I have been working on this post for a while now, I apologize if it seems to ramble a little. I was motivated to revive it because of a news story about an attack on a CCW permit holder. This is not the first story I have read about a CCW permit holder getting taken down and not firing a shot. I first started this post as a response to a post by Miguel regarding a failed DGU that resulted in the death of the defending party. And of course there is the oft repeated anti-CCW argument that women are too weak to have or carry guns.
In each one of these cases, and those like them that I didn’t link to, the scenario begs the question: why have a gun if you are not prepared to use it effectively? This post is my attempt to answer that question.
Many years ago when I was In ROTC in college, I would read whatever I could get my hands on regarding military strategy, tactics, and doctrine. I was going to be a general. Rommel you magnificent bastard, I read your book. Needless to say, those plans did not come to fruition.
One of the more interesting books I read was by Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall, the Chief Military Historian of the US Army for WWII. Marshall discovered that about 80% of soldiers would no fire at the enemy with the intent to kill them. Many never fired their weapon at all. Of those who did, many would “pray and spray” or provide covering fire. That is not to say the remaining soldiers were cowards. They carried ammo, water, wounded, etc,. and provided for the war effort. But it was a small minority of soldiers that could line up their sights on an enemy and pull the trigger with the intent to kill them.
This information is reinforced by the whole history of technology in combat, which served to separate the soldier from the killing he was expected to do. The greater the distance, the better the solider was as killing: clubs to swords to spears to arrows to the long bow to muskets to artillery to bomber aircraft to ICBMs. The further a soldier was from the casualties he was producing the easier it was for him to kill. Arial bombardment and artillery produced far more casualties in war than small arms fire.
There is a reason for this, of course. Humans are social animals; we do better in groups than on our own. Empathy is part of that. Evolution or nature or god or whatever has programmed us to be empathetic to our fellow humans, so that we don’t kill each other and instead work together. The stronger the bond – family, clan, tribe, nation – the more empathetic we are. It is hard to look someone in the face and kill them. It goes against our empathetic nature.
So to get back to the original point of this post. Why do I believe that a woman, fearing for her life from an ex didn’t kill him? Why did two CCW permit holders not use their permitted guns to defend themselves? I believe that despite owning a gun, obtaining a permit, and perhaps years of target practice, they weren’t prepared to kill. That is a major emotional hurtle for a person to climb.
The military developed an entirely new training regiment prior to Vietnam with the goal of making 80% of solders combat effective. There has been a downside to this. It is believed that one of the reasons that America soldiers have suffered so much more emotional trauma (PTSD) in Vietnam and the Middle East, compared to WWII, is that these young men and women have been trained to kill in combat, but do not know how to cope with the emotional ramifications of that when they return home.
So where does that leave us? It is possible for a person to overcome their good, empathetic nature and defend themselves with lethal force. If you choose to own and/or carry a gun for self defense, you must be emotionally prepared to use it. If not, you may get killed by the psychopath who has no empathetic qualms about ending you.