Mental Preparation for Lethal Force, by Mark B.

When preparing for TEOTWAWKI, or any lesser natural or “man made” disaster, it can be mind numbing with all the list, needs, “to do’s”, training, purchases, and planning it really takes to become self sufficient. As you prepare it becomes very apparent how complicated modern life is and exactly how vulnerable our sophisticated society has become. Most Preppers actively research via the internet, routinely learn new self sufficiency skills, train, buy supplies, and are most likely to be ardent supporters of the 2nd Amendment. But there is one area of training that must be considered by Preppers and can be summarized in one question:  Have you mentally prepared to kill another human being?

This question is not as easy as you might think to answer. At your next social gathering try discussing the  killing of another a human being with friends or family. How quickly would that conversation sour and you then find yourself alone in a room full of people? I have learned in my 17 years of law enforcement to not discuss the daily killing and violence of the streets outside of my fellow police officers. Even with my wife as the subject is a taboo that makes most people uncomfortable and is awkward to even bring up. As new preppers, my wife has cautioned me to not discuss why we prep with friends and family as some people do not want to see the possibilities of societal collapse or other disasters, let alone violent confrontation and use of deadly force. How many people do you know that hate to even talk about hunting or butchering farm animals for food? Just the mere talk of killing is a near taboo subject let alone the actual action of killing.

Most preppers believe, or assume, they have the guts, the will, required to kill another human being. The ability, not desire, to kill is perhaps the most important preparation you can make before TSHTF. All the time, effort, and money you spent stock piling food, building, planning for your escape, prepping for your family’s survival can be all for naught when the first looter with a gun shows up to rob you of your supplies. If you can not kill, or hesitate to kill, you may lose all of your supplies, your G.O.O.D. vehicle at best or your life at the worst. The decision to take another’s life is a difficult decision, but civil society is not infallible and criminals do not set appointments with their victims and they may force the issue upon you.

I’m not a philosopher, psychologist, or sociologist so I’m not going to give technical or scientific reasoning why people kill. However, from my seventeen years of patrol I believe that most people do not like confrontation. Confrontation always has its risks, no matter the scale of the conflict, from name calling to murder, and most people are wise to avoid it when necessary. Death can occur from what started out as a minor conflict. This is where criminals step in and take advantage of civil people. The criminal has learned how to exploit the fear of confrontation. Criminals know that when they say “boo” the average civil person does not want confrontation and will back down. They know how to read another’s body language for weakness and pounce when they see it. Criminals are always testing each other for weaknesses to determine who will be the top dog. The average gang member lives like a piranha, always looking for a weak person to pounce on, even if it’s one of their own.  The average criminal spends most of his day thinking how to gain an advantage over a weaker opponent, including you! All but a very small minority of criminals know their actions are illegal as they run from the police or others who resist their actions. Murder is the most heinous price of conflict between people. Murderers have forsaken societal norms for what ever reason and have lost their inhibitions of killing. After a disaster, man made or not, the criminal will have an advantage as his standards of respecting life and other’s property is already lower than that of civil people.

But life is precious for the civil person. We teach our children killing is wrong as well as other anti-social activity. Our schools, churches, social groups, friends and families all set examples for us as we grew up how to act civilly, what is and is not inappropriate behavior, and that most confrontation is frowned upon. Many schools have adopted a ridiculous policy of zero tolerance in which both the child aggressor and victim involved in a school yard fight are suspended. What a disservice to our children as this horrible mentality teaches and enforces the idea that the child can not defend themselves and that they must rely on help from a government representative (teacher or staff) to protect them. Self defense starts with the individual and ends many long minutes later when law enforcement finally arrives. There are too many examples of good people standing by doing nothing while another is attacked by a criminal. At best, the the police maybe called for you during a confrontation with a criminal.

In a Judeo-Christian context it is a major sin to murder. Search “murder” in a digital version of the Bible and look at the dozen after dozen of references against murder. The following are a few that I quickly found:

  1. Cain paid a heavy price for killing his brother. (Genesis 4:8-14)
  2. God warned Noah, “Who so sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”(Genesis 9:6).
  3. The tenth commandment, “Thou shall not kill.”
  4. Exodus 21:12, “He that smiteth a man, so that he dieth, shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21:12 ASV). No wondering what god’s intent for murderers is after reading the bible.

Though there are plenty of biblical references that do refer to killing such as David slaying Goliath, it happens to be that Judeo-Christian followers do not want to kill. We would rather help a hurting person than kill, ergo the good samaritan. The proof of Americans good will and desire to help others is more than evident by the amount of charity Americans donate every year to mitigate an overseas disaster or help others we will never meet. More than any other country we give and help till it hurts. We know the power of goodwill and giving. As a society we loath murderers so much so that we see fit to incarcerate them for life time sentences or death, all at great expense to the tax payers. And without such a disdain for murder, a civil society would never exist. But we preppers are not preparing for a civil society and thus your killer mind set, your resolve, must be established before TSHTF.

After WWII, the Marshall study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the US forces. It found that a surprising small number, approx. 15%, of soldiers actually fired their weapons in combat. The military trained these soldiers to fight, but not necessarily to kill. Col. David Grossman, a personal favorite author of mine, has pointed out in his books and public speeches is that roughly 4% of the population have the ability to kill. That means the vast majority of people(sheep)are peaceful non-confrontational people. Half of those who are more inclined to kill are criminals with the other half hopefully serving as soldiers, police officers and CCW gun permit holders (sheep dogs). The stigma of killing is very strong, as it should be for a civil society, and must not be over looked before TSHTF.

As a kid growing up in central Nebraska I had my share of hunting deer, pheasants, and quail as well as  butchering farm animals. After high school, I first enlisted in the US Army, entered the Green to Gold program, and eventually became a commissioned officer in a combat arms unit. In the Army I had hundreds hours of firearms instruction from the M1 tank, to rifles, grenades, rockets, missiles, machine guns, and pistols. There was also a lot of maneuver training, and large company sized live fire exercises. The Army did its best to prepare me for the stress of combat and like many a young combat arms officers, I dreamt of winning glory in battle. But marriage, kids, and a shrinking Army after Desert Storm ended my dreams of battlefield glory. I then jumped into law enforcement as a way to chase glory and honor. As a new police officer I was again regularly trained to shoot by experienced officers who knew the dangers of the streets and the importance of being able to rapidly draw ones pistol and put accurate fire onto a threat. With this background you could easily assume that I had been fully prepared for the possibility of killing another human being.

Unfortunately I wasn’t. Early in my rookie year I was on patrol at about 10:00 PM on a summer night. I came across a car in a closed city park. Next to the car were four young males and since the park was closed I drove up to send them on their way. As I drove up, all four subjects walked quickly to their car and did not appear to want my attention. When I exited my patrol car the subject at the left rear of the suspect car quickly spun on me revealing his hand holding a gun tucked into his waist band. My years of training kicked in as I do not remember pulling my duty pistol from its holster and found it pointed center mass on the armed suspect. The suspect drew his pistol from his waist band and started to bring it up at me. Then I failed. I yelled at him several times to drop his gun when I should have shot him several times in the chest instead. After what seemed like minutes, but was only milliseconds, the suspect dropped his gun. Though no one was hurt, I actually lost this battle. I was presented with an armed suspect who was pulling a gun on me and I had near fatal reservations about shooting another human being. All four suspects were armed and in possession of ski masks preparing for an armed robbery. I was extremely lucky that their will to kill was less than mine as I was outnumbered four to one. Though I had been trained to how to fight and shoot I had not adequately prepared myself for the actual moment I needed to kill. The stigma of killing another person was so strong that I did not want to shoot. I do not blame anyone else or any or the training that I received as I consider most of training and instructors as capable and very knowledgeable with decades of street experience among them. They had given me the instruction, their knowledge, their experiences to their fullest extent to prepare me for a lethal encounter. I had just not yet committed myself mentally, to being able to shoot and kill another human being. So the lesson learned is that this is your decision to make and it needs to be made before “that moment.”

Nor am I the only officer who has flinched at the wrong moment. I now believe it is far more common than one would think. I have seen several fellow police officers fail to protect themselves when presented with a deadly threat. I watched in horror as one partner let a suspected drug dealer turn on him holding a gun. My partner, who was between the drug dealer and I, failed to draw his service weapon and could only muster a weak and scared, “what are you doing, put the gun down.” Why the prolific drug dealer dropped  his weapon and did not shoot i’ll never know. Another officer in my department failed to shoot a known robbery suspect who had just fled another armed robbery. When the officer cornered the suspect, the suspect told the officer he had a gun and that she would have to shoot him. The suspect held his hands at his waist line and and feinted drawing it on the officer. The officer failed to use her side arm and elected to use a Taser twice on the suspect which had little effect on the suspect. A gun was later found in the suspect’s car and this officer was reprimanded for failing to adequately protect herself when presented with a deadly threat.  Another partner let the male half of a domestic violence incident go to his bedroom and pick up a shotgun laying on the floor stating that he was going to shoot the officer and then himself. Upon hearing this I ran to the room and found my partner had not yet drawn their weapon! Instead the officer said, “oh you don’t want to do that.”  Again the officer relied on luck and not resolve to survive the incident. There are several more fail to fire incidents that I witnessed and luckily none of them resulted in injury to the officers. The point is that you do not want to rely on luck or the benevolence of a robber, rapist, or TEOTWAWKI looter.

Several years ago a street cam caught an incident in which two rookie officers and a veteran officer attempted to arrest a suspect in Chicago. A fight broke out as the suspect resisted arrest. As the group was rolling on the ground the suspect pulled a hand gun. The two rookie officers reacted by running away and leaving the lone veteran officer to fight the suspect by himself! Instead of shooting the suspect to prevent their own or fellow officer’s possible death or injury, the rookie officers ran away, ouch. The discussion that must have taken place in that locker room at the end of the night’s shift!

A very painful example of the lack of resolve to kill can be found by doing a web search on: “Trooper Randy Vetter of the Texas Department of Public Safety”. Watching this video makes me physically ill as I see myself and my own failure to shoot incident and I realize how lucky I was to have survived. Trooper Vetter made a car stop in which a elderly male subject immediately exits his car holding a rifle.  The dash cam catches the whole incident that only takes seconds to transpire. The suspect advances on the trooper, aims his rifle at the trooper, and eventually shoots Trooper Vetter, mortally wounding him. Every time I watch this video I scream inside, “shoot!” as the suspect walks towards the trooper’s car. It is a hard video to watch and it is a nightmare scenario come true for a majority of police officers. But I suggest watching it and learning from it so you can learn from his sacrifice. No one will every know why Trooper Vetter didn’t shoot when needed. But he had the reason, a deadly threat,  and time to do so. Trooper Vetter is heard several times telling the murderer to drop his weapon. I contend that Vetter’s desire to not kill over rode his need to kill. Vetter showed to a fault that he valued life, including the life of a man pointing a rifle at him. I am in no way making any type of statement about the other officers bravery or dedication. The fact that they so willingly run towards danger night after night, shift after shift, when others run from trouble, is proof enough of their bravery. Our police officers and soldiers are products of our civil society and its not in most of their DNA to easily kill another human being . My point is if failing to kill when needed can happen to well trained and experienced police officers and soldiers, it can happen you.

Having survived my incident and observing several others failures was irreplaceable experience and training. I swore to never fail to protect myself again as my failure has caused me literal nightmares to this day. Every day as I drive to work I relive my incident, and others, in my head to recall where I made my mistake by hesitating and when I should have shot the suspect to protect myself. I recalled what past instructors had taught was to always watch the hands, as the hands are what kill you. Dirty looks have never killed anyone! I take my department range training very serious and spend time at a local range regularly to keep my skills fresh. I listen and learn from other officer’s use of force incidents. I also seek out and attend firearms training on my own time and dime to keep myself mentally prepared.

Thirteen years later my mental preparation, experience, training, and resolve saved the lives of several other officers and nearby civilians. Being the first to arrive for a shots fired call I was startled when I heard the suspect fire two shot gun blast only two houses away. With in minutes numerous other officers arrived and set up a perimeter around the house and numerous civilians removed from the residential street. While waiting for assisting officers to assemble an arrest team and make a call inside the house, a lone male walked out of the house and walked towards a parked car. My partners then left the relative safety of cover and concealment to arrest this male. I continued to cover my partners and thought, “Great this will be over quickly,  where should I go for lunch.” It wasn’t over and again, the desire to not shoot came out. Seconds later, an extremely drunk suspect walked slowly out of the house and onto the front porch holding a shot gun. The look on his face and his actions scared me and I said to myself, “oh sh**, this is going to happen.” After being told to drop the weapon several times, the drunk suspect pointed the shot gun at my exposed partners instead. Myself and another officer shot the suspect numerous times but it took several seconds and numerous hits before the suspect fell to the ground mortally wounded. The whole incident lasted approximately 5-7 seconds from when the subject walked out onto the porch till the last round was fired. I would have been extremely relieved, proud, and satisfied having reached retirement with out ever having used my weapon in the line of duty. It wasn’t fun or pleasant and I’ll live the rest of my days wishing it had not happened. Had there been any other option than to shoot I would have been relieved, thankful for such an option, but there wasn’t. I was however, very relieved that I had not hesitated to shoot, that my aim was accurate under stress, and that I had been able to save my own life as well as others.

Short of enlisting in the Army or Marines and getting a combat tour in Afghanistan what can you do to prepare yourself for “that moment” when the use deadly force is needed?

Regularly Attend Combat Firearms Courses:
First and foremost get top notch firearms training several times a year if possible. The weapon is almost useless with out training as your mindset and skills are the actual mechanism of killing. Training put on by former/current military personnel and police officers with an emphasis on stress situations is preferable. This isn’t target practice you are seeking. Not that non-military/ police trainers are incapable instructors, but the soldier or cop has a different mindset from years of combat training and experience in dealing with deadly situations and are more capable of inducing stress into the shoot/don’t shoot scenarios. You are looking for stressed based training that police and military service members get routinely. Seek out training that uses soap bullet simulators (simunitions) that allow you to shoot at and be shot by others using real, but modified, firearms. This is perhaps the closest to a real shoot out you can attend with out actually using real bullets. Become so familiar with your firearm that its use is second nature. The more familiar and comfortable you are with your weapon the more effective you become with it. At the moment of need, you will be able to draw your weapon out of unconscious muscle memory rather than deliberate thought and defeat the deadly threat before you.

Seek Out and Interview Combat Winners:
Read about, talk to, and ask questions of those who have been in lethal situations. This can require extreme tact as those who have won a deadly encounter may not be ready to talk about their incident. Be very nonjudgmental and let the winner know that you want to learn from their experience as a means to protect yourself and loved ones. You will learn a lot about the mindset of the winner, which is vastly different from that of a survivor. Survivors did not necessarily participate in their survival and may have been the recipient of incredible luck.  You will learn that you, like the winner, can defeat a threat to your life. Most gun fight winners do not see themselves as special, but lucky. Ask them about the prior training they had, their mindset before the combat started, their initial thoughts and you will discover that they won the battle long before the actual fight took place. Be sure to thank them for their time and service if they are law enforcement or military. Read both fiction and non-fiction books related to the need for deadly force such as Mr. Rawles,“Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse”. Reading such books will give you a mental reference, or picture, of when, why, how, as well as a greater resolve to use deadly force when needed. My personal non-fiction favorite books on the subject are written by LTC. David Grossman such as, On Combat, On Killing, and Warrior Mindset.

Video Games:
I know that this may seem ridiculous or silly, but games do help set the mindset. Video games are used through out the military to train its fighters into killers. Pilots, both military and commercial, routinely get mandatory flight simulator time. My police department uses an interactive video game to train for shoot and don’t shoot situations. Play one of the current and popular first person shooter war games such as Modern Warfare which are getting more realistic each year. In the game you will see your weapon pointed at a threat target and if you fail to kill your character will get killed instead, most likely by some teenage kid. But when you repeatedly see yourself pulling the trigger and dropping your target you start to mentally over come the taboo of killing. Sad as it is, I do believe these games have contributed to the violence in today’s civil society as it does reduce the stigma of killing. And that speaks volumes to their efficacy. When training at my departments use of force simulator, I have to explain to the instructor why I used force on any threat. I must justify my actions as does anyone else who uses force to stop a threat. But the simulator is training me mentally how, when, and why I might need to use deadly force. If I fail to engage the video game target, the target can “kill” me. Short of gaining access to a military or law enforcement simulator, realistic war video games are a training tool.

Review / Watch YouTube Combat Videos:
What a great resource to have to prepare for combat. A search of YouTube will produce hundreds, if not thousands, of police and military combat videos. These videos are excellent tools that show actual combat in action. There is no guessing what combat looks like as the combat is taking place right before the camera. The speed, the violence, the sounds, the action, and the shock are all captured on police dash cams and soldiers video cameras for the viewer to digest. I suggest the police videos best demonstrate how fast, up close, and violent combat can be. Most of the police shooting videos are captured via patrol car video cams capturing the up close combat. While watching these videos you can mentally prepare for future possible scenarios that you may encounter. I watch these videos regularly to dissect what the officer did right, or what they could have done better to protect themselves. Learn from the good, the bad, and the ugly the videos offer. Learn from the failures and success of others.

Obtain A CCW Permit And Use It Regularly:
An armed, civil person thinks differently and acts differently than those who choose not to be armed. Obtaining and using a CCW requires discipline and extra responsibility that the general pubic doesn’t, but should understand.  When carrying a gun in public the CCW permit holder has extra responsibilities to carry the weapon, to safe guard it, and most importantly when to deploy it. Knowing your state’s CCW requirements fully and knowing when, where, and how your state authorizes deadly force is your responsibility. But it is those responsibilities that force the permit holder to actively think about what they are doing while carrying the weapon and to actively look for threats. It is always best to avoid a fight in the first place and when actively looking for a threat you are more likely to avoid trouble. But more importantly the mind set of the CCW permit holder is vastly different. The confident CCW permit holder knows they have a much better chance of defeating a thief, robber, rapist, child molester, or any other criminal threat. You become the sheep dog and not the sheep. Not only do you have the ability to protect yourself but your loved ones, strangers, and those incapable of defending themselves. The CCW holder is thinking what will they do to the criminal long before a criminal threat appears. Effectively they war game what can happen and how they would react. I practice this every time I go on a call or out with my off duty weapon. I scan the area and mentally war game a scenario and how I’d defeat a threat. I go into every situation determined to win and go home no matter what. The day I don’t think I’ll win is the day I need to retire. What a difference one or two CCW permit holders could have had at any of the mass murder incidents that have rocked this country over the past decades. Just one armed person could save dozens of lives. Utilizing a CCW will allow to you to be more at ease by routinely carrying a firearm and put your mind set into a shoot, don’t shoot mind set.

Become a Reserve Police Officer/Deputy Sheriff:
Experience is training and there is no training like real experience. Becoming a reserve officer is a huge  commitment but the experience is unparalleled. Law enforcement officers run to trouble and wrestle order from chaos nightly. As an officer you are responsible for gaining and maintaining control of a chaotic situation and place your own mortality at risk. As such, officers become very keen on minimizing the risks while maximizing the order. As a reserve officer you learn to take charge of deadly situations and learn when deadly force is necessary. Imagine how much safer and civil our communities would be if more of its citizens engaged part time in keeping the peace, enforcing the law and participating in the safety of their neighbors! Criminals would be wonderfully suppressed and scared to act! Becoming a reserve officer is a big commitment of time and energy, but again the experience is priceless.

Join A Political Action Group:
Join a group/organization that supports constitutional law, personal liberties, gold backed currency, a small federal government, and strong support of the 2nd Amendment. This may seem completely unrelated, but I strongly believe in and advocate avoiding a fight if possible. I’d rather talk a suspect to death to get them into handcuffs, than harm them. Why? If you need to shoot someone your life is at risk as well! Bullets work in both directions! I’d rather slowly push this country back peacefully to constitutional law than to have societal collapse and subject my children to the dangers that collapse anarchy would bring.

Pray for the strength to do what you don’t want to do if needed. Pray for the bravery of David as he faced Goliath. Pray for those who have used deadly force to defend themselves or others from criminals or foreign combatants. Having used deadly force myself I can testify to the stress a deadly situation can dump on the cop or soldier. PTSD is no joke. The chemicals that dump into the brain during deadly encounters etch into the brain unbelievable details of the incident that don’t go away easily, if at all. Forgive police officers and soldiers that may lose control after years of built up stress and are dragged through the gauntlet of public scrutiny. I’m not excusing bad police behavior in any form. There are bad police officers no doubt. I had to work with one before he was finally terminated. The vast majority of police officers  and soldiers however, are honest, hard working brave men and women. Please remember that they see death and destruction daily and face their own mortality every time they put on their uniforms. The stress builds up on all officers with a high percentage of officers suffering Ill effects. Our brave troops returning from war in Afghanistan or Iraq are no different than those who returned home from Vietnam, Korea, WWII, or any other war and all suffer PTSD to varying degrees. Combat is never pretty or fun and is always ugly. Thank police officers and soldiers when ever you can, it will make their day and remind them that there are more good people in this world than bad. And also pray for the soul of the defeated criminal that they get the peace that eluded their life.

Training for the mental ability, not desire, to kill is one of the most important preps a person can make to safeguard themselves from a criminal confrontation or TEOTWAWKI. Preppers appreciate the fact that dangers do occur and actively take steps to minimize that danger. If disaster comes the unprepared will have no choice but to violently take from those who who have prepared. Thus to protect yourself and your loved ones you may be required to kill those who would hurt, kill, rape, and steal from your life saving preparations. So ask yourself, “Can I kill another human being?”, and take action to fight for your life.