Prepper Philosophy: WROL

Without rule of law, commonly abbreviated to “WROL” in pepper circles, refers to a time where the rule of law has dissolved. Perhaps some kind of disaster has impacted the police’s ability to respond to crime.

Maybe society is in too much disarray to even think about courts. Or, maybe a corrupting influence has shut down the fair and impartial legal system from within. Either way, such a time sounds terrifying. So, why do some preppers seem to look forward to WROL?

The Trigger Happy “Preppers”

We’ve all met them, the kind of people who walk in asking how to best booby trap their home for a three-day power outage. The kind of people who seem to look forward to the chance to fire on an attacker, all justified by the fact the police aren’t around. I call these people “trigger happy preppers” even though, most aren’t prepared for anything.

If you ask most preppers if they want a WROL scenario to happy, they’ll say no. But others say that, at least to some degree, they kind of do want a serious SHTF event, specifically one in which society, and the rule of law, have collapsed.

Consider this person’s admission, from Reddit’s prepper subreddit:

“I kind of want it to happen, I’m angry at the way my life has gone and I’ve come to the conclusion that society basically sucks. It’s an open-air prison. If it all came crashing down tomorrow we’d be free from the B.S. that we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It would also weed out the weak from the strong. In a TSHTF scenario, we’ll see who deserves to live and who the useless eaters are.”

This guy isn’t the worst of them. I sympathize with his desire to be free of the daily B.S. that comes with modern life. But I think it’s a quick jump and hop from his sentiment that “the strong will survive” to thinking that “the strong will survive because I’ll prey on the weak.”

Listen to this guy, a real trigger happy prepper, also from Reddit’s prepper subreddit:

“I notice that most preppers are planning for at least some level of defense, whether that be guns, ammo, knives, being a grey man, or whatever. We’re ready for, or have at least thought of, how to prepare for a SHTF situation where we might need to defend ourselves.”

“Do any of you plan for scenarios where you need to be the bad guy? Maybe you only plan a food supply of a week or two, and your plan for a SHTF situation is to go on the offensive? Do you already have targets planned out?”

Of course, the prepper community at large shunned this person and his immoral, dangerous suggestion. But what makes someone this way? Why do some preppers not understand the reality of how tragic a WROL situation would be?

I like what one user said to explain this mentality, “Most of the people who fall into this type of thinking trap are pretty unhappy with their lives and have loads of mental baggage and other ongoing issues. If you wander online around survivalist/collapse/preparedness circles long enough you’re bound to run into them.”

Hopefully, one day, journalists and television producers will stop giving these people any credibility as preppers and focus on the practical majority that knows WROL would be painful and deadly for most everyone they care about. Until then, how do we convince these people that they should support the rule of law during SHTF situations?

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction is (Usually) Fiction

I think a lot of video games and other fiction is to blame for the trigger-happy attitude you find lurking in the corners of prepper circles. We’re pretty divorced from the realities of lawlessness, having never really seen it except on dramatic televisions series. And those never seem to understand how vital the law is.

Have you ever watched a science fiction program and rolled your eyes as the characters throw out centuries of legal progress for no reason? My most recent favorite was Netflix’s Lost in Space. The otherwise great story is jilted by a police officer who tells a criminal that he could “do whatever he wanted” to her.

Why? They– a spaceship full of people destined for a new human colony on Alpha Centauri– hadn’t yet established prisoner’s rights. The legal system is perfectly functioning back on Earth but somehow no one in space wants to bring it with them? It just doesn’t make sense.

In the real world, when law collapses, people will seek to build it back up, even if just for the simple reason that they don’t want an entitled legal official to do “whatever they want” to them.

Of course, there are some great examples of post-apocalyptic fiction that are more realistic about what humans would do facing new and extreme conditions. If you’re interested, check out our list of realistic post-apocalyptic books.

The Restart Button

While there are very few trigger-happy preppers, there are many preppers who express that a big WROL scenario would push a “restart button” or get “priorities straight” or fix some great problem that our society faces. I sympathize with these people. It often feels like we’re focused on all of the wrong things, or that our society is ruined beyond repair.

And if you’re not looking at society at large, maybe you’re looking at your own life and thinking: wouldn’t it be nice if I only had one problem—food? No time to conflict with my spouse, no need to worry about the bills, no need to even mow the lawn? It’s simple escapism, but don’t confuse it for a true desire to see society truly collapse. No one sane wants that.

Besides, the very last thing you should want to press the restart button on is the rule of law. Frankly, if you’re living in America, our legal system has gotten a lot of things right, that other areas of the world still really struggle with. Equal application of the law, the constitution, freedom of speech—hell, some places in the world still give out public lashings. The reasons for those lashing are even worse, often it’s minor crimes or moral indiscretions like petty theft and infidelity.

Our society has legal advantages that have collectively taken us centuries to develop. If there ever comes a day where we lose them, we will all suffer. In the case of extended SHTF scenarios, it’ll be best for your community to try to keep the law as we know it running as best as you can. It’ll necessarily be a bare-bones kind of law, and there’s no room to imprison someone in an emergency so you’ll likely end up kicking out the truly deranged. But it’s important for a functioning community to hold people to the same laws, respect individual rights, conduct as fair a trial as possible, and ultimately strive for good legal practices. How else could we even begin to rebuild society without that?

Supporting the Law in Emergency Situations

There are some examples of WROL of law situations in our current world. According to The Guardian, police forces are killing people extra-judicially instead of upholding any kind of law. Such that we are now calling these police forces “security forces” which is also a misnomer. I’m not saying that this kind of WROL situation can’t happen.

However, during the vast majority of SHTF situations, the law will be around and functioning as it usually does, with some success, some room for improvement, and some outright corruption. Individual legal authorities, like police officers and emergency responders, will be focused on saving lives first and foremost. That might mean some less significant situations, like looting, go overlooked during periods of absolute crisis. And while the priorities police have, and the bureaucracy that they are beholden to might frustrate you, don’t disrespect them. Ultimately, lives come first.

Prepare for Law to be Restored

During even minor SHTF situations, the police might be too busy to be looking at what you’re up to, and some might want to take advantage of that. Even honorable people are tempted to break rules when the police can’t enforce them, because, frankly, some laws are pitifully stupid.

Also, of course, some laws get in the way of your survival during SHTF. There is some history of laws being overlooked due to emergency situations. But, we are almost always talking about overlooking minor crimes to save one’s life, like parking in a prohibited area during a flood, trespassing to escape the path of a wildfire, etc.

Then again, most SHTF situations are not so dire that you have to break the law. Looting is a prime example. No one is going to be sympathetic of you breaking into a store unless you have literally gone for days without food, and no other food is available to you.

If your situation is so dire it merits putting the law aside, does it, but remember to consider how your actions will be viewed once the rule of law is restored. Could you be held accountable for breaking the law? If you’re committing a major crime, you almost certainly will be held accountable and will need a solid defense. For example, murdering someone in order to commit cannibalism because you’re absolutely starving is not considered acceptable in most places.

The first recorded decision about survival cannibalism, according to Crime Feed, was made in 1884. The British judge rules that the starving sailors, who murdered and ate a friend after starving for a few weeks, were guilty of murder.

The judge wrote:

“The duty, in case of shipwreck, of a captain to his crew, of the crew to the passengers, of soldiers to women and children, as in the noble cause of the Birkenhead; these duties impose on men the moral necessity, not of the preservation, but of the sacrifice of their lives for others, from which in no country, least of all, it is to be hoped, in England, will men ever shrink, as indeed, they have not shrunk.”

Part of the judge’s decision hinged on the fact that it’s impossible to fairly decide who lives and who dies. And I should note, that it’s the murder that’s wrong here, most legal systems, including the American legal system, turn a blind eye to eating people who died of other causes when you’re starving. Proving that you didn’t murder them, however, could be difficult.

Even if you’re innocent, you might you be suspected of breaking all kinds of laws during a SHTF event. This is just one of the reasons that, in my Waste Disposal article, I recommend you bury bodies instead of cremating them. If someone suggests that grandma died not because of the disaster, but because you murdered her, then you’ll have physical evidence to support your claim of innocence. Always keep evidence when you can.

man alone in the woods

Another great rule is to, you know, not kill someone before giving them the chance to stop endangering you and your family. I’ve heard many trigger-happy preppers suggest that they’d simply start firing on someone if they found them in their home during a WROL situation.

One prepper wrote: “The first notice that any would be criminal should have is that first round being sent his/her way. If you don’t want to be lethal in the first round for moral or legal reservations, rock salt works fine.”

What if that person is literally starving and needs help? Or what if they simply thought your home was abandoned and would happily move on if they knew it wasn’t? We need more compassion and moral courage during emergency situations than during our every day, not less.

Let’s not forget that people who plan to shoot others indiscriminately during times of crisis are the exception. By and large, legal gun owners are much less likely to commit crime than the general populace, and most preppers are legal gun owners.

Final Thoughts

In reality, we all benefit from the basic functions of the law, (putting whether we agree with any particular or not law aside), and you should seek to support the law, not undermine it, in emergency situations. How do you prep to support the law? And how do you handle the trigger-happy “preppers?”

Author Bio: Ellysa Chenery can be found writing all over the web. She loves adapting traditional skills for new situations, whether in the wilderness, garden, or homestead. Her favorite smell is carrots fresh from the dirt.


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  1. Hi Ellysa,

    I like your observation about: ‘I call these people “trigger happy preppers” even though, most aren’t prepared for anything.’ I think there is a lot of bad info out there about what it takes to survive any really bad situation. Even most preppers will not be prepared.

    Your view on law enforcement is pretty naive though. In the US, it is more likely for a police officer to get struck by lightning than to go to prison for murder. It’s not just police, we no longer have any accountability in our country, not from teachers, cops, doctors, you name it. Personal responsibility for your actions is no longer enforced on anyone, especially anyone in the establishment. Whitehead’s book “Battlefield America” does a brutal job of showing you how little rights you have left.

    You make a wonderful point about what happens to murderers when society is re-established. Average people will be held responsible when power is restored. What a lot of preppers fail to understand and prepare for, is that it will not be gangs of zombies or hordes of looters that they will confront, but rather the local law enforcement.

    Imagine your local area, how many people are preppers? Now, imagine your mayor and chief of police or sheriff, who are also not preppers… will they let their families starve just because they were too stupid and lazy to prepare like we do? No, they will get the police, in their body armor, with their AR-15’s and shotguns, and “for the good of the community”, they will go door to door, disarm the people, collect the food to a central location, where the “community leaders” can oversee the “fair” distribution of the community’s resources. They will steal from you, they might murder you, and when society is restored, they will blame the victim and certainly not compensate those they stole from. That is the sad reality of what will happen.

    I wish I had a clever solution for you, but I do not. When SHTF, it will be our own local governments that will disarm us and take our supplies. And the sad part is, there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

  2. I agree with everything you say Dan, I wish everyone would read John Whitehead to get an understanding of how things really are. My biggest fear in a SHTF scenario is ‘the authorities’, not my fellow men.

  3. 1. Adherence to established law will be exactly the same in a WROL situation as it is now and always has been: those who have the most power over others will do as they please and everyone else will be forced to follow whatever laws the powerful wish to enforce.

    2. Have you ever heard a female ( other than an adolescent) say she wished there were no laws? I certainly haven’t. We don’t like to admit that hormones like testerone dictate our beliefs and attitudes to some extent, but they do. And male and female brains are wired differently too. If women were calling the shots in our world, would most movies and video games be fantasies about men who make their own laws, take what they want and annihilate those who stand in their way?

  4. ????? We all have testosterone..M & F… don’t fall for the A-Moral rhetoric of subversive political indoctrination… we are closer in our humanity by all natural aspects, than the A_typical male female sexist rhetoric… but if the shoe fits the mindset, we all will graduate with our conditioned mind set A+… Counter intuitive, should be our better mind set… Just say-in… Be of good heart… when the SHTF…we will know our masters by their behavior… Yet the counter intelligence of better relations in any disaster, is perpetration for the worst… I think, if we examine the welfare of all those associated in a disaster of commonality… our innate good humanity will outweigh the negative as those of like mind come together in a common bond. Survival is a band of brothers and a commonality of the like kind… Not to underestimate the commentary here as nonobjective would be a mistake… Prepping should be accompanied with sound thought of the unmistakable altruistic formulas of the sociopath and psychopaths that confuse rhetoric with reality!… propaganda, and marketing is the Hallmark of all salesmanship in the merchantman’s arson of ideological dogmas, all to keep the unthinking masses confused and discriminated by the latter..
    🙂 I regress

  5. Just as with comments that I’ve posted on other sites about the unrealistic expectation of military rule after the SHTF, the same applies to law enforcement.

    (Brief review: Military – less than 3 million, not all stationed in the US, not all combat trained. US Population – 330 million. Likely population of patriots ready and able to defend themselves – 4% = 13.2 million. Fighting house to house? I’ll take my chances on the patriot side).

    The same logic applies to LEOs. I have pointed out that New Orleans cops were found in Florida WITH THEIR POLICE CARS after Katrina, proving that a paycheck buys little loyalty when trying to survive. When people say SHTF, I interpret this as a real survival situation, not a temporary issue like a local riot or weather disaster. Therefore, don’t expect a functioning government or any first responders to be in place (law, fire, medical). By the time society starts to rebuild (years if not decades), nobody will have enough recall of events, or energy to expend looking to bring anyone to justice. Just surviving will be enough of an experience to keep everyone occupied afterwards with little free time left for lawyers delivering “justice”.

  6. Great post, Ellysa. I agree that some people are anxiously awaiting the SHTF moment, while others just want to prepare. What’s interesting is that in being a prepper, you’re, by nature, a bit of a pessimist. With that pessimistic mindset, it’s not so hard to believe that there are those trigger-happy preppers out there. I only hope that should SHTF, collaboration, not combativeness, emerges. I have an escape plan in anticipation for things to go wrong, but I’ll definitely be among those willing to help others following The Event.
    https://bunkerbasics.com/how-to-create-a-shtf-escape-plan/

  7. Great post. If there is a total breakdown of society then what you will need as much as anything is luck. Beyond the question of what your neighbors and local authorities will or won’t do, there is a question of you will survive without modern medical care. Fortunately, a long-term and complete breakdown is extremely unlikely, and people will likely be held accountable in one form or another.

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