There’s a short version and a long version of this answer. The short version is: Yes. The long version is a much more compelling story.
It’s not really this:
It’s more like this:
Although what we all really want is this:
For those of you who haven’t come across this complete gem of a story, I highly recommend you read this article first. If nothing else scroll down and just read the part in italics.
Daisy Luther has once again outdone herself with an excellent article, laying out the case for women keeping guns. She covers the biological reasons quite nicely I thought – men are physically superior as a rule (there are exceptions, but let’s face it, by definition, almost all women are not the exception). But the real beauty of her article is the story told in italics. It gives one women’s (quite riveting) account of nothing happening. And for those of you who take self defense seriously, you know that nothing happening is usually the best outcome possible. Her story of how she made sure that nothing happened is very educational. Let’s break it down shall we? (Seriously, go read it if you haven’t: thar be spoilers ahead).
OK, first up, I have only one real complaint about what this lady did – she said that she had to grab her Glock. Why wasn’t it on her? Besides that, screw my pickiness, everything turned out fine for her and her family, so she obviously did everything right.
That most fundamental of pre-attack indicators
She opens the story with the most basic of pre-incident indicators: a deviation from normal. She lives at the end of a lonely country road, so there are almost never visitors (articulates the norm), but a strange car pulled up at her gate (articulates the deviation from the norm). Lonely country roads are not social places, but 3 men in the same car is usually a social thing. A husband and wife would’ve been less threatening, but 3 men? There ain’t no bowling alley near her house.
Next up she says that her gut told her (actually it beat down her mental door to get attention) that something was wrong. And she had the perfect response – she listened to her gut. Oh, and she also grabbed her pistol.
After writing about grabbing her pistol she then says that there were three men outside with her daughter (disparity of force), and they were bigger than her and her daughter (further disparity of force). She writes about it in a reverse order (grabbed gun; seeing men), but It does come through that accessing the weapon was a response to seeing the disparity of force (and some other factors/deviations from norm).
Next she talks about the way these men were interacting with her. There was one who was “over-friendly”. She doesn’t go into details about what made her come to this conclusion, but over-friendly sounds like someone trying to get into your social good books (i.e. trying to be Charming – using social scripts to gain trust, usually at an unnatural, accelerated rate), maybe using Loan-sharking, maybe using Unsolicited Promises. The second one who was out the car was fidgety (body language deviated from a relaxed state – excessive movement, associated with anticipation and adrenaline – pre-attack conditions). She doesn’t go into enough detail to know if it was adrenaline or not (stiff, uncoordinated movements, less micro-movements like finger flicking, more knees and elbows feeling stiff).
The story so far
So we have one driver in car (getaway car?). 2 males near 15 year old daughter – one talkative (distracting) and “ingratiating (attempting to be charming and trying to forceably speed up the process of gaining trust), the other hanging back and fidgeting (signs of adrenaline and anticipation of stressful events to come).
The next thing she mentions is that the car had tinted windows and no number plate. A good getaway car, more difficult for a victim to identify the car, and harder for police cars going past the car to make out faces (as described by any victims).
Like Van Horne and Riley say in Left of Bang. Any one anomaly by itself is meaningless, and while a group of anomalies might not tell you everything, they tell you everything you need to make a decision and act.
At this point in the story the talkative (trying to force a relationship – what MacYoung calls speeding through the social steps) says the car’s overheating, can he make a phone call. This is straight up boundary testing. Even if this was a good guy, and all was kosher, this is still boundary testing, it’s just that GG’s ask to establish where your boundary is so they can respect it. BG’s establish where your boundaries are for other reasons (do you value yourself enough to put up a fight; are you aware of what he’s doing).
She says “No, you’re not coming in.” Perfect response. Stating boundary clearly, no ambiguity for a BG to exploit. Next he tries renegotiating and asks for some water. She talks about how they were closer to her daughter than she was, so she couldn’t hustle her inside and call for back-up. She agrees to him fetching some water, but I’m pretty sure it was her buying time to get to her daughter in a non-obvious way (partial acquiescence to pretend to be compliant, avoiding the BG having to make a distinct decision on the spot – by not forcing a confrontation the BG believes he still has a chance to use social bullshitting to make it safe for him to attack – basically she used BG social tactics used against him).
After he’s got the water, the “talkative one” (I like her use of Othering here to label them in non human terms – she’s already made up her mind to shoot him ,she’s just waiting for the conditions to require it) starts explaining why there isn’t a number plate. He wasn’t asked. This is the thing most obvious sign of things being off-kilter. Unsolicited information is just one step away from unsolicited promises. This was in fact him trying to allay her fears (trying to promise that he’s not a BG). (GG’s are unaware of other people’s states of mind – if the stranger starts trying to calm you down and you haven’t shown that you’re scared, this is a bad sign.)
At this point she’s bought enough time by playing the social script game and managed to get between them and her daughter. Now she’s in a better position so she (she) forces the decision moment (and in doing so takes the initiative – very nicely done) and tells them “You need to leave.” Perfect line. A statement of fact (not desire, “please leave”, “I want you to leave” – which is the same as pleading and letting the world know that you are less powerful than them – strong people can tell, weak people can only ask); it’s not personal and there are no threats (she was assertive, not aggressive). This decisive statement of fact is not a threat, it’s a promise. It says “I’m calling your bluff. I am confident that I can take you. Show your hand or fold. Right now.”
The “talkative one” now says (doesn’t ask, he’s trying to establish dominance) that they need just one more bucket of water. She’s taken the initiative and so now he’s trying to get the interaction back onto the script he wants, so that he can take back the initiative – he wasn’t ready to launch the attack yet. He also puts his hand out in a way she describes as trying to placate her. This is basically an unsolicited promise, and can easily turn into him walking towards her and closing into attack range by freezing her into place with this gesture (think of someone approaching a spooked horse or stray dog, hand out to show they’re not a threat all while actually closing in). He wasn’t ready yet, but she called his not-a-bluff, so now he might be launching the attack.
How does she react to this? She puts her hand on her grip, ready to draw, and reasserts her boundary: “No. You need to leave now.” Give this lady a medal. Shows she’s willing to enforce her boundary with physical violence and restates the boundary in a clear manner. Very easy for the guys to understand the way to avoid getting shot.
Everybody got back into the car and (I’m assuming) the previously overheating car drove away just fine.
Perfect ending to the situation. At least from her and her daughter’s point of view.
Groups of anomalies
Right from the start this lady was spot on. She doesn’t articulate why her “gut” told her she needed to worry – she doesn’t have to right then and there, she needed to act, and she did. But if we look back at the anomlalies, the deviations from normal, it’s fairly easy to see why she needed to react the way she did:
- This happened “after supper”, i.e. fewer potential witnesses out and about
- Lonely area with non-existent visitors gets a visitor – 3 of them
- 3 grown men in an isolated place they have no place being
- 2 grown men approaching her daughter
- Call it a 50/50 chance these are Bad Guys not insurance salesmen – I don’t know about you, but I have car insurance for what I hope are drastically smaller odds than 50/50. Life insurance by virtue of Glock-on-person is absolutely called for.
And the list of anomalies and pre-attack indicators continued after this.
At this point I want you to go back to the title of this post and answer the question for yourself. Because as fabulously as this lady acted and reacted
- actually obeying her gut
- going in prepared (taking a weapon)
- setting boundaries (can’t come inside)
- using BG social script tactics to gain time (can have bucket of water) in order to gain better positioning (between threat and daughter)
- taking the initiative (pre-emptive “You need to leave.”)
- asserting/maintaining boundaries when pushed (“just need one more bucket” = “No. You need to leave now.”)
- and readying for violence when the threat tries to close (grabs G19 when he does the placate-the-spooked-animal-with-the-outreached-hand-while-approaching-closer thing)
did you notice that despite a textbook perfect avoidance and de-escalation strategy, the “talkative one” STILL TRIED TO INITIATE THE ATTACK. (aside: always be wary of people who talk too much). She did everything right, everything she could have, and he was still probably going to attack (he was trying to get things back on-track for an attack up until he saw the gun). Do you think they would have backed off and left if she had pulled out pepper spray? Or a stun gun? I don’t think they would have, not if he was going to attack after all she already did to prevent it.
A baseball bat, or knife, or axe? Ooh, a sword! Then maybe he might have given up. Maybe. But guys generally won’t take a woman seriously if they have a contact weapon (well, maybe a knife – it depends). We’re too used to being able to physically dominate any woman, so a contact weapon in the hands of a woman isn’t necessarily perceived as that big of a threat. But a pistol? Somewhere deep down we know that she doesn’t need to be strong to pull a trigger. So if she had had any other weapon, the chances of them aborting the attack would still be iffy. But a pistol does amazing things for rehabilitating bad ideas.
These BG’s (not potential BG’s in my mind, they demonstrated enough Intent, Ability and Opportunity to be classified as actual threats) might have gone off and picked another victim. Somebody’s day didn’t end as well as this lady’s. Maybe not that day. Almost definitely another. But we can’t waste too much time thinking along the lines of “Oh shame, but they’ll just pick somebody else to be a victim.” (sad emoticon here). That path leads to really bad ideas (Social Justice Cupcake type ideas) like allowing oneself to be a victim to “save” another victim. This is not altruism. This is stupidity. Something like this would give a BG an easy target, emboldening him to make further attacks. Some people who are anti private ownership of guns (they’re pro the police etc. having them) worry “But what if everybody had guns?” Let’s rephrase that somewhat by cherry-picking just one sub-group of “everybody”: “But what if all the victims have guns?” Sounds like something only hoplophobes and criminals would worry about doesn’t it? (You can choose which category politicians fall under, considering how few are pro guns.)
Good question. “What if all the victims have guns?”