A Gun is not a Magic Wand

One of my favorite websites to dissect is Thetruthaboutguns.com. There’s a lot of furor and words written, but very rarely do I ever see them actually getting to a good point when they’re sharing a news article or relating an anecdote someone shared with them.

Take this article for instance– the writer was trying to make a point about how some Americans don’t carry guns because they’re afraid of them being employed against them. But he missed the arguably more important point: that if you’re going to carry a gun, don’t let it create a sense of false empowerment.

If you elect to carry a firearm for personal defense, you need to embrace the mentality that a firearm requires more, not less, awareness and attention. A gun is not a magic wand– it is not a panacea for all failures or a substitute for awareness. It is ultimately nothing more than an equalizer against a bigger, stronger, or more numerous adversary, and it is no substitute for a high situational awareness and alertness. In short, if someone takes your gun away from you, it’s because you were either ambushed by a ninja or you failed to maintain sufficient tactical awareness of your surroundings.

When you elect to carry a gun, you need to constantly be using this process: Observe a potential threat, Orient yourself to evaluate it, prepare a Decision, and then Act. This is called the OODA loop, and it was developed by  Col. John Boyd and has been long employed as a teaching tool by military and law enforcement. It has equal utility for a civilian who is confronting a potentially armed aggressor.

The subject of this article made  the potentially fatal mistake of allowing his gun to do his thinking for him. He removed himself from the OODA loop by assuming the position that being armed no longer required him to maintain the same level of awareness as he would being empty-handed.

Anytime you’re armed, you need to be constantly in the OODA loop.
‘Is there a threat’.
‘Is that threat one that requires armed intervention.’
‘Am I mentally prepared to intervene with my firearm’.
‘I am now intervening.’

There are plenty of threats that do NOT require armed intervention! A bumbling drunk, a lost neighbor kid, a dog rattling your trash cans– unless you can clearly articulate that there was a serious and imminent threat to your life or property (and a threat as recognized by the laws of your region), then you should think twice before arming up and going to investigate. Doing so with a visible long-gun in hand is a calculated risk, but frankly the possibility of a prowler does not raise the same level of alarm to your neighbors as seeing an armed and menacing individual on the property lines. YMMV– ranches and rural areas have different expectations. But it’s one thing to defend your livestock from wolves and rustlers, and it’s another to make sure your garden shed of rusty tools isn’t being pilfered. Either way, you must make a conscientious and clear decision about whether or not to venture into a high-risk scenario, and once you do, you must maintain the highest levels of alertness.

There is no substitute for the Awareness, Avoidance, Action process. The AAA process and your OODA loop are two tools that should constantly be in play at all times, whether or not you perceive a potential threat. A firearm is no substitute for clear and level-headed thinking.


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