An Obligation to Fire

Since the first installment of Slicing the Pie, multiple questions have been submitted, and prioritizing them has been no small feat.  However, the following question is one that I’ve received firsthand on multiple occasions and that I’ve heard being discussed over the years.  So, hopefully this article will offer some insight to our readers regarding “obligation to fire.” 

Q: “If I draw my gun in a self-defense scenario, am I obligated to fire?” 

A: “Absolutely not!” 

Although I have heard this question many times, what I’ve heard even more often is some misinformed chap making a comment to the effect of “if someone forces me to pull my gun, by God, I’m using it.” An even worse rhetoric may go something like, “If I pull my gun, I’m not putting it away until it has spilled blood.”  Both statements are wholly wrong and show a complete lack of training, education, and maturity.  Mr. Colion Noir, an attorney and prominent 2nd Amendment advocate, would eloquently refer to someone making these statements as the proverbial “I wish a MF’er would Guy.”  Just because you draw your gun, does not mean it must be fired.  Not only is that belief horribly misguided, but simply making such remarks could come back to haunt you in a court of law should you ever be forced to fire your gun in self-defense. 

Imagine you were preparing to loosen a rusted bolt on your pick-up truck.  There you are, wrench in hand, having already come to the realization that your knuckles are about to be skinless, fully prepared to give yourself a hernia from all the straining you’re about to do, only to find the bolt in question is already loose enough to be removed with just your fingers.  Would you still use the wrench?  Of course not.  Just because you had on hand the tool necessary to complete a difficult job, you were able to remove that bolt with no harm to yourself and without potentially damaging the bolt.

Avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation – none of which necessarily include physical violence – are all preferred methods of conflict resolution.  Far more often than not, simply drawing a firearm, aiming it toward an attacker, and yelling “STOP!” would be enough to make most folks re-evaluate their life choices. Quite frankly, a loud verbal command to “STOP!”  coupled with the visibility of a gun’s muzzle pointed at the bad guy’s face is universally understood and will likely supersede even the most challenging of language barriers.  On the off chance the attacker persists, then yes, you might be forced to shoot that individual.  I also understand that there are situations where verbal warnings prior to firing a shot are not necessary or prudent, but to hold the belief that drawing a firearm automatically equals a mandatory press of the trigger is simply false. 

John Steinbeck wrote in his book The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights, “the final weapon is the brain, all else is supplemental.”  I would urge our readers to remember that their guns are merely tools and that they, the individuals, are the weapons.  The circumstances always dictate the tactics.  Know that your true power, your most dangerous weapon, is between your ears, not in your holster. 

Avoid what you can.  Defeat what you can’t. 


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(Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney and no information provided in “Slicing the Pie” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be construed, in any way, as official, legal advice.)

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