Winning a Gunfight:
Securing victory ethically, mentally, and tactically in a gunfights
Reviewed by Gila Hayes
Men and women of faith who are also armed citizens struggle with erroneous messages abhorring violence coming from their fellow parishioners and sometimes from the pulpit. Failure to distinguish between violence used to stop evil and violence used in perpetuation of evil has long troubled law enforcement professionals, those in our armed forces, and citizens who are armed for defense of themselves and their families. Retired San Antonio police officer Tim Rupp has made dispelling that error and ministering to the needs of those who go armed for defense of the innocent his mission.
Rupp writes that “Whether you believe the Bible or not, all of us recognize that there is more to who we are than a mere body. There is a physical, a mental, and an ethical aspect to each one of us.” He defines three elements: spirit, soul and body. Historically, surviving violence has been thought of as keeping the body alive and as unharmed as possible, in his words, “Surviving means you continue to exist.” He makes an argument for winning, because, he writes, “There is more to a human being than a physical body.”
In Rupp’s interpretation the spirit defines right from wrong, while the soul provides intellect to drive decisions, then the body takes action based on that input. “You can imagine these three working together through this simple picture: a situation requiring a decision is facing you; your spirit quickly filters through the possible options and chooses the one that agrees with your ethics; your soul takes that choice and uses information gained through experience or training to formulate a plan of action; your body takes that plan of action and implements it to finalize your decision.”
The body, he continues, is amazingly durable, and he identifies firearms and tactics and instructors of those arts as bearing the responsibility of teaching warriors how to keep the body alive.
The soul is the part of a human being that thinks, makes decisions, and “is your personality, and the seat of your emotions.” Mental health is to the soul as physical health is to the body. Much has been written and studied about PTSD, which Rupp explains is a good example of injury to the soul stemming from a shooting.
Rupp believes, “The spirit says, ‘It’s right or it’s wrong.’ The spirit informs the soul (or mind) of what the principled implications are to a decision.” While his approach is Bible-based, he notes that “Anthropologists confirm that throughout all cultures there is a moral code inside every person.” A common response after violating codes of behavior, embedded in us since earliest childhood, is guilt which he discusses at length, explaining it “is a healthy emotion when it drives us to do the right thing.” We can also be erroneously convinced we are guilty, if told that we are responsible for something we did not do, an unintentional or accidental action, or, if others do not agree with justification for our actions, as is all too frequently true when law enforcement officers and armed citizens shoot to stop criminal violence. Rupp calls this unhealthy or false guilt.
Humans, whether due to enculturation or other causes, hesitate to take the life of other humans. Rupp explains how some of our cultural taboos against even justified killing may stem from mistranslation of the Bible’s sixth commandment, and shows that the original wording was actually a prohibition against murder. “Kill is to take the life of another. Murder is to do so with malice, that is, with evil intent,” he defines.
Rupp points out that determining whether one can end the life of an attacker is a necessary prerequisite to going armed. Those who can take life in defense of innocent people are essential, because, he observes, societies cannot survive without members willing to kill those who come to attack their families and communities.
He clarifies that, “In the event you must use lethal force the goal is to quickly neutralize (that is to stop) an armed aggressor before the aggressor is able to harm any innocent person. To quickly neutralize is key. Response to an armed aggressor must be immediate and effective. To neutralize a threat is to nullify it. While the goal is to end the threat, it may cost the aggressor his life. Those willing to carry a gun to defend life must be willing to take it.” Rupp acknowledges that some believe any killing is wrong, but adds, “what you must understand is that neither the Bible, nor America’s laws support that position.”
Mental preparation for self defense means abandoning pre-conceived ideas about race, gender, and age. Rupp quotes Jeff Cooper who observed that few have come to grips with the depth of “human savagery.”
Scenario-based training, coupled with shooting skills, is part of the solution. Even if training doesn’t trigger it, instructors and coaches need to warn students about sensory distortions present during critical incidents, he continues. Problems like tunnel vision can be broken up by turning the head in a full, intentional visual scan after shooting, and should be included in training, he explains. Knowing what others have experienced is as important when recovering after a shooting as it is if phenomena like auditory exclusion or time distortion occur during an incident.
The role of training, alertness and mental focus during an attack lead a discussion of levels of alertness, understanding baseline behaviors that are normal for the location, reactions to deadly danger ranging from fright, flight or fight, and combat breathing, all of which are covered in an important chapter of Winning a Gunfight. Rupp strongly recommends realistic training that can, to the degree possible, create the psychological and physiological reactions to danger as a way to learn to remain in a “fighting mindset,” without tipping over into ineffectual panic, he explains.
He goes on to detail gun safety, shooting skills, tactical gun handling like the safety circle concept, cover, concealment, the value of movement, and discusses alternative techniques to get hits fast when the danger is very close. The book closes with discussions of ammunition, handgun selection, holsters, lights, night sights and other accessories.
Rupp reminds readers that humans are multi-faceted beings. “Our spirit gives us a sense of right and wrong; it’s our ethical part. Our soul gives us our mental capacities; it’s our intellect and where we make decisions about which specific actions to take. With the body we take action based on the decision made.” All three need care.
After a fight, the initial concern is whether the body was injured, but the aftermath also has to explore whether the decision to shoot was correct, and then internally, spiritual recovery weighs the justification for taking a life. Lots of outside forces will be accusing you, Rupp explains. “Avoid getting caught up in false guilt. Also, keep in mind the five basic stages to killing: (1) the concern stage, (2) the actual kill, (3) exhilaration, (4) remorse, and (5) rationalization and acceptance. The last three come into play after the gunfight is over,” he writes.
I ordered Winning A Gunfight after a Network member who serves as a chaplain asked if I had read another of Rupp’s books entitled Moral Injury in Policing. I was drawn to that title because I had been first exposed to the term “moral injury” in an interview with a now-retired police officer who had endured a lengthy USC § 1983 action (allegations of depriving a person of their civil rights under color of law) for whom recovery included counseling to address injury done to him in the aftermath of an on-duty shooting. Drawn to Rupp’s book on that subject, I found that he had written extensively about armed use of force both from his experience as a police officer and from his Christian viewpoint. Check out all of Rupp’s titles at https://thestrongblueline.org/resources .