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Lt. Col. Mike Wood (USAF Ret.) is an NRA Law Enforcement Division-certified firearms instructor who regularly teaches classes for law enforcement officers and armed citizens.
“What do you say to someone who thinks cops should only use deadly force when confronted by an assailant with a gun?”
In my experience, people with this kind of belief fall into one of two categories: honest, but ignorant; or dishonest, and politically motivated.
The honest, yet ignorant, crowd simply doesn’t understand violence or violent people because they’ve had no contact with real violence in their lives. This is a good thing, but it leaves them unqualified to make judgments about the use of force in defense of self and others, since they lack the relevant knowledge and experience to do so.
The honest-but-ignorant crowd often makes judgments on the use of force based on what they “know” from TV and the movies, but these depictions of violence are wildly inaccurate and fail to convey the speed, chaos, confusion, raw power, ugliness, danger, shock and finality of real violent action. In the real world, a single blow to the head with a hand or foot can kill or permanently disable you, a knife can be more dangerous than a gun, and an “unarmed” man who is fighting you for your gun is just as armed as you are. In the real world, weaker, “unarmed” individuals can defeat more skilled, powerful, and armed persons by force of numbers, surprise or a position of advantage. In the real world, people continue to fight aggressively after they’ve been shot and sometimes need to be shot a lot before they finally stop their violent attack.In the real world, a single blow to the head with a hand or foot can kill or permanently disable you, a knife can be more dangerous than a gun, and an “unarmed” man who is fighting you for your gun is just as armed as you are.
When they’re confronted with real-world violence, the ignorant are easily shocked and frightened by it, and sometimes declare it “excessive” or “unreasonable,” even when it’s neither. Righteous violence used by good people in self-defense is brutal, ugly and frightening, but it’s necessary as well.
The ignorant say things like that because they don’t understand these truths. The best way to change their mistaken beliefs about the use of force by police (and lawfully armed citizens) acting in self-defense is through education. If they’re willing to listen to the facts and fairly evaluate them, they usually change their minds rather quickly. There’s another path by which the ignorant can become “educated” and change their opinions, but it involves becoming the victim of a violent attack and somehow managing to survive it. I think we can all agree that the first path is preferable.
The dishonest and politically motivated say things like that because it helps them to discredit, burden and disarm their opponents. They know they’re telling a lie, and they’re hoping to con others into believing it. You can’t reason or talk or bargain with people like that because they’re not acting in good faith. The best you can do is expose them to the truth, and hope that others will be smart enough not to take their bait.
Lt. Col. Mike Wood (USAF Ret.) is an NRA Law Enforcement Division-certified firearms instructor who regularly teaches classes for law-enforcement officers and armed citizens. He is the author of the widely acclaimed book, “Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis,” which has been praised as one of the best “officer survival” books ever written. He is a columnist for PoliceOne.com, and also writes for PoliceMarksman.com. See his website at www.newhallshooting.com for additional information.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Rifle Association.