Truth can be an ugly thing.

Recently while reading my NRA Publications, I was struck by the blunt tone of several articles dealing with ballistics and “terminal performance” of ammunition. Those who do not own firearms, and those who do not carry them think of terminal performance as something like a Bon Jovi concert at Union Station. But concealed carriers know that in our world terminal performance means the ability of a round to effect trauma so severe that it terminates the threat (even if it does not terminate the threatener).

Bullets are designed to do one thing: create large holes in tissue. Usually this means that you create a small entry hole, and a bigger exit hole if your round goes through the body. But clothing, protective equipment like ballistic vests, and other obstacles affect ballistic performance. Thus when people select ammunition they select that which will have the greatest effect on the human or animal body they’re going after.

Some bullets fragment on impact, producing multiple wound channels, and hence, multiple points of hemorrhage in the human body. Some bullets expand, such that they produce greater trauma along the path of the bullet. And some bullets do not expand at all (ball ammo) and trauma is minimized, as is effective performance.

We often say that when we shoot, we shoot not to take a life, but to preserve one (ours, or someone we love). But in point of fact when we shoot we do aim to cause the maxium amount of trauma possible to the attacker in order to stop the attack. We aim for center of mass because (1) its easier to hit, (2) it’s rich in blood vessels and hence, many chances for significant hemorrhage; and (3) lucky shots will take out the heart or damage major blood vessels such that any hope of resuscitation is diminished. Everything from the type of weapon we use, the ammunition we select, and the places we aim is meant to do one thing: cause trauma.  Trauma, untreated, almost always leads to death.

There are the misbegotten out there who believe if we all just sat down and sang Kum Bah Yah with folks, we’d never need to shoot them. These are the people who’ve never looked down a gun barrel, never had a knife shoved up against their neck, or been beaten with a club or bat. Those who have, carry.  They know that even giving up everything we own will not satisfy some of the predators in the world, and that the only thing that does satisfy some predators is our blood. That leaves the question of whose blood would you rather have spilled?  Speaking solely for me, I want their blood, not mine spilled.  I’m really partial to mine.

I have heard many people say “I don’t think I could shoot someone.” This is because amongst our peer groups we look for admiration and acceptance. People don’t accept people who are inherently evil, or who do evil things. We think of taking a human life as being evil, in large measure because when it is done  for evil purposes it is evil. But we also have a failure of understanding when it comes to things like the Ten Commandments. The common saying is “thou shalt not kill,” but the Bible is subject to translation issues, and the scholars prefer a different translation of that commandment:

“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13).

This is the preferred translation in both the New American Standard, English Standard, and New International Versions of the Bible.  These cross-reference with the New Testament:

Matthew 5:21
You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’

Mark 10:19
You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, and honor your father and mother.'”

And

Romans 13:9
The commandments “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and any other commandments, are summed up in this one decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In essence, the commandments and the bible distinguish between killing, which is the act of taking a life, and murder, which is the act of taking an innocent life. The right to self-defense, as in war and personal combat, has always been outside the commandment not to murder, because murder connotes the killing of someone who is not attacking you, and for a purpose and with an intent that is inherently evil.

This distinction between killing and murder is inherent in our own rules of self-defense. If someone charges you with a knife, and you shoot them once, they drop the knife, and fall to the ground, you cannot shoot them again, because they are not attacking.  And it will be no defense that you were scared, adrenalized, or in shock.  When you cross the line between self-defense and murder, you’re a murderer.

Similarly, if you present a weapon and your attacker runs off, you cannot shoot them in the back as they run because they are no longer a threat to you.   We have these rules to distinguish self-defense from murder. It’s the reason why every state requires that training for concealed carry also carries with it some training in the state’s law regarding self-defense.  It’s why people get arrested when they shoot at shoplifters.

Self-defense, or the defense of others in extremis, is honorable. But stories are legend of individuals high on drugs, or simply psychotic, who go on charging after having been shot multiple times.

Recently, in Opelika, Alabama, a suspect that police were trying to arrest for DUI pulled a weapon while drunk (never a bright idea) and was shot nine times by the police officer. At first blush, when the suspect did not discharge his weapon, that may sound excessive. But watching the video it is apparent that the suspect did not drop the weapon until after the ninth shot. And the officer got medics rolling immediately, but the suspect could not be saved.

All of this is important because, at the end of the day, you never know, when you get up in the morning, what kind of threat you’re going to face. So you strap on your firearm, load it with ammunition that is designed to stop threats, and hope to God you never have to draw your weapon or fire it at anyone. But you hope that if you do, you stop the threat before the threat stops you.

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