Friday, November 6, 2015

No: Telling me you don't trust yourself to not abuse firearms does *not* reassure me.

There's something I've been thinking on.

Consider the response that sometimes pops up when discussing conceal carry occasionally someone will reply with: "Oh no I could never carry a gun, I've been in situations where if I had a gun I would have murdered someone." Maybe not in those exact words, but the statement will contain a personal view that if they had access to a gun, they would have fired upon a person and it would not have been justified self defense.

Often this is coupled with this explaining why they're against carry in general (That is their experience means you should not be allowed carry) But let us put that aside for the moment.
Let us note how different groups respond the given statement.

A) Obviously, people who are anti-gun would be in agreement, even if to exploit greater gun control. They're a less interesting case but they have some crossover with the next group.

B) People ignorant of guns, people who aren't very fond of guns would applaud the statement. They might be a bit worried at the admission at the end, but since they don't carry guns,  since they're not experienced with guns  they'll have relief that the person in question (let's call him Edmund) doesn't have a gun on him.  Their focus is on the weapon itself,  which shows a view on the hierarchy of violence (that is that guns are "real" weapons, while knives and clubs are not).  And on deodands, that the gun itself has some agency.

This group would also be worried at the admission of a violent nature on the part of the question but they'd take comfort in "Well he doesn't have a gun so he can't do anything really /bad/"  After all,  people in this group have knives and blunt instruments and they don't kill people!

C) Now gun folk take an... different view.  This is especially true the more someone is informed on self -defense law. In short,  this groups sees Edmund (the person in question) admitting to mens rea. (That is the mental state of a person to intentionally commit a crime).

And yes, the above statement is an admission to being in the mental state where they /would/ have murdered someone. And the only thing stopping them was... not having a preferred tool at hand.
Imagine if Hannibal Lecter smiled at you and calmly assured you that you're okay because he didn't bring his favorite carving knives. How reassured would you feel?

There are a few ways a "person of the gun" can interpret the statement.

1)  Edmund (the POQ) is lying. He hasn't really been in a situation like that,  or when he was he did not really want to kill someone that was not a manifest threat to grievous bodily harm.  He's just saying that to exaggerate what /someone else/ may think. And is using this, as previously mentioned, to advocate for a particular gun regulation.

However... if your advocacy involves you intentionally lying to portray yourself has having murderous impulses... then your advocacy might not be so well thought out.

2) Edmund is lying to himself.  This is a more extreme case of 1.  Maybe they never were in the situation they've alluded to, but they've thought about it.  Maybe they were in a situation and they thought they might do it.  People do fantasize things.

And if we are dealing with someone who is not experienced with firearms, CCW, or self-defense law. Well, then you have their own ignorance and fears playing at their mind. This one has a potential to go very wrong for Edmund. Allow me to have an aside about training.

Training is a way to prepare and hone skills.   Specifically of the sense "If X then (a)"  That is, "If X happens to men then I will do (a)." An important thing to realize is that in an extreme situation one will be pressed for time.
This is why people will freeze in a situation outside their experience, they have no anticipated plan and thus their brain does not know what to do.  How often is a person's reaction to violence something like "I didn't think it was real." "I didn’t think something like this could happen to me." 
Thus the first part of training is to create the frame of "If then".  One has to have the frame of "If this happens to me… I should do (a)!" Later training is to refine the response to get better at doing (a). 
What's important to note, is that high stress encounters do not automatically result in necessitating lethal force. The other person might not be a manifest threat.   The person many surrender.  The person may be too far away. In short,  the Ability Opportunity Jeopardy triad may not be present. 
But that does not mean that the case will not be extremely stressful.  And  good training would improve the situation and perhaps keep it from becoming a mess in the first place.

And now back to Edmund.  We are dealing with someone who has trained himself into thinking he will  murder someone.

He has told himself (and us) that in a high stress situation he would kill someone that is not an immediate, lethal threat.  What is the "if then" operating in that person's mind? What would happen if such a person found himself in a very heated situation? He might take solace that he's "unarmed" but...

Take this hypothetical.

Edmund is driving on the highway,  there's a traffic jam, things slow down. There's a collision with a catering van. (We'll leave out who is at fault for the accident) 
Both vehicles pull to the side.  There does not seem to be any major injuries,  but the catering truck is stalled out. The caterer gets out,  he's a stout slightly overweight man who starts swearing loudly at his younger assistant who also gets out. 
Edmund also gets out to fix a flat. Trying to work with the tire iron sees the caterer yelling at his assistant while the  younger man is trying to recover what he can out of the back of the van.
The caterer then turns to Edmund and starts yelling at him about how he's ruined his business, that he needed to complete this job and now he won't make it. Angrily waving towards the traffic with his open hands, he walks towards Edmund and stops 10 feet away demanding his insurance information and saying that he'll hear from his lawyer. 
And here's Edmund. On the side of the road with cars whistling past,  his heart-rate is up, he was just in an accident, his adrenaline is still pumping in,  his emotions are high, and here's this guy blaming him for the accident that he caused, meanwhile this oaf is distracting him from trying to get these stupid bolts off the flat that he caused. 
So, still holding the tire iron, Edmund looks at the angry man.  Edmund has told many people that he didn't carry a gun because he thought he'd murder someone when his blood got boiling. 
He's told himself that he could murder someone....   And his blood is boiling right now. And here he is with a nice bar of steel and a pestering nuisance in front of him. 
Do you really think that he's got a tire iron and not a gun will make a different in his actions?  Do you think he'd be more or less at a risk of doing something horrific than someone who has not made the given statement?

Let's look at this example from a self-defense standpoint

Note the caterer may be angry but there is no Jeopardy. Being angry and threatening to sue is not a manifest threat of bodily harm. 
Ability is not present either,  while the caterer has an assistant,  that person is in the van. Edmund is not outnumbered. And at the moment the caterer's hands are empty and he has made no furtive movements 
Opportunity is also not as present as the man is outside of grappling range. 
Thus if Edmund killed, or hurt, the caterer he would have absolutely no defense. Especially if it were discovered that he made repeated statements about how he would commit murder in this exact way. In fact if the caterer fought back and hurt Edmund then he would be the one to have a self-defense claim.  Though his yelling and antagonizing Edmund would complicate matters.
(Which is why being calm in such cases is good advice.)

Just imagine if the prosecutor was able to get Edmund's given statements admitted as evidence. They would readily show mens rea for the incident in question.  "Members of the jury this man told his friends on multiple instances how if he had a weapon in his hand he would murder a someone, well," the prosecutor picks up the tire iron in its evidence bag. "this was what he had in his hand on the day in question.  He used it to kill a man,  sounds like it was a weapon to me."

Still, interpretation 2 has you are dealing with a person who has a potentially dangerous self-delusion. One that could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Which brings us to the third way to take the statement.

3) Edmund is mentally capable of murder and is knowingly telling you that all that keeps him from murdering when under stress is he doesn't have his ideal weapon at hand.   You can easily replicate the caterer scenario with a person operating under interpretation 3.

One can see how none of the interpretations  1 through 3 reflect very well on Edmund in the eyes of one of the "gun folk". Edmund would range from  disturbingly deceitful to dangerously deluded to manifestly dangerous. Regardless, it makes Edmund a risky person to be around if things go bad.
How much would you trust them in a risky situation? Edmund's he has told you that you should *not* trust him.  He's told you he doesn't trust himself.
Even in a situation where lethal force would be justified.  Would *you* trust having that guy nearby you?
Say you're both walking and a couple muggers come out and shove guns in your faces and demand money or your life. You manage to get an opportunity to draw and shoot one,  he falls and his gun falls from his hand. The other mugger drops his gun as well and starts backing away. 
Now you've got to split your attention between two people who until a second ago were lethal threats.  You also have to get on the horn with the police and medical, deal with witnesses,  *and* be on the lookout for other threats. 
If you had someone you trusted with you...   well maybe they'd have a gun of their own, or if you had a spare gun you could give him it.  Or maybe he could gently kick those guns so the muggers couldn't grab them again. At the very least you could have another set of eyes who can help see if the police have come or if there's more bad guys.
Instead you've just deployed deadly force next to a person who has told you that he is irresponsible with regards to deadly force.

The best you can hope for is he won't make the situation worse. And we're not even getting into what kind of witness he would be.  I don't know about you but having someone who is, at best, a known liar on matters of life and death talking to the police as a witness does not fill me with joy.

For another hypothetical, let's go back to the caterer situation.  Now have it where Edmund is an associate (maybe even friend of yours). You're a passenger in the car.   And the situation starts to play out as it did before. How comfortable would you feel seeing your associate's white knuckles on that tire iron?

Heck we don't even need to have such a dramatic hypothetical.  Just being a passenger in Edmund's car is risky enough. Do you think someone who feels his anger is such he can't let himself carry a gun would be more or less susceptible to road rage?

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