Cops vs. Armed Citizens

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Steve LeMascus

Before you get the wrong idea, the title of this piece does not denote a confrontation between the two groups mentioned. Rather, I intend to demonstrate the differences between the needs and actions of the two when faced with the possibility of armed conflict.

First, law enforcement officers, at least most of them, by the very nature of their jobs are looking for trouble. Or, rather, they are looking to prevent trouble by their presence. Thus a police officer is forced to confront trouble face on. The armed citizen, on the other hand, is armed not because he is out there actively looking for trouble, but so that if trouble finds him he can cope with it. A police officer is expected to walk into a situation that the armed citizen should do everything in his power to avoid.

For instance, should the armed citizen (AC) see an armed robbery in progress, he should not try to intervene. His very presence will complicate things and could cause death and destruction. It will cause law enforcement personnel responding to the call to consider him an armed antagonist rather than a fellow cop. If an AC sees such a situation he should retreat and phone the robbery in to the police. Even if he is in the establishment when the robbery is occurring he should try to hide until help arrives. Only when placed in a situation where he cannot hide or retreat and where he thinks he has enough of an advantage that he can complete his draw and neutralize the threat without getting shot, or where nothing but his immediate intervention can prevent the death or grievous bodily injury of innocent people, should he react with force. Instead of screaming “Stop, I’ve got a gun,” he should seek cover and concealment and try to put himself into a position where, if he is forced to use his weapon, he and not the scumbag has all the advantages. The average citizen is in no way trained to handle such situations and should do everything he can to avoid them. There is no shame is running away or hiding. Even cops and soldiers do it when they are out-gunned or out-maneuvered.

If you, an AC, are leaving the mall with Christmas presents and notice a group of suspicious men loitering around the parking lot, the wise thing to do is return to the mall, find a security guard, explain the situation to him, and ask the guard to accompany you to your vehicle. Unlimbering Old Equalizer is your last resort, not your first. You want to go home with your gifts, not spend the next week at the police department explaining your actions over and over again and appearing on the local news channel as an armed nut and a vigilante. And you should always contemplate the possibility that you may not win the gunfight. Being dead lasts a very long time.

I am very leery of the stand-your-ground laws that are being enacted all across the country. I understand the reason they are being passed, but I am not sure that the average AC understands it. Those laws are not being passed to force you to stand your ground and fight, but I am afraid that is the way many uninformed people see it.

There are no laws now, and there never will be any such laws, that prevent you from retreating from an armed confrontation. It is simple common sense that if you can safely escape such an encounter, you should.

As I said, you are probably not trained to tackle such situations. What those laws are for is to protect you if you find yourself in a situation you cannot see a way to avoid, and end up having to use your weapon in self-defense.

Then if the pundits and naysayers who study your reactions for a few months find what they believe is a way you could have escaped, you are not subject to arrest for standing your ground rather than falling to your knees and begging for mercy.

Far too many ACs seem to see themselves as plain clothes cops. That is so far from reality that it amazes me. Not only has the police officer been trained to use his weapon by many hours on a range with a qualified instructor, he also has a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations pertaining thereto.

He is taught how to approach an armed encounter in a way that gives him the best possible chance to survive and most have spent at least some time on shoot and don’t shoot scenarios using projectors and movies on a screen.

Some larger agencies even have shooting houses such as the famous Hogan’s Alley. Having spent time on such simulators myself, I can tell you that the adrenaline flows quite freely, and you find yourself almost believing it is real. This is as close to reality as you can get without actually being in a gunfight.

On the other hand the AC has probably not been to any such training. Most have done a bit of practice on their own and have taken the test that gives them their concealed carry license. That course is not a training course. It is a test to see if you can qualify and to familiarize you with the laws that pertain to your carrying a gun. It does not compare with the training a police officer gets. Do not kid yourself that you are well-trained if you pass the concealed carry course.

I personally believe that every person who wants to carry a concealed weapon should take some real training course such as those offered by Thunder Ranch. It would be best if you took that course before you went for your concealed carry license.

That is my advice. Take it or not. It is up to you.

—Steve LaMascus

4 comments

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  1. Mike Douglas

    Wow, just wow. I could not agree more. One dilemma, which brings the most concern on my part, as a CHL holder, is that Texas has made it even easier for individuals to obtain their CHL. While im completely for their right to devend themself, i find it dificult to believe that very few individuals have the situational awareness necessary to react to the event taking place in a safe manner. I can go on and on regarding the particular topic, yet i believe you hit the nail dead on the head and found it to be a great read.

  2. Tony

    I would mostly agree with your article except for the officers spending hours and hours on the range with an instructor. They may spend time getting qualified the first time but after that all bets are off. Due to budget or lack of wanting to be better, most officers shoot just enough to qualify every year. Yes, they know the law, however, I’ve encountered many and have heard of many more that couldn’t shoot there way out of a paper bag. Scary actually.

  3. David2014

    What state do you live in Mr. LeMascus? Reading your article, it appears to be a very ‘politically correct’ one that is controlled by anti-gun people who write the self defense laws. Are you really recommending that if we [your readers] see someone who is unarmed & being the victim of a violent felony crime… that we [a armed person] simply hide and call the police while that person is facing serious injury or death? Geesh!

    Here in Oklahoma, we have both concealed & open carry with a permit. I open carry a Glock 27 every day and have been doing so for several years. I open carry for convenience and comfort… not to show-off or intimidate anyone. I’ve had a handgun permit for 20+ years. I have never had to show my permit to a Law enforcement officer [LEO] in all that time nor have I ever had any issue with a business.

    Our self defense laws were written by the Oklahoma legislature to give us permit holders wide legal protection when defending ourselves & others from violent felonies… inside and outside our homes.

    TITLE 21 § 1289.25
    PHYSICAL OR DEADLY FORCE AGAINST INTRUDER

    A.
    The Legislature hereby recognizes that the citizens of the State of Oklahoma have a right to expect absolute
    safety within their own homes or places of business.

    B.
    A person or a owner, manager or employee of a business is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of
    imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is
    intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

    1.
    The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully
    entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, occupied vehicle, or a place of
    business, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against the will of that
    person from the dwelling, residence, occupied vehicle, or place of business; and

    2.
    The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or
    unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

    C.
    The presumption set forth in subsection B of this section does not apply if:

    1.
    The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the
    dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not a protective
    order from domestic violence in effect or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that
    person;

    2.
    The person or persons sought to be removed are children or grandchildren, or are otherwise in the lawful
    custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used; or

    3.
    The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence,
    occupied vehicle, or place of business to further an unlawful activity.

    ****************************
    D.
    A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has
    a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force,
    including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily
    harm to himself or herself [[[[[or another]]]]] or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
    ********************************

    E.
    A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter the dwelling, residence, occupied vehicle
    of another person, or a place of business is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act
    involving force or violence.

    ****************************
    F.
    A person who uses force, as permitted pursuant to the provisions of subsections B and D of this section, is
    justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force.
    As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes charging or prosecuting the defendant.
    ****************************

  4. David

    I agree with Tony. While generally correct in principle, the author presents an idealistic image of cops and a derogatory image of armed citizens. I, a non-cop, have helped train cops. I will no longer do that in large part because of the sneering attitude some cops have when saying ‘civilian’. SOME cops are well trained. Many are no more than an armed citizen with a uniform. Some are frighteningly inept and ignorant. On the other hand many of those non-cops are combat veterans. Others are experienced former cops. Others have spent many times more hours of range time and training than any cop who only does it because he is required. Just as there are non-cops who think they are experts because they were issued the permit, there are cops who think they are experts because they were issued the uniform. BIf ANYONE is to carry a firearm they need to honestly consider the consequences and responsibilities and learn as much as they can. This apples to BOTH groups. Officers, do not assume your Department minimum required training has made you experts. Get all the training you can.
    Finally, in today’s world if officers are seeing armed citizens “as an armed antagonist” they need more training.

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