Talk to many firearm owners and ask why they own firearms and you’ll get many different reasons. Those reasons include target shooting, collecting/historical reasons, various shooting sports such as IPSC and CASS, casual plinking and hunting. There is also another reason that many of us own a firearm- and that is to defend our lives or the lives of another from the use or imminent use of force likely to cause serious physical injury or death. That reason is the “nuclear option”; the back to the wall instance where there is no other option but to use a firearm to keep yourself or others from being killed or severely injured.
It is for the last reason that many of us apply for CCH/CCW permits (in States that require them). It is why we practice and train incessantly. It is why we have initiated legal proceedings and have had cases heard by the Supreme Court to overturn handgun bans and “compelling reason” permits. It is why we study in order to be familiar with our State and Municipality’s laws regarding the carriage of arms. It is why we select the most effective cartridges for our carry guns. It is why we ensure the functionality of our carry guns. It is why we spend time on the range. It is why we practice malfunction drills.
It is a great responsibility to carry a firearm- and we spend a lot of time and money to learn all we can about the art of armed self-defense. For this article, the premise is that the unthinkable has happened. You have used a firearm to defend your life or the life of another. What you do from this point onwards can (and will) have an effect on the rest of your life. It is important to be as conversant with what happens afterwards as it is to be conversant on everything that came previously and as much as I hate to admit it, there is a LOT of bad advice on the web regarding post defensive gun usage (DGU) situations. Part I of this two part article will address some of the more popular boneheaded advice out there.
Keep in mind as you read this that I have been a police officer for over a decade and have been a firearms instructor for 13 years. The “advice” I address in this article will ensure that a responding police officer and/or an investigator who would normally be on your side turns into an adversary. Put plainly, if we respond to a shooting and the shooter is lying or has altered the scene in any way, it makes us wonder what else they are lying about. While you may eventually be cleared of wrongdoing, the process to get there will be rough and expensive- with no guarantees your legitimate DGU won’t turn into a murder charge.
Now we’ve all heard the statement “If they’re outside your house, drag them inside”. It seems to be relatively popular, mainly amongst the amateur attorney set, and crops up all over the place. If there was one piece of advice that is GUARANTEED to land you in prison for an extended stay- this is it. The site of your DGU is a crime scene. You do not, under any circumstances, want to alter the scene in any way, shape or form. It is no different than lying to an investigating officer and in some states it carries a criminal charge of tampering with evidence. Even the greenest rookie is going to be able to tell that the body has been moved and instead of your attacker being the criminal… you’re the criminal.
Another (dismayingly so) popular bit of advice is “Make sure they have a weapon in their hand”. This one could be the mating call of Northamericanus Boneheadius as it seems to attract a flock of likeminded individuals chiming in as if this was a good thing.. By introducing or removing an item, you have altered the crime scene. Go into your kitchen and put a knife in the hand of the mutt who attacked you in your living room and voila’- you are now the criminal and not the person who was attacking you. The legal threshold for the use of deadly force is that a reasonable person would believe that they are being subjected to (or about to be subjected to) force likely to cause serious physical injury or death. Objective reasonableness does not include a necessity for a weapon to be present. Read that last sentence again. Then reread it a few more times. Commit it to memory in case you’re browsing the internet and see someone post that the perp should have a weapon in his hand to remind yourself how dumb this idea is. Heck- bookmark this page so you can refer back to it from time to time to refresh your memory because there WILL be a test after class… administered by your District Attorney and graded by 12 of your fellow citizens.
The next topic is a bit more nebulous in that it isn’t a specific bit of poor advice but rather an attitude- an attitude that will get you jammed up post DGU. That attitude is “shoot to kill”. This one is a perennial favorite of the wannabe Rambos who don’t have Clue #1 and is spread all over the internet like seagull droppings behind a White Castle. The problem with this is that it runs counter to every single self-defense law on the books. The desired outcome of every DGU is to stop the attack; to make the person quit trying to harm you. The most effective way is to place your rounds center of mass. Yes, many times this will cause your attacker to join the great silent majority but the intention was not to kill but to stop the attack. A good phrase to commit to memory regarding this bit is “I did not shoot to kill, I shot to LIVE”.
Going further with this mindset are the ninnies who expound on “Finishing the job so the cops only get one story”. Those of us in Law Enforcement call that course of action “Murder”, as do District Attorneys and 99.9% of the American population (with the other 0.1% being the knuckleheads saying “Finish the job”). Those that seek to do others harm can be grouped into three general categories: Those that will give up when they see you armed, those that will give up once they have been shot, and those that will only give up when they drop from hypovolemic shock and hypoxia. No matter which type you have encountered, once the attacker is no longer offering violence towards you, stop shooting. No matter what they were trying to do. No matter what they have just done. There is no “unless” or “but”.
You. Stop. Shooting. Period.
Of course there is a lot more bad advice floating around out there on the internet that can (and will) turn a righteous DGU into a bad shoot. I have taken the most prevalent, and unfortunately the most popular, ones out there and used them as examples. Part II of this article will address how to navigate what comes after a DGU including how to respond to officers who arrive on scene.
- Mr. Decker
Blog posts are original content written by 1MMAGC moms and dads.