Defensive DVD Review: Legalities of Non-Lethal Force

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Defensive DVD Review: Legal Considerations Of The Use Of Non-Lethal Defensive Force
Presented by Marty Hayes, Kerry Tanner, and Rob Pincus
Published by the Personal Defense Network as part of the Personal Firearms Defense DVD series

This is an interesting DVD in the Personal Defense Network’s series, interesting in the sense that it doesn’t deal with the use of lethal force. It does, however, address the idea of using the threat of lethal force and with the use of decidedly non-lethal force. The DVD is a collaboration between PDN and the Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network.

Most of us in the “gun world” spend our time talking about shooting techniques, the fastest way to reload, and in general those things that involve pulling the trigger and making noise. Some of us also emphasize the need for the legal understanding of the use of lethal force: when you can and when you should (which are two very different topics!)

This DVD, on the other hand, talks about the use of force below actually shooting someone and the legalities of the use of non-lethal force. It’s more complex than you might think!

It starts off with Rob Pincus giving an overview of the whole concept of force in self defense. As we learn, we don’t need to go as far as the “worst case scenario” to find a need to use some level of force, whether implied or overt. However, any use of force — no matter what level — will have consequences and a possible legal aftermath. Self defense is doing what you need to do in the moment, but you need to make sure that what you’re doing is the right thing to do!

Marty Hayes, the President and Co-Founder of the ACLDN, takes over to discuss the topic of of pointing a gun at someone. This is an area which many people really don’t understand; we frequently see news reports of situations where otherwise good guys point guns at people who really don’t need to have guns pointed at them, and end up in legal hot water as a result. Hayes goes into detail under what circumstances you would legally be allowed to commit an assault (pointing a weapon at another human being is an assault, it’s just that sometimes it’s a justifiable assault!)

He gives accounts of two court cases where someone pointed a gun at another person for what they thought were legitimate reasons. In one case that threat of lethal force was justified and the subject emerged a free man (though only after a hung jury and the judge dismissing the case with prejudice — a close call), and in the other that same threat was deemed not to be justifiable and the person is now in prison. He details why the actions of one were justified and why those of the other were not. I liked the case examples, as being able to take dry legal theory and apply it to a real person makes it much easier to grasp.

As Hayes points out, your use of any level of force requires you to be able to articulate both the factors which lead you to your decision and why that decision was correct given the totality of the circumstances. This is a theme that will be repeated several times throughout the DVD.

He then dives into what is one of the more confusing topics in self defense: the charge of brandishing. Hayes goes out onto the range and demonstrates the various ways in which you might be deemed to be brandishing, and particularly why they’re generally a bad idea to begin with. He’s very clear when he explains that brandishing is a dangerously grey area of the law, with each jurisdiction often taking a different interpretation the word from that of the jurisdiction next door.

Rob Pincus invites in Kerry Tanner, a retired law enforcement officer, to talk about what happens when a police officer rolls up on a scene where someone has threatened to use a firearm. As you might guess that’s a pretty delicate situation, and he takes some time to suggest how you might handle that interaction. As his explanation unfolds it becomes clear that there are four different levels of the use of a gun — from telling someone you have it, to having it in hand but not pointing it at anyone, to actually pointing it at another person, to actually having to shoot someone. Each of those levels requires a different cause and a different explanation to the responding officer of why you did what you did.

Hayes comes back for the next section, where he shows the viewer how to take someone at gunpoint. He goes into great detail about the process and breaks it down with explanations that make it clear why there is a specific procedure to handle such a situation. As he points out, there are lots of ways in which this action can go wrong both legally and tactically, and he recommends that people practice this just like they’d practice their shooting skills. Given the consequences of a mistake, that’s sound advice!

The DVD finishes with an exploration of the topic of using non-lethal force against non-lethal force. Hayes again leads off with a quick overview of the concept of appropriate levels of force, then uses role players to show different types of non-lethal force: empty hands, a striking/control tool like the Kubaton, and finally chemical sprays. Pincus and Tanner follow that up with a quick discussion about how police officers sort out a call where non-lethal force has been used. Tanner explains that the officers will be looking for the primary aggressor, and that person then needs to be able to articulate his actions in a way that is justifiable under the law.

The overriding point of this DVD is that every use of force, no matter how minor, can lead to legal problems if you don’t understand how it’s viewed by responding police and the justice system. This is, I think, an important addition to the PDN series of defensive DVDs. It could have been a very dry and boring presentation, but the use of role players and live examples both explained the concepts and made for better viewing. I think this is a DVD that I’ll be recommending to my students simply because the information is so hard to come by in the defensive shooting world.

Legal Considerations Of The Use Of Non-Lethal Force is available at the I.C.E. Store, and I’m going to recommend that you buy copy for your legal library.

-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-

Disclosure: This DVD was supplied by the Personal Defense Network for review. I am affiliated with PDN as a contributor and have taught with Rob Pincus in the past. I receive no compensation should you purchase this DVD.

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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