Roundtable Discussion 009: Gunmen

CombativeCorner author T.J. Kennedy asked, “When facing attacker with a gun…some suggest to not make eye contact so as to not give away intent or movement. some say to look him in the eye to make yourself more human to him, and thus make it harder for him to pull the trigger.  It’d be nice to hear different opinions on that.”

“What is your opinion regarding eye contact with a gunman?”

I’ve also heard both arguments, along with the belief that you should communicate with your attacker to help distract him. (Please don’t hurt me, what do you want, I have kids, etc.)

I think the important thing to remember is that if the gunman has already made up his mind to shoot you he’s going to do it no matter what, making where you look or what you say a moot point. If your attacker gives you even the slightest hint of hesitation or pause you should capitalize on it and disarm him or if unable to run away. As long as that is the end goal and it’s successful it doesn’t matter what method you used to accomplish it.

I would say to not make eye contact, unless you know he’s going to kill you for sure…then maybe throw him off a bit by going a bit over the top challenging him…enough to get close enough to reach the gun. Seeing your face, and the fear (and whatever other emotion you are conveying) should be enough of a prevention measure.

Whatever you choose, you need to be able to reach the gun to do anything about the situation other than comply with his demands…which is always a strong option.

My thoughts, in a quick response, is to not look (as it may ‘challenge’ him) and is, in many ways, too bold of a response and not a natural, behavior response.  Behaviorally, your nervousness (which will be natural) should be enough of a human quality to convey your emotional state and befuddle any sympathetic tendencies (if he has any!).

I think verbal communication and distraction is one of the most overlooked and under-practiced and must be exercised to gain any advantage.  That is, unless he says something like, “Shut your %@$#&* mouth, or I’m going to shoot you in the face!”

When a gun is held to me I always think they want to kill, even if they just want to rob me. That way I train myself to be thinking of saving myself and others if possible.  I use a soft gaze but if he starts to talk to me I will make eye contact and I will put my hands up, but the whole time I am waiting for the Ki to be right for a strike and disarm.

It is very good to address these issues. We must always think “What if ?”  We do not know the gunman’s mental state and he may be out of his mind.  Or he might be a guy who lost his job or whatever.  We can’t know that.  We only know he has a gun on us and we could die in a flash.  Your training should kick in and you should be able to deal with them the best way you see fit. What works for me – might not work for you so it is very good to train and push yourself as much as you can.

When facing an attacker with a gun it should be the natural response of how you naturally train when you spar. When you spar and you naturally like looking at the person directly in the eyes then do the same but if you do not make eye contact and look at another point in the body like the chest, then look at that area. It should not matter if the person is armed or unarmed, there should be no thinking involved, just respond. If the offender is in range, then disarm should have already been completed before you have any time to think about where to look. If the offender is not in range, running for shielding should have already occurred before you have any time to think about where to look.

In my highly non-expert opinion, when you have a gun pointed at you, you’ve already been marked as a target by the gunman. Glances are ok to gauge your situation and the mental state of your assailant. Staring your assailant in the eyes is probably not a great idea. If someone has decided to point a gun at you, they have already elevated the interaction to hostile and dangerous levels. Direct eye contact is a threatening action and could worsen your situation.

Guest Speaker to the Roundtable (Steve Kardian):  The worst thing you can do is make eye contact in such a way that the predator perceives it as a challenge.  Remember, you’re dealing with a different element… someone’s got a weapon on you or if robbery is their motive you’re making a business transaction.  If you show fear and he picks up on that fear, you’re in deep trouble.  I’ve interviewed murders; people that have killed people because thy have begged for their life.  They see it as such as weakness.  In prison… (read the rest)

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3 Responses to “Roundtable Discussion 009: Gunmen”

  1. I agree with steve, with 20 t years as a LEO I have interviewed many predators. About 10% are soul less and death machines the rest are opertunistic and can be manipulated.

  2. The question: Would you make eye contact with someone with a gun?

    Most of you answered with a “I would do this, I would do that” type of response. If I were asked this question, the first thing I would say is what is the senario? The scenario dictates what you do. Ask yourself, is this a man that is trying to rob you? What would you do if say, it was your sister? Or even child? What if this was a terrorist situation. Would you do the same exact thing for ALL these situations. I think not. Would I look in a persons eyes? Yes, sometimes if the situation dictates it. Or Absolutely not, if the situations dictates it.

    • Thanks for commenting. Yes, I’ve always been in agreement that ‘Situation dictates response.’ However, it’s easy to say this and not really think about the situation before it happens. Sometimes having a plan is good, and sometimes have a general idea of the frameworks helps to set you up for success. What would be your response for those different individuals and why? Do you have different reason for choosing those different responses?

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