The Cost of Hesitation

I recently read an interview with legendary firearms instructor John Farnam. The interview concerned the subject of killing in self-defense and the harsh realities associated with that action.

All sane, rational people feel a natural revulsion to taking a human life no matter what the reason. But when a violent criminal removes all other options, can you do what needs to be done, without hesitation, to protect yourself or your family?

Farnam’s approach is to teach his students to think in terms of “when” rather than “if”. Approaching the subject from the “if” perspective makes it more abstract and contributes to the state of denial often seen in victims at the onset of a violent encounter. “I can’t believe this is happening”. That reaction, along with the associated hesitation, could result in significant injury or death in an encounter with a violent criminal.

Another contributor to hesitation is the environment created by the numerous and misguided gun control laws to which we in California are subjected. These laws do not increase public safety and have absolutely no impact on criminals. They, in fact, make us all less safe. Those of us that carry regularly are well aware of the danger of inadvertently running afoul of some bizarre anti-gun law.

Criminals are predators. They select prey, move into position, and attack. They don’t hesitate. The selection process is sometimes described as the interview. The primary goal of any self-defense approach should be to fail the interview. Don’t be selected by the criminal in the first place and your self-defense technique is 100% successful.

Criminals select easy prey. They select people that don’t look like they’ll resist, that don’t appear aware of their surroundings, that don’t seem to present a risk to the predator. They don’t select those they think won’t hesitate to defend themselves. Don’t appear as easy prey to the predator and you’ll fail the interview.

Once selected, the predator needs to get close enough to attack. Panhandling, asking for a cigarette, asking for directions are all common ploys. Here is your first opportunity to overcome hesitation or not. Farnam teaches what he calls his famous tape loop, “I’m sorry sir, I can’t help you”. By making that statement when approached, you’ve begun to take action before a physical attack can start and thus have broken through the hesitation.

If the encounter progresses to the point of an actual attack you are at a distinct disadvantage. Violence is a part of the criminal’s world, its something they experience regularly. You, on the other hand, probably rarely if ever experience violence. The criminal won’t hesitate and he won’t stop unless you make him stop.

So what to do?

  • Be Aware –The best self-defense is to not get into a bad situation in the first place. Don’t go to stupid places at stupid times. Don’t associate with stupid people. Don’t do stupid things. Pay attention and notice things.
  • Train – Train as often as possible. Take as many classes as possible. Remember firearms skill is necessary but the gun is the last resort. A significant part of your training should involve developing situational awareness, avoidance, and disengagement.
  • Read – Read as much as possible from a variety of sources. Read material on firearms, criminal behavior, and anything else related to developing a complete self-defense approach.
  • Play “What If”– Do this mental exercise often when you are out and about. “If this happened right now, what would I do?”
  • Know the Rules – Understand exactly what does and does not constitute a justified use of deadly force. Know the law. The more solid your understanding, the less likely hesitation will be a problem.

Being well prepared and confident is the best way to avoid hesitation should you find yourself in a threatening situation. Being aware and paying attention are the best ways to avoid getting into a threatening situation.

Fortunately in our country we have many options when it comes to taking responsibility for our personal safety and for that of our loved ones. Those options include the right to keep and bear arms.

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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