Neighbourhood Watch Patrollers and Firearms

After the tragic shooting in Florida of Trayvon Martin it’s important to reiterate what the “Rules of Engagement” are for Neighbourhood Watch volunteers. Neighborhood-Watch

Many organisations, locally in Durban, South Africa and throughout the world, prefer it if you patrol unarmed. As a firearm owner you have a greater responsibility to avoid conflict, so it would seem to make sense – at least on the surface – to go unarmed. This is an all or nothing approach which realistically does nothing to accurately address the situation. 

If you carry a firearm on a daily basis, there is no reason why you shouldn’t carry it when doing neighbourhood watch patrols. If you have a self-defence firearm in South Africa and it lives in a safe, then get some training or keep it at a gun shop – it’s not doing you any good.

If you do carry it – you are now carrying a greater burden of responsibility. Mr. Zimmerman (in the Florida shooting) did not exercise this responsibility sufficiently and should never have pursued Trayvon Martin – who incidentally was no “child” as portrayed in the media, but was a large strapping young man. He should have held back and waited for the Police to do their job.

So as a timely reminder to my colleagues who discretely carry, whether it is here or in the USA, (I’m guessing nobody does in the UK or Australia) I’d like to lay out some rules you should follow.

1. You are not the Police – only a sworn LEO may use his firearm to affect arrests. I realise that your training may be worlds apart (I mean better) than your average Law Enforcement Officer, but you are not a policeman so it doesn’t matter.

2. You act as “Eyes and Ears” only – if you inject yourself into a situation and have to end up using your firearm, you will probably be prosecuted.

3. If a situation develops you must try to  de-escalate and leave to a safe distance. Only if you are prevented from leaving and you quite literally have your back against a wall are you permitted to use your firearm – only if your life is in danger and remember it is the court you must convince.

4. You may not draw your firearm unless you feel that it is the only option left. Drawing to “scare” someone is termed brandishing and is prosecutable.

5. Don’t use reloads. This opens up a can of worms where prosecutors will say you had malicious intent when you loaded nasty looking bullets. Try to use “standard” JHP factory rounds.

6. Get training – if you think you are well trained you probably need more training. As they say at Magpul Dynamics – Amateurs train until they get it right, Professionals train until they get it wrong. If you think “cup and saucer” is an acceptable grip or that you must cock your auto pistol by pulling back the slide between your thumb and finger, then you desperately need training.

7. If you have to use force to apprehend someone, remember that you are a normal citizen and that you must use the minimum force. So have an alternative (Pepper spray or baton) to use before deadly force.

Stick to these basics – add more if you like – and your firearm will hopefully never be used outside of training. Keeping yourself safe to go home to your family is your first responsibility.



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