Monday, July 01, 2019

Poor Choice of Backstop

One of the most fraught things a private citizen with a CCW permit can do is insert their firearm into a third-party situation.

I mean, if you wanted to make a safest-possible, best-practice rule of thumb, the boilerplate answer would be "Just don't ever do it." But that's not practical because decent people want to help other decent people when they're in trouble. So all I can say is "Be really really sure of the situation and your capabilities, and understand what you are risking by getting involved."

There are tons of scenarios you can use to illustrate the "be really really sure of the situation" portion of this:

  • You come across a big, fit-looking 20-something dude who is straddling a smaller, slightly older guy and giving him a pounding...but what you don't know is that before you rounded the corner, the older guy had been trying to rob the younger guy at knifepoint, and got the tables turned on him.

  • There's a woman screaming "Help! Rape!" as a bigger man wrestles her into a car in the Kwik-E-Mart parking lot...but you don't realize she's being arrested by a plainclothes detective for having stabbed her boyfriend and lit his double-wide on fire thirty minutes ago.

This is all stuff worth pondering before you commit yourself to jumping into a third-party confrontation. You and I don't have qualified immunity because jumping into third-party situations ain't our job, and gunfire isn't covered by Good Samaritan laws the way CPR or a pressure dressing is. I say it, and I say it, until I'm blue in the face: Your toter's permit is not a Batman badge.

Knowing when to make something your business is a learned skill.
The other thing to be really really sure of is your capabilities.

On the near northwest side of Indianapolis last Friday evening, the police went to pull a car over, and it didn't stop, triggering a short pursuit. When the car came to a stop on a side street, one of the passengers bailed and took off on foot.

One of the neighborhood residents, seeing Sumdood running down his street with the police in pursuit, decided that the best way to help was to whip out his blaster and start shooting at Sumdood.

He missed, of course, and instead one of his bullets struck an eleven-year-old girl in a house across the street. We don't know yet how much his overestimation of his capabilities, ignorance of the situation, and poor choice of backstop is going to cost him, but it won't be cheap.

He didn't know why the cops were chasing the guy; it could have been for shoplifting, which ain't a shooting offense. And how much experience did he have shooting running targets at 15-25 yards with a pistol? (Spoiler: It ain't easy.)

All I know is that everybody involved (except this guy's lawyer) wishes he'd just left his gun alone in the holster.

Even the most seemingly clear-cut situations can be fraught.

Remember the Indiana woman who shot the dude who was wrestling with the Fish Cop in her front yard? The dude was getting the best of the DNR officer and it likely would have wound up with the cop getting shot with his own gun if the woman hadn't grabbed a pistol and shot the perp off the supine officer.

Well, the perp died and some bottom-feeder came along and helped the dead guy's family file a suit against the IN DNR, the officer, and the woman. It wasn't dropped until earlier this year.

Fortunately, a law was passed here in Indiana that would prevent that suit from being filed today, but these are things worth thinking about.

Know what your triggers are ahead of time. In other words, "If thus-and-such, I'm going to be a good witness, but if I see this other thing, then I know it's time to go to guns." Having done that, make sure you have the skills and abilities to do good work if those conditions are met.