Deadly Force Decisions – The First Step

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Deadly Force Decisions – The First Step


Lt. David L. Williams (ret)


We live in a violent society.

When I first became a police officer, I carried a six shot revolver. Portable radios were bigger and heavier than bricks.  There were no cages in patrol cars, and patrol cars had a red light and blue light on top.  At least I had TWO lights on my car!  The thought of in-car computers was still TV science fiction.

In just a little over a year on the street, I was in my first shooting with that six shot revolver.

Technology has changed a lot of things with police work and personal defense, but the primary weapon has never changed.

You are the weapon.  The gun is a tool.


We live in a violent society.  If you carry a gun for personal defense, you must be fully prepared for an armed confrontation.  For most of us, that means we go out and buy a gun.  We may buy some practice ammunition and go to the range.  Some of us may even get some good training on how to shoot the new gun.  But we haven’t started our weapon training, because YOU ARE THE WEAPON. THE GUN IS A TOOL.

Like any good warrior, you need to prepare yourself mentally for battle.  The first step is to ask yourself one simple question.

Am I prepared to shoot another human in necessary self-defense?


This may not be an easy question to answer at first, and that is OK as long as it is done in the safety of your own home or in a training environment before you carry the gun.  Most of us have been hardwired to be kind and gentle.  That is a healthy thing in day-to-day society.  The problem is, not everybody plays by those rules.

We live in a violent society.

But do we live in a war zone? The Viet Nam war inflicted terrible losses on American fighting forces.  Total American deaths for the war are listed as 58,193.

The worst year for reported deaths was 16,592 in 1968.


Let’s compare that to civilian deaths within the borders of the USA.  I understand this might be a little bit of an apple and oranges comparison, but it gives us an idea of the level of violence we face on US streets.


The FBI reports there were 14,123 homicides in 2018, the newest statistics available.  That is close to the worst year of American deaths in the Viet Nam War.  Every year we hover close to the worst year of the war.  There were 15,195 murders in 2017.  A few more people were killed in 2016 at 15, 318 and there was a drop to 13,780 in 2015.

That four-year total was 58,416 which was a few hundred more than the total of all American fighting force deaths from all of the Viet Nam war.  In four years, we murdered more of our own citizens than were killed during the entire Viet Nam War.


We live in a violent society.


Are you prepared to shoot another human in self-defense?  It can be a scary and difficult question.


It has been described well by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his book “On Combat”.

LTC Grossman states:

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep.  If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath-a wolf.  But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens?  Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking in the hero’s path.  Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.


Are you a sheepdog?  Are you a warrior? 

You may have religious questions you need to ask.  Do your spiritual beliefs allow you to kill in self-defense?  Some belief systems completely prohibit the taking of a human life.  If you believe that, then follow through with your beliefs, but do not carry a gun unless you are willing to use it.

You must understand there is a difference between killing and murder.  As a legally armed citizen, you have the right to protect yourself and others from serious physical harm or death.  Having killed in the line of duty as a police officer, I am grateful to know that I am not a murderer.  The laws of man and my spiritual beliefs allow me to use deadly force in defense of myself and others.

As a young police officer, I asked myself how I would feel if I had to kill someone.  I thought about “Thou shalt not kill”.  My personal research led me to understand that the Commandment actually means, “Thou shalt not commit murder”.  That was my personal conclusion.  If that is an issue you need to address, seek guidance from spiritual leaders you trust.  Research the texts of your beliefs.  Be at peace with whatever conclusion you may decide upon.

Your social beliefs may prohibit you from using deadly force.  Many kind-hearted people try to change the world everyday but could not shoot someone to defend themselves.  Unfortunately this occurred in the police department where I worked.

The following description of the event is from the FBI Report on Law Enforcement Officers killed in 2002:


A Dayton police officer with nearly 2 years of law enforcement experience was critically wounded after responding to a domestic disturbance call at 3:30 p.m. on May 15, 2000. The 40-year-old officer and her partner were in their patrol vehicle en route to the residence where a man was reported to have shot at his girlfriend and her 4-year-old son. The suspect was leaving the residence as officers arrived, and a short car chase ensued. He stopped his vehicle, exited with a .30-caliber semi­automatic rifle and aimed it at the victim officer’s partner. Both officers exited the patrol vehicle and took cover, the part­ner behind the vehicle and the officer behind the vehicle’s right front fender as four other officers arrived at the scene. The first officers at the scene ordered the man to put down his weapon, but he replied that if they didn’t drop their weapons he would shoot them. A little more than a minute later, the suspect re­portedly approached the officer who had taken cover behind the right front fender of the police car and told her to drop her gun or he would “blow her head off.” The officer, who was wearing body armor, placed her gun on the ground and raised her hands. The suspect then shot the victim officer in the neck from less than 5 feet away. Her partner re­turned fire and shot the man six times. The 21-year-old offender, who was on conditional release pending criminal prosecution, was known to law enforce­ment as a drug dealer. He was treated for his wounds, then charged with three counts of Felony Assault, two counts of Aggravated Robbery, one count each of Child Endangerment, Failure to Comply, Carrying Concealed Weapon, Having Weapons Under Disability, and Unlaw­ful Possession of Dangerous Weapons. The victim officer was left quadriplegic as a result of the shooting and died of her injuries on August 25, 2002, at the age of 43.


I knew this officer and worked with her.  I knew the other officers on the scene and worked with them.  I was not on the scene of that incident.  I do not know why the officers did not shoot the suspect before he fired.  I do know there were some people there who were not prepared to shoot someone in the line of duty.  As a result, the officer died.

You must be prepared to use the gun if you carry the gun.  I have heard people say that they will just “flash” the gun and that will scare the bad guys away. That is utter and complete foolishness.  You have the gun to deliver deadly force under legal guidelines.  Almost all states consider “flashing” the gun to be a crime.  More importantly you have just told the “wolf” that you have a gun.  He may want to take it from you, and the “wolf” may just be crazy enough to try.  You had better be ready to deliver accurate fire under appropriate conditions.

You must also consider how your use of deadly force will affect the people you love.  They need to be a part of this discussion.  You may carry the gun but they will carry the burden with you if you ever have to shoot in self-defense.    Settle all the questions long before they can haunt you.  Be settled in your mind that you are prepared to use deadly force as it is legally allowed where you live.

Consider these factors before you go forward with your self-defense plans.  Make informed and intelligent decisions that you can live with, so if you do carry a gun you will not hesitate.  We all know “He who hesitates is lost”.  This is especially true in a gunfight.

Be mentally and spiritually prepared to lawfully protect yourself and the people you love.  Then go get the gun, get the good training, and always remember one thing:



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