May 27, 2017

Willingness to Use Force and the Permission to do so

Willingness to Use Force and the Permission to do so

It is my belief that there is a small percentage of people who are freely willing to use force at a moment’s notice. There is a larger percentage who, because it is not something in their normal routine, have to grant themselves permission so to speak and still another group of people who resist the use of violence, even at their own peril.

If I asked you if you were willing to use force to protect yourself or a loved one, I believe the majority of you would say “yes”, but the speed at which we give ourselves permission could vary greatly and can have a drastic impact on the outcome of the altercation.


I am not a violent man; I personally see it as something that should be used as a last possible option, but it must be an option. To those people who say that violence doesn’t solve anything, I would say “it absolutely does.” Violence, in the form of war, ended the Holocaust and slavery, to name just two horrible things. Violence or the threat of violence in the form of self-defense has stopped violent crimes of every type. The police use violence and the threat of violence to stop crimes of all kinds.

“All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

It is my belief that we have an obligation to confront evil. If we see evil being visited on someone and do not attempt to stop it, we incur some of the guilt that is being inflicted. We could personally intervene or call the police to do so.

I also believe we have a moral obligation to use violence to stop violence being visited upon us. If we do not, I believe we incur guilt for any future evil this person inflicts. We also bare guilt for preventing any future good the victim may have done.

I have heard the argument from Christians in the past that they don’t want to use lethal force because they don’t know the condition of the person’s soul. Their soul is not your personal responsibility in that moment. Being there for your family, providing for them, and living the life God has called you to is your responsibility.


The word “permission,” used in this context, feels a little clunky to me but is actually a good fit. As I stated earlier, violence is not something most of us use often. Because of this, when we must use it, we often have to grant ourselves permission. Depending on our background, our self-talk could be a very short “do it” or we might have to convince ourselves that while we may not like it, this person/situation is forcing us to do this and that if we do not, we may be severely hurt or even killed.

To me, the use of force of any kind is a two part equation; one part moral and the other part legal. If standing before God or a judge, I could explain why I felt justified in using force; for fear of bodily harm or worse. I then have all the permission I need.

In the heat of the moment, you might not have time to consider an explanation to God or a judge. For this reason, it is important to give yourself permission to use force under certain conditions. The amount of force used should also scale with the threat. Here are a few of my personal thresholds.

I don’t think anyone should participate in the posturing that often takes place in street fights; the pushing and chest bumping, insulting and cursing at each other and so on. To me, this is the same as a warning shot. De-escalation here is the prudent thing to do; walk away but remain alert. If your safety is truly in danger, don’t flex, just act. If your safety is not in danger and you take part in the posturing, using force as things escalate, your actions will not be viewed as “self-defense” in court.

That being said, if someone is yelling and threatening me, I will get ready to use force, both mentally and possibly physically, by getting in a fighting stance, for instance, if, for example, walking away isn’t an option because of being backed physically into a corner. Now, if the person threatening has a weapon and is making threats, the use of force is more than likely called for.

Once someone places their hands on someone else in a violent manner, from a slap, push, punch or choke, the attacker has given the victim permission to use enough force to stop the aggression.

Preemptive Strike

I think preemptive use of force can often prevent a more violent outbreak. For example; you’re out to dinner with your children or grandchildren and someone who has had too much to drink is being verbally abusive to everyone around them. You get up to leave, which draws attention to you, and the man starts cursing you and threatening you as he blocks your exit to the door. Knocking him on his backside could very well stop him from escalating even more and physically attacking you or your loved ones.

Here is another example; a woman is walking by herself in a parking garage. She is approached by a man she doesn’t know. He grabs her by the arm and tells her not to scream. If she either used a combative, aka a punch or kick to cause enough damage to stop the aggression, or pulled a firearm and demanded he leave, she could very well prevent herself being kidnapped, raped and killed.

In neither of these examples did the attacker have a visible weapon, but because of their actions, I believe the victim has a very viable case of using force in self-defense.

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  1. mariowen says:

    Good topic, Chris. I think I was born the least violent person on the planet. I was both timid and non-combative. I detested guns of any kind to be used in any way. I would not allow one in my house when I became an adult.

    I have gone from that mindset, to owning multiple guns, proficient with my handgun, attend gun classes, carry concealed, etc. I decided, when I saw the state of our country, and at the same time, I became less mobile after many foot surgeries to both feet, I needed more protection than I had with good health.

    Another issue I had was being willing to take the life of another human being. I had to overcome the thoughts of doing wrong by using a gun.

    Now I have worked through the process in my mind. I have seen that if it comes to the matter of someone’s life being lost – mine or his – I will use my gun to see that it isn’t me. I don’t think that God expects us to be martyrs for the cause of the crazies of this world. If I had the chance to save my life, I would do it. If I had the chance to stop someone from taking the life of innocent people who perhaps don’t have the means or the training to help themselves, I will.

    It is a long process to take yourself into the position to allow your mind to go in this direction. However, it needs to be done BEFORE something comes to a point of crisis. If a situation arises and I have to sit there and analyze whether or not I am willing to act, then the decision has already been made. I will be too late to act. So I decide now – in the calm of sanity – that I am willing to take a life if a life is threatened. Now I am ready to act when the need arises.

  2. Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

    i, too, am non-violent. In fact, I am a pacifist, but I have spent four decades helping build defensive weapons. I do not get to the range as often as I should, but I will change that. I know that I have Permission to shoot someone who wants to do my family or me harm. I do have non-lethal weapons in the house for use when the threat is not lethal.

    I the world turns to prune whip, my food, water, shelter, mode of travel, and family and friends are all worth defending with lethal force.

    • Chris Ray says:

      My friend if you’re willing to use deadly force, then you’re not a pacifist, and there is nothing wrong with that.

  3. I agree with everything you have to say on the topic. The only advice I would add is that once a person determines they are mentally capable of using deadly force to take some training in home defense or just simple weapons safety. Make sure that training covers the legal ramifications and what to say and do immediately afterwards.
    In the class my wife and I attended we were taught to.
    Immediately call 911 and report it.
    Call your attorney or legal defense organization
    Place the weapon used down, if it is safe to do so. Never have the weapon in your hands when police arrive as long as it is safe.
    If the person you shot has a weapon, never touch it. You can kick it out of reach.
    Give first aid if possible.
    Never shoot a person who is down and unable to do any bodily harm
    Once the police arrive identify yourself as the shooter
    Only state you shot out of fear for loss of life or bodily harm
    Never volunteer any more information than that to the police till you have talked to your attorney.
    Expect to be placed into custody till the police short it all out.

    I think I remember it all.

    I would add one caveat. If you door is kick in at 3 in the morning and you hear a lot of people entering and yelling it’s probably a swat team these days.

    • grammyprepper says:

      Dan, all sage advice…

      the only thing I would add from the ccw class I took, is to have an attorney on retainer, and DO NOT give a statement right away…research shows that 48 hours is the minimum time to give your statement, adrenaline is down, and you have a much clearer picture of what happened…why do you think cops are put on desk duty or given leave? to give them time to process what actually happened, and given time to process it and get their story straight…

      I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but it makes sense…

      • Notice I have the caveat “unable to do any bodily harm”. If you keep pumping bullets in the individual who is no longer a threat you can face charges. While they are standing or still posing a threat I don’t see any problem with using a
        double tap if you are skilled enough. Me, I’ll just keep hitting center mass till they go down. I guess what they where stressing in class is that you don’t want to appear like you executed the person after they went down. Like you walked up to the person and put one in their head.

      • Chris Ray says:

        grammyprepper I have designed my CCW curriculum, and this is very close to what I will be teaching.

        The police don’t give a statement immediately after a shooting, they know the physiological effects that are taking place. I would recommend finding a lawyer that understands them as well and let them do the talking.

    • Illini Warrior says:

      “Never shoot a person that is down and unable to do any bodily harm” …..

      you shoot until you can’t ….. even after they go down …. plenty of people have been killed by that “last gasp bullet” …..

      I believe what you are expressing is no coup de grace or the old double tap “to make sure” ….. that’ll get you in trouble in most locals

      • Chris Ray says:

        I’m not sure I understand your point.

        I would agree that you shoot until the threat has stopped. If that means you fire once and they drop the gun, you stop. If that means you fire and they keep coming, you fire until they drop.

        Once they are no longer a threat, you very well could be charged as you are no longer acting in self-defense.

    • Chris Ray says:

      Dan I agree completely, I just have to limit the scope of articles or people lose interest as they read into page 25.

      I actually think a good defensive handgun class should come right along the CCW. a CCW class is NOT training, it is teaching you the law of your state.

    • Hildegard says:

      What did “doing the right thing” get Zimmerman? The just-us system is going to try to crucify you anyway. If your opponent is dead, who is to dispute whether he/she continued to fight. Always be distraught–“It happened so fast”

      • Chris Ray says:

        I’m going on little sleep, so please forgive and correct me if I misunderstood your point. Are you saying that we should kill our attacker, even if they no longer pose a threat?

        I’ll say again that there are two parts to whether the use of force is ok in my book; legal and moral. If you have ended the treat from your attacker and they are no longer a threat, you are not in line with either any longer.

        As far as always be distraught, and saying “it happened so fast” I disagree. people who’re distraught say things that can be misconstrued and land themselves in trouble. If you’re truly distraught, tell the police that and that your lawyer will give a statement when you’ve had time to calm down. If you’re not distraught don’t fake it, and don’t make any comments. Simply state that you were in fear for your life, they attacked, you defended yourself and your lawyer will make a statement when you’ve had time to speak with one.

  4. Great topic! From conversations with my wife & adult daughter (age 20s), neither are willing to shoot someone who threatens them w/ force. Daughter esp expresses pacifist tendencies. Personally, I believe I will shoot someone to protect my or my family’s lives, but I’ve also read stories of soldiers in battle scenes for the first time, & how many don’t pull the trigger or run away or fail to properly backup their fellow soldier. So I can’t really say for sure until the time comes. Our other daughter (also age 20s) likes to go to the shooting range w/ me or her bro; so she may be more willing to use force for self defense.

    From the fictional prepper stories I’ve read, shooting or killing someone (even in self defense) does affect most people emotionally or psychologically. But each time gets a little easier. Sometimes it may get too easy, such as the soldier who fires a spray of bullets in a crowd, figuring to get 1-2 enemy combatants in civilian clothes, w/out any sense of conscience or just driven by fear. Have to review or remember the rules of engagement & review ethical principles for when it’s acceptable or not.

    • You got that right about individuals freezing the first time in a combat situation. You can even go one step lower and even state how many people freeze when hunting. One never knows how one will react in a given situation till it occurs. That’s why my wife and I take training so seriously. Hopefully the training takes over before the mind does.

    • Chris Ray says:

      In On Killing, Lt Col. Grossman explains that in combat in the civil wars, through WWII, there was only a very small (maybe 15%) of soldiers that actually fired at their enemy. In Viet Nam and wars since, they have found ways to increase that number greatly.

      One of the best ways to increase your chances of actually getting in the fight is to as I state in this article, is to give yourself permission ahead of time. Put yourself in situations where you might need to, and visualize the scenario taking place.

      • On you thoughts on giving yourself permission ahead of time; It might be easier if you look at it this way. You are giving yourself permission to be a survivor, rather then a victim.

      • Ah yes, visualization can be a powerful thing. I’ve used it in my career, & it has improved my skills greatly in a couple areas. Close ur eyes & imagine yourself in a shoot or be shot situation. You’re holding ur loaded gun -what is the other guy(s) doing, & what are u gonna do? Consider ur option, choose the best one, & imagine urself doing it.
        I admit that it’s not quite the same as being in the actual situation, but visualizing it will increase ur chances of doing the right thing.

  5. Maybe a follow-up conversation should be how to deal with all of the bullies we meet each day on the highways, office and internet. It’s no longer possible to settle disputes by dragging someone out into the alley and pounding them until they apologize, so how do you react when someone says or does something that merits such punishment? The main reason I don’t carry in my car is that I see about a dozen bullies on the road each day who should have it used on them (sorry, but somebody’s gotta say it).

    • Chris Ray says:

      I run into them as well, in fact I seem to be a magnet for the “alpha male” jerks. I’ll think about a follow up article, thanks for the idea

    • mariowen says:

      I don’t think that I could use a gun on someone just because they were a bully. That wouldn’t qualify for having your life threatened in most cases. I would use a gun for one purpose and one purpose only…if my life, or the life of my family or someone around me, was threatened. Then I wouldn’t hesitate. I say that because I haven’t had to use one yet. However, there has to be an ingrained-into-your-brain conviction that you will do what is necessary to sustain your life and others around you. Only then will you be ready to pull the trigger – I hope.

      • Chris Ray says:

        mariowen read through both comments again. no one said a bully deserves lethal force. Jim please let me know if I’m wrong. I think what Jim is saying is that he would like to hear options for less than lethal force, and ways to deal with bullies.

  6. Charles says:

    Beautiful article. I do my best to follow the example of Jesus, (though I fail miserably) every day. But I feel no shame in protecting my family should the need arise. I will glad answer to the Supreme Judge for that!

    • Chris Ray says:

      Thank you, I am glad you liked it.

      Jesus was not violent when He was on the earth the first time. But He will use extreme violence on those who’ve taken the mark and stand against God when He comes again.

      I to will feel no shame in protecting my family, and I don’t believe God would think we should either.

  7. oldfood says:

    I know most people will disagree with this but I have provided you with the means to test my premise which is this. The vast majority of men (and women) who think they could easily shoot a looter or someone threatening them or their family are ‘dead’ wrong. In my defense I’ve shot people and been shot as a street cop in Detroit so I’ve experienced this issue from both sides. Please don’t be self deceived about your ability to shoot another human being no matter what the conditions. You don’t have to take my word for it. Please consider the following books written by true experts; On Combat: On killing and Warrior Mindset in that order. Experience is better than training and training is better than reading but the knowledge you gain from reading is infinitely better than nothing.

  8. Don Johnson says:

    A seconds hesitation in a kill or be killed situation can mean the difference between going home to the family or going to the morgue. When the turds hit the fan you will always fall back on your training. Train with the weapons that you will use for defense. When this training becomes second nature and you dream about it at night, in the morning wake up and train some more. Most gun fights happen at very close range so yes it becomes very ugly and very personal. Like in the animal kingdom only the strong survive. If you decide that you cannot shoot someone to protect you or your loved ones then maybe it would be better to buy a bunch of bags of M&M’s and throw them at your attackers while you make an escape.

    • Don Johnson hit the nail on the head when he said “Most gun fights happen at very close range so yes it becomes very ugly and very personal.” All to often we contemplate our response only to a presumed threat. But in actuality we’ll be responding in real time to violence. When you realize that it’s no longer simply a threat but an actuality, it does become personal and you will fight for your life.

      • Chris Ray says:

        Yes it does become personal, but no, research has shown that not all people do fight. Something like 30% of officers killed in the line of duty never draw their gun to return fire. It takes more then just thinking we will get in the fight, it takes mental preparation before hand, stress inoculation. Going through situations in which we give ourselves permission to use varyng levels of force now, is something we should all do.

    • Of course, if the SHTF, a big part of a good defense will be social distancing, this is my group’s area, my camp, my house, my castle, and you don’t come near it, because if you do I will assume ill intent and deal with you like an threat to my life.

      A self-defense shooting in which a target pops up is possible today because we don’t keep people at arms length, it should be a worst case scenario if the SHTF.

  9. To issues come to my mind. #1 In Romans Paul writes that the Government is ordained by God and given “The Sword” to administer justice, while maintaining Civil Order. Thus God is not against the use of force for a “Just Cause”.

    #2. In Exodus 20 Israel is commanded not to “Murder”. Thus establishing the value God places on human life, and the Right to defend it.

    Armed with this knowledge, I believe that a Christian need not be concerned about the use of force, as long as it is for defensive purpose of yourself, or another.

    • Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:


    • Sinner, so what was up when God ordered the Israelites to execute/kill all the Cannanites? (when Israel entered the promised land) & later God criticized the Israelites for allowing some/a few of the Cananites to live.

      Later during the OT prophets, God allowed foreign pagan nations to invade & destroy the Israelites’ homes & property, to punish & make Israel humble b/4 God, & God even allowed some of his people to be hauled away as slaves in exile.
      So there are also Biblical ex’s of when God used military-type force, to the pt of killing people.

      So how can we balance these Scriptures that seem to contradict each other? THe only way I can think of is the Just War theory, which was first advocated by Augustine.

      • Chris Ray says:

        Red I can’t say that I have the answer, but I will say this. I don’t understand a lot of what God commanded, or allows to happen to this day. But as Job discovered, sometimes it doesn’t matter that we don’t understand, or might even disagree, sometimes we just have to fall back on that He is God, and what he says has to be good enough.

        I don’t see a contradiction, throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation God uses violence to punish disobedience to Him.

        • @RedC
          Sin brought death into this world and although God is not the author of evil, He does allow it to happen for His Justice. Example: Noah and the Great Flood.

          I believe that you might be confusing two issues, #1 Our duty as Christians and #2 God’s use Wrath for His Justice.

          As a Calvinist, I agree with Chris, that God has a plan and it is His Right to play it out as He see’s fit.

          Lastly, also as a Calvinist, I agree with you on Augustine, as his was one of the finest minds that Christendom has ever produced.

          God Bless

          • “I believe that you might be confusing two issues, #1 Our duty as Christians and #2 God’s use Wrath for His Justice.”
            No, I’m suggesting that those 2 ideas are related. Doesn’t God use his people (ur 1st issue) to sometimes express his wrath (ur 2nd issue) toward unrepentant sin? When God commanded the Israelites to execute the Canaanites, it was their duty as his people to obey & serve as his instruments of his wrath & justice. God was using his people to kill the Canaanites & force them out of Canaan, so that Israel would have a safe place to live as his people.

  10. Great article. It is so important to think through moral issues all the way, not just considering what you would do in a normal situation, but thinking about what are the real fundamental moral principles and how would they apply in a abnormal situation like a SHTF.

    I think someone coming at you with a deadly weapon be it a gun, knife, pipe, or mob (multiple angry assailants) is a clear and present danger that the law allows you to use deadly force against even in a ROL situation. Even the situations you note of someone drunk and blocking your way or grabbing you from behind may rise to the legal thresh-hold of reasonably afraid for your life given the circumstances. Perhaps there is a duty to use less lethal means, like calling the police, IF POSSIBLE, in a rule of law situation, but the fundamentals are the same. You just need to get your mind around the fact that you may need to defend yourself and defend yourself often in a WROL scenario.

    The really difficult moral question for post SHTF, in a world where the rule of law has broken down, is when is it allowable to execute evil-doers?

    Self-defense is self defense, and in a WROL, even protecting your property may very well be reasonable self-defense.

    But what do you do when attackers and assailants surrender or are wounded but not killed? In a normal situation you would turn them over to society and society would punish them by prison or the death penalty. However in a WROL situation where there is no law what do you do? If someone has attacked your family, or attempted to steal from you, or rape, or murdered and then been captured by you? Do you maintain them (at the detriment of your family)? Do you let them go? Or do you become judge, jury, and executioner. Personally I think justice demands that society redress wrongs and if there is no government in existence then it is your job to establish a government, in your family, group, and community. Crimes must be dealt with in a suitable fashion, and criminals must be prevented from hurting the innocent.

    Giving yourself permission to defend yourself is a no brainer, its just a matter of getting over your normalcy bias.

    Giving yourself permission to fill in for an absentee government in the dispensing of Justice is another matter, but one that I think morally we need to work out.

  11. Rosemary says:

    That made me think of the scene in “One Second After” where justice had to be enforced.

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