Firearm owners often speak of avoidance as being first prize. What does this actually mean? Well, this all comes down to why we license firearms in the first place. So, why do we license and carry firearms? The purpose of carrying a licensed firearm is to defend innocent life as an absolute last resort. We do not carry firearms to be a superhero, or to stop a thief from stealing our expensive flatscreen television, we also don’t carry firearms to get the upper hand when an argument doesn’t go our way. Firearms are effective lethal tools – this tool can prevent the loss of life should there be an immediate threat. We never shoot to kill either, we shoot to stop an active threat against life, if the attacker dies as a result of his wounds sustained while attacking an innocent person, that is merely a side effect, not the intended outcome. However, not shooting at all is simply the best outcome for any licensed firearm owner, thus avoidance is key and always considered first prize.
So, what is avoidance? I like to explain avoidance as using your situational awareness and spatial awareness to identify any potential threats and to avoid them. Being situationally aware is crucial to avoiding potential threats, this allows you to spot anything that might be out of place. An example I like to use, of situational awareness, is the sound of gunfire in a mall. When we are out shopping for essentials or luxuries, we know what to expect; crowded passageways, families with kids, couples holding hands and stores with long queues. This is what we come to expect from our monthly trip to the mall, however, if we hear gunfire in this environment, or rather this situation, we know that there is an active threat. If we were visiting a local sport shooting club or shooting range and we hear gunfire, it has already been expected due to the current situation, in a mall this is not the case. We always recommend listening to your gut feeling and instincts – if something seems off from what the current situation dictates, take precautions and practice pre-emptive avoidance.
Now that we have covered situational awareness, let’s look at some spatial awareness. Being spatially aware means that you are aware of exits should a life-threatening situation take place. We inherently have a spatial awareness ingrained in us – we all more or less know where we parked our car at the mall, and we all generally know where certain stores are, or rather which route to take to find them. Being spatially aware will greatly assist you with avoiding any potential threat. To put situational awareness and spatial awareness into a practical sense, let’s analyse an armed robbery at the mall. Picture this: you are walking through the mall on your way to pick up some essentials, and suddenly you hear gunfire from around the corner. Your situational awareness tells you that this is not normal – you are in a mall surrounded by law-abiding citizens doing their monthly shopping. You now know that there is an active threat, instead of being a hero and looking to stop this armed robbery with your firearm, use your spatial awareness to locate where the gunfire is coming from, which way you should go to move away from the threat, and where your nearest exit is. Many might consider this cowardice, as our egos would often chalk it up, however, you have actually won. You have managed to avoid a potential threat where your life was in danger. This is critically important if you are with family or loved ones who you wish to protect. By engaging a suspect in a gunfight, you may draw their fire towards yourself and innocent people near you.
So, with the scenario above, the armed robbery took place at a nearby store around the corner, what happens when the store you are in is targeted? Once again, avoidance is first prize – we do everything in our power to not have to shoot. The store’s goods or cash is not worth risking your life. But, if these armed robbers were to pose an imminent threat against your life or the life of an innocent citizen, it is your choice whether to neutralize the threat or stick to avoidance. These types of situations are never good to be in, firstly you may have failed to notice the red flags when suspicious men in hoodies came through the door, or you may have failed to notice that something in that store looked out of place before you entered. Regardless, you are now faced with the situation of an armed robber putting the life of a cashier in danger. Should the armed robber take his attention off of you, giving you time to draw your firearm, I would definitely say that now is the time to shoot – you have no other choice. You can either keep avoiding and complying but at the risk of a cashier potentially being shot and killed, or you can make the conscious decision to draw your firearm and neutralize the threat. Now, drawing your firearm in a situation like this is extremely dangerous, but it can be done effectively – please read through our article titled “Drawing on The Drop”. But situations like the above are always changing on the fly – there are so many different variables which may shift in a second so always be sure of your actions.
What happens when you shoot someone? We want to avoid having to shoot someone at all costs. Once you are in a situation where you had no other choice but to defend innocent life, you will need to justify your actions in court. Let’s say that you are charged with murder, after stopping a threat, you will have the opportunity to defend yourself in court. Regardless of whether this case turns out to be a clear-cut self defence shooting, and your charges are withdrawn, you have still spent about six months, on average, going to court and dealing with postponements and having to pay legal fees. Furthermore, your firearm will be confiscated for ballistics, until the case has been settled. During all this time you will be unarmed and unable to defend life, should it be in immediate danger. This is a big reason that we always recommend owning a 2nd handgun if you are serious about defence.
So, we need to always consider whether it is worth using a firearm at this point, is it worth it to shoot somebody and deal with all the consequences. Well, sometimes we are faced with no other choice, but you will feel better about the entire ordeal if you have shot as an absolute last resort – if you had not used your firearm to stop the threat, innocent lives would have been lost. Saving the life of a family member or somebody else you may have a legal interest in, is definitely worth the trouble. However, once again, not having to shoot is even better!
Before I end this article, I would like to recommend the following: license an additional firearm for difficult situations. If you have a “backup” firearm then you will never be left without one, should you have your everyday-carry firearm confiscated for ballistics. Our team here at Gunlicence.co.za specializes in firearm proficiency training, competency applications, firearm licence applications as well as firearm licence renewals, estate firearms and expired firearm licences. Rest assured, we have you covered for applying for the licence of an additional handgun. There are different ways to go about licensing an additional handgun, so please reach out to us if you have any more questions on the matter.