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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Should You Act? - Get Involved Or Get Away?

Notice_no_guns_or_weapons Every so often we get a thread at Warrior Talk asking about what a CCW person should do if he sees a crime, or some apparent victimization.  The implied question of course is the quest for justification of the desire to jump in with both feet to save the day. That inherent desire, while noble, may also be quite foolish and self-destructive.


I am not saying to default to doing nothing, merely that you should think it through before taking action that could adversely affect you for the rest of your life.  Your decision will be based on three factors – location, companions, and information.  Let’s discuss it.


Location.  I have traveled in places that I refer to as Non-Permissive Environments.  Those are areas where the legality of being armed may be questionable, yet where it is so dangerous that going unarmed would be stupid. In such places getting involved in anyone else’s problem is a bad decision no matter the situation.   

In some places saving the day will get you a medal of valor, while in others, even if you saved everyone, the political environment would still cause you to be arrested and likely prosecuted. If you are in an environment like the latter, I suggest not getting involved in anything that does not directly endanger you or yours.

Look at it this way, will you trade your freedom, and finances to save strangers? That is what it boils down to. It is easy to be indignant at my suggestion from the safety of the internet in your living room, it is also quite easy to disagree when you carry the “Badge of America” card as an LEO with the full umbrella of protection your agency provides, but it is another matter altogether when you are sitting in the defendant’s chair, a civilian paying your own way, looking at a prison sentence because you decided to “do the right thing”. 

Sceneofcrime If you don't have a gun its a moot point. If its legal for you to carry its also a moot point.

In a free area where you are legal to carry your pistol, again the choice is clear. Good guys can intervene in times of danger and victimization secure that if they act properly, they will probably be fine afterward.  That is the reality of why places where gun laws are lax are far safer than places where gun laws are strict…because good guys are not afraid to be good guys.


Companions will also have an effect on your decisions.  I spoke to an LA County Deputy once whose daughter was shot and killed by two armed robbers when he elected to intervene at the store they were robbing. Listen people…if you have your family with you, everyone else is on their own. Unless the bad guys have targeted you and them specifically, go on your way.  Whatever is happening is none of your business. Certainly, call 911, but leave and keep them safe.  Sorry to sound “cowardly” but anyone who says they will risk their family to save someone else’s money is a fool. 


Whether you act or not also depends on how much information you have about what is going on.  The information present and available to you may over ride the presence in an NPE, but rarely.  The less Intel I have, the less likely I am to do anything but leave. The more Intel I have the better decision I can make. What you see may not give the total picture. 

Active shooter problems are easy.  When you see a man with an assault rifle shooting into the Toys R Us, you can venture a guess that that is the bad guy and that he is the one that needs to be shot.  But those are not the ones that cause us problem are they.

Two guys fighting? None of my business.

Two guys beating up a third guy? Do you act now?  Honestly, for me it depends on what they look like.  If they are two gang-type thugs beating up an old man, the choice is pretty clear.  I would have to intervene.  But if two gang-type thugs are beating up a third gang-type thug, its none of my business.  I may make a 911 call, but I don’t plan to stick around.   Is the fight you see two cops beating up a gang-thug?  Cool, but still nothing to do with you.  How about two homeys beating up a cop? Now we are back to helping out the good guys.  All different stories, eliciting different responses aren't they. Here are a few more.

One guy slapping a girl? None of my business. “Hey wait a minute!”, I can hear the chivalrous crowd yelling from across the nation.  Chivalry demands the presence of a lady.  Is the apparent victim a lady?  Are you willing to risk your life for her?  Think with your brain and not your sword.  Just on the face of the description I do not have enough to get involved, sorry.  Make the guy a gang-thug and the girl a typical soccer mom?  Things just changed because of the Intel.  Make the guy a gang-thug and the girl a meth-mouth whore? Sorry…not my fight.  My Glock will stay in the holster and my phone will be used for 911 instead.

Picture at range 011110 041 Its 2010 and your CCW stands for Cary (of) Concealed Weapons, not for Captain America. The only time I will get involved in someone else's fight is when I have enough info on what I am seeing to determine who is who and what is happening, I am alone or with other combatants, and then only if not doing something would shock my personal conscience.

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Comments 36

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I've thought through these scenarios a couple of times, and I have to agree. I carry with the intent of protecting myself and others, but only as the situation provides resolution in a way that does not escalate the situation or endanger more people than the initial situation accounts for.

Excellent points, and very relevant for me. I was LE for 13 years, and I've noticed my default setting seems to be 'maintain the peace' (but I'm working on it).

I think one of the advantages of being a civilian is that you have a choice, not necessarily a duty, to intervene. The things that cause us 'difficulty' is being clear to ourselves about what the difference between the two is.

I was a deputy sheriff for fifteen years. As a CCW instructor I teach my student's that their CCW permit is to protect you and your's. For all others, call 911 and be the very best witness you can be. Sorry, but society is far too litigious to try and save everyone.

That was probably the best common sense, down to earth reasoning I've read for getting involved or not getting involved in "shoot/don't shoot" scenarios. The points that you emphasize "sitting at the defendant's table" and "Gathering Intel before you act" are are simple and easy to remember in the crunch of the decision, "shall I or shall I not" get involved. Great Teaching Points and a great article Gabe.

I agree. What it comes down to is, some people, because of their choices in life as to who and what they choose to be, do not deserve the same level of protection as others.

Great info-thanks!!

I want to live in a culture where good guys are comfortable being good guys and bad guys are afraid to be bad guys. If we the sheepdogs allow ourselves to slide too far down the path of self-preservation, then we have already lost. We win the battle, but lose the war. We save our lives, but lose our soul. Gabe’s advice is wise. There are clearly situations when it is stupid folly to intervene, but when you’re on the fence, please error on the side of service to our community. Our society continues to slide towards the fetid quagmire of entitlement, socialism, and wanton litigation. Only you can stop the insanity. Decide what your priorities are and act on them. Get involved.

One guy slapping a girl? None of my business.--Gabe

The next door neighbor's 16 year-old daughter invites a 30 year-old man (recently released from serving a second prison term) to move in with her at her mother's house with mom's silent approval.

Subsequently, man begins beating and otherwise abusing girl. Alarmed, I call the cops and explain the situation to good friend and Chief-of-Police, Dave K******.

Dave, who knows the punk and also the girl in question, thinks for a few moments and then quietly replies, "Do you think maybe they are really just meant for each other?"

Momentarily stunned, I come to my senses like a man being splashed in the face with a cup of cold water.

Yep, it ain't my fight but it is good motivation for me to go purchase my first handgun, a Colt Government model of 1911.

You go ahead and beat yer bitch mister but stay away from me and mine.

This is one of the problems that I am asked every time I have a pistol class. When I suggest the fine points that you just put in this article, I have been acused of being a sissy. But, knowing the law isn't enough, as you pointed out, as if you have your family with you, or you don't have the knowledge of what is really happening, call 911 and evacuate.

I am going to print this article out and hand it out to all of my basic pistol students. Most have little or no information of how to handle situations that you describe. And, most guys would say they would help anyone in trouble.

So, thank you for covering this subject, as anyone who is an instructor, has the responsibility to at least give his students this basic information. As one of the hallmark firarm training sites, you carry the knowledge that may get through to some of the hard heads.

Tom Kelly

This should be used by every instructor of CCW permit, for his class.

Very good article. Chock full of good old fashioned common sense. We seem to see so little of it these days.

Evaluate your surroundings and situation and let the totality of the circumstances dictate your response. Choosing not to act is also a response and in many cases the better response.

I took the liberty of passing this on to my sons and other friends who carry, with full credit, of course, and I included a link to Warrior Talk News as well.

A very good article. I'll share (with credit, of course.)

"The information present and available to you may over ride the presence in an NPE, but rarely." What's an NPE?

This is the most sensible article that I have ever read. It is also the best reason to tell no one that you carry. Those mistaken souls who do not or refuse to carry, that know that you do, will yell out for you to "Do something",and put you and yours in a situation that you may not want to be in. No,thank you.

Very good information.Family get them out of there.If they are attacked the thugs are bought and paid for.Ontel is in important unless it is clear its good guys against bad.

Great info! I personally would have no problem turning my head if I knew it was a LAWYER being attacked. Wouldn't even bother calling 911. They are the ones who have put ALL of us in these now questionable situations. Thanks for the article.

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The Suarez International Blog is a "warrior lifestyle" publication dedicated to the modern excellence-seeking martial enthusiast. Every article and video will feature the most up to date weapons, tactics, technology, and training methods available today. Not limited to merely "guns", we include articles on international adventure travel, extreme physical training, and living well in the modern world.