Episode 284 with Ben Branam
Welcome to episode 284 of Self-Defense Gun Stories. We’re glad you found us if you’re well trained.. and if you’re still learning about armed defense. I’m Rob Morse and we’re joined this week by firearms instructor Ben Branam. How have you been, Ben?
Ben- Hi, Rob. I’ve been shooting and instructing and exercising.
How about you?
Rob- We received ratings but no comments on iTunes (293 x 165). Pastor Mel is listening to our old episodes and liked something we said. We said that “Training makes an attack seem familiar.” Thank you, Pastor Mel.
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Ben- Here in the US, we defend ourselves with a firearm thousands of times a day. We look at a few recent examples to see what we can learn. The links back to the original news articles are on our podcast webpage.
Our first story took place last week in Chicago, Illinois.
Rob- First story- Are you armed as you drive?
It is about five in the evening. Your 11 year old daughter is with you and you’re both hungry. You order from McDonalds, and the two of you enjoy your food sitting in your car. You look up a few seconds later. A young man wearing a mask is yelling at you. He has a gun in his hands. He starts shooting at your car, at you, and at your daughter.
You own a gun. You have your Illinois concealed carry permit. You’re armed. You present your firearm and shoot back. The story isn’t clear how you shot back, but you hit your attacker three times as he ran away. You check on your daughter and call 911.
Police are already on their way. They inspect your car and see the bullet holes. They look at the security cameras from the McDonalds and see the unprovoked attack. They follow your attacker to a nearby house and arrest him. He is wounded in his foot, his arm, and his hand. He is out on bail for three previous felony charges. You are not charged with a crime.
Ben- Let’s start with what this defender did correctly. He decided that the world was not a safe place for him and his family. He got his state permission slip, in Illinois it is called a Firearms Owners ID Card. He bought a gun. He got his carry permit.
The one thing we know for certain is that the victim did not have a criminal record. Dad took his daughter’s safety seriously and he carried concealed even on a weekday afternoon when he and his daughter did something as ordinary as going out together for fast food. The defender recognized a lethal threat. He responded with lethal force. He stopped shooting when the attacker stopped shooting. He stayed at the scene and called the police. When they arrived, he gave the police a statement.
The story isn’t clear about how the defender shot the attacker.
Rob- What do you mean that it isn’t clear?
Ben- Was the window open, or did the defender shoot through the glass? Did the defender open the window, or did he open the door. Did he get out of the car to shoot? We don’t know.
This is important since carjacking is becoming much more frequent in some of our cities like Chicago and Philadelphia.
Rob- Is it clear that one is a better choice than the others?
Ben- That depends on the situation. Was he being robbed, or was he the target of a gang attack? How much training does he have?
Rob- Why do you ask about training, and when do your students learn about defending themselves in their car or truck?
Ben- If you’ve never presented your firearm while you were belted into your car, then you might have to open the door and get out in order to protect yourself.
Rob- When would your students get to practice presenting a firearm while they were sitting down?
Ben- In advanced classes. You have to be proficient with drawing a firearm while standing before sitting because of the increased chance of pointing the gun at yourself. After that, then the car because of the inclosed space.
Rob- Is there more you want to cover in this story?
Ben- Last thing, if you end up like our hero protecting his child, remember the car is your greatest weapon. Use if possible, than go to your gun if you can’t drive away or use your vehicle as a weapon.
Now our second story happened A few miles south of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Rob- Second Story- Are you armed in public?
You’re at the mall with your girlfriend. It is early Sunday evening when you hear a strange sound ahead. You hear gunshots. Both of you crouch down. You tell your girlfriend to stay down and move behind some furniture. You own a gun. You’re carrying concealed tonight. You stand up and move toward the sound of gunfire. You see a young man with a rifle shooting at the customers in the food court. You move behind a column and start shooting. You hit the attacker several times. The attacker stops shooting and starts to move toward the bathrooms. You advance toward him. He falls to the floor and you stop shooting. You tell people behind you to run to safety.
The news reports don’t say when you put your gun away or if you called the police. Your girlfriend is a nursing student, and she starts to treat one of the injured victims. You identify yourself to the police when they arrive. Your family contacts a lawyer for you.
The police chief reviews security video of the scene. He says you did an excellent job and clearly saved lives. You stopped the attacker in less than fifteen seconds. You started shooting from 40 yards away. You are 22 years old.
You don’t have a carry permit, but were carrying concealed under Indiana’s constitutional carry laws. Your grandfather taught you to shoot.
Your attacker tried to blow up his apartment a few months ago. He quit his job and was being evicted.
Ben- Our defender recognized a lethal attack on innocent people. Once he decided to act, the defender got his girlfriend to safety. He moved to cover. He didn’t talk, he shot. He played “unfair”. He stopped the attack and didn’t hurt anyone else. He put his gun away when the police arrived and he gave them a brief statement. He contacted his family and they got him a lawyer. The defender did not have a concealed carry permit but he didn’t need one in Indiana.
Rob- What is normalcy bias?
Ben- You’ve been at the mall a thousand times. That means you don’t really see and hear things inside the mall any more. You glance at things, and then see what you expect to see. You didn’t hear gunshots inside the mall the last time you were there, so you didn’t hear them this time.. So when they do happen you write it off as something else. It just takes longer to act.
Rob- How could an ordinary person stop someone who wants to murder people? The attacker had a rifle and the defender only had his handgun.
Ben- We don’t have eyes in the back of our head. That means we are always vulnerable to being attacked from behind. In practice, our “blind spot” is much larger than that. We only see what is right in front of us.
The attacker was focused on his target. That means he was blind to almost everything else. I’ve felt my perceptions narrow when I was in force-on-force training. You’ve felt the same thing happen to you.
We do this all the time but it is so common that we don’t notice it. We’re with a group of people and we’re part of an interesting conversation. We don’t notice a friend approaching us from the side. We were busy doing something else and we never saw our friend walk up to us. That “blind spot” is how a defender with a handgun stops an attacker armed with a rifle. I bet the attacker never saw the defender. That is simply the perceptual dynamics of armed combat in an open area.
Rob- That sounds so obvious when you describe it that way. When do your students learn how accurate they are when they are beyond 5 yard to their target?
Ben- You read my mind, because this defender hit his attacker 8 out of 10 times. He used a column for cover and he leaned his support hand against the column to steady his aim. In that position, we’re almost as accurate as if we’re shooting with our arms resting on a bench. It really isn’t that difficult once you practice, but few people ever try shooting beyond 25 yards.
Rob- What else do you see here?
Ben- A few things. I have not seen the video yet, but the latest reports were that the good guy stopped the bad guy in about 15 seconds. If you’re shooting then 15 seconds is forever. You can shoot 20 shots in that amount of time, and the defender only shot 10 times. I bet it took less than 10 seconds to stop the attacker. From experience, time will stand still for a couple seconds as you have an “oh crap” moment when you realize what is going on. Then time will accelerate and everything will happen faster than you ever imagined. It’s creepy, but if you expect it, it gets easier.
Hopefully you will never be in a situation like this one, but you want a lawyer anyway. The lawyer can answer any questions from the press. And help you navigate the immediate celebrity you just became.
One last thought, don’t pickup the attacker’s gun if you don’t have to. You never know what condition it is in and if or how it works. Too many variables. If you have to move it from the attacker, push it away with your foot nicely. And, we train at our church to put a foot on the weapon. This way I can control it without touching it or having to deal with it. There will be enough other things going on.
Rob- The press would want to interview me if I had to defend myself?
Ben- Probably. And you family, friends, neighbors, fellow workers, former teachers, and everyone they can stick a camera in front of in this case. Let your lawyer do the talking as a general rule.
Rob- Where are we headed next?
Ben- Our third story happened in Largo, Florida.
Rob- First this message from Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.
Rob- Third story- Are you armed early in the morning?
The sun is just coming up when you hear your neighbor at your front door. He is shouting for help. You rush to the front door and let your neighbor inside. A stranger pushes his way into your home as well. Your neighbor is trying to push the stranger back outside. The stranger fights with you and your neighbor.
You’re armed. You shoot your attacker until he stops fighting with you. Now, you and your neighbor back up and call 911. Your neighbor says the attacker forced his way into your neighbor’s home a few minutes earlier. You put your gun away before the police arrive.
EMS takes your attacker to the hospital. The police said your attacker appeared to be intoxicated with alcohol and narcotics. You are not charged with a crime.
Ben- We should pay attention to this since most armed defenses are in or near our home.
I’m so glad that our defender was armed. The first home owner couldn’t defend himself but he did a good job getting away from his attacker. Later, our second defender who was armed tried to get the bad guy to leave his home. He tried to push him back outside. When that didn’t work and the bad guy advanced, then our armed homeowner defended himself. He stopped shooting when the attacker stopped attacking. And he knew his neighbor so he could tell who the good guy was.
Both victims backed away and got help on the way.
Rob- You and I have met lots of people who think they will talk their way out of trouble, that they are too nice to be attacked. Tell me about people on drugs.
Ben- Yeah. This is another version of normality bias. We’re telling ourselves that we have not been attacked so that shows that we are too pretty, too nice, too young, too old, too something to be attacked. And that rationalization works until the day it doesn’t. Then they come to my class. Then they listen on how not to be a victim again. It’s a painful lesson to learn the hard way, but it can happen to anyone anywhere.
Rob- But we read stories of crimes in the news.
Ben- And the news stories are about someone else. It isn’t them, their family, their friends or their neighbors. And all those people said they never thought it would happen to them either.
Rob- That means our listeners are above average because they were concerned before they were attacked.
Ben- And they practice.
Rob- What else do you see here?
Ben- Hand to hand skills would be nice. Team skills with your spouse are really helpful.
Ben- Our fourth story took place in Saint Charles, Missouri.
Rob- Fourth story- Are you armed as you drive?
It is several hours before dawn. You’ve been driving and you need a break. You pull over and use the bathroom and buy a snack. You’re getting back into your car when you see a stranger park his car in front of the convenience store. The customer grabs the clerk by the hair and puts a knife to her throat.
You reach into your car and grab your firearm. You walk back inside the store and tell the robber to stop. He lets go of the clerk and grabs his backpack. He says he has something for you. He moves toward you and you shoot him until he stops.
You and the clerk both step back. Both of you call 911. You put your gun down. EMS takes your attacker to the hospital. The police were investigating a series of convenience store robberies linked to your attacker and the car outside. A clerk from the earlier attacks was in the hospital with knife wounds to her hands and neck. The getaway car outside was stolen a few weeks ago. You read that your attacker died in the hospital. He was the same age you are, 26 years old. You are not charged with a crime.
Ben- Once again we see the robber who attacks a convenience store after dark.
I’m glad our defender was armed because I do not want to be cut. I like that he stopped an attack because I don’t like seeing other people get cut either. Our good guy recognized that a man with a knife was an immediate danger if he was within 7 yards. He stopped the attack and then stopped shooting. He stayed at the scene and called the police for help. Well done.
Rob- Is there more you’d like your students to do?
Ben- There are two things I want you to do. First, think these situations through. What would you do? Would you take the hostage shot? Would you close with them? Would you negotiate? Or would you not go in at all? Figure out what you believe so you can go armed. This was a constitutional carry state like Indiana. All our defender needed was a holster to go armed in public. Get the training so you can save lives like in the stories this week. Having your gun in your car almost cost this clerk her life, and it makes you much less effective at defending your own life. Know ahead of time if you’ll intervene to save a third party because you will not have time to think about it when it happens.
Would you save a stranger? An adult? A youngster? A child?
Second, I want you to know the laws in your state. Study them so that you will recognize when you have the legal right to use lethal force so you won’t hesitate if you have to.
You look in the window of a convenience store and see the clerk being dragged by her hair with a knife held at her throat. You recognize that an innocent person faces an immediate, lethal and unavoidable threat of death. If you thought your shot could hit the right target through the window then you were justified to pull the trigger right there while you were standing in the parking lot. You do not have to talk to the attacker. You might choose to talk to him so the clerk can move away, but that is up to the tactics you choose, not the legal considerations or moral considerations.
Every second you wait gives the attacker time to hurt you or another victim. There is a time to shoot and a time to talk. Never try and do both.
Rob- When do your students learn that?
Ben- At my class when we go over hostage drills. Someone always tries to talk and shoot and misses. I haven’t found anyone yet that can make good shots and talk at the same time. Try it the next time you are at the range.
Rob- Are there shoot/no-shoot scenarios where students can practice making that decision?
Ben- We do that bit at a time.
360 degree scan of the scene after each shooting test. What is in everyone’s hands.
We practice moving to cover.
We use photo realistic targets with adjacent no-shoot targets or “hard cover”.
You can use turning targets or falling targets so we stop shooting on condition rather than on count.
You can walk through dry scenarios with a blue gun a friend sets up for you. And you can always, and should think all these scenarios through and think about what you would do and what could go wrong and what you would do when it goes wrong.
Rob- What are those classes called, or is that custom training?
Ben- I’m glad to do custom classes, but my class is called Beyond Concealed Carry because it is the class designed for someone after they have gotten their carry permit or have decided to go armed in constitutional carry states.
Rob- That wraps up this episode. Thank you for helping us again. Ben Branam, where can we learn more about you?
Ben- I teach armed self-defense and church security. I live in San Antonio, and most of my classes are in central Texas. Sign up for my classes at Modern Self Protection.com, and subscribe to my weekly podcast called Modern Self-Protection.
Rob- After you read Ben’s articles and subscribe to his podcast, after you look at his videos and sign up for his classes. When that is done and you’re giving your credit card a rest, please leave us a message on the podcast episode webpage for free.
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I’m Rob Morse. We’ll be back next week with more Self-Defense Gun Stories.