I’ve been thinking a bit about what my students actually need to know in order to live safe, happy, productive, quietly armed lives. This means understanding just what kind of threats are out there, what are the odds of them encountering trouble and what should their response be?
Yeah, I know, that’s like coming up with a Grand Unified Theory for particle physics, but being a good teacher means adapting to the times.
First off, what kind of threats do we actually face these days? Let’s begin by talking about violence itself. There are, in essence, two kinds of violence. Transactional violence, where the application or threat of force is used to secure something from the victim, and expressive violence, where the violence itself is the goal.
Two Kinds Of Violence
Transactional violence is your classic mugging or robbery. Expressive violence used to mean things like jihadi terrorists, active shooters and even “educational beatdowns,” but now I think they mean a bit more. I agree with my friend Michael Bane in that we are seeing a rise in violence for violence’ sake, whether it’s road rage that escalates out of control or a “mostly peaceful” protest that somehow manages to burn down entire city blocks.
I also think we are seeing an increase in transactional violence, with wholesale shoplifting attacks done by multiple attackers popping up in places outside of San Francisco or Portland. The bottom line is, the threshold of violence is falling, as more and more groups of people within society are more and more comfortable with furthering their goals “by other means,” as Clausewitz would say.
The Odds Aren’t Even
As far as the odds of encountering violence in our day to day lives, it’s important to recall what David Yamane says: No one lives in “The United States.” Instead, each of us lives in our own little bubbles of places where we work, relax and rest, and the threats we might face in those bubbles can vary greatly. I live in a really boring small town in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by people of immense personal faith and dignity. My level of threat is orders of magnitude lower than someone who lives on the south side of Chicago.
But let’s go back to that idea of a lower threshold of violence. While that means some areas of the country have turned into war zones, it also means that other areas have turned from quiet havens of peace into places where violence could happen at any moment. I had a student last year who moved to Florida from the San Diego area. Her once-peaceful suburban neighborhood was ruined by “urban campers,” and she found herself having to deal with deranged drug addicts on a daily basis, something unheard of ten years ago. What will happen ten years from now in your neighborhood?
Choose Your Response
What kind of response should we have to these types of threats? Well, first and foremost, avoid being at stupid places at stupid times where stupid people might show up. Going to a Waffle House at 3am is probably NOT a good idea. Go home and sleep it off instead. However, more and more, I’m seeing bad things happen in the most innocent of places, and the violence we’re seeing coming in all shapes and sizes. If your response to your girlfriend or partner getting in a fistfight is to go to your gun, you are probably going to jail. Having a less-lethal option with you at all times is ideal for situations like this, when lethal force just isn’t justified.
Secondly, even though expressive violence is on the rise, we still need to understand that most people who resort to violence believe that it’s the easy solution to their problem, and for the most part, it is. However, once those people encounter a situation where their acts are countered with the threat of lethal force, like an armed citizen drawing a defensive pistol, their enthusiasm may wane dramatically. I say “may” here because there are situations like mob violence or religion-inspired attacks where the crowd will whip individuals into levels of fervor that would cause them to ignore things like a drawn gun pointed at their head, and press the attack.
The bottom line is, it’s getting weirder out there, at least for the foreseeable future. Just living in a “good neighborhood” isn’t enough. Random violence is starting to get truly random. If you avoid bad areas and bad people may reduce your chances of being a victim, but this is one game you can’t opt out of playing. The only question is, what will your response be when your turn to play comes around?