The Morality of Offense

I had some good conversations with Rob Morse of The Polite Society.  Rob was asking some good questions about he attacks in Chattanooga on the Recruiting Stations and this led to a good discussion that maybe – just maybe – we’re not training to the right Mindset in our Defensive courses.

Normally, any of the Traditional Martial Arts, and the Martial Arts with High Kinetic Energy all train with the notion that the best fight is the one you don’t get into.  Meaning that if you can avoid a fight, then do so by all means necessary.  But maybe that’s not the case anymore.

The classic crime we defend from is basically strong arm robbery, burglary,  maybe a home invasion, mugging, or car-jacking.  As bad as they are, they are no where near the level of the Mass-Shooting and Terror Attacks we’re seeing more and more of.  See, the good old fashioned crime, the Thug/Bad Guy/Scumbag/Threat; he’s after your Property.  Money.  Credit Cards.  Car.  Hubcaps… Stuff.  He wants your stuff.   In those cases, the Traditional methodology is correct.  Stuff can be replaced.  So drop your cash and run if running is an option.  Or toss your wallet and hit the gas.  If your in the back of the store and Thugs come in the front to hold up the place – escape out the back.  If you can, help others escape out the back while you cover their exit – and then you leave.  That’s the right thing to do.

But that’s no always the case anymore.  Now the Threat/Terrorist/Bad Guy isn’t after your Property.  They are after your life and lives of everyone else around you.  This is where it’s different.  Things have changed and dropping your stuff and bolting may or may not be the right answer anymore.  Let’s say you are armed and some maniac comes in with an AK-47 and starts shooting up the place.   You hear the shots, some people scream and chaos ensues.  You help some folks out the back exit and they run to safety.   Now, you are armed.  You have a decision to make.  Do you engage the threat or do you run away as well?

The Army taught us a simple phrase that has a lot of questions that go with it.  “The METT Dictates”.  METT means “Mission”, “Enemy”, “Terrain”, and “Time”.   So there are a lot of variables to consider in your exact situation, location and what the bad guy is doing.    Let’s say your in a familiar office setting.  Like the above situation you have helped people to safety.  You are armed with a pistol such as say, a S&W Bodyguard .380… which is a popular Concealed Carry Pistol, and one that is quite good.  The threat doesn’t know you are there and you know the building.  Should you take action or should you retreat?   I don’t know.  But your ability to engage and stop or delay that threat is really not all that great.  Maybe you should exfiltrate and go about your merry.

Now let’s say you are armed with a SIG 229 in .357 SIG in that same situation.  You have more capacity with a more accurate and more potent firearm.  You have a greater chance of stopping that threat.  Ending that rampage, or at least reducing that threat’s ability to rampage as effectively or freely.  This situation swings in your favor so you have that choice to make.  Do you stay and fight or do you withdraw?   What’s the right choice here?

Let’s look at the results of these shootings.  Almost all of the time, the threat is ended with confronted with with an armed resistance.  The shooter dies, surrenders, or turns his own gun on himself.  Either way – the threat is neutralized.    Or in some cases when the shooter runs out of people to kill, he then kills himself.

If he doesn’t end himself, and he’s not been stopped… we’ve seen them move on to another location to do more harm.  This is what happened with the Marine Recruiting Stations.  The Terrorist shoots up one place and having met no resistance, moves on to another location where he kills people.

At that scene a weapon was found that didn’t belong to the Shooter or the responding LEO’s.  It is guessed that someone in there used that firearm in self defense and the defense of others.  We don’t know all the details.  But we can imagine that the Warrior Spirits of those Marines compelled them to engage.  The shooter was killed.  Like I said – we don’t know what went down.  But what would have happened if this guy didn’t face any resistance there?  Would he have moved on to another military recruiting office?  Maybe a school or a mall?  We don’t know.  But giving what we’ve learned about this terrorist, it’s likely that he would not have stopped until someone else stopped him.

The Navy Yard in VA.  Fort Hood in Texas.  And other high profile terrorist acts… Trolley Square in SLC.  These  terroristic attacks ended when a good guy with a gun stopped that threat.

Given that situation, ask yourself; should you be ready to take an offensive defense and move to engage or should you flee?  Are you morally justified in moving to engage?   Here’s my take.  I think if you are in a position with the means and ability and a chance of stopping that terrorist then not only should you engage… but I feel that you have the moral obligation to do so.

Now, I’m not talking about your average Joe Snuffy CCW Permit Holder.  I’m talking about men and women who have take more advanced training and or have some good solid experience in shooting under stress.  Former Military or Law Enforcement.  That guys that shoot competitions.  The guys that might actually have a chance of ending that terrorist.  I’m talking about Sheepdogs.  You guys.  (Probably most everyone that reads my blog)  YOU have the moral obligation to fight.   Because if you don’t… who knows what else that terrorist is going to do.  But with all due respect to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Terrorists will not drop their weapons and walk away.   That doesn’t happen.  Ever.  Just the opposite in fact.  They are emboldened and energized and will do more harm than before.

This is a mind-set issue here.  We’re talking about moral responsibility and obligation to not just save yourself and family, but your neighbors as well.     Call the cops, yes.  But unless they are already there – you need to step up.   If a pan of grease on your stove ignites – sure you can call the Fire Department.   But it would be more effective and beneficial for everyone for you to put a lid on that pan and put that fire our yourself.

63 thoughts on “The Morality of Offense”

  1. Perhaps if there are children, or other true innocents (who are prohibited from carry) present, then the obligation you speak of exists. But I don’t have any obligation to risk my life on behalf of people who have the same exact opportunity to arm themselves as I do, and who choose not to.

    I may opt to do so anyway, but please don’t try to tell me that some duty exists to save those who have chosen to be unable to save themselves.

    1. Same could be argued about helping others on any level.
      This is a disappointing opinion.

      1. No, there’s nothing disappointing about it. There is never a duty to help.

        Jump over to a completely different scenario: someone asks me to replace their furnace, I accept the job, and they pay me. I now, by accepting the contract, have a duty to do the work. While it’s laudable to do one’s job, it is not particularly special.

        Other scenario: I hear that some struggling family just found that their furnace is dead, and we’re heading into a stretch of below-zero weather, so I call around, find that one of my suppliers has a scratch&dent furnace in the warehouse that I can get for cheap, buy it, and install it for that family. I had no duty to help them, but I did so, anyway. And others would rightfully give me kudos for doing so.

        That’s why we have terms like, “above and beyond the call of duty.”

        As Netpackrat notes, there’s no duty to save those who have chosen to be victims. On the other hand, I do have a duty to raise my children, so it could be said that my true duty is to retreat.

        But I’m probably not going to. Regardless of having no duty to resist the attack on the behalf of those who have chosen to embrace victimhood, I don’t want my children to grow up in a world where evil is ignored instead of resisted, so I’m very likely to turn towards the attack and fight back. Not because I’m obligated to do so, but because I have to look at myself in the mirror each day, and look into their eyes each day, and I could not do so if I had ignored what was going on.

        It’s not a duty; it’s a choice. And that’s why, when someone does it, we don’t just say, “eh? he was just doing his job” – we cheer him as a hero. Alive or dead, he will not be forgotten, because he took the road that was /higher/ than the one that mere duty required of him.

      2. But, we’re not talking about helping others on any level. We’re talking about taking human life, and risking death ourselves on their behalf. And if for whatever reason… perhaps their own life isn’t worth the inconvenience of carry to them, or they themselves find the concept of taking human life (even to preserve their own) to be unpalatable… they choose to be a helpless victim, then as Flint pointed out, my first duty is to remain alive to raise, protect, and provide for my own family.

        If I died today, I have a 3 year old son who would only remember me dimly, and an 11 month old daughter who would remember Daddy not at all. I’d just as soon they not be raised by whatever replacement my wife eventually manages to find.

        None of that automatically means I am going to run away, but if I have the opportunity to not engage in gunplay on behalf of people I don’t know, and many of whom would probably just as soon turn on me if I do step in to help, then that needs to be my default option. If I can engage an active shooter or terrorist in such a manner as to stack the odds more heavily in my favor, then I’ll consider that as the situation dictates.

        1. Okay, consider this though. You choose to slip out the back in this theoretical situation. You could have engaged and stopped the guy, but you elected to avoid risk. Okay.
          So, as we had discussed, the Terrorist leaves. Having successfully hit one target, he moves on. Ahead of Law Enforcement response. Hits another location.
          Many deaths. Staggering. People you know.
          The weight of that choice. I couldn’t stand that personally and it would eat at me the rest of my life.

          1. Indeed. I’d make the same choice. Not because it’s some mere “duty” – duty is, after all, a minimum condition, like “milspec” or “meets building code” – it merely denotes the bare minimum that is expected of anyone. Excellence is far above those minimums.

            No, I’d do it for the same reasons that you describe:
            Because I could not live with having done other.
            Because, for the small part of the world I can control, I choose to build a world in which evil is resisted.
            Because, while it’s a bit mercenary, having done so might encourage some folks to rethink their politics when it comes to guns.
            Because it’s who I choose to be.

            We don’t disagree on what a decent person should do in that scenario. We just disagree on whether he should do it because it’s an obligation, or because it’s a conscious choice to go /beyond/ obligation.

          2. If the situation you posed before was incredibly unlikely for me to encounter, then the odds against this new one are completely astronomical. But it does touch upon one of the things that would make me want to intervene, if possible… if it were my family at risk, and I wasn’t present, I would want somebody to save them. So yeah, if it looked do-able, I might still choose to engage. I just wanted to make clear that I think your premise of it being a duty owed to the willfully defenseless, is asinine.

          3. You can apply the same argument to your suggestion that you give the criminal what they want. “You’ve elected to avoid risk.” This just encourages criminals, leading to more and more brazen acts, until you have today where people rape and murder “just because”, expect to get away with it, and are surprised at any resistance.

    2. I am forced to agree with Netpackrat. In todays climate legal and other wise to engage such a threat when you are not legally obligated to is often foolish and a threat to your, your families and legal future. Bad? Yes but that’s the situation that our owners in government, especially the muslim in the white house wants. Protect your family and friends, get them safely out of the area of conflict and move aside for first responders. I wish it was other wise but if you stay in the area responders don’t know who or what you are or your intentions. Bad things happen. Even if you win, unlikely in the scene you paint Ogre, the after affects will be awful for you and those you love. Train for it if you wish to be at that level by all means, but plan A should still be “Run away, run away”. Oh and the gun found at the scene you mentioned was owned by one of the military on scene and DOJ is CHARGING HIM for fighting back with a gun. What do you think the madman in the white house will do to you?

      1. DOJ is charging him for possessing the weapon on federal property. Which is technically a crime. Still major BS, but a bit different from being prosecuted for fighting back.

  2. Yeah, there’s a time to run and a time to stand and fight. Even a time to fight for the undeserving and less-than-thankful. You have to know when each time is.

    But I cannot see leaving others to die while I run to safety as long as I have the means to resist. And I don’t think that anyone who has the means to fight back – and doesn’t help others…is a rather poor example of a man.

    But I guess each person has to choose their own course.

    1. ” And I don’t think that anyone…” should be And I do think that anyone….

    2. Just curious, how many gun fights have you been in? Not deriding you just wondering, have you ever really had to make that decision or are you projecting and hoping you would respond as you imagine you should? I have attended several and they are NOT at all like most people imagine, much less a coordinated military style attack. Again not saying anything about you or your comment, just that real world is not like most people live in and hopefully they will live their entire lives and never find out what reality is….If you could/would/have responded as you stated we need more like you.

      1. If you were talking to me….Outside of a few years of war (a long time ago), only a few gunfights; and, you’re right: they never go as you think they would…so you adapt.

        But I have always believed that a man stands up when called upon to fight for those weaker/less-prepared than him. Call it duty or whatever you wish – it’s what a man does.

  3. The other side of this discussion I think is probabilities. In a nation of over 350 million what are the odds that you will become involved in a situation where you have the means and training to take up the fight? Will you have a gun in the work place like the Navy Yard? Training to fight at this level is nearly a full time job for the chance to use the training in what is about “0”% chance in your life time or as close as probabilities can predict? You are MUCH more likely to get hit by a bus crossing a street in code green. Slightly more likely to be assaulted by a biker gang or mugger. (Course if it happens to you then the % is 100%)…..Real world you could live several normal life times and never be endangered in a terrorist attack. Not saying don’t train, just asking if you are balancing out the risk vs benefit and not being reported to DHS by your neighbors 🙂 As to bystanders, I think that after 40 years of carrying a badge and gun I would now in retirement get innocents out of the line of fire if at all possible AFTER securing my family. Sorry that’s the real world which is much more like “Game of Thrones” then “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood”.

  4. Me: What ever. Discussed over and over. Chattanooga was an ambush. Extremely hard to defend against except not being vulnerable in the first place.

    Me: I get the gist of the article which is: . . . but just saying we have a moral obligation does not explore the “why” we have a moral obligation.

    George: Here’s my take. I think if you are in a position with the means and ability and a chance of stopping that terrorist then not only should you engage… but I feel that you have the moral obligation to do so.

    Now, I’m not talking about your average Joe Snuffy CCW Permit Holder. I’m talking about men and women who have take more advanced training and or have some good solid experience in shooting under stress. Former Military or Law Enforcement. That guys that shoot competitions. The guys that might actually have a chance of ending that terrorist. I’m talking about Sheepdogs. You guys. (Probably most everyone that reads my blog) YOU have the moral obligation to fight. Because if you don’t… who knows what else that terrorist is going to do. But with all due respect to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Terrorists will not drop their weapons and walk away. That doesn’t happen. Ever. Just the opposite in fact. They are emboldened and energized and will do more harm than before.”

    Me: Neither TRAINING nor THE MORALITY OF OFFENSE was explored.

    1. Would you care too? What are your thoughts on this?
      We’ve seen some get indignant at the mere assertion without really thinking this through. You are. Thank you.

  5. I’ve gotta agree with Sulaco. Training to “Go Offensive” and take down a terrorist is a nice fantasy and fun to do but if you’re actually serious about training there are far more useful things you can do with your time. Probability-wise you’re much, much more likely to encounter a mugging or home invasion. Every minute you spend preparing for your Jack Bauer fantasy is a minute you may sorely regret when an actual, likely situation comes about.

    I’ve always thought that the “Sheepdog” idea was kinda stupid. Sure, it’s nice to imagine well-armed, well-trained “Operators” rising out of the citizenry to protect the silly gunless masses but then you look at the guys who are calling themselves that and you realize that they’re just grown-up, overweight mall ninjas. Like all the guys who showed up to protect recruiting stations, despite the military’s direct request not to, but who would never, ever consider enlisting.

    I don’t know how to solve this, but I definitely don’t think that switching training away from defensive tactics will. Ogre, I guess what it boils down to is that, as a professional trainer and someone who has “seen the Elephant”, you have a responsibility to help those you train to be as effective as possible at protecting themselves and their family. Unless they’ve mastered those tactics, and I mean like navy-SEAL level proficiency, any alternate strategies you’re teaching them are just taking away from their ability to do that.

    1. . Unless they’ve mastered those tactics, and I mean like navy-SEAL level proficiency,…..

      How many Infantrymen are trained to “Navy SEAL standards? And how many of them comport themselves admirably on the fields of battle?

      Ordinary people can and do rise to the occasion when called upon to do the right thing. Can anyone who has the means and the training to actually engage a threat do any less? If one is not going to engage a threat – then why take the training ….unless it’s just a game/pastime and not meant to serve a purpose?

      And I’ll say that I just do not understand people who won’t man up at a time like that. And I have no desire to understand them – other than to be sure I never have to depend on them in any emergency.

        1. George –

          For now it’s the Seals. It used to be Delta Force. Before that it was The Green Berets.

          Those who are THAT GOOD don’t need the puppy love.

        2. The Navy and Marines spend more on public relations than the Army.
          Geoff
          Who was a 45B 1972-1982

  6. I’m not an operator. I’m an accountant. I carry because I’m the only one who I can count on to try and protect me and mine should the need arise.

    If I were to find myself in such a situation where I could have a reasonable shot at stopping the perp, I believe I would make the attempt. Would I succeed? Nobody gets to know such things ahead of time. But I’d sure as heck try, so at the end of the day I’d know I did the best I could. Because when I look in a mirror, I don’t want to be ashamed of the guy I’m looking at.

  7. If my knowledge of the shooter’s location consists entirely of hearing shots and screams somewhere in the mall (or wherever), I do not have enough situational awareness to go hunting.

    If I don’t know what he looks like or exactly where he is, I won’t be doing anyone any favors by charging off half-cocked and becoming another casualty.

    1. We saw this at Trolley Square in SLC.
      At a Mall. The CCW permit holder triumphed.

  8. Have thought about this and reviewed the arguments from as many angles as I can work it, because I am one of the few in my nation (Canada) who does have the ability to be armed throughout my working day. And I did recently – through considerable financial outlay – gain the capacity to be armed pretty much all of the time.

    While I was at work, I would without question advance toward fire and prepare to engage in an active shooter situation with the intent of preserving lives and supporting Law Enforcement Agencies.

    Outside of work, I would do the same with the caveat that I would see to my family first.

    Otherwise, if I have weapons and the ability to use them… I will do everything in my power to prevent terrorists and criminals from harming citizens, using any appropriate force necessary.

  9. it is an interesting topic to discuss for sure. except the what you really need to be aware of is if you are in a situation such as this and you get in a gun fight with terrorists (and this includes defening strangers, loved ones or just trying to egress the situation) the terrorists are prone to undisciplined return fire. the aftermath of this is someones lawyer is going to sue you becuase thier loved one or themselves were affected badly by this, arguing that had you not interviened thier misfortune would not have happened. (yes you can argue that the bad guy’s intended to kill/harm everyone in sight, but the fact remains that they were unharmed until you showed up) now if you are a leo or goverment anti-terror person that is one thing (you have the state and your job classification to back you up), but if you are a private citizen you will probably loose everything you own fighting in court or in a judgement and maybe even end up in jail weather your actions were right or not. its not fair but lets face it that is the state of america today.

  10. I want the Governor to declare open season on terrorists. Immunity and bounty would be nice too. As it is, even in FL a democrat prosecutor can make an open and shut case into murder despite the decisions of layers of previous prosecutors.
    Geoff
    Who notes the Zimmerman persecution.

  11. Interesting discussion. I can see both sides. I would like to think we would all stand and fight in an active shooter situation as the moral thing to do. But I don’t think you can be pulling the man card from those that are stating they would retreat. We need to consider:
    1. In a stressful and chaotic situation you are expecting one to fully grasp what is currently taking place
    2. Expecting one to engage without contemplating the legal and financial ruin by your government for a misplaced shot or for engaging in the first place.
    3. Being confused for the shooter by arriving LE or other armed citizens in the fog of war,
    4. The risk of programming an Offensive Mindset into your training or thought process. I would think you would see a spike of unjustified shootings if all ccw’s prepped for active shooter vs defensive mindset. You would see abuses of castle and stand your ground doctrines, guaranteed. Can’t assume everyone thinks as clearly as you under stress…

    In that mall scenario, perhaps better for most to have a retreat mindset pre-programmed, and hope that the person once feeling safe after exiting the rear, can better comprehend the situation and feel the need to turn around…
    In a movie theater, the reason you arm yourself is because you know you’re the proverbial fish in the barrel and so it’s fight, not flight.

  12. Awesome comments, guys.
    Good discussion and thought provoking from all points.

  13. Another side this discussion might be seen in the news that in two states “middle eastern” men have been confronting the families of military personnel at their homes and intimidating them but not (yet) doing violence……this is going to get A LOT worse.

  14. If you are in say, your place of work. Your home. Or Church. You SHOULD have a tactical advantage of knowing the terrain. Know where you can have cover and can navigate/slice the pie/maneuver to keep an advantage and engage from around cover.
    Should.
    If you are a Regular in any location… And you haven’t mapped it out in your head and War Gamed it through a few different times and different ways in your mind – You are wrong. This starts out simply knowing your exits.
    Remember the movie Ronin? (If not – STOP – Go buy it on DVD/BlueRay and watch it) Where the main character says “I never go into a place I don’t know how to get out of”.
    That’s a great rule of thumb. Go in – and find out how to get out. Emergency Exits. Commercial Buildings will have maps. Study those as they give you a tactical advantage.
    Look for choke points.
    Things in the building you could use for distraction or concealment – IE – Fire extinguishers can cut visibility in a long hallway.
    Look for how you could GO TO WAR in it. Just as a mental tactical exercise.
    So IF something goes down.
    You have an idea where to go. How to get people out. How to cover their escape and yours. Or… Where you can go to possibly stop the Bad Guy. And the question stems from that IF. If you think you have a chance to stop. If you don’t, then it’s prudent to escape. If you do… There is your Moral Obligation.
    I’m not suggesting you hear gunfire and go all Leroy Jenkins and Suicide Run at the bad guy. I’m saying use your head and be ready to make a move that could save lives.

  15. Funny that. Friend of mine from the old AIA and myself – retired DSS – always would get a laugh from our respective wives as we jockeyed to see who would get the seat at the restaurant table that faced the front door. And I still automatically look for the table at the rear so I can sit with my back to the wall.

  16. In such a situation, I would try to put at least one magazine worth of .380 ACP rounds in the active killer, from cover, preferably in the back, and then scoot.

    Most active killers fold up the second something not in their internal script happens. I would be willing to take enough risk to tag his ass at least once.

    1. That’s true… and like you, I’d do my best effort. Even if that means charging with just my pocket knife.

  17. I do believe that if you have the ability and the means to stop the situation from becoming worse then you should do so. CCW holders are not obligated to engage the active shooters, but more good guys engaging bad guys is a good thing. Mad ogre my question to you what is the best way to identify ourselves to LEOs that we are the good guys?

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