After the last entry on the atrocity in Norway, the saying “An armed society is a polite society” got kicked around a bit by the commentators here.

The phrase comes from Robert Heinlein, popularized by Col. Jeff Cooper, and means that people don’t generally do atrocious things to folks who have the power to kill them. I was reminded of this rather recently upon a visit to Memphis to teach for my old friend Tom Givens, both a friend and a student of the late Col. Cooper. Tom was the founder, and remains the host, of the annual Polite Society event, named after you-know-what. This is a combination training seminar and practical shooting match, shared by armed citizens, cops, and soldiers alike. Info is available at  I’ve gone to the last three Polite Society gatherings in a row, and found them both educational and enjoyable.

Memphis is one of the most violent-crime-prone cities in the nation. Tom is the most famous firearms instructor in the city, and something close to sixty of his graduates have been in gunfights thus far. The only ones who haven’t won their shootouts were the slim few who weren’t armed when trouble came looking for them. The overwhelming majority of those who attacked them are no longer violently impolite, though many of them are rather, uh, stiff.

Upon arrival in Memphis, the Evil Princess and I decided to stock up on adult beverages (on the theory that a mellow society is a fun society). The liquor store we picked at random had a sign in the window advertising to potential armed robbers that all employees were armed.

Discussion with staff determined the fact that no armed robber had yet tried to hit the place.  When ALL the staff can shoot back, even the dimmest of primordial criminal brains can figure out they can’t kill every resisting “victim” before they themselves get blown away.

Yeah, I know: “Correlation is not causation.”  At the same time, logic is logic and biology is biology, and we can’t help but notice that the creatures with fangs and claws don’t hunt each other for their daily meat.  There is, I respectfully submit, a lesson in that…

In polite societies, fair warning is given…see arrow.


This writer is comfortable doing business with brother Rick, who carries a Beretta Cougar .40 for the protection of his customers, his coworkers, and of course, himself. 



  1. When I was a youngster in rural AZ, just about every shop keeper wore an O C firearm. It wasn’t a big deal. Seems like we had less crime. I wonder if there is any type of statistic for crime in an open carry vs no open carry state?

    Is the possibility that a potential target MAY be CC a firearm as intimidateing as seeing that same person with an OC firearm? Seems like it wouldn’t be.

  2. Woe betide the would-be criminal who cannot read their sign, or is in too much of a hurry to notice it!

  3. Sixty in shootouts, that just shows one must carry all the time. And if I’m ever in Memphis I’d be happy to do business with Rick.

  4. Saul Alinsky ,a radical communist, preached that the best way to combat those you can’t refute was to use derision. Have you noticed the anti-gun liberals deriding gun users and our 2nd amendment laws lately? I have. It’ time to stay smart, stay vigilant and remain armed.

  5. Ralph, they say ignorance is bliss and I concur, but if one is a criminal and appropriately paranoid, then that ignorance of who is carrying can become scary when in an area you know is often populated with armed folks.

  6. Mas – The previous threads where the phrase “polite society” was mentioned got decidedly less than polite. 🙁

    Yes, a number of posters were willing to discuss matters in a polite fashion even though they had strong and mutually opposing views. Unfortunately others restored to pointless name calling, making ridiculous comparisons and confusing patriotic pride with narrow minded parochialism bordering on xenophobia.

    Btw, that last one is not a fear of Warrior Princesses.


    I also think that “Correlation is not causation.” Having a society whose members believe in the rule of law, personal responsibility and respecting the rights of others is IMO is far more important to good order and personal safety than the possession of firearms.

    Not saying that personal ownership of firearms for sport, recreation or personal defence is automatically a “bad thing” though.

    Hmmm . . .

    I am sad that, Rick, a member of civilised western society feels the need (or indeed needs) to be armed as he goes about his daily lawful business, but if I ever visit Memphis, I’d be happy to shop at Rick’s.

  7. “At the same time, logic is logic and biology is biology, and we can’t help but notice that the creatures with fangs and claws don’t hunt each other for their daily meat. There is, I respectfully submit, a lesson in that…”

    Excellent point! Bravo!

  8. Long Island Mike, I had no call to price Tanqueray, but when you can find the One True Beer (Rolling Rock Extra Pale) in Memphis, it’s about the same price as anywhere else…thank goodness.

    Fruitbat, heck, I feel a need to be armed in Memphis. In fact, I feel a need to be armed just about anyplace. For that matter, it’s sad that we humans are so frail we feel a need to know CPR and other first responder life support stuff…but in both cases, it seems better to me to have and not need, than to need and not have. I’m glad you’re not afraid of Warrior Princesses, but my own Evil (Warrior) Princess read your comment and said to me, “He obviously doesn’t know me.” That about sums it up…

  9. AMEN. Don’t we wish that all businesses and homes were like this. (That’s a statement, not a question. lol)

  10. Mas, this is off topic, but if you would, please respond, and if you can, to my email. Last February I took the requalification class for my Texas Concealed Handgun License, and the instructor, one of the first in Texas, said that a jury often looks at injuries caused by using a knife in self defense as being more “injurious” than a bullet wound, probably because the knife wound looks mighty bad, no matter what the outcome is. Do you have knowledge of what juries often do when confronted with pictures of knife wounds that were inflicted in self defense?

    And a second question, too. The same instructor told the students, while on the range, to put a controlled pair into the target, then turn their heads and look elsewhere for a couple of seconds, then turn back to the target and put another into the head to finish. I was appalled at this, having been taught by Col. Cooper back in the ’60’s that what you do in training is what you will do in practice. Whatcha think? And that question is not so off topic here. Thanks for reading this.

  11. An old afican proverb “the hyena doesn’t hunt the lion” always springs to mind whenever I read an article like this by Mas.

  12. Mas – Why would I be afraid of The Evil Princess?

    I am a just and honourable man (or at least I like to think I am) and I have no intention to molest or otherwise do harm to my fellow man (human beings) as they go about lawful business as I go about my lawful business.

    Then again, as she said, I haven’t met her . . . 🙂

  13. Glenbo, not off topic at all.

    As to your first question, I don’t know of any jury studies on the topic per se, but the law itself in most states has since the 19th century reflected a cultural meme that the knife is the weapon of the thug, while the handgun is the weapon of the lady or gentleman. That’s why most carry permits are “gun permits,” not “weapons permits,” though there are a few exceptions. In short, your instructor is probably right about that.

    On your second point, I agree with you that the shooting drill you describe sounds like execution. Col. Cooper’s “failure to stop” drill, The Mozambique, was 2 to the chest, assess the situation quickly, then 1 to the head if target remains a threat. Sounds as if it has been seriously confused/corrupted in the drill you mention. I agree with your assessment.


  14. Fruitbat,

    True a good society is built upon the rule of law, but unless that law has the power of enforcement behind it then it is nothing but wasted gestures. For the lawbreakers will always be among us. And sometimes the law-abiding need to enforce certain of the laws themselves, specifically the laws which pertain to the forbidding of the taking of unjust life or of brutal wounding. That is, enforce those laws by defending oneself against an armed and violent lawbreaker intent on violating the law on your wife, yourself, or the people around you.

    There’s also a saying “Hope for victory, prepare for defeat,” meaning exactly what Mas said: “Better to have and not need than need and not have.”

    I also consider myself to be an honorable man, and part of being that is being able to protect. Part of how I do that is being armed anywhere I am. Once again, far better to have and not need, than to need and not have. Because we can prepare, prepare, prepare, but if we always leave the tools at home, then what happens when the situation arises away from home, or the tools aren’t readily accessible? So I do the honorable thing and carry wherever practicable. And it is along those same lines that I am giving serious consideration to construct a ready, emergency trauma/first-aid kit to keep in the trunk of my car.

  15. Long story short: Memphis is unbelievably horrible. It’s becoming a 3rd world county. Having worked there and been “assaulted” 3 times by vehicle and weapons in broad daylight in the good part of town, I finally resigned and moved 3 hrs away. At that time a perp attempted to force my car off the interstate into the hood. I liken Memphis to Jamaica/PuertoRico, etc. STAY IN THE TOURIST TRAPS. 2 blocks off Beale Street and you are a victim. NOBODY that I know ever goes to Memphis, not even to catch a jet.

  16. I used to work armed security. There was one place, if there ever was a stop and rob this was it, in the middle of the hood, secluded by overgrowth on three sides, on a long dead end street. Everybody in the store was armed openly. Manager, cashier, stock boy. Pretty impressive. Unfortunately, the manager was killed by a shot in the back of the head while locking up for the night, AFTER he had dismissed the security officer and all his employees. When I worked there I politely declined his offer to leave first. We departed together, safely. So as far as I’m concerned, OC works, but you’ve got to watch your back and play it smart.

    As to the 2 shot drill, I understand there may be multiple assailants, but you’re probably going to be aware of immediate threat when the attack begins. I prefer to shoot a lone attacker to the ground and he is no longer a threat, or in the case of multiple attackers, assign priorities bases on 1. the closest, 2. armed with a firearm, 3. armed with other weapons, 4. most physically imposing, 5. everybody else. Share your bullets among the worst threats, then as the situation permits, give the remainder to anyone else not running away. Based on what I’ve read about actual shootings, once you start on the first one, the rest are likely to remember they’re late for their weekly prayer meeting.

  17. Mas, it sounds as if Glenbo’s instructor wanted two to the chest then a scan for more perps then one to the head (if needed) but it sure was a confusing way to word it. I would hope anyway.

  18. Great post, Things are changing down here in Beautiful Costa Rica, Im Costarican 38 years old, regular civilian, and I do have a concealed carry permit by the Costa Rica Police and Government, Big fan of your page from some years to now, weird but brave news the other day, 2 days a go to be exactly, a Gentlemen from the north of the Country gunned down two burglars who were attempting to stole his property, they fired first with an AK47 (easy to find here, from the old Nicaraguan army) but he won the battle with a 9mm Handgun, one shot in the leg only, thanks god! quite a history to tell your grandkids I Guess… always glad of checking the page, always learn something from your wisdom,best regards from down here, and keep the good post coming, mis coordiales saludos y respetos. Sr Ayob.

  19. Mas, this is tangential to the post but I don’t mean to redirect the thread. Per the comment from Vega, I have been noticing in the last year or so that on the international front there is something brewing. In a number of countries there is a growing community of defenders of gun rights and self defense. In Canada, Australia, India, Italy etc. citizens are realizing that government tyranny and criminal threat can only be thwarted by an armed community of good people. Like the recent Middle East revolution the influence of social media, the information age, can not be underestimated. Disseminating and accelerating the information transfer and cultural cross pollination. I wonder in 10 years if there might be a substantial resistance around the world to the gun grabber UN types. Might even see the emergence of a global NRA type organization. One can only hope. I would love to get the first cross national CCW permit (that is if Constitutional carry doesn’t catch on first !!! )

  20. Glenbo- the drill your instructor had you do is NOT part of the Texas CHL course. If he’s running drills as part of the shooting test that are not part of the curriculum, he’s breaking the law, and failing to follow the curriculum prescribed by the state.

    Sounds like he learned some of the old Gunsite drills but didn’t really understand what he was taught. If two in the chest works, the bad guy won’t be standing there a few seconds later, presenting a vertical, stationary target for that head shot. If it didn’t work, training yourself to stop shooting and look away, giving the bad guy time to continue his attack, is a terrible tactic. Perhaps your instructor should take some force on force training, or watch some of the hundreds of real incident videos available on the internet.

  21. One of the things I like about Texas when I go there is that instead of the ‘You can’t carry in a liquor store’ law we have in OK, most liquor stores down there have a sign that says ‘Unlicensed carry in this store is a crime’.

  22. @Fruitbat44- My apologies the previous discussion got out of hand. The only thing I can say is this is the internet…

    Anyone ever seen the signs “Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.” I’m sure they’re meant for humor but I sometimes wonder how many people have those hanging up at their home or business.

    I wonder about criminal intelligence sometimes. Why do they attempt robbing gun stores…sure the store has a lot of guns but all the stores I go to the staff carries 2-3 handguns just on their person…

    Recently, my Significant Other and I attended an outdoor formal function. For the first time in awhile, I was restricted on what I could carry. In the end, the only thing I was able to carry was my SW442, a knife and OC spray. 90F weather and dressed up, I still managed to hide all that.

    Time to start looking for a sports jacket…

  23. I like the sign, but it is unfortunate that our society has come to this. My wife and I were in Memphis in early June, and we were both armed. But we stayed in the main areas and had a great visit. (Elvis says “Hi.”)

    There is a gentleman here in our neck of the woods of S.C. that is promoting a “Gun Friendly” sign that can be placed on a business door instead of the “No Concealed Wepons Sign.” If you were not aware of what the sign was for, you wouldn’t know what the sign was for, so the non-armed customers are not scared away.

    But it is a great idea to send a messasge to armed citizens that a store is gun friendly. And I prefer to shop in such stores!!

  24. Memphis is not Mayberry by any means, but it isn’t third world either. Sorry you had some crappy experiences, but that doesn’t mean that this is third world. My wife and I have been very pleased living here and most of the crime that we are aware of is more crime of opportunity. I know that statement wouldn’t sell any pistols or newspapers, but that’s what we’ve seen.

    Mas, what do you think about the state of Tennessee requiring fingerprinting and a waiting period to get a handgun permit? I used to live in Alabama, where all you needed was a clean record and $20. Maybe that’s the norm in most parts of the country, but it feels a bit like the law abiding citizens are the ones being treated like criminals.

    – DISCLAIMER – That comment is in no way meant to sound disparaging against any LEO or Agency. I hold the “Folks in Blue
    in very high esteem. I am also glad to see Mas’s endorsement of Tom Given’s classes/school since that’s where the Mrs. and I will be taking classes in the very near future.

    Thank you for all the inspiration Mas!

  25. Before I ever bought a gun, I rarely, if ever, thought about anyone carrying (though I knew quite a few who never went without, was even conned into joining the Navy by my best friend and his FFL father…).
    When I was stationed in VA, I would occasionally see people walking around OCing. This was brand new for me, being from TX (where our misrepresentatives barely trust us with what they *can’t* see), so I asked around.
    Yep, it’s legal.
    Nope, no permit required (was told that you need a license if you want to conceal).
    What? They sell guns tax-free at the MCX?!?!?!? (Marine Corps Exchange)

    The biggest change it made for me was that before, when I didn’t see them, I never tended to think about the presence of guns. Once I saw the first one, it put a brand-new filter over the way I saw the world.

    People. Anywhere. Can. Be. Carrying.

    I wonder if criminals would have a similar thought…maybe a single OCer would cause second (or third, fourth, whateverth) thoughts in the mind of somebody looking for an “easy mark.”

  26. @James – I do agree laws have to enforced, and sometimes – not always, but sometimes – the emphasis has to be on the “force” part.

    @Tim from CO – There does seem to be a regrettable tendency for the Internet to be treated as a shouting match, rather than a forum for exchanging ideas. That said I have always found your posts to be on the side of producing light rather than heat.

    Hmmm . . . “Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.”

    Prehaps that should read: “Trespassers will be shot, if they prove to be of malicious intent and not some well meaning joe who just got the address wrong, and survivors will be shot again, if after being shot once they continue to present a clear and present danger to life and limb.”

    Just an idea. 🙂

  27. A few thoughts-

    How about a sign

    ” Armed Robbers will be shot. Armed Law-Abiding Citizens are welcome”

    As for the Texas CHL instructor who counselled 2 shots, then “look away”, then re-engagement of the target with a head shot.

    Thats not the Texas DPS approved curriculum. It is not good tactics. This instructor is clearly misunderstanding the way to deal with a shooting scenario, and needs retraining and a good dose of applied common sense, as well as a review of the Texas self-defense statutes.



  28. To KR and others who responded to my post, thanks a bunch, and to you too, Mas. The instructor wasn’t saying to shoot twice and turn away as a part of the instruction. It was his way of trying to get people to not get too fixated on the problem in front of them. What I learned at Lt. Col. Cooper’s knee and later at Front Sight is to place 2 rounds in the thorax, look to see is someone is also looking to perforate me, and if the bad guy is still a threat, place a good one right in the middle of his face. The instructor is a great old guy, but his telling people to shoot and turn away is, to me, just bad training that could get someone killed. Thanks again to all who responded.

  29. I’m not much of a drinker, but I’d buy a 6 pack of Landshark (yes, I am a Parrothead lol) at that store just to support such right-minded businesspeople.