Mindset has more than one aspect to consider. We could talk at length about detachment which is a major part of a winning mindset. We could talk about how well or poorly we’ve informed our intellects via knowledge and training. Furthermore, we could deep dive into self-awareness and humility versus arrogance. As Socrates said – know thyself, right? We could talk about the proper and improper uses of emotions like fear and anger, as major parts of mindset. We could talk about a learned or experiential propensity for violence. We could talk about why a winning mindset far surpasses a competitive, or survival type mindset. We could talk hard realities like how easy a superior foe can be felled with simple opportunity. The acceptance of that knowledge is crucial to mindset. Ignore it at your own peril. Those are all critical aspects of mindset. We have to begin somewhere so we’re going to begin with a couple of hard questions: Are you prepared to deal out lethal blows to stop an unjust aggressor from causing you or yours, Great Bodily Harm GBH, or death? (Statutory language in Illinois – know your state statutes) Are you prepared to die, that your people might live? In this post I’ll explore some aspects of these two questions.
In my latter twenties, as I grew in my Catholic faith I began questioning where the moral lines were relating the proper use of violence. Because of my occupation in law enforcement, I understood well – where the legal lines were. In my case, I sought guidance from a devout Catholic priest who prior to becoming a priest, happened to have served his country in the United States Army. For a Catholic it can be a very serious sin to fail to defend the people you’re responsible for. All Christian’s could benefit from this knowledge:
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.1
There is a lot to unpack in these teachings. I’m not going to attempt to unpack all of it in this post.
Generally speaking in America we’re supposed to be an “innocent,” defending ourselves against an unjust aggressor. The threat of force is supposed to be imminent, and our response to that threat is to be proportional to the level of the threat ie; non-deadly or deadly? Where feasible, we ought to avoid violent confrontations. However, the bad guy always gets a vote, right? The force we use ought to be both objectively and subjectively reasonable.
A sound moral and legal strategy is to limit our force to stopping the unjust aggressor. Stopping him is our intention. If an unjust aggressor changes his will and surrenders – we stop using force. If an unjust aggressor refuses to relent but is rendered unconscious – we stop using force. Our intention is not to kill the unjust aggressor. That may be the result of the force we use, but our intention is to stop him. There is a distinction here that is not mere semantics, and it has to do with our intention being limited to stopping. In dealing with an unjust aggressor who presents the threat of GBH, or death we must be willing to deal out lethal blows. A lethal blow is likely to cause death. Likely is not a guarantee. People are moving, accuracy isn’t perfect, especially during tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving confrontations. If our intention was to kill the unjust aggressor we’d attach bayonets and finish him while he lays unconscious. If our goal was to kill him, once we incapacitate him we would put more rounds in his head and never call for an ambulance. We’d get the shovel from the shed, as it were.
I’m going to convey this again: When an unjust aggressors will changes to a full surrender or a compliance (depending upon the circumstances), or his will is forcibly removed through unconsciousness – THEN we stop using lethal force. However, until their will to cause us or ours GBH, or death is removed – we strike, strike, strike, strike, and strike. We must be willing to exhaust ourselves in an effort of achieving and maintaining a kind of relative superiority until they have a change of their will. Some men will never have a change of will. Some men you will have to render unconscious, dying, or dead just to stop them.
To properly apply fundamental principles in an ever changing world we have to sometimes assume greater risks on one battlefield over another. In a day and age where some elected states attorney’s over-zealously charge even police officers for doing the hard job of stopping an unjust aggressor, we have to accept that we may incur a higher risk on that legal battlefield. We have to be willing to accept an exchange of higher risks on one battlefield or another, if we seek to win.
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Vince Lombardi
Spiritually this is a truth. If we fail to cooperate with the graces given and fail to make it home to our Heavenly Fathers house – we fail – forever. That is why I believe the moral battlefield is the highest of all battlefields. If we fail to get that one right – that failure may be eternal. Morally and legally, as an innocent we have a right to life. Unjust aggressors are “unjust.” The unjust have no right to rob, rape, or murder. They actually forfeit their right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, when they set their will, on a course of robbery, rape, and murder. Their only hope, is to immediately cease all deadly force threat towards an innocent. Does that mean the elected states attorney in your jurisdiction will see things your way? No. There are no guarantees. That is primarily why I’ve purchased concealed carry insurance.
Who are we preparing to fight? Are we preparing to fight an unjust aggressor who will surrender at the very sight of our firearm? No. If that happens, that’s great. Are we preparing to fight an unjust aggressor who will suffer a psychological stoppage after the first bullet enters his chest cavity? No. If that happens, that’s great. Thank goodness, at whatever point he suffers a psychological stoppage. Are we preparing to fight an unjust aggressor who has made a decision that you will have to kill him to stop him, and that he will not stop until your dead? Yes. Yes this is precisely who we are training to fight. The worst possible unjust aggressor on the planet. Why? Because to presume any lesser unjust aggressor will show up, is to gamble with one’s own life and/or the lives of those we hold a grave duty to protect. If we make a mistake in that kind of a gamble we may die, and ever worse, those whom we purport to love and are responsible for may die. When the harm to you and yours is GBH, or death don’t gamble, don’t hesitate, don’t abdicate the decision of who lives and who dies over to an unjust aggressor. Do the hard seemingly dirty things that ought to get done to decisively win. When the window of opportunity opens on an unjust deadly force threat, it will not long remain open. You may only get one window of opportunity. Should a combat sweet spot or window of opportunity open with an unjust deadly force threat, move through it violently, with lethal blows and don’t dare let off that trigger until he clearly surrenders or he’s rendered unconscious, dying, or dead. Period.
It is legitimate morally speaking to insist upon more respect for one’s own life than any number of unjust aggressors. Again, our intention should be to stop them. If they live or die, ultimately that’s God’s business. We’re not finishing anyone off. We’re not seeking vengeance – that’s God’s business. Not our business.
Moderate violence isn’t what it used to be. Moderate violence in my opinion is anything short of deadly force. Imagine St. Peter the first Catholic Pope explaining to a modern states attorney how cutting off the high servants ear was moderate violence. Moderate violence isn’t what it used to be, and there is a difference between what is moral and what is legal. What is legal or more importantly what a modern states attorney of a certain mindset, may interpret as legal grows weaker by the day. Today, even police officers who follow the United States Supreme Court case law precedents like Terry V Ohio, Tennessee V Garner, and Graham V Connor have problems in various places with liberal minded states attorneys. I’m not going to deep dive down that rabbit hole. That would be a long digression.
The Catechism says “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.” Grave duty means – serious sin if you blow off that duty. There is no right to be a pacifist if you’re a Catholic. If we go out and murder an innocent, that is a grave sin. If we refuse to deal – a lethal blow to an unjust aggressor threatening to murder innocents we’re responsible for – that too would be a grave sin. The idea of a fence to straddle is a deception, a lie. There – is – no – fence. Do good, and avoid evil. We best do the work to understand where those lines are.
The grave duty to defend doesn’t say anything about succeeding. I can’t guarantee you or I are going to live through any deadly force confrontation. Some are far more risky than others. When your mission is simply to avoid, or defend yourself, you can take more calculated risks. When your mission is to protect those you’re responsible for, the risks you must accept will be of the highest nature. In the first place you’re only as fast as your slowest loved one. That loved one might be two or eighty two. Your job is to buy time and opportunity that your people escape. You purchase the time needed for that to happen by incurring greater risks and moving into the gap. Where escape is not an option your job is to move into the gap, accepting if anyone is going to be shot here today – it’s you. Not your people. Hint: pray early and often for the graces needed rather than relying on your own strength for something this noble and good.
If it were just my wife and I at home asleep, and someone was to break in, I would barricade in the bedroom, grab my firearm, and have a plan for my wife to call and stay on the line with the 911 dispatcher. I would have the police come deal with the intruder. The police would incur all the physical, legal, civil, and social risks. I would do what I need to do, if and when, the unjust insists on compressing into our bedroom.
However, in my home I still have three children whom I’m gravely responsible for. Our bedroom is upstairs and the children’s bedrooms are downstairs. If I were to be awakened at O’ dark thirty by the sound of the walkout slider door shattering, barricading in place is not an option. As a father, I must move direct to the threat, to access and solve whatever potentially violent problem I’m confronted with. That means I’m going to have to do my best to get to the problem before they get to one of my children. Direct to the threat often means point blank range with that threat. What is in his hands? If he has a firearm in his hands and he’s not a police officer, there is absolutely nothing to discuss. The only sounds should be the concussion of my firearm discharging sending lead into his chest and face until such time as he voluntarily separates himself from his firearm or he’s unconscious, dying, or dead. As always the dead part is God’s business, not my business.
One Gun In the Fight
If he doesn’t have a firearm in his hands the only acceptable responses are he’s either leaving or he’s freezing in place. What he is not going to be permitted to do, in my house, is align on the firearm in my hands and compress distance on that firearm. Why? I will not gift him an opportunity to disarm me and use my firearm against me and my family. He will be shot as he compresses time and distance on my drawn gun. An unjust aggressor will not be permitted to engage in a hand to hand battle over control of my firearm.
Point Blank Range
Point blank range is inherently dangerous when dealing with an unjust criminal aggressor. Why? It is really hard to miss your target at point blank range. It can happen especially if one of the combatants gains surprise and the other finds himself so far behind in John Boyd’s OODA loop (Observe Orient Decide Act) that they’re literally being shot. Then panic sinks in deep and one might try to just make some noise with their firearm in hopes of turning the fight around. This sometimes happens to police officers who get too far behind in a gunfight. Bad guys with felony convictions don’t typically get issued FOID cards in the state of Illinois. They don’t typically have access to a square ranges to practice marksmanship. They don’t typically have access to competent firearms instructors to help them get better at marksmanship, combat shooting, or any other skill based training to help them improve in competence. Bad guys use ruses and lies to gain point blank range. Point blank range is their competency range. Once they gain it then comes the surprise and subsequent domination. As a father, I have to move direct to the threat to ensure that threat cannot and will not gain opportunity over one of my little ones. Solo room clearing or moving direct to the threat is essentially mutual destruction. When that unjust aggressor breaches your little castle and begins maneuvering throughout it while armed with a firearm you have to be prepared to stop him.
Shot Ain’t Dead
Have you ever considered the possibility of being shot? You should because if you’re planning on solo room clearing direct to the threat, that very well may happen. Just because you’re shot doesn’t mean your dead. Can you still win the fight if you’re shot? Yes. Can you still win the fight if you are mortally wounded and you are going to die? Yes. What’s your mission? Protect your wife and children. If you stop the threat do you complete your mission? Yes. Even if you die? Yes. This mission isn’t about you – it’s for – your – people. Even if you’re heart shot you may still have double digit seconds left before your blood pressure crashes and you lose consciousness. Pray for the grace to burn it in. Pray for the grace to complete your mission. Decide now to be in that small percentage of folks who accept even death with a desire to protect and keep their people safe. A hard saying. Pray ahead of time asking for those graces. The question is: What are you going to do with whatever time you’ve been given? If you have 12 seconds – make – them – count. Focus on getting your firearm working and keeping your firearm working until he’s stopped. Don’t waste precious time. Stop – the – unjust – aggressor. Focus on winning the fight.
Once he’s done if you’re still breathing then is the time for spiritual and physical self care. Then you can make your peace with God, simultaneously applying whatever physical self care you can to slow down your bleeding. Forget about the Hollywood nonsense. Almost everything you’ve seen on television as it relates to what to expect when you’ve been shot is nonsense. Dead is dead. Shot is not dead. Win – the – fight.
There are many aspects of mindset. Suffice to say if you want the highest probability of winning in a deadly force encounter, then you need to begin by thinking, and praying on these first two fundamental questions. Are you willing to deal out as many lethal blows as it takes to STOP an unjust aggressor? Are you prepared to risk and die in an effort to STOP an unjust aggressor that others might live? Don’t wait until an unjust aggressor forces his will upon you to figure out where you stand on these fundamental questions. Uncertainty and confusion on these questions are massive disadvantages in combat. It is far better to be involved in a shooting than a gunfight with an unjust aggressor. The distinction is an unjust aggressor in a gunfight is shooting back at you. The advantages go to the man or woman willing to do the hard, and seemingly – I say seemingly dirty things. Those things are not dirty – they seem dirty to a weak kneed generation raised in exceeding comfort. They seem dirty when presented in a certain kind of light by ideologues in the media. The actions of legitimately insisting upon one’s own right to life, or an innocent loved one, over and above an unjust aggressor is good, right, and just. It is not dirty. If you know what your doing it’s also not fair. We don’t seek fair. We seek to win. Remember, shootings are better than gunfights. May God give us all the graces we need to do good and avoid evil.
1Catechism of the Catholic Church