How to Deal With Someone Threatening You With a Weapon

Man pointing gun
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If you come face-to-face with someone threatening you with a gun, knife, or any other weapon, there are steps that you can take to make the situation less dangerous.

Stay Calm

The most important thing to do will probably be one of the most difficult things to do, and that is to remain calm. Remember that you will need all of your mental facilities to increase your chances of gaining control of the situation, and if you are in a state of hysteria, it is unlikely that you will be able to maintain mental clarity.

It is likely that the person holding the weapon on you will not be calm and if you exhibit high anxiety, there is a good chance it will increase their anxiety. Screaming can be particularly dangerous in this type of situation because it can cause the assailant to panic or anger them because you refuse to be quiet. Remaining calm can have the opposite effect.

Make Eye Contact

It may be difficult to believe, but many criminals who pull weapons on people have the ability to mentally dehumanize their victims. If you make eye contact, it makes them view you more as a human being and less like a disposable object.

Figure Out the Assailant's Goal

There are certain common scenarios that result in having a weapon pulled on you. If the purpose is to kill you, then you would likely already be dead. Mass killers enter schools, places of employment, malls, etc., and just start shooting either randomly or with predetermined goals such as shooting at specific a group of people.

Most criminals who point a gun without shooting it hopefully do not want to shoot it. Their goal may be to rob you for money to buy drugs, a car for a joyride, hold you hostage to get out of a crime gone bad or kidnap you for money. Most of the time in these types of situations the weapon is being used to control you, not necessarily to kill you.

Follow Instructions Calmly

You want to follow the instructions of the person who has the weapon but do not do it without communicating what you are about to do. For example, if they ask you for your wallet, before reaching into your purse or pocket to get it, say to them what it is you are about to do. Then do it slowly and calmly.

Do not make it appear that you have any other intention other than to do what it was that you told them you were going to do.

Do Not Challenge Them

If you have always wanted to be a hero, now is not the time to do it. Not only could it cost you your life, but it could also cause harm to others. Being physically or verbally aggressive to the person with the weapon will do nothing but ignite the situation.

Trying to grab the weapon will likely get you killed or seriously injured. Resisting their instructions will not only anger them, but it will also force them to show who is in charge.

What you want to communicate to them is that you plan on cooperating.

Talk to Them, But Carefully

If you have an opportunity to engage the assailant in light conversation, try to direct the conversation so that they talk to you about themselves and subtly feed their egos by making them feel that you think what they are saying is intelligent and has merit.

Not only are you trying to connect to their human side, but you also want them to believe that you do not feel you are superior to them.

If you do get into a conversation, keep your voice low and your sentences short. Ask questions and avoid talking too much about yourself. They want you as their audience, not the other way around if there is an opportunity to inject something short and personal do it.

For example, if they say what high school they went to, you may want to ask them if they knew your friend who went to the same school, even if that friend does not exist.

If a controversial subject comes up such as politics or religion, this is not the time to get into a debate. Appear interested in their opinion and if asked, tell them that you can tell they know a lot about it and you can see their point of view.

Remember What the Assailant Looks Like

Try to notice what the person holding the weapon looks like, but do not stare at them and rather than trying to figure out their weight or height, pay attention to something that is distinguishable, like a tattoo, gang symbol, birthmark, moles, and scars.

Being Held Hostage

A hostage situation has different dynamics than armed robbery. If, for example, you work at a bank where a robbery attempt has gone bad, and you are being held hostage, do as you are told and remain very quiet. Your goal should be to appear as invisible to the person holding the gun as possible.

If you see a chance to escape do it, but only if the probability of your escape being successful is high. If the assailant is negotiating with the authorities and you are chosen as one of the hostages to be released - go. It may be hard to leave your fellow employees or friends behind, but you staying behind will do nothing to improve their situation. It will simply anger and frustrate the person telling you to go.

Remember that in hostage situations the police are probably making plans for your rescue and your best chance of survival is not to be the main focus of the assailant. You want to try to position yourself as far away as possible from them as possible.

If the criminal is talking with a hostage negotiator and the talk breaks down, the next step might be that sharpshooters start to take aim. You want to avoid being grabbed as a human shield or inadvertently shot by a flying bullet.

Distance away from the guy holding the gun is the best way to go.

When to Stop Cooperating

Unfortunately, there is no way to say for sure that any of these suggestions will keep you alive. Paying attention to your common sense and instincts will ultimately be your best chance of survival. However, there are times when doing everything a criminal is telling you might not be the way to go, but again there is no cookie-cutter instruction book to follow.

Carjackings can be particularly perilous if the carjacker insists that you remain in the vehicle or instructs you to drive. Any diversion that you can think of to avoid this situation could increase your chances of survival.

Carjacking victims have pretended to faint outside of the car. Others who have been forced to drive have driven into poles or parked cars in well-populated areas, but again every situation is different, and you must rely on your own ability to access the situation and try to find the best way out.

After the Ordeal is Over

After the ordeal ends and if the police are not on the scene, call 9-1-1 as soon as possible. Notifying the police quickly will increase the chance of apprehending the suspect and preventing future victims. Provide them as many details as you can and be available for follow-up interviews.

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Montaldo, Charles. "How to Deal With Someone Threatening You With a Weapon." ThoughtCo, Apr. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/someone-threatening-you-with-a-weapon-972952. Montaldo, Charles. (2017, April 2). How to Deal With Someone Threatening You With a Weapon. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/someone-threatening-you-with-a-weapon-972952 Montaldo, Charles. "How to Deal With Someone Threatening You With a Weapon." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/someone-threatening-you-with-a-weapon-972952 (accessed December 12, 2017).