, safe and sound. Result.


Change it up. An agitated robber pistol whips the cashier. Uh-oh. They’ve proven themselves ready, willing and able to use violence. Go time? Maybe, maybe not. But the stakes just went up.


Kick it up another notch. The robber fires a shot into the ceiling. Or points the gun at you and other customers and instructs y’all to go into a back room.


Go time? You bet your sweet bippy it is.


What if you’re mugged?



Speaking of being in the bad guy’s gunsights, a lot of gun gurus advise newbies to “never draw on a drawn gun.” By the time you bring your weapon to bear, the perp will squeeze his trigger. Stab you. Something unpleasant.


Remember: it’s unlikely your assault is the mugger’s first rodeo; most criminals are no stranger to violent encounters.


Surrender your wallet and watch? Sure. They can be replaced. Distract the bad guy by throwing your wallet, drawing your gun and shooting? Uh…


If you see a mugging/assault coming before it reaches you, is the assailant armed? If not, can you run? Can you put a car between you?


If you draw “early” just in case, I’m not going to second guess the decision. Nor should anyone else. It’s your ass on the line. Maybe your kids’ and/or partner’s as well.


In short…



Who knows how a life-or-death situation will go down if, God forbid, one does? There are a lot of variables and there’s no way to calculate them all in advance.


Even so, it’s good to think about what you might do in various situations so you’re at least somewhat prepared to draw or not draw your gun. By the same token, there is no substitute for shoot/no shoot training.


How and when you unholster is personal and situational. At the end of the proverbial day, carrying a gun gives you options you don’t have if you go about your life unarmed.


If you have the time, when push comes to shove, think! As philosopher Émile Chartier said, “nothing is as dangerous as an idea when it’s the only one you have.”

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