Charleston, SC, Church Shooting – Some Thoughts…

Earlier this week, a disturbed young man walked into a Charleston, South Carolina church and perpetrated an act of despicable evil. Rather than focus on the political or societal implications (the talking heads will do that ad nauseam), I think it is vital to examine the situation and revisit some established tactical truths.

As is typical, the perpetrator chose a gun free zone where he had reason to believe that his victims would be unarmed and therefore unable to defend themselves. Regardless of the reason that the victims were targeted, make no mistake, they were able to be murdered because they were unarmed. If you don’t think that guns in churches work, look no further than Charl Van Wyk or Jeanne Assam. Both were present in churches that were attacked by gunmen and were able to profoundly change the outcomes of the events because they were armed. When Van Wyk returned fire with no more than a mere snubnosed .38 revolver, the multiple attackers fled immediately. The attacker in the other incident predictably chose to end his life when faced with armed resistance from retired police officer Assam. There can be no doubt that Charl Van Wyk and Jeanne Assam saved countless lives with their courageous actions.

Let’s talk a bit about situational awareness. An odd looking and strangely dressed white man walks into a predominantly black church and sits down with a backpack. This alone should heighten the index of suspicion as being out of place and worthy of increased scrutiny. The appropriate response to such an observation could be as simple as leaving. While I will not deny the moral quandary inherent in that decision, it is nonetheless a viable way to survive. Especially in a situation where you are disarmed by the law!

One last thing to consider is something that those of us that work in emergency services know to be true. Violence and evil exists in the world. You may not go looking for a fight, but a fight may very well find you when you least expect it. Indeed, violence knows no boundaries.

My takeaways? Carry your gun every single place you go! If you absolutely cannot carry, then situational awareness becomes even more important. Gun free zones are some of the most dangerous places you can go. Get some basic medical training and supplies. Even if you had to go out to your car to retrieve a medical kit, you are still closer than an ambulance, especially when an area may need to be cleared by law enforcement before medical personnel are allowed to enter.

These attacks will continue to occur as long as the perpetrators know that they can literally get away with murder. Consider it your moral imperative to arm yourself accordingly with knowledge, skill, and the weapons allowed in your jurisdiction. If you’re not allowed to carry where you live and work, then get involved to change anti-gun attitudes and laws. And always remember, even though you may not have a gun, you are NEVER disarmed. Don’t let the next attack succeed on your watch!


For further reading, authors Gavin de Becker (The Gift of Fear) and Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley (Left of Bang) have written extensively on pre-attack indicators and avoiding violent encounters through enhanced situational awareness. These books should be considered required reading for the armed civilian. As well, both Van Wyk and Assam have detailed their stories in books and have been interviewed in the public domain.

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