Never threaten with your weapon – you’ll either have to use it, or it’ll get taken away from you and used against you.
– Rory Miller
Watch the video of a cop threatening a crowd of people. And the people are having none of it.
What can we, as gun owners, learn from this?
Your goal dictates your actions
To oversimplify things, the cop tried to out Monkey Dance a Group Monkey Dance (the crowd of angry churchgoers). The cop’s goal was to control the crowd. That’s all he could see in that moment – keep safe by intimidating them into compliance. He was unable to change his goal to “get out, stay alive” in the middle of the moment. (Certain fields tend to train you into this mindset of “escalate until it works” – military, some police, teachers. Up the ante until you get your way.)
We need to keep reminding ourselves of our overall goal: Get home safe, keep family safe.
Asshole cut you off in traffic? Remember your goal.
Dude swore at your wife? Remember your goal. Doesn’t mean it’s OK what he did, but ask yourself if confronting him helps you reach your goal.
When you get emotional be harsh with yourself, ask “Is my goal to teach him a lesson or to get home safe to my family?”
Your monkey brain will hold on tight to what it thinks it knows
You go through most of your day with the monkey brain in charge. The monkey loves the familiar and the routine. Which is fine, it does its job well.
The problem comes in when things change. The monkey doesn’t like change, change is uncomfortable and the monkey lives to keep you comfortable.
So when you’re pushing your groceries to the car, and danger comes up, your monkey will try keep you comfortable. The man asking directions has a hand in his pocket, and he keeps trying to get closer and closer. Your human and lizard brains will tell you “danger”. And then immediately afterwards your monkey brain will say “but what about the groceries, we can’t leave them in the middle of the parking lot”. The monkey doesn’t like to change goals. You need to fight this.
Changing your goal mid-situation can be difficult. But getting your mind right each and every day can help. For example, mentally running through scenarios before leaving the house in the morning. That way, when you’re faced by something unexpected, your human brain has been primed to overrule your monkey brain because it did so 3 times before leaving the house.
You can’t intimidate someone with your weapon
Look at it from the other person’s perspective.
There’s someone who just pulled a pistol on you. Maybe you get a little fright to begin with. But then he doesn’t use it. So you don’t know if he’s committed or not. And then he keeps on not using it. He racks the slide (and then picks up the cartridge). Then he fires into the air. All while not shooting you.
From the cop’s perspective he was increasing the amount of force he was displaying. Not using, displaying (in his mind). From the other side the cop was showing the extremes he was willing to go to in order to avoid hitting or shooting someone.
He was telling the entire crowd how desperate he was to not shoot them.
How to properly intimidate someone with a weapon?
You can intimidate someone with a weapon. The difference is that it’s not a threat, it’s a promise.
How does it work? You pull your weapon and make your threat. If the person doesn’t comply, then you use your weapon. 1 chance, then bang.
But the problem is that it’s too easy for your monkey brain to convince you to keep making threats, and talk you out of using the weapon.
More importantly, if you think you may need to kill this person, then it’s serious enough to skip the threats and warnings altogether. You wouldn’t warn (a.k.a. threaten) someone who was in the middle of trying to kill you.
What about the grey areas?
You know, just before the bad stuff starts? Like a home invader who hasn’t killed someone yet? Or who’s ripping the clothes off your wife but doesn’t know you’re there with a gun? Won’t he stop if you give him a warning?
There are all kinds of answers to this question. Most of them are just monkey brain ways of beating around the bush to avoid actually doing what I’m about to say:
Know beforehand what your lines in the sand are. Decide what you can and cannot live with accepting. And then act accordingly.
If you’re threatening someone to prevent them from doing something terrible, it means you believe (or strongly suspect) they are going to do that terrible thing. What you’re doing is hoping that maybe you’re wrong, because you certainly can’t see into the BG’s mind to know for sure. So you’re trying to avoid the uncomfortable deed and acting.
Laws differ around the world, etc. etc. etc. The general idea is this:
The circumstances that make it acceptable to threaten someone with a weapon usually also justify you using that weapon. So if you’re justified in using the weapon, then threatening instead of using is probably an inadequate response.
Watch this “other angle” video. His backup (fellow cop) starts coming close to help him, then backs away and radios for help and leaves the crowd to beat his colleague. Lesson: Know who you can count on.