Why Carry a Weapon?
Unfortunately, South Africa is a violent crime ridden country, due to poorly thought out policies and laws, which reduce the ability of ordinary law abiding people to defend themselves, together with the steady degradation in competence and capability of the police services—all of which make it easy for criminals, who do not care about the laws, to operate relatively freely. Sadly, South Africa has been transformed into a very criminal-friendly environment.
We suffer a horrendously high crime rate – one of the highest in the world. The government seems unable, or simply doesn’t care enough, to do anything about that. And unfortunately, in too many cases, criminals behave absolutely barbarically, once they get the chance.
Most of us have been on the receiving end of this terrible malaise, to some extent or other.
In those circumstances, without the means to defend yourself, you are at the complete mercy of the thugs accosting you. Perhaps they are not interested in harming you and your family, and will leave you alone after stealing your goods. But unfortunately, the steady stream of horrific stories in the daily news, show that very often, that is not the case.
Having some sort of a weapon on you, which you know how to use effectively, and are prepared to use, can possibly save you and your family from an awful fate, in those nasty circumstances.
Many people do not want to think about these sort of situations and simply hope it will never happen to them. Others may think that it is someone else’s responsibility to keep them safe, and thus feel that it is unnecessary to take any steps or precautions themselves, because someone else must do that for them.
But the fact of the matter is, if you are ever attacked, the police will not be there, neither will your armed response. They will only get there later, after the fact. Whether you and your family survive, or not, will be completely up to you and the attackers.
Ultimately, as an adult, it is your choice, what to do about the situation.
If, however you are prepared to face the reality that we live in a harsh violent world, and also feel that it is worth becoming more capable of looking after yourself and your family, then you might consider carrying some sort of weapon, as well as learning how to use it. Not all of us are capable of outfighting a large pumped-up thug, who attacks other people everyday for a living. Not many of us are capable of fighting off more than one attacker. In situations where the thugs definitely are intent on harming you and your family, having a weapon, can swing the odds back in your favour, and provide you with a chance to extract yourself from their clutches and survive the atrocity.
And that, is basically the main reason why you should consider carrying a weapon.
However, to lighten the depressing tone of the article, as it it has developed so far, even in South Africa, with it’s terrible crime rate, it is completely possible to live one’s life without having to fight off brutal thugs everyday. In fact, if one practices good awareness and avoidance, as well as install good home security, it should be possible to not ever have to suffer some violent attack, unless one is unlucky.
So the reality is, if you choose to carry a weapon, you should also be hoping to never have to use it to defend yourself, because it is only there as a last resort, an insurance policy, if you will
It Needs to be On Your Person
Thankfully, being attacked by criminals is still a relatively unpredictable event. Criminals will deliberately attack when it suits them, and not you. Thus, you simply do not know when it could happen. It could happen at any time, probably when you least expect it.
In addition, because criminals will usually attempt to ambush you, the attack often unfolds very suddenly. You will often have only a few seconds to take the actions that might save your life, or the lives of your family.
For these reasons, you do not have time to rummage around in your bag, or get something out of the boot of your car, or dig around in a cupboard or drawer, looking for that weapon you thought you had, but are not sure where you last left it.
Nor do you have time to read the instructions.
If you decide to carry a weapon for self defence purposes, it needs to be carried on your person, in a way that you can reach it quickly and easily, preferably with either hand. And you need to be practiced at getting it out and using it, without fumbling, even when you are under direct physical attack.
You should carry it with you, where ever you go, everyday.
If you do not have it with you, or are carrying it in a way that you cannot actually get to it and use it, within seconds, you may as well not have it.
Self defence has a broader scope than home defence. Self defence includes when you are out and about. A weapon chosen for home defence, does not need to be kept on your person at all times. For example you may keep a weapon in your bedroom, which you would use if you need to defend your family at night when the alarm goes off, while you wait for your response to arrive.
It Needs to be Effective
If you are going to go to all the hassle of carrying a weapon around with you everyday, make sure that it will actually reliably do the job, to the extent you expect it to, when your life depends on it.
In self defence situations, especially when you are out numbered and are being attacked by bigger stronger thugs, your weapon needs to be capable of stopping each attacker in their tracks, or at least giving you the possibility of escaping, the moment you use it. As we explained in our article on The Principles of Self Defence, you cannot afford to get into an extended bout, with attackers who may be bigger, stronger, fitter, more experienced, at that sort of thing, than you are. Not to mention that they may be armed themselves. You need to stop the attack as quickly as possible and render them incapable of further harm to you or your family.
For this reason, firearms are by far the most effective choice for self defence. But carrying a firearm every day is quite inconvenient. Carrying a firearm is also considered to be quite anti-social by many people, while being a very heavy responsibility from a safety point of view. So a firearm may not be a practical, or an acceptable option, as an everyday self defence weapon, for you. In addition, getting a firearm license can be quite difficult.
As the potential lethality of the weapon is diminished, so too unfortunately is the effectiveness of that weapon for self defence.
Again this is a choice that we all need to make for ourselves.
But some sort of weapon is probably better than none, provided you know how to use it, and are aware of it’s limitations. So less lethal choices are not necessarily a waste of time, but your chances of surviving a really nasty, determined attack, from multiple attackers are diminished by less lethal options.
You also need to filter out over-hyped non-lethal options that are no-where near as effective as they are claimed to be, while perhaps also considering some innocuous options that are more effective than one might expect.
You need to do your own research into the available options and choose accordingly. Ultimately it is your life that you are trying to protect, as well as your own conscience you have to live with—so you need to make the choice yourself.
Hoping it will “Scare them Off” is Not a Good Idea
Many people, when acknowledging that they may need some sort of self defence weapon, opt for what I call the “it will scare them off” option. This is a big mistake in my opinion. In fact I think this might be worse than not having any weapon at all.
A good example is a paint ball gun that looks like a real gun. Waving around something that looks like a gun, sounds like a gun, but isn’t, during a violent attack, is a good way to get shot or killed!
Pulling out something which you hope is going to make the attackers run away, and relying on that only, is going to give away all advantage you may have had in the moment. Because by definition, you have to wait for their response. They get the next move. If their response is not what you want, they do not run away, but continue the attack, but now with deadly force, because they believe they might be shot, there is probably not much you can do about that, from then on.
A paint ball gun has the ability to inflict a stinging impact. But that is all it does (unless you can hit your attacker in the eye, which is unlikely). Shooting them with a paint ball will probably just make your attackers mad. If you were “lucky” and they were not intent on harming you, only robbing you, and would perhaps have just let you go afterwards—well after being shot and hurt, but not incapacitated, they probably will not be in such a kind mood. A full grown man who is on the rampage, can take a lot of punishment without slowing down (just watch a rugby match). Waving something that you hope will scare them off, but which has limited ability to do much else, is just an expression of naive hope, while denying the reality of the situation, in my opinion.
If you are going to use a weapon for self defence, your objective must be to stop your attacker in their tracks, or provide the opportunity for you to get away. If you cannot achieve either of those two things, then do not pull out a weapon, because that just escalates the situation into definite violence, without you gaining any benefit.
Practicality and Multi-Use
Something to keep in mind is the fact that, if everything goes well, you will never have to use your weapon for self defence.
If you are wide awake to your surroundings and avoid bad situations before they develop, implement good home security with effective armed response on call, and various other things, you may be fortunate enough to never be faced with a situation in which you are forced to defend your life, or your family.
Unfortunately you cannot rely on this hope, because of the abominably high crime rate, but obviously one should strive for that, and maybe you can be that lucky. Many people are.
Thus, carrying something that can only be used for that one purpose—self defence—is quite inefficient.
If you are going to be carrying something on you everyday, why not carry something that you would use frequently for normal everyday functions, but which could also be used for self defence?
The idea is that the primary function of the thing you carry, is no longer self defence, but it has the potential, in an emergency, to be used to defend yourself, as well.
Some potential examples of that are:
- Practical, functional, easy to carry knives, which can be used mostly for everyday tasks, but which have the appropriate features, that enable them to be used for self defence as well, if need be.
- Small powerful torches that are bright enough to temporarily dazzle or blind someone and are sturdy enough to be used as a striking tool.
- Stout walking sticks that can be used as a club.
- Something like a small screw driver, or other ordinary tool, which you need to carry everyday, in any case.
None of these options will be as effective as a firearm, but because they have other practical uses, you are more likely to have them with you, if you ever need to use them as a self defence weapon. Their multi-use functionality gives you other, more practical reasons, to bother carrying them with you everyday.
You Need to be Practised and Prepared to Use It
A very important point to consider is that all weapons require some sort of practised skill on the part of the user, to become effective.
Do not think that you will magically transform into Jason Bourne, due to “adrenaline” when you are faced with a horrible terrifying attack, by thugs who are intent on doing barbaric things to you, or your family.
When your brain realises that sort of attack is underway, a far more primitive part of your brain takes over—all your higher level cognitive abilities of reason, logic, memory, fine motor skills, speech—they all evaporate!
To put it bluntly, you become a stupid clumsy oaf, who will have difficulty doing or remembering very simple things, like operating your cell phone, never mind any complex sequence of movements you have never tried before.
The only way you will be able to use your weapon effectively under those circumstances, is if you have practised using it for that specific purpose, repetitively for many hours. You need to have practised to the extent that you can operate in the dark, by touch only and without thinking.
In addition, for non-lethal weapons, there is a much greater requirement for skill in their use, because your chances of stopping the attacker in their tracks, or creating a moment where you can get away, are very much diminished. You have a much lower margin for error, when using non-lethal weapons for self defence.
The problem with all of that is, it probably seems melodramatic, to have to go to that sort of effort, practising for an event that you hope will never happen, and which you are naturally doing your best to avoid, in any case.
In addition, many people avoid thinking about these sorts of things. It upsets them. So how can they practise, which requires visualising and acting out a role which is upsetting?
But by visualising and acting out your role in such a nasty situation, you are preparing yourself to face it, and not simply recoil in frozen horror, if it ever occurs. This gives you a better chance of dealing with such a situation and taking the necessary action that might save your life, or the lives of your family.
In addition, learning the skills necessary, improves your overall competence as a person, giving you more ability to deal with what ever life throws at you, as well as becoming more useful to other people and your broader community.
So while it is a very dark, negative subject, there are positive benefits that can be achieved in preparing yourself and your family for these horrible events, if they ever occur.
Unfortunately, in South Africa, they occur all too frequently.
But the bottom line is, if you are going to carry a weapon for the purposes of self defence, what ever that weapon may be, make sure you spend plenty of time practising using it, for that specific purpose. It is a good idea to get professional training, so that you learn the correct, effective techniques, as well.
Complying With the Law
Make sure you take the time to find out what the law states with regard to your choice of weapon. You need to know things like:
- How you are allowed to carry it. Are there any restrictions on that?
- How you are allowed to use it in a self defence situation. When is it acceptable to draw the weapon and use it. This point is extremely important, because even though at the time, you will be fighting for your life, the law sometimes takes a somewhat unrealistic view on the matter. The law assumes a calm, rational, academic, non-chaotic environment, where you have all the time in the world to carefully gather all facts and take extreme care to weigh them up fully, before acting. That is of course, not the situation you will be facing in reality! But that is they way it will presented in court, and you will be judged accordingly. You need to know in advance how the law will treat your use of your weapon in self defence and try manage your actions accordingly. You obviously need to use your very best judgement, applying the principle of minimum force as far as possible, while making sure your actions are morally justifiable.
- What you should do, directly after being forced to defend yourself. What statements you should, or should not make, what evidence you should record and safely store, how to deal with the police when they arrive, how to report the incident properly etc. What your responsibilities and rights are. It would be best to get professional legal advice on this, both when you first consider carrying a weapon, as well as directly after an event where you had to use it. It would thus be wise to find out which lawyers you can contact beforehand, and make a note of their contact details (trying to find a lawyer in the middle of the night, while you are still shaking after fighting for your life, is going to be difficult).
Make sure you do your homework before hand, to ensure that you properly comply with the law and do not fall foul of some unexpected regulation, or procedural requirement.