The Bystander Effect and Self Defense

In the words of New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, “I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you do, you’ve got to help your fellow New Yorker,” while calling the lack of action by the passerby’s in the beating of the elderly Asian woman “absolutely unacceptable.”
Read about that here.

Ignoring how ironic this is coming from a Mayor that has done everything within his power to limit the ability for individual’s to defend themselves inside of New York City (such as being arrested for attacking the Asian woman’s attacker more than likely), let’s talk about the psychology of this a little bit.

Have you ever heard of the Murder of Kitty Genovese? I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t. It’s a murder that happened in the Queens borough of New York City back in 1964. A couple of weeks after the murder an article was put out by the New York Times that claimed 38 witnesses in total saw or heard the attack and none of them tried to call the police or tried running to Kitty’s aid as she was stabbed in the back. While it later came out that the New York Times exaggerated (greatly) it still sparked the interests of psychologists in what is now known as The Bystander Effect.

Side Note: I don’t think I’ve seen so much irony in a single article I’ve written. New York Times being outed as being flawed in their reporting… and a Mayor that’s actively campaigning against self-defense/defense of others calling the lack of unacceptable.

The general idea around The Bystander Effect is that people walking by will think one of three things:
1. Someone else will help/It’s not my job
2. They think of the negative consequences of intervening
3. That the individual doesn’t need their help.

While there have been a handful of different studies into The Bystander Effect that show that many times Bystanders will in fact help, there’s a lot of evidence that it comes down to cultural differences. In an area where self-defense of any kind is frowned upon, or people are raised believing that law enforcement will always be there, bystanders are going to be less likely to act in the defense of others. In areas where there’s a Duty to Retreat (such as New York City) or that punishments can be handed out for defending yourself/others, bystanders will be even less likely to act in the defense of others (or themselves).

The evidence is anecdotally supported by what happened in New York City and the only school shooting I can think of that has happened in my home state of Indiana since I’ve been alive. Before I talk about what happened, let’s talk about the typical mindset of a Hoosier. Here in Indiana we’re stern in the beliefs of, “Mind your own business. Never start a fight, only end it.” People are raised to stand up against the school yard bully, they’re raised to defend themselves, and they’re raised to defend their own no matter the costs; jail time be damned.

Back in May 2018 there was a school shooting in Noblesville’s West Middle School. Sparing the details, only two people were injured and none were killed thanks to the actions of a science teacher by the name of Jason Seaman. As the school shooter came into the room Mr. Seaman threw a basketball at the child shooter, got him into a bearhug, and took him to the ground while telling his class to evacuate and to call 911. He was later quoted in saying, “…the only acceptable actions I could have done given the circumstances.”
This is how people act in a state that supports acting in self-defense and the defense of others. It’s how people act in a state where you’re raised to mind your own business.

The next time you see something like what happened in New York City, ask yourself where it happened. Ask yourself what the politics are or what the average mindset might be of a citizen there based on the politics. Regardless of the politics on firearms, the incident in New York City, and the possibility of The Bystander Effect are why:
1. Everyone should take/raise their kids to take responsibility of their own safety
2. Everyone should push for some sort of defensive laws
3. Everyone should push for the eradication of Duty to Retreat laws.

An individual should never be forced by law to retreat from an attacker and an individual should always be supported by the legal system when they were acting in their own defense or the defense of others. This shouldn’t be political, this shouldn’t be debatable. This is a human right.

Sign-up for Updates & Deals!



Michael AKA TacCat got his start on Facebook as a meme lord while his original website took a backseat. After getting the zucc he decided it was time to get a new project started...

Continue Reading

Related Articles

Birdshot is bad

Fighting Fudd Lore: Birdshot

There was a lengthy discussion about shotgun loads with the article from Greg Ellifritz I shared on Facebook. Specifically, several people insisted that his conclusions

Read More »
Dry Fire Training

Dry Fire Training

This is apart of our comprehensive beginner’s Guide to Concealed Carry, read the rest of it here! When it comes to becoming a competent concealed

Read More »