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Defense Options: It Takes More Than a Gun

An interview with author Lawrence Kane

by Gila Hayes

Some months ago I reviewed the book Scaling Force as part of our ongoing effort to educate Network members about various defensive force options, since using a firearm is not always appropriate. (See review at In preparing the review, I spoke with one of the authors, Lawrence Kane, and found he had much more to share that builds on the topics covered in Scaling Force, which was his ninth book. Let’s switch to the Q&A format to learn from this martial arts luminary in his own words.

eJournal: Self defense training in physical skills—non-gun defenses—is vitally important, because there are so many times that a defensive situation needs to be resolved, but a gun is absolutely the wrong choice. I’d like to ask you about the broader spectrum of self defense, because it is a topic that gun enthusiasts so often fail to explore. How did you come to build your expertise in these areas?

Kane: I started studying martial arts when I was six. I hunt and I fish, and I grew up with guns. When I decided that I wanted to carry a gun, the guy I bought it from made me first go and read Massad Ayoob’s book, The Truth About Self-Protection before he would sell me one. That was close to 30 years ago, but it got me thinking in a different way. A gun is a great tool that does exactly what is needed for certain situations, but that is only in certain situations and it is not appropriate for everything.

eJournal: In addition, the kinds of threats for which we train are varied. In reading Scaling Force, I was reminded that many of our armed citizens have no experience with violence, unlike your experience working security, or your co-author Rory Miller’s career in corrections. How can people from gentle upbringings expect to recognize impending violence, let alone implement an appropriate response?

Kane: Few people have experienced more than a harsh word! For most people, maybe they experienced a little pushing and shoving during middle school or something, but they’ve never experienced anything first hand that is truly dangerous. People need to understand the two halves of violence: the social piece and the asocial or predatory piece.

Social violence is about dominance, prestige, saving face, that kind of thing. It tends to be in public and it comes with instructions. For example, if you are in the bar and some guy says, “Get away from me or I will tear your arm off and beat you to death with it,” he has given you instructions to walk away. If you leave, there is a very good chance that nothing bad is going to happen. But being aware of social violence and following instructions, is much harder than it sounds because you have to let your ego go. If you walk away, the guy might say something like, “That’s what I thought! You are a pussy.” He’s baiting you. If you turn around and get in a fistfight and he draws a knife and you shoot him and he dies, you are going to jail because you contributed to the conflict, allowed the situation to escalate into a lethal encounter.