Monday, November 28, 2005

More "Advice" on Self-Defense

Why does anti-self-defense sentiment rear its head in states like Maine? What is it about today’s police and society in general that discourages people to defend themselves?

Yesterday’s Boston Globe discussed a training program in Maine for pharmacists and their assistants. Law enforcement officials laud the proposed training which Maine’s pharmacy association will sponsor. The program’s gist is: avoid any confrontation, do what the robber wants, be a good witness.

In other words, they want us be good sheep, to bleat, call 911, and wait to give a police officer a description that will fit thirty percent of the population. And we wonder why crime is so high.

I’ve seen such advice before and I’m writing about it now because it was to pharmacists. My father, now retired, was a pharmacist who owned his own store in a small western city. He was aware of security even 30 years ago (despite the quote a Maine pharmacist gave saying that he didn’t worry about security when he entered the business 28 years ago). My dad’s store had an alarm including a daytime panic alarm, a safe for narcotics, and other security features. And, he and his assistant pharmacist kept guns in the store.

My dad believed in self-defense. He is also a wise man who once explained to me that getting shot over a bottle of pills or your wallet is not a good idea, but that you can’t trust a criminal. You don’t know if that criminal will shoot even if you cooperate. My dad also once said that dignity is worth defending.

Like him, I believe in self-defense. I have problems with “be a good witness” advice. It doesn’t work and I believe it actually increases crime. Here’s why I don’t like it;

1) Most people are not observant enough to give a description that will lead to an arrest unless the robber just barely exited the store and had no time to get away. And the longer the time between the offense and capture, less likely an arrest will be made based solely on description.

2) A criminal can change his or her appearance with a change of clothes, putting on or taking off a hat or jacket, re-combing hair, etc. One doesn’t need to be a master of disguise to alter one’s appearance.

3) There’s not enough difference between us humans to really describe someone (the famous description of “he was medium height, build, medium complexion, medium colored hair” comes to mind).

4) A cooperative attitude makes robbery easier causing more people to commit more robberies. There is little risk to robbing people.

5) People have been convicted of crimes based on eyewitness testimony and then were found innocent later. One could have a slight resemblance to a robber and end up doing his time.

6) If a robber does go to prison based on good eyewitness, that robber will be released some day. In the likely event that he returns to crime, he may decide it’s in his best interest to eliminate eyewitnesses. Thus, current law enforcement advice may actually be escalating violence levels.

So, what’s my answer? Be armed whenever possible and practical. Practice often and realistically. Keep your weapon in good working condition. Don’t allow yourself to be disarmed at all costs. Don’t be a sheep, but be smart and don’t get killed over property. If a robber is already pointing his gun at you, cooperate because you can’t outdraw his trigger finger. If you have a chance to go for your gun, do it. Have a plan and always be aware of your surroundings. I’m not paranoid and I don’t fear leaving my house, but I am careful. (Remember I’m not a lawyer or self-defense expert so the above is only my personal advice and you can follow it or not as you choose.)

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