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On Feeling Safe and Self-Delusion

As a community, we often don’t have much patience for people who are just fine with security theater measures, because they want to feel safe. They don’t want to confront the idea that life entails risk, and that bad things can happen regardless of what precautions you take. Tam makes a very excellent point that people in the gun community often exhibit the same behavior.

I still remember the initial hostility I got when I started recommending people who carry a gun also carry a defensive spray. I was initially hostile to the idea myself, because I figured a prosecutor would argue, if I had spray, that I should have used it instead of shooting the bastard.

But I was turned into a believer by a series of articles that disassembled all my assumptions and refuted them. Unfortunately these articles seem to have disappeared from the Internets. A lot of the arguments against defensive spray struck me more as “this makes me uncomfortable, because it threatens the world view I’ve constructed” rather than solid arguments against the practice of carrying defensive sprays. We are all capable of fantastic feats of self-delusion to defend our own world view. No one is immune. The key is to be capable of recognizing self-delusion when someone points it out. Some people will never be convinced.

14 Responses to “On Feeling Safe and Self-Delusion”

  1. Tam says:

    A lot of the arguments against defensive spray struck me more as “this makes me uncomfortable, because it threatens the world view I’ve constructed” rather than solid arguments against the practice of carrying defensive sprays. We are all capable of fantastic feats of self-delusion to defend our own world view. No one is immune.

    This is the money quote, right here.

    Our tendency is to decide the level of risk mitigation we are willing to undertake and then construct imaginary risks that can be handled by our preparations.

  2. HSR47 says:

    One issue I have with defense sprays is that they’re a double-edged sword: They’re area of effect weapons, which means that the user is likely to be effected as well as the target. Depending on conditions (weather, how the fight progresses, what drugs the target is on, etc.) it’s entirely possible that the target will be less effected than the person doing the spraying.

    Another issue I have is bulk: I already have enough stuff cluttering up my pockets, and I’m not inclined to make room for something I’m probably never going to use.

    In terms of use against people, I don’t see defensive sprays as an everyman’s tool. In terms of use against animals (dogs, etc.) I’m not a mailman or an avid cyclist.

    If you feel the need to carry some kind of OC spray, more power to you; I personally fail to see the benefit to me, so I choose not to.

    • Sebastian says:

      Most of the canisters I’ve ever let loose emitted more of a stream than a spray. It would have to be pretty windy to get significant blowback. But a scenario doesn’t go from no-shoot to shoot just because it’s windy. Maybe during high wind a defensive spray isn’t a good option, but that doesn’t mean you get to go to gun when the situation doesn’t justify it.

      If you carry a gun, you’re carrying something you’re probably never going to use. If you don’t want to, that’s fine. I follow Tam’s philosophy on that. It really is fine. But there’s a risk in not having any tool between harsh language and deadly force. If you’re pretty good with hand-to-hand fighting, that’s great. That can be an option for you. But I’m too damned fat and old to fight drunks, so I carry something between.

  3. Zermoid says:

    I’ve been thinking of getting a spray myself, just for those threatening assholes you sometimes run into that aren’t quite threatening enough to warrant shooting them.
    Options are always a good thing.

    • Sebastian says:

      I’ll be honest, I think the options out there for spray suck. I like the concept of the pepper blaster, but the implementation sucks. Mace’s implementation isn’t much better.

    • Sebastian says:

      I carry Fox Mean Green, but the problem is that it’s hard to find the canister in a hurry, and then get it oriented the right way. It’s hard to do quickly just by feel.

  4. HappyWarrior6 says:

    Okay. So I’ll get a 2″ police belt and line up the stuff to clip on the belt:

    Spray
    Taser
    Gun
    Extra mags
    Gloves
    Telescoping baton
    Cell phone

    Honestly I could imagine a situation in which I could have used one or more of those (with the exception of the gun and taser). Does it mean it’s plausible to carry all of them on an outing? No.

    Truthfully I would rather have one of any of those things than nothing. However, as we’ve been taught from the beginning, guilt in the of deadly force is partially judged by symmetry of force.

    • Tam says:

      Let’s start with the baton. Where, as an unsworn civilian, am I legally justified to whomp somebody with a steel rod where I would not be justified in using deadly force?

      Bearing in mind that I don’t have any documentable baton training, and a steel rod to the head is most certainly deadly force, I’m not really seeing the utility of the baton.

      Also, the Taser… Not Taser certified either. What does the Taser bring to the table for me that OC spray wouldn’t? Especially since the Taser’s effects are far more temporary than spray and best practices require an armed person covering just in case things go rodeo.

      Cell phone? Got one. Keep it in my shirt pocket, though. Gloves are in the first aid kit in the car and the one on my book bag.

      Got the gun.

      The point of the post was that when people are confronted with things they haven’t really thought all the way through, it makes them uncomfortable and defensive. Sometimes uncomfortable and defensive enough to go all reductio ad absurdum. ;)

    • Sebastian says:

      This is probably a whole new post, but I’ll comment here to remind me of it. I’m not some kind of carry ninja. I make trade offs. We all do.

      In summer, I’m carrying a Leatherman on my belt and a cell phone. I’m usually carrying an LCP in a pocket with a pocket holster. I have a spare magazine in the other pocket, along with the OC and a flashlight clipped to the pocket in a certain order. It is suboptimal. I know that. But I have to balance risks with being able to get on in life. I’m sometime not even carrying these days. We all make these trade offs, and it’s ok

      If I end up in a Charlie Hebdo situation, I know the deck is stacked against me. I’m fine with that. These days I’m more concerned about looking like I can earn my billing rate than being able to fend off an ISIS attack, and I’m not frequenting places I’m likely to be attacked.

      • Tam says:

        But I have to balance risks with being able to get on in life. I’m sometime not even carrying these days. We all make these trade offs, and it’s ok.

        Truth.

        I carry a full-size pistol all the time not because I think not doing so will get you killed on the streets, yo, but because my life circumstances allow me to do so.

        Not everybody is a self-unemployed bum who can dress like a hobo who lives only fifteen or twenty blocks from some pretty rough neighborhoods. (And even the rough neighborhoods thing isn’t that much of a worry to me; paying attention generally solves that problem.)

        • Sebastian says:

          I don’t carry at client sites, because, well, one of them is in New Jersey, but even the ones on this side of the river — if I were to faint, have a heart attack, trip and knock myself out, if the paramedics or the cops pull a gun off me, it’s not just my ass on the line, but my coworkers too. I’m willing to take risks if I’m the only victim, but I’m not willing to risk my coworkers’ jobs and their families. But I spend very little time at client sites. Most of my work either here at home or at the office.

          These days I carry the Glock 19 in winter when I don’t have to compromise my dress. Sometimes I’ll carry it in summer, when I’m going somewhere with a lot of people that looks like a juicy target. But most of the time I’m pocket carrying the LCP in summer. If I end up having to fight off an ISIS attack with a pocket gun, I’ll own that limitation. I’m fine with that.

  5. Will says:

    Make sure you test fire any spray you carry. You don’t want a perfume applicator, when you expect a stream. BT;DT

    Consider carrying your sprayer on your keyring, but I suggest connecting it with a quick detach. You may need it when sitting behind the wheel, and there will be places you don’t want to take it into (not allowed, etc).

    • beatbox says:

      Excellent point. AND these things expire. I came across one in a drawer and carried it, until i decided to test it. Nothing.

  6. Roger Wilson says:

    Way back in my military days I was often called on to do LEO type duties. I have been exposed to CN,CS and OC. Once in an encounter with a bunch of drunk Marines, My Partner pulled out his spray in a small bar. I told him if he used it in this small room I would kick his butt. In an inside space everyone will be effected.

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