Should An Armed Citizen Defend A Stranger?

Should an armed citizen defend a stranger? This is something most legally armed citizens have considered. This is a question every legally armed citizen should consider, and consider thoroughly, long before the need ever arises.

In the case of an obvious terrorist incident, the decision to act is probably a little (just a little) easier. If you witness someone randomly slashing, stabbing, or shooting people your best response is probably more clear. But what about other situations?

The answer to this question is very personal and specific to each individual. Most firearms instructors familiar with the carry lifestyle warn against intervening to save a stranger. The thinking is that your job is to defend yourself and your loved ones, to call 911, and be a good witness for incidents that don’t directly involve you. Your job is not law enforcement.

Other people view the role of the legally armed citizen as the “sheepdog” with a moral obligation to “protect the innocent” if the need arises. Again the answer to the question is unique to each individual.

The following are some things to consider:

  • If you intervene, do you know who is the aggressor and who is the victim?– Unless you know the people involved or you witness the development of the incident from the very beginning, chances are good that you won’t be sure who is the victim and who is the aggressor. This is something law enforcement officers (LEO) have to deal with each time they arrive on scene, which is what drives their initial behavior. Are you sure you aren’t interfering with an undercover police action? Are you sure your aggressor isn’t really the victim who just got the upper hand? These are things you need to know.


  • If you intervene you may make the situation worse.– If an armed individual is threatening someone and you intervene, it’s possible you could make the situation worse. If the innocent person is injured or killed during the incident, it could be argued that wouldn’t have happened had you not interfered. If shots are fired and a bystander is hit the same argument could be made. You’re responsible for every round you fire.


  • Even if you do everything right you will pay a price.– Remember the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri? Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown while defending himself from a violent attack. Wilson did everything correctly per his training, with the full authority of an LEO, and yet his career was ruined and his life severely impacted. George Zimmerman was a legally armed citizen involved in a fatal self-defense incident. Zimmerman did absolutely nothing wrong yet his life was destroyed because of the incident. If you take a life, even if you suffer no legal or civil action, you’ll have to live with that fact for the rest of your life.


  • The stranger chose not to take responsibility for his/her own safety.– The stranger that you’ve decided to risk everything to save had the same opportunity as you to take responsibility for his or her own self protection. They chose not to accept that responsibility. If you intervene you are risking everything, your life, your freedom, your marriage, you’re financial security, family and friends. Everything. Is it worth the risk?

The point here is not to suggest you act one way or another. The point is to encourage you to think these things through and understand your personal position long before the need arises. Adopting the carry lifestyle comes with tremendous responsibility that the overwhelming majority of people handle very well.

We should all accept responsibility for keeping our family and ourselves safe. Fortunately we have recently regained that ability in San Diego County with the option of obtaining a concealed carry permit. If you choose this option, educate yourself, train, and enjoy your freedom.

If you want to keep your rights defend them by joining San Diego County Gun Owners (SDCGO), the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), and the National Rifle Association (NRA). Join the fight and help us restore and preserve our second amendment rights. Together we will win.


©2018 Joseph T Drammissi


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