"What if you're in a convenience store, and you see a guy in a hoodie with his hands in his pockets, looking around at the security cameras?"For many, if not most, people, this is a process of trying to understand what they may and may not do with the pistol they are licensed to carry. With a small minority, however, it does kinda come across as asking "Can I shoot him now? How 'bout now? Now?" as though the CCW permit were a kind of Junior G-Man badge or something.
"But what if he's, like, between you and the door? And you can see the butt of the gun in his hand?"
"I try and keep as many aisles of shelves between me and him as possible and be a good witness."
"But suppose he's threatening the clerk?"
"...and the shelves are set up so there's no cover between you and him, and the clerk is pregnant?"
One of the staff members at Pistol-Forum.com, who goes by the nom de screen "TCinVA", wrote an extremely thoughtful post that summed up a lot of my feelings on the matter so well that, with his permission, I'm just going to reproduce it here:
Mr. Zimmerman's predicament here brings up some pretty important lessons for those inclined to learn from the circumstances of others.Yeah. What he said.
Let's stipulate for the sake of illustration that Mr. Zimmerman's actions were 100% justifiable, and that at the moment he pulled the trigger he was in reasonable fear for his life.
Was it worth it?
Look at what he's facing now. He's been branded a murderer. Worse, he's been branded a racist murderer. Where a rap artist or NBA star who kills somebody will be forgiven in the public consciousness as long as their new album is critically acclaimed or their stats are good, Mr. Zimmerman's life from now on will come to be defined by this moment when he killed what a huge chunk of the population will only ever believe was an innocent young black boy who was doing nothing wrong. Mr. Zimmerman is looking down the pointy end of criminal and civil liability out the wazoo. His physical and financial freedom are both now at stake. There's enormous pressure in some communities to basically lynch the man because some communities won't care about the facts, only that the outcome wasn't desirable in their view. Hell, even among self defense enthusiasts this guy's getting raked over the coals. (Perhaps deservedly...we don't know all the facts yet) If a guy who claims he acts in self defense isn't getting a whole lot of sympathy from people who are all about self defense, what hope does he have with a jury?
All of this...for what?
This is the bit about self defense that lots of people on the internet don't get. In all their "be a man!" and "sheepdog!" chest thumping, they never seem to get around to the question of what it's like to live with the aftermath of using lethal force. It's not pretty. It's expensive. It's time consuming. It is life-changing...and not in the Oprah self help guru sort of way. It introduces unbelievable levels of stress into the mix that you can hardly appreciate if you haven't been at the center of it before. It can ruin marriages. It can break apart families. It can scatter friends to the four winds.
I know some people who have had to use lethal force to defend themselves and have had to face long drawn out investigations and litigation over the incidents. It put unbelievable stress on their lives. I asked one police officer how he managed to hold it together after having gone through a post-shooting horror story that makes the blood run cold. His answer?
"Because I know with absolute certainty that I did the right thing."
If you deal with something you had to deal with because it was thrust upon you, leaving you with no choice in the matter...well...it's probably a lot easier to live with the aftermath if it goes to Zimmerman levels. So we would do well to ask ourselves if whatever it is we are about to do is worth living a Zimmerman.
I'd gladly risk a Zimmerman situation if it meant saving the life of a friend or a loved one. Over petty theft, though? Not so much.