Can Nice People Shoot?

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Can Nice People Shoot?

A while back, I asked the question: If SHTF, Could You and Would You Shoot Someone?  This article resulted in an outpouring of comments not only here at Backdoor Survival but at Activist Post, SHTF Plan Blog and a couple of other sites that were given permission to reprint the article.

Can Nice People Shoot

I also received quite a few direct emails.  Today, I would like to share one of the more poignant pieces from an former marine and current member of the law enforcement community in main stream America.

I once used deadly force against an armed robber/rapist.  People analyze the law, and think it will guide them in lethal encounters, but it won’t.  My district attorney was satisfied that my incident was within the bounds of the law, because it was an offender fleeing from a violent crime that I actually witnessed.  Legally of course, he was correct.  But that wasn’t the reason I shot.

I had many people tell me that they don’t know if they could have done it emotionally, because he was running away and I couldn’t have either if he was just running, that is.

But, what “pulled the trigger in my head”, was that he was running with a gun, towards cops that could not see what I had seen.  And furthermore, I knew they were in mortal danger. They were also in a bad position to defend themselves because there were also many innocent bystanders in the area.

The instant that all became clear to me, I fired the shotgun.

The whole incident took 28 seconds.

For most people, it’s a reaction, similar to what happens when a child runs out in front of you in the street.  Some people brake and/or swerve to miss the kid. They never think about what they did – they just do it. It wasn’t a cold calculated plan that they executed with precision.

Others (very few) freeze with panic and do nothing.  In their panic, they run straight over the child.  The consequences are not pretty.

It’s hard to predict what people will do.

But basically, there is a central thing that should comfort people pondering this.  If you do not see a threat that makes you fear for your life, you won’t **be able** to shoot.  As angry as you might be, no matter what you saw them do, you won’t kill them.   Unless you are sociopath, you simply **will not** shoot them in cold blood.

This often comes up when a cop or soldier captures someone who just killed their friend.  Everyone is amazed and says that being put in their shoes, they would have executed the person who killed their friend.  The truth is, no, you probably wouldn’t.

On the other hand, if a person feels a threat to their safety, or the safety of another, people who never thought they could shoot to kill, do just that and find themselves standing there mystified, after the fact, while holding a smoking gun.

Let me tell you this:  shooting someone feels exactly like NOT shooting them, except for the superfluous detail of a cartridge firing.

Cops often experience aiming at a hardened armed criminal.  As you look down the sights at them, you are waiting to see if they surrender and do what you say, or if they will MAKE you shoot them by grabbing for their gun.  It is a very fine difference, and all of the training and equipping of the cop has placed him there, aiming at the murderer. But the final pull of the trigger is utterly in the hands of the criminal.  For no matter what he has done, the cops (or any normal person) won’t shoot until he presents that final immediate threat.

This is quite literally what separates us from the criminals, gang members, predators and sociopaths.

So if you are not a murderer in real life, get a gun and practice all you reasonably can. Then trust your hard wiring to get you through a bad incident. You simply won’t murder wrongfully, your morals won’t let you.

This is a very powerful thing to know.  Because with this knowledge, you now can clear your head of “what would I do?” and “could I?”.   This frees you to select a gun, shoot it for fun, and get used to operating it. When it’s for real, in a dark, cold lonely place and the kids are counting on you, you’ll do fine.

Now for a few lighter things. (and yes, i shudder at the thought of what this career does to a person):

99% of people don’t barf afterwards either, though this is in every movie, bar none.

The snub nose 357 with the hottest federal 125’s that money can buy, is so nasty that you can’t even stand to shoot it in practice. In a real deal, it will sound and feel like an airsoft BB gun.

Last, my ex had a little 38 in the car when i was in the war. She always said it was silly because she was certain that she could never shoot anyone. But one night she got off a late shift and was headed home. Some man pulled up beside her at a red light and then followed her down a dark deserted road. He finally passed her, and then suddenly blocked her in and began walking back to her car.  She presented the 38 and he stammered and left.  What she said stayed with me.

She said in an instant, when she realized that the predator was going to hurt or kill her, those doubts vanished.  She said **I was going to shoot him**.

Women are often told that guns are manly, macho, etc.  This intimidates many from learning how to shoot a gun. No gun i know of requires any more strength, or hand and eye coordination to operate than an average blow drier. Think about that next time you see a woman blow drying her hair, backwards, in a mirror.  They are literally DUPLICATING a famous Annie Oakley trick shot, all the while thinking they couldn’t possibly shoot a GUN.

So all that to say, if someone grabs a bag of your beans and runs, as much as you hate them, you won’t shoot them as they flee. Yes it impacts your survival for a few weeks, maybe longer.  But that won’t make you shoot.  Likewise, when in a lifeboat, you’ll kill someone who starts to puncture the raft, but you won’t kill them if that same someone drinks too much water while you were asleep.

Let me repeat:  if your are in your remote home, and a stranger shows ill intent to you or your family, you will shoot. And you’ll be fine.

Happily, and sadly, it’s one of the easier topics in your blog.  Learning to make, store, grow, and cook food is much more technical.  Maybe it’s not as sexy as taking the assault rifle out to play at the range, but that’s the way it is.

The Final Word

Needless to say, this email stuck a chord personally and challenged me to re-evaluate the issue of shoot – no shoot.  In the meantime, Shelly (the Survival Husband) has obtained his concealed weapons permit and has taken some supplemental firearms training.  Now it is time to practice and practice some more

And yes, I am thinking long and hard about taking that step myself.  As I prepare to step into this mind shift, I ask that you share this article with someone you know, man or woman, that is facing this same “could you and would you shoot?” conundrum.  Perhaps they too will begin to see that this is not a yes or no question, but instead it is a simple maybe.

Update:  I, too, have received some training and have my concealed permit.  More training to come in April 2014 – a full week at “shooting camp”.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide. 

Couple being a good neighbor and with strong primary defenses and you have a winning combination. Here are some items to consider as you build up your fortress.

Dorcy LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: This light is awesome. I use mine downstairs as well as on my stairway and when I get up in the middle of the night, they come on automatically. They are quite unobtrusive and give off a ton of light.  Runs for a year on 3 D size batteries.

Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart: This is a really good book from Joe Nobody – a book you should read if you care about defending your homestead.

Midland 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios: These are the handheld radios that I own. There are lots of good uses for the these radios. Handy while hiking, traveling, or simply keeping in touch with your partner while out shopping. They are waterproof – a quality that I feel is important. Plus, in addition to using the included rechargeable batteries, they can use regular AAs in a pinch.  Note: the true range for this type of radio is actually 4 to 6 miles, regardless of brand.  Don’t be fooled.

Two-Way Radios and Scanners For Dummies: I will say it again.  Yes, I love these books for “dummies” even though I actually think I am quite smart.

Sabre Family Home & Property Protection Pepper Spray:  This small fire extinguisher-style pepper spray delivers a strong blast covering an entire doorway. Offering extremely practical protection, SABRE provides distance from your threat with its 30 foot range.  I like that it includes a wall mount.

Security Decals – 4 Pack: Security surveillance camera system warning decals/stickers. Increase security whether you have a system or not -no one will know but you.

Keypad Deadbolt: Need a good strong lock? With this, you will never have to worry about locking yourself out plus, you can secure the deadbolt from inside the house.

Motorola FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios: Another option to consider. There are lots of good uses for the these radios. Handy while hiking, traveling, or simply keeping in touch with your partner while out shopping.


What are the best oils for your survival kit? Here are my top picks.

9 Best Essential Oils for Your Survival Kit | Backdoor Survival


Aff | Tactical Pen

[DEAL] Ultimate Concealed Weapon

Tactical Pen / Multi-Tool (Flashlight, knife, etc)

Stay Protected
Aff | Tactical Flashlight
[DEAL] Ultrabright Tactical Flashlight Get This Deal

29 Responses to “Can Nice People Shoot?”

  1. No matter what happens in a shooting situation, the citizen will be judged more strickly that a LEO. The situation that he talked about, if a citizens did the same, the citizen would be in prison. If my life or another persons life is threathened, I will shoot and shoot to kill. I have been trained. If you cannot take a life, do not carry, own or have a gun.

    • On your first point i agree. LEO’s usually get the benefit of doubt, the citizen usually does not. The ultimate no win scenario being a bad cop vs a good citizen. Personally, I believe that LEOs upon being fully trained professionals, should be held to a higher standard than the civilians they are hired to protect.

      OTOH one of the (many) reasons cops fare better legally after a shooting incident, is they are schooled in how to report the incident. Saying you “shot to kill” is much more likely to lead to trouble than shooting “to end a immediate lethal threat” or “because I feared for my life”. Even with apparent just cause, demonstrating “intent to kill” may get you arrested while they do the necessary investigation, (unless you are senior LEO).

  2. Enjoyed your article, very thought provoking.
    I would point out there are no “ex” Marines, only “former” Marines.
    Thank you,

  3. Thanks for posting this. My husband and I got our licenses to carry about 2 years ago with the idea of self protection. I think I know internally exactly what this guy is saying – I’ll know it if and when it happens. I don’t hunt but practice often and I or my family is threatened I think I would know in an instant whether to shoot or not. Our firearms instructor taught our classes for people to use their firearms in self defense.

  4. I can’t imagine having to actually shoot someone but I like to believe I would if I had to. Anyway, I don’t think it has anything to do with being nice… just morally justified.

  5. Excellent article. Definitely stimulates the gray matter to consider how one would “really” react under a life or death situation. Having served briefly as an Army grunt back in the very early 70’s, I can only reiterate what the writer said: You CAN pull the trigger if your life, or someone elses life, depends on it! Thanks for the post.

  6. When you are in a fire fight or someone is going to hurt you or your family you will shoot. It is how you deal with it after the fact that makes the difference. While in the heat of the moment everything becomes quiet and your focus becomes very clear. You have to remember that if they mean you harm that they have just become another practice target at the range. I remember the first time I had to shoot someone and it was nothing like the movies. You have to do what you have to do to keep your self and your loved ones alive. I will almost guarantee that most all of you that are reading this will pull the trigger.

  7. Guess I would have to ask, what’s nice got to do with it? Little, if anything, about prepping is predicated on “nice”. I doubt if the hungry people around us will think we’re being nice when we’re eating what we’ve stored. In fact, it will be the rationalizations about the inherent unfairness (in the minds of the unprepared) that lead them to turn in hoarders (the system’s word for prepper) in hopes of a reward. Please think long and hard about prepping in the first place if the verdict of the unprepared will weigh heavily on your conscience.

  8. I own several firearms – handguns and long guns. I have kept a shotgun for home protection for about 15 years, and a concealed carry permit for about 8 years now.

    For many years now, I have given serious thought to various potential scenarios, and tried to envision what I might do, how I might react, etc.

    I have concluded that I would have no problem shooting a “bad guy” if the circumstances warranted it. I hope I never have to do so and find out how I really would react. But I am sure that if I had to, I would not hesitate.

  9. Excellent article! I’ve taught both self-defense and firearms for many decades, and the question of “can I shoot someone?” always comes up.I agree with the author that our innate sense of “rightness” will prevail in any given situation. I truly hope that none of us ever has to find out.

  10. In this type of situation, you will react as you have been trained. If you have not been trained, you will panic, and most probably do the wrong thing. A shooting, justified or not, is only the start of a long, expensive and chancy legal procedure, so you had better have your ‘ducks in a row’. This includes having an appropriate lawyer available, knowing what to and what not to say during or after the event, being able to document the training you received, etc., etc., etc. This is not the place to go cheap. Get the best training you can afford – if you don’t think you can afford the appropriate training, perhaps you – and your family – would be better served by selecting a non-lethal option. Carrying a lethal weapon for self defense is an awful responsibility – you are literally carrying half the power of God.


  11. @Soupbone – Excellent feedback. Learning to properly use pepper spray and a stun gun are also important. In most states, you will not end up in the slammer for using one of these two items to defend yourself.

    • Thank you, Gaye, and thank you for bringing up a VITAL point: ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN B! Even in an SHTF scenario, most confrontations will not reach the level justifying deadly force. A blast of OC – pepper spray – to the face will definitely attract your opponent’s attention and reduce his [or her] motivation to continue. If it stops at that point, fine; if the confrontation continues, that is further justification for you escalating to a higher level of force. The situation determines the level of force you use – you don’t HAVE to go through successive levels to be morally or legally protected [if, for example, someone pulls a gun on you] but the options are nice. I should say YOUR options. YOU make the decisions; YOU are in control. I don’t agree with stun guns, though. Something about waltzing with someone for a few seconds while it takes effect just doesn’t sit right with me. Better to have a stand-off capability. Again, training is the key.


  12. “An armed man running toward the Gestapo, they were in danger”. The only reason the DA let them off was the fact that the Gestapo was near and the person might of saved a Gestapo from being killed. WELL, that is their problem any other time if a person is running from a crime and is shot, the DA will put that person, who did the shooting, in prison for a long. time. My take: I would not have shot, my life was not in danger and to hell with law enforcement, they would murder any citizen in a minute and go home and sleep well. BUT if my life or another life was in danger, SHOOT TO KILL and go home and sleep well.

  13. We live in a block of apartments. My husband works the grave shift so that leaves me home alone at night with 2 cats. We live on the end apartment. On the opposite end is the “party” apartment. We know they are selling and using drugs, and the police have visited that apartment many times. Nothing ever comes of it. My husband works security (unarmed). His job requires him to call the police with the company cell phone if he finds himself in a situation involving physical threat. He did the night he was confronted with a man with a knife. The 911 dispatcher told my husband it would be at least 45 minutes before they could dispatch officers to his location because they were already on other calls. He was not in a remote area. He was in the center of town, guarding a movie theater full of people who were just exiting the final show of the night. Luckily, he was able to talk the guy with the knife down and keep himself and the theater customers and staff safe until the police arrived 53 minutes later.
    One night at about 4 in the morning I was awakened to someone trying to enter my apartment. When they couldn’t get through the front door, they started trying the sliding glass door. Since I knew it would be nearly useless to call the police I grabbed our handgun. I stationed myself in the bedroom as far away from the front of the apartment as possible. I was fully prepared to shoot anyone who entered the bedroom. My husband arrived home 3 hours later to find me with a cat on either side of me and the gun laying in my lap. He and I both suspected whoever tried to enter our apartment was actually looking for the “party” apartment. He walked down to the “party” apartment and this is what he told them… “Someone tried to break into our apartment last night. I just want you to know that my wife is armed and fully capable of defending herself. She has a gun that she likes to call “point and click” because she just points and she hits whatever she aims at. She also has the mentality that she will not stop shooting until whatever she’s aiming at stops moving. I just wanted to let you know so you can make sure your friends don’t mistake our apartment for yours.” He then came home and asked me why I hadn’t called 911. I told him I was going to call AFTER I defended myself because I figured the police would arrive faster if I told them I’d shot someone.
    So, yes, nice people are capable of the mentality necessary to defend themselves and their loved ones.
    PS This happened again twice more before the landlord finally cleared out the riff-raff.

    • Michelle – Thank you for sharing your experience. Very scary, indeed. I fear that things are going to get worse over time. It is good to hear that the riff-raff are gone but regardless, please stay safe.

      PS – Your husband gives new meaning to the term “point and shoot” (“point and click”).

  14. I am a woman, I will shoot if it become necessary to do so in order to protect myself, my dog, my property. Sometimes we must do what we never thought we could do, but the world is no more as it was. In order to survive we must have the willingness to survive. Be smart, and stay safe.

  15. This article brings a few things to the surface for me personally. I have my CCL and have had extra training as well as a lot of practice over the years. My first instance of using a weapon to defend another person occurred when a landlord made very unwanted advances towards my mother, a cancer survivor with extensive surgeries. I was 10 years old at the time. I did not have to shoot as display was enough to cool his “ardor”. Afterwards, I told Mom that maybe it was time to teach me how to load the gun. That scares me to this day, knowing now what the outcome of having an unloaded weapon in that situation could have been.
    I carry daily for others, and my own, protection and one other reason as well. I have children that are LEO’s and I have to know what they are dealing with on a daily basis. Yes, they have had more training than I, but feeling the mental weight, as well as the physical weight, of a weapon is something I personally need to experience to understand them better.
    I truly wish that none of us are in a situation requiring deadly force, but I also hope that if we are, we conduct ourselves in the manner necessary to neutralize the threat to provide the best possible outcome for all involved.

  16. One time I was driving down a road in Southern California when someone made – or tried to make – an illegal left turn on a divided highway marked by double yellow on both sides of the separation zone (there is no barrier island, just lines). There’s a bowling alley in that part of Long Beach so I’m sure illegal left turns are very common, but the side having to turn left is going uphill so the cars going downhill don’t have a lot of time to see them which is why left turns are not permitted there.

    So I’m coming downhill in the left lane when someone cuts in front of me and then stops, realizing – fortunately – that they can’t get by fast enough if they continued the turn. I immediately swerved to the right into the right lane, then turned back into the left lane, completely avoiding the oncoming car, in about 2/3 of a second. Thing is, it was all subconscious. I could not have consciously realized that I needed to swerve out of the way and react in time, it had to be automatic.

    The same thing applies when there is the sort of danger that some armed person who is doing wrong can present to you. You have to train yourself or be trained to be able to fire without thinking about it if your life or someone else’s is in jeopardy, as you may only have a second or two to react in time. All your training is worthless if you can’t make that split-second decision to fire/don’t fire when it’s necessary. Fail to do it when necessary or do it when you’re wrong and someone important – possibly you or someone you love – can die. Do it when it’s right and you save the taxpayers money and prevent a potential perpetrator from committing more crimes. But do it when it’s not right and you can either have to live with a reasonable decision that was wrong even if you aren’t prosecuted.

  17. I really like what UnclePhil had to say. I think some of the most important points are:
    1) If you have a weapon, be well trained on how to use it. It can be far more deadly if you don’t know how to use the weapon.
    2) Make the decision head of time i.e. UnclePhil’s list. I absolutely know know that I could and would. And exactly when and what situations. I had to make that decision wen I was really young (19), since I served as a military police officer in the Army during the Viet Nam era.

    • I suggest you look into a good additional insurance policy that covers such things. I got half million policy for only few dollars a month. Added it to my home policy.

Leave a Reply