The Cornered Cat
Lessons from the headlines #3

News anchors never can resist the bit about “gun-toting grandmother,” can they? Ah, well, we can still learn something. (Do click the link. It includes a good interview with the woman who defended herself.)

Here’s the story, and it’s a common one: an older woman is working alone in a convenience store when a criminal comes in. He nonchalantly walks through the store, grabs a soda from the case, and then pulls a knife on the clerk as he demands money. She reaches under the counter and pulls out the revolver she has taken to the range only twice before. He panics and scrambles out of the store. She never fires a shot.

Here’s the official surveillance video released by the local police:

It’s probably time to remind everybody how to watch a crime video. There are a ton of really good lessons inside this one, if you know how to look for them.

Lessons? Coming right up.

  • Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Derp!
  • With that out of the way, let’s not be flippant. A knife is a deadly weapon, and justifies using deadly force in response. The criminal did not “only” have a knife. He had a freaking knife, which is the instrument of death in one out of every seven murders in America. 1
  • Even a poorly-trained or untrained person can use a gun to defend herself, as we see here. This untrained woman was no danger to bystanders, because there were none. But if she had been unarmed and unprepared to protect herself, we do not know how this story would have ended. Maybe the criminal would have taken the money and walked away. But maybe he wasn’t after only money. He might have been after a power rush or worse. Her decision to be armed was a good one.
  • That said, you can see her lack of training in her non-confident body language and in the way she held the gun. A little training would go a long way in helping her look more determined to defend herself, in helping her feel more capable of dealing with the situation, and in helping her actually protect herself should she need to fire the gun. This particular criminal needed none of those things, but another criminal might not back down as easily as this one did.
  • The beauty of a firearm is that it allows you to defend yourself at a distance. This is especially important when the bad guy has a knife, because it can’t be used at a distance. 2 If there is a counter between you and the assailant, stepping back as you draw the gun gets you out of the criminal’s lunge zone, while still allowing you to take charge of the situation.

Should she have reached over the counter to protect the cash? What do you think?


  1. FBI Uniform Crime Reports, expanded homicide data, table 7. 2011 numbers.
  2. A knife-armed attacker can cover a lot more distance a lot more quickly than most people realize, however. To learn more about that, see the section under “Opportunity” here.

One Response to Lessons from the headlines #3

  1. wkeller says:


    My suggestion is to always create distance. Let the money go – the handgun is to protect your life, not the contents of the till.

    Pretty impressed with her trigger control as well. The antis seem to think a gun means blasting away. Yet, here, a woman with minimal skills defended herself and didn’t just blast away. Pretty impressive.

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