We start this month’s chat with a thank you letter our member Spencer Newcomer just sent us. Spencer writes:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and all of the members of your network for contributing to the go fund me fundraiser you had set up. Paying off my legal bills and helping me get back on my feet was a huge weight off my shoulders. The number of people who donated is a testament to the organization you have created. It also drives home the point that we as gunowners need to stick together and help each other out in these uncertain times. Hopefully my story, which you were an integral part of, will benefit your members and perhaps they can better cope with or avoid altogether some of the issues I faced. I am forever in your debt and look forward to helping your organization and its members any way that I can.
Sincerely, Spencer Newcomer
I think I speak for all of our Network family members when I respond, “Spencer, it truly was our pleasure.”
Shifting gears, I’d like to discuss a visit I had with a member a while back about the responsibilities the armed citizen shoulders when introducing deadly force into a situation where the combatants are not people he knows. What assistance, he wondered, could the Network provide to him if he became involved in defending a stranger should he happen upon a fight? I stressed that the Network could not pay legal expenses if the member violates the law and urged him to intervene only when certain of the circumstances–and he agreed it only makes sense to join someone else’s fight if defending a loved one or perhaps a small child or if present when a spree killer strikes.
The problems of a “hero” using deadly force to defend strangers are countless and it is easy to unintentionally violate the law, as we discussed with Attorney Mitch Vilos last August (https://www.armedcitizensnetwork.org/deadly-force-in-defense-of-others). When I mentioned this as one of the reasons not to use a gun without knowing the law and the facts, our Network member responded that he had personally concluded it was better “to avoid being a ‘sheepdog,’ and to stay out of it unless it’s a loved one or its really clear what’s going on.”
After hanging up, I started thinking about the evolution of Lt Col Dave Grossman’s illustration of sheepdog/guardians protecting their flocks as it has morphed into perceived permission to jump into situations of which we know nothing. A few weeks after that train of thought began chugging through my mind, I stumbled across Varg Freeborn’s commentary on what the sheepdog concept has become. I had reviewed Violence of Mind: Training and Perception for Extreme Violence in the January edition of this journal, and had returned to reread parts of it.
Freeborn’s opinions clarified some of my questions as I wrestled with the over-broad application of the sheepdog concept. In Violence of the Mind he writes, “It is very important to clearly identify the objective of your mission. The sheepdog mentality will lull you into believing that it’s now your job to fight crime because you carry a gun…[that] implies that your mission is to protect and serve the public, at least that’s how I see it interpreted all too often. The problem with this is that it often differs from what your stated mission is (to protect your loved ones and yourself), and also you do not have the legal protections that some law enforcement officer or military personnel have.”
He continued, “Every state has very clear self-defense criteria that must be met to claim self-defense in court. Clearly defining your mission is the first step in not violating those rules…You don’t know what you don’t know. Engaging in other people’s fights can lead you into mistakes that you have no way of knowing you will make. Your chances of avoiding this can be greatly increased by simply clarifying your mission and sticking to that mission’s objective. If you are a civilian, then be a civilian and protect yourself and your loved ones. If you are a law enforcement officer, then be a LEO. Whatever your role is, you have a serious mission.”
Responsible armed citizenship is a lot more than carrying a gun. It requires soul searching to determine what is so important that you would take another’s life to protect it. It also requires solid training with role models like Ayoob, Farnam, Fleming, Givens, Kapelsohn and Tueller who serve as our Advisory Board, and a continual self-assessment to balance the power of deadly force with our responsibilities.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.