It is a lot harder for us to actually talk about the software end of it but that is where we really need to be paying the most attention. It is the most critical component of mental awareness and preparedness.

You can have that equipment on your hip, but it is useless if you’re not mentally prepared to use it. It is one thing for an armed citizen to say, “I’m ready for everything,” but it is quite another to sit down and really think about if you’re really ready to use force against another person to defend yourself or to defend another innocent life. There are a lot of people who, when they come to that precipice, realize that they are not ready. They haven’t thought that through. They hesitate and hesitation in a combat situation is certainly going to get you killed.

eJournal: We are bombarded with messages encouraging passivity. In your Newhall analysis, you highlighted factors restricting aggressiveness like the seals on the shotgun actions. How do you suggest counteracting the many negative messages against aggressively defending ourselves?

Wood: We do it two ways: the first is the primary mission of the Network, which is to make people aware of the legal intricacies involved in the use of force in self defense. A lot of the doubt and hesitation are rooted in a poor understanding of what you are allowed to do and what is ethical and what is moral and what is legal. Take advantage of the time you have now to understand the restrictions and limitations regarding use of force so that if you get put in that situation where you may have to use force, there is no doubt as to what you are ethically and legally allowed to do.

In law enforcement training you’ll see that most officers do not understand their agency’s use of force policy to the level that they should. Unfortunately, that lack of understanding can sometimes lead to hesitation and doubt.

Magnify that problem for the armed citizen! It is even less clear when an armed citizen is allowed to use force in self defense. There is a lot less case law about it, there aren’t any departmental regulations and policies published for you to study, so I think the first thing that an armed citizen needs to do is understand the legal groundwork regarding what he is and is not allowed to do. Education is first.

Second, it is very important to understand what many of us like to call the “face of the enemy.” Armed citizens need to think about the opponent that they will be facing in a life and death confrontation. As socialized and well-adjusted people, we have certain morals and ethics that guide our lives and behavior. When we get into a violent confrontation, we are not operating according to our rules. We’re taking a step into the enemy’s world, and there is a completely different set of rules there.

It is important for the armed citizen to see that the types of people they’ll potentially be in battle with don’t have our compassion, empathy or values. They are not like us. They have a different life experience. They think differently in a certain sense: medical professionals have given us some indications that at the physical level their brains operate differently than ours.

These people are frequently sociopaths. They have no aversion to violence and they don’t even think of violence as an ethical question. For them it is simply a tool to get what they want. A sociopath who has no aversion to using violence is not going to be stopped from doing what they want if we simply display a weapon or have a weapon available but it is obvious that we are not intent upon using it or we are not capable of using it.