OK, here’s the scene. You are at a restaurant having late dinner, and your companion is unexpectedly called away. You finish dinner on your own, leave the restaurant, and start walking alone to your car.

You are in an unfamiliar part of town, and your car is several blocks away. Nobody is around as you turn down the block where your car is parked, but you are thinking how glad you are to have a gun in your purse as you consciously walk assertively.

Despite your don’t-mess-with-me body language, an apparently unarmed but large and threatening mugger picks you as a target. He steps out of an alley about 15 feet away (your car is beyond him) and asks you for money.

You think that money is all he wants, so you toss him your wallet.

He growls, “Not just the wallet, lady. Give me the whole purse.”

You tell him, sincerely, “All my money is in that wallet you already have.”

But he is not deterred. Perhaps he senses you have something of value in the purse, perhaps he just wants to be thorough. In any case, he insists, “No. Give me your whole purse.”

OK, here’s the dilemma: you don’t want to give him your gun, but refusing to give up your purse may provoke him to attack.

Because he isn’t attacking you at the moment, you aren’t justified in shooting him.

You are convinced that if you turn to run, taking your purse and gun with you, he will come after you to get the purse. True, if he comes after you, not just your possessions, you are justified in defending yourself, but that feels an awful lot like inciting him to attack, which would make you feel partly responsible for the consequences.

No cheating, now. Don’t read ahead. Stop and think about it.

What would you do?

Stop and really think about it.

This is the kind of scenario that is sometimes dangled in front of women to convince them not to carry a gun in their purse, or not to carry one at all. The idea of being in a situation where one can’t easily give up a mere purse, assuming that is all the mugger wants, makes many women justifiably uncomfortable.

Yet, a little thought (it is called advance planning, and it is good for you) may reveal a solution to this conundrum.

There is undoubtedly more than one acceptable course of action in this situation, but here’s is one that doesn’t force you to choose between shooting him and giving up your gun, and which won’t stimulate him to attack you.

Look around for the best nearby cover as you put your hand on the gun in your purse. In one motion, remove the purse from the gun (not the gun from the purse) and toss it at the mugger while you back away to create distance and head for your pre-chosen cover. At the same time, say very loudly, “Take the money and the purse and LEAVE but if you come any closer to me I will shoot!”

This gives the mugger a face saving way out (if the money was all he was after) and also lets any witnesses know that you gave him that out. Those witnesses (just because you don’t see anyone doesn’t mean they aren’t there) can help you prove that you didn’t use your gun to protect your property.

If he ignores your property and comes after you, you are definitely justified in defending yourself with your gun. If he takes the money and leaves, you can heave a huge sign of relief and head for the nearest phone to call the police.

This article was reprinted from Women&Guns Feb, 1996, Copyright © 1996, Lyn Bates