This question comes up at almost every CCW class I teach, and my standard response is “it depends”. Now I know that sounds more like a CPA answering a tax question but in fact it is a very valid answer as each and every case of legitimate use of a firearm in self-defense is unique.
Generally speaking you may not present your gun to threaten someone, even if they are threatening you. Legally your handgun can only be used to save you or another from grave bodily injury. Yes, many times a gun was presented and that ended the threat but to draw the gun it is still required for you and a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstance to believe that a threat of grave bodily injury is imminent.
I often tell students that once you present your gun you have essentially backed yourself into a corner and you now may have to use it when there were other options prior to that point. The gun is a tool of last resort and if you carry it concealed you CANNOT use it to ward off potential threats and it really should only come out of the holster when the expectation is to not draw would result in some innocent being seriously injured or killed.
So let’s look at some possible situations where it may or may not be appropriate to draw or show your gun.
You are walking back to your car in the parking lot of the mall when you discover it is now the latest hotspot for a group of six obviously intoxicated males to sit on and smoke a joint in that nice shady spot where you parked. Can you go up to them and show them your holstered gun and tell them to take a hike? Can you pull your little pea shooter and demand they get on the ground face down? Should you even approach them?
Well the obvious conclusion I hope you came to was to turn around and walk away, do not approach them and in particular you CANNOT draw or brandish your gun to get them to leave . . . and you will not believe how many potential students who I have talked to say they would show them their holstered gun to frighten off the bad guys. In the end, I just hit the alarm button on the remote as I walked to the car and when they jumped like their pants were on fire I apologized and stated that I had hit the wrong button on the remote, quickly jumped in and drove off.
Here’s another possible scenario, you are driving into a complex parking lot across the street from a crowded park on the 4th of July and two cars have the entrance blocked. As you come to a stop you see three young men hunkered down by the rear window of the forward car exchanging money for little packages. If you assume it is a drug deal I would guess you are right. So to make a quick exit you throw your vehicle in reverse only to find a car right behind you blocking your way. At this point the three guys are giving you a look that says they are going to mess you up for interrupting their fun. You throw up your hands in a gesture of “you guys are blocking my path” and all of a sudden three other obvious ne’er do wells pile out of the forward car as it begins to slowly creep out of your way. Now instead of a car you have six young males who you are pretty certain have been conducting a felony right in front of you blocking your way. Is this the time to whip out your gun and start banging away? or point it at them with a menacing look on your face?
There is no clear cut answer to what to do but pointing your gun is not going to be beneficial unless they show intent to cause you grave bodily injury. Pretty shaky scenario actually.
One last one before I leave you to ponder your actions. You are walking in a crowded mall, near the end where there are several closed businesses and no one is down there but you and another person walking towards you. Since you are going to pass too close to this person you alter your angle to leave plenty of distance between you considering the relative isolation you are in. Three steps after you change direction the approaching individual alters his direction to be coming right at you again . . . at this point your “spidey senses” should start to tingle for there was NO reason for this person to do that except to get close to you. So being a wise individual you alter your path again only to end up walking right next to the wall of some closed business . . . and low and behold, the jerk changes angle again coming right at you and at this point he raises a $20 bill in front of his face as he approaches . . . OMG he is hiding his face as he closes in on you. So at this point do you just whip out your piece and start banging, or stick it in his face so he will know to leave you alone?
Again as with most of these there is no right answer, there could in fact be several right answers but there is definitely a wrong answer. You CANNOT present or show your gun because the person is not an imminent threat of grave bodily injury. SO what did I do? Well when he was 20′ away I said to myself, self if he keeps coming give him a command and prepare to defend yourself. So I turned my gunside to the wall behind me, blading myself to the approaching “BADGUY”, discreetly placed my hand on the butt of my gun . . . and at the top of my lungs I screamed “GET THE F*** AWAY FROM ME” . . . and at that point you would have thought the guy had been launched out of a cannon as he took off running like his pants were on fire.
Right or wrong, it was effective. My posture indicated I was ready for a fight and I would guess he was wondering why my hand was behing my back under my sports coat . . . but really I think my profanity laced screaming convinced him I was insane. In the end he ran, and my belief is most innocent people would not do that. Not sure what he was up to but I had zero intention of letting him get close enough to me to find out.
So ask yourself, when can you pull or brandish your gun? It is a very important question and you MUST know the answer for to get it wrong can lead to all sorts of bad things happening to YOU.
Failing to train IS training to fail.
Liberty Firearms Training