Lethality in defense

There is often a lot of discussion going on around the proverbial security watercooler about guns. The discussions range from training programs for the use of firearms to the type of gun, the kind of ammunition, the type of holster to use, and the impact of carrying a gun on the perception we project. One of the most common discussions is whether your program needs to deploy guns at all.

There is a lot of passion around the topic, but a firearm is a tool, like any other. The addition or subtraction of a tool from your tool belt should be a straightforward discussion. The gist of that conversation should be summed up by evaluating if you have a job that needs that tool. (See my post on choosing the right tool for the right job) In essence, does the job we have to do require killing? That may sound a little hyperbolic to some, but I don’t think we can start a conversation about adding firearms to a security program without first acknowledging that the job that tool is designed for is killing.

What I think is missing is an honest discussion on the concept of lethality in defense. I am by no means an anti-gun proponent. I enjoy firearms sports, and I have carried a gun in both an official and unofficial capacity. I have seen firsthand the sudden and life-altering impact of the use of that tool, and what concerns me most is the pervasive idea that guns alone can make people safer. I hear this a lot from both protectors and those we protect. I am not convinced.

When you are talking about lethality in defense, what you are talking about is bringing on board the capacity to cause death as a means to defend life. This is the means to kill to save, and it is not lost on me that many programs jump to this lethal capacity without fully addressing all the other available tools. In both security and law enforcement spheres, we see programs build the totality of their service on their ability to bring a gun to a fight, and to me, that misses the mark. Having a gun in the tool belt allows us to exercise a very particular kind of response to a specific type of risk, but it is not – and can never be – an end-all/ be-all tool.

Don’t get me wrong, lethality in defense has effective long-standing (and well-warranted) roots in the sphere of military operations. Additionally, the concept of ending a life to save a life has well-documented roots in policing tactics as well, and again, I think there are well-warranted needs for lethal capacity. But, I would caveat all those discussions with the understanding that every other tool in the tool belt is more critical to the work we have committed ourselves to because every other means at our disposal is designed to help us prevent the loss of life altogether. Isn’t that the goal? We have to commit ourselves (and our programs) to the competent development of all tools at our disposal with the goal being that a gun is never needed.

What are your thoughts? How do you develop the other tools for de-escalation and less lethal means to prevent the loss of life? Do you see a larger role for lethality in defense? Join the conversation in the comments below, and don’t forget to like, follow and share to support the Proactive Security Blog.

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