“Enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment.” – Chogyam Trungpa

An important part of our job instructing others in use of lethal force is to present worst case scenario and bring to light the realities of the responsibilities we’re taking on, as well as the potential costs of the aftermath when we’re involved in a defensive shooting.

We’re not in the good news business.

The owning and carrying of firearms is full of risk. Risk that many never consider, or simply ignore. As Ayoob so succinctly puts it: When we walk out the front door, we’re saying to the worldI have the ability to make life and death decisions” – so, is your training relevant?

Last November in Tacoma Washington, a homeowner named Tobin Panton observed a thief in his driveway making off with his Jeep. Panton ran out on his front porch and fired his Glock at the vehicle, emptying it into slide-lock.

Two blocks down the street, one of his rounds pierced a window in the home of 61-year-old Linda Green, killing her as she lay in bed.

Panton has pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter and is now awaiting sentencing. He’s looking at a possible decade, or more, in prison.

Throughout my career my students have been good people. No student that I know of has harbored evil intent. My concern has never been preventing my students from doing something evil, my concern has been preventing them from doing something stupid. Firing at a stolen vehicle as it speeds away, with no obvious threat to yourself or other innocents, is STUPID.

I’m sure Mr Panton is a decent person, and I’m sure he had no intent of ever harming a neighbor on the night in question – He’s not evil, but he did do something stupid, and it resulted in the death of Linda Green.

And over what?

A car. An insured car. A car the police found a mile away, abandon, with no sign of the thief. …A car Mr Panton will never be driving again.

Questions come up in class regularly about when it’s “ok” to shoot someone. Our generic answer is: When there is an immediate and otherwise unavoidable threat of grave bodily injury, or death, to the innocent.

Now and then people will want to argue about it, bringing up such things as the after dark trespassing law in Texas – however, our answer remains the same: Unless there is an immediate and otherwise unavoidable threat of grave bodily injury, or death, to the innocent, HOLD YOUR GUN SILENT!

Whatever scenario you want to invent in your head is not a shooting solution unless it meets those criteria. And, even then, when the time arrives, can we find another way out?

The gun is the trump card – it’s the last thing we play. It is a piece of EMERGENCY equipment used to cut a path to safety. It is not used to prevent stolen goods from rolling down the road.

When administered “correctly”, shooting people is expensive. When administered incorrectly, it costs everything.

As Americans we have the right to own and carry guns, and I recommend that everyone who is willing and able do so. But, with it comes responsibility. If you’re “ok” sending stray rounds down your block because you think loss of a car will change your life, consider how much your life will change spending 10-20 in the state pen. If you’re still willing to risk it, you may need to reconsider whether gun ownership is right for you.

If you’re ready for the responsibility, we’ll see you in class.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” – Albert Einstein