personal safety

A Defensive Mindset Improves Personal Safety and Risk Management

Having a defensive mindset as a concealed carrier means being able to distinguish a problem at all levels before, during and after a conflict.

Personal safety and self-defense with a concealed carry weapon do not start when withdrawing it from the holster. The reality of owning a gun is that it should be the last solution to a threat to safety.

Tactics like de-escalation, conflict management, risk management and firearm training before, during and after conflict are effective means to prepare yourself for when that unfortunate moment when self-defense is necessary.

That does not mean utilizing a weapon for self-defense is inherently wrong or evil. Ultimately mitigating all sources of conflict and damage should be the goal, but that also means considering things like making sure your gas tank isn’t empty in a dangerous neighborhood or taking a different path when a source of danger knowingly lies just ahead – essentially safeguarding yourself in all environments.

Analyze the issue at hand prior to relying on a concealed carry firearm to get you out of a tough spot.

Owning a gun is a serious responsibility, and discharging it, no matter the self-defense legality, has consequences for every party involved. The Second Amendment does not protect the actions of foolhardy citizens brashly walking into life-threatening issues just because they have a gun on hand. It protects the right to keep and bear arms.

A Defensive Mindset Prior to Conflict Improves Personal Safety

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A defensive mindset prior to conflict – whether it’s verbal or physical – prepares the concealed carrier with techniques like situational awareness and conflict mitigation.

That defensive mindset means planning for contingencies when one has available time.

When considering a response to a threat to safety, self-defense begins when one understands both where he or she is relative to threats and whether or not that location will contain attackers that may threaten the concealed carrier.

Self-defense against a lethal threat means thinking about where one will be and if they need to prepare for a threat, how they will respond to the threat, what decisions will lead them and those around them to safety with the least amount of damage to all parties, and being aware of all available options that can resolve the issue outside of just firing a bullet.

Or the concealed carrier can avoid violent locations altogether.

Self-defense begins with arming oneself, but that goes beyond having a gun in a holster.

Being armed means that one may have to make a split-second decision if danger enters the home or their immediate environment. People don’t always have the time to break down a situation and analyze the pros and cons. A gun is an option. It’s an answer when unexpected lethal conflict arises like a home invasion or an attack from a deadly mugger. However, that gun is a last resort.

Take for example this anecdote from the NRA publication American Rifleman.

A woman was returning to her car from a mall after a day of shopping. Upon seeing a group of intimidating young men standing near her car, she stopped, analyzed the scenario, noted that it made her feel unsafe and uncomfortable, turned around and walked right back into the mall to find the security guard.

It was well known in town that she and her husband carried and shipped firearms for their business.

Let’s pause the scenario here and point out a few key components to the situation at hand. She is a concealed carrier, there is a conflict in her line of sight, she understands that the potentially lethal and dangerous situation can be diffused without resorting to using her concealed carry weapon and instead chooses to pursue a response to the situation that mitigates not only damage, but also brandishing a firearm and escalating conflict.

After searching for the security guard, she found him and requested he escort her to her vehicle. He asked her why she needed him when he personally knew from their relationship that she had a concealed carry firearm in her purse. Her defensive mindset was not that she couldn’t protect or defend herself, nor was it based on stereotypical gender issues – rough young men next to a woman’s car in an empty parking lot.

She chose not to walk into a close-quarters conflict and instead understood that lethal action was the last resort. The security guard walked her to her vehicle and the group disbanded.

That being said, being aware of one’s situation at hand is an important tool.

Situational Awareness Is One of Many Personal Safety Tools

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Situational awareness is an extension of the defensive mindset that benefits the concealed carrier at all moments.

If one doesn’t have a concealed carry weapon with them for personal safety – whether it’s because the environment doesn’t warrant it due to legislation banning campus carry or one lives in a state where legislation restricts concealed carry – they will always have their wits about them, provided foreign substances or distractions aren’t clouding their senses.

Be situationally aware. A concealed carrier should actively be engaged with the environment around them. Start with a circle 15 feet around you and work outward, analyzing every person, obstacle, hiding spot, building, and so on. Instead of checking that text message or relying on a cellphone as a social crutch out in public, people need to be actively engaged with the environment around them.

Often, alert eye contact can ward a predator from targeting someone. They may be seeking out the weakest of the herd, and being completely distracted and unengaged will make you a weak target.

saw firsthand situational awareness being used by one of my peers last year. Unfortunately, I was considered the predator – although I was a benign factor just trying to mind my own business and walk home, I’m happy she considered me a potential threat and kept herself safe by disengaging from any potential contact.

It was after 12 a.m. on a clear autumn night. I had just clocked out of a shift at my university’s library in a small college town, and I was finally strolling home. I was minding my own business, enjoying being able to finally stretch my legs after working at a desk for seven hours, and I noticed a woman was walking about fifty yards in front of me.

Instead of making any sort of contact, she crossed the road and walked faster. This was a defensive mindset that identified a potential attacker, analyzed all the options at her disposal, and quickly acted upon an answer to the issue at hand.

I’m not certain if she was carrying a concealed weapon, nor am I certain of what her next move was. I rounded the corner and entered my front door about five minutes after this occurred.

Situational awareness is a great tool, but unfortunately it is not the end all method, just a preventive measure.

Personal Safety Encompasses Several Components

self defense

Appropriate defensive handgun training, unarmed training, medical training, and legal training are all steps in the process of personal safety. There are most certainly more, and we would love to hear your safety tips in the comments below.

Knowing the rules of gun safety and how to appropriately stand, seek cover, and orient yourself while prone while firing are all good tools to have. Many prefer a loaded firearm while concealed carrying, but they’ll also tell one to keep their finger off the trigger until the intention is to shoot.

If one brandishes their firearm as a last resort in their list of defensive options, verbally de-escalating a conflict with a firearm in hand before shooting could be a method to avoiding the issue of placing a finger on the trigger and firing until the problem is over.

Even in matters of self-defense, the legal troubles associated with the aftermath of dispatching what you believe and know to be a lethal threat may still be a long, drawn-out affair. The George Zimmerman case, no matter your stance or position on it, is a firm reminder of the aftermath of utilizing a firearm to eliminate a perceived threat. Legalities exist, and knowing the appropriate laws and justifications, and following them precisely to the last word, should always be something in the back of a concealed carrier’s mind.

Think about what lies beyond the target a weapon is pointed at. Certainly, any experienced gun owner will understand the ammunition in their weapon, but sometimes it slips the mind that a bullet may often travel completely through that which it comes in contact with.

A defensive mindset takes into account the defense of innocent civilians that may be behind the attacker after the trigger is pulled and the target is dispatched.

There are appropriate measures to take in all moments of conflict.

  • Consider the time far before conflict – thinking about where one may be and how they are prepared to approach an issue.
  • Think about the moments leading up to conflict – the available options, and whether or not using a concealed weapon is the necessary course of action.
  • Take the appropriate course of action at the point of conflict – do you fire, de-escalate, flee, or otherwise disengage from the conflict?
  • Ensure safety shortly after conflict – medical attention of every party involved, including those who are not attackers.
  • The time far after conflict also has consequences – such as what legalities you have to keep in mind.

Conflict is not a matter of point and shoot. A defensive mindset is as useful as the type of holster for concealed or open carry, what type of ammunition is kept on hand, which type of firearm best serves the gun owner, and so on.

Jake Smith  

About The Author

Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter in his final year of studying public relations and apparel at the University of Idaho.

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