One of the chapters in my upcoming book deals with the legalities of shooting someone in self defense, and in it I make the point that there are perhaps situations where you could, legally, shoot someone - but might not need to do so. I think it's an important distinction.
Many of my students ask when they're allowed to use deadly force, and while knowing the legalities of what you can and can't do is vital** I believe it's also important to focus on the idea of need. Our self defense laws are set up to allow us to use lethal force when the circumstances are so dire (the likelihood of our own death or crippling injury) that it's necessary. In other words, when we really need to use lethal force is usually when the law allow us to do so. There may be situations, however, when we're legally allowed to shoot but we really don't need to.
Focusing solely on the criteria under which you're allowed to shoot someone, I think, is misguided; from a training standpoint I believe that it's important to focus on recognizing those situations where you need to, when there is no other course of action that you can take in complete safety which will ensure your survival in that instant. Those are the situations where the law is most likely going to be on your side.
Here's a short video from the Personal Defense Network which talks about this concept, and the difference between "can" and "need".
-=[ Grant ]=-
** - the best place to get that kind of legal training is still MAG-20 from Massad Ayoob. Joining the Armed Citizen's Legal Defense Network is also a great way to learn about the legalities of self defense, through their video series on the topic. It's sent free to all registered members and is updated regularly.
While I was in Connecticut the last few days, I read two stories of stupid people using guns: one in my own state of Oregon, where a fellow had his gun confiscated because he fired a warning shot at a suspected burglar; and another in my neighboring state of Washington where someone shot and killed a thief who was taking his car.
In both cases the shooters were quite obviously uneducated as to the responsibilities that go with their right to keep and bear arms. Together they show us that we are sometimes our own worst enemy.
Neither incident met the classic definition of when it is legally permissible to use lethal force: when you are faced with imminent and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily injury due to the actions of another. In Oregon, the shooter heard someone trying to break in his back door and fired a warning shot to scare the presumed thief away. In Washington, the shooter left his car idling in his driveway with the keys in the ignition when the thief jumped in to steal it - then shot at the fleeing vehicle, killing the thief.
In neither case, if the information we have now is correct, did the situation warrant firing a shot or even presenting a firearm. Warning shots are always a stupid idea, and shooting at someone who is running away with your possessions is almost always against the law. Lethal force is to be reserved for those cases where your life is in immediate danger, not in cases like this.
What is more disturbing is the way certain segments of the (presumably) law-abiding firearms community reacted to each of the cases. In the Oregon incident much was made about the fact that the shooter was a military vet and that it was somehow wrong to confiscate a veteran's rifle over a 'mere' warning shot. The sad fact is that he broke the law; he recklessly endangered the people around him, and he used a weapon illegally by discharging it when it wasn't necessary to do so. The charges he's facing are legitimate, because he abrogated his responsibilities as a gun owner.
In the Washington case the shooter has far fewer defenders, largely because the person who was stealing his car died of his wounds. Still, there are those who decry the fact that the shooter is being charged with First Degree Manslaughter for protecting his property. Again, a little education would have gone a long way: shooting at a fleeing felon, except in a few very rare and very specific instances, is not lawful behavior. This instance was a mere property crime, and doesn't even begin to approach the legal standards regarding fleeing felons.
These cases illustrate why I believe that your legal education is as important as your shooting education. For years I've recommended that everyone who has a gun for self protection take Massad Ayoob's two-day class in the judicious use of lethal force (MAG-20/Classroom.) Ayoob's class is the closest thing we have a to a gold standard in the shooting world, recommended by a wide variety of shooting authorities who may never agree on anything else. If you haven't taken that class, make the investment. Had these two uneducated gun owners taken that class, I doubt that either would be facing the serious repercussions of their thoughtless actions.
Another way to provide for your own legal education is to join the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. Aside from their financial and legal support in the aftermath of a self-defense shooting, membership comes with a seven-hour DVD course on the legalities of self defense. The DVDs are from recognized experts in the field, and have been vetted by attorneys who specialize in self defense cases. Highly recommended.
It's painful to see one of our own suffer for his poor judgement, but as responsible gun owners we can neither support nor defend their reckless actions. They can and should be used as object lessons for the rest of us: with rights come responsibilities, and being ignorant of the law will get you into trouble. Take Ayoob's class; join the ACLDN. Learn what you can and cannot do with your gun before something like either of these cases happens to you.
-=[ Grant ]=-
When I was visiting with Massad Ayoob up at Firearms Academy of Seattle last spring, he mentioned that he was doing an article for GUNS Magazine about the hammerless S&W J-frames, and asked me for some opinions. Gail Pepin took some pictures, and today you can see the results over at GUNS Magazine.
Click here to read the article.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Lots of stuff going on and lots of things pulling me in different directions this weekend - all of them shooting related, in some fashion.
On Saturday ace gunsmith and all-around good guy Todd Koonce and his fiancee Amanda Anson were married. Sadly I had a prior commitment and couldn't be there, but I'm happy for the new couple. (Todd's the guy I pictured hovering over his bluing tanks in the Book Of The Revolver, and is soon to be seen in another book. Shhhh - I can't talk about that just yet!) They're great people and I hope they have a long and wonderful life together.
Sunday my wife and I made our way up to Firearms Academy of Seattle. I was there last weekend teaching Combat Focus Shooting with Rob Pincus, but this weekend we were there to catch up with Massad Ayoob and Gail Pepin, along with Marty and Gila Hayes and several other folks that we don't get to see all that often.
Rob was able to stick around to take Mas' MAG-20 (classroom) course, and came away with a sentiment similar to that which I've offered on many occasions: it is really a "must" course for those who are serious about keeping a firearm for defense. It covers all the “stuff” - the legal, practical, and ethical things - that you aren’t exposed to in courses that teach you to shoot. Mas is still THE GUY for this kind of information, and you should seriously consider signing up for that class.
Several people came up to me during the breaks to express their thanks for this blog and my book. Most bloggers are obsessed about the number of people who read their work, and it's easy to forget that it's not about the numbers - it's about how you can reach and help other people. It's really quite humbling to know that somewhere out there are real folks who appreciate what you do.
We arrived home at 1:AM this morning, tired but very happy that we've been privileged to know the people we do!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 Filed in: General gun stuff
Those of us who know Massad Ayoob chuckle at his self-proclaimed aversion to technology. My favorite "Mas-ism" is his oft-repeated line "to you it's a computer...to me it's a typewriter with a suppressor." Yet his supposed technophobia hasn't stopped him from writing a pretty good blog over at Backwoods Home Magazine.
(I’ll digress just a bit to tell you that he also writes a monthly column for BHM. BHM is a magazine about country living, but without the shallow yuppie poser crap -- pardon my French -- of Mother Earth News. My wife and I have subscribed to the magazine since before we even knew who Mas was, and today it remains one of the few we still look forward to getting. If you're a country type, or perhaps aspire to being one, you should subscribe. End of commercial.)
Anyhow, this week Mas starts off his Christmas gift guide with the Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver, and says some very nice things about it too. Thanks, Mas!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Gila Hayes over at the Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network (ACLDN) just posted a very nice review of The Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver in their monthly journal. (In the interest of full disclosure, Gila is both a friend and the person who introduced me to my publisher. She is also known for her scrupulously ethical writing, which makes me doubly proud of her review.)
For those waiting for my book to come to the iPad, the publisher assures me that it's coming "soon" to the iTunes Bookstore. Not sure what's taking it so long, but they tell me the delay is on the iTunes end of things. As soon as it shows up I'll let you know.
(Speaking of the ACLDN - are you a member yet? The ACLDN is the premier organization for anyone who keeps a gun for self-protection. It's not unusual for justifiable self defense cases to end up in the courtroom, and the ACLDN provides support to its members should that ever happen. They also provide educational resources, attorney and expert witness referrals, and much more.
Take a good look at their benefits, look at the renowned experts who sit on their board, and seriously consider putting all that to work for you by becoming a member.
I know there are competing organizations with similar-sounding products looking to make a quick buck from you, but the ACLDN is where your money should go - they're the professionals. Regular readers know this isn’t the first time I’ve praised the ACLDN, and I'll continue to do so because I believe they are the best and most trustworthy resource in the field.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
Monday, January 11, 2010 Filed in: Techniques & Training
I got an email from Massad Ayoob recently, in which he told me about his new venture: the Massad Ayoob Group (MAG). He's got a great website where you can read the official announcement.
While the curriculum will be new, the principles he teaches aren't. No one knows more about the legal and ethical side of deadly force, and his updated classes will build on that expertise. I asked Mas about how the new curriculum will translate to his old courses:
"I'm trying to keep the new curriculum such that, say, an LFI-I in a previous course will be acceptable as a prerequisite for second level with [the Massad Ayoob Group.] The analog to JUDF, for example, will be MAG-20 Classroom, with the suffix indicating the hour number. The commonality goes two ways: just as I'll structure MAG-80 so it will be suitable for an LFI-I graduate, I'll make sure MAG-40 gives the student strong enough a foundation to be an acceptable prerequisite for an LFI-II."
For those not familiar with his work, 'JUDF' refers to 'Judicious Use of Deadly Force' - perhaps his best-known course and the gold standard on the topic. The live fire accompaniment to that will be MAG-20/Live Fire, and the two combined - what corresponds most closely to the old LFI-1 - in updated form will be called MAG-40.
The Massad Ayoob Group also signals a new emphasis on teaching lawyers how to handle self defense cases. In conjunction with the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, he's initiating his Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes. First in the new schedule is "Defending the Deadly Force Case", already on the calendar for Anchorage and Seattle this year. He tells me that more are in the works.
That's particularly important news, as it ensures that there will be more properly trained counsel to help you and me if we ever find ourselves in court. This is the kind of class that Mas is uniquely qualified to teach, and it's great that he's taken up the cause.
Check his site; if he's teaching anywhere near you, take advantage of the opportunity to learn from one of the good guys.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Last week I discovered that Massad Ayoob has gotten together with some of his friends and started a podcast. (Yes, that Massad Ayoob; the proud and unrepentant technophobe, the man who has proclaimed - in public and multiple times - that to him the computer is "nothing more than a typewriter with a suppressor." With this project, his reputation as a Luddite may experience a steep decline; when he starts toting around a PDA to check his email, however, I'll know the world is coming to an end!)
Anyhow, the ProArms podcast deals with guns and shooting - no surprise there! It's a roundtable format, with Mas and the crew discussing various guns and shooting topics, interspersed with interviews of industry luminaries. (They've already managed to snag, in one fell swoop, three of the most important women in the defensive shooting world: Gila Hayes, Vicki Farnham, and Kathy Jackson. Those are the kind of interviews that you just won't hear anywhere else.)
Though Mas is obviously the main draw, the rest of the cast are phenomenally experienced shooters in their own right. You may never have heard of people like Jon Strayer or Herman Gunter, but in the southeast part of this country they are well known and respected arms experts. You'll grow to appreciate their informed commentary.
The ProArms podcast even has a pretty good website, where you can learn about the show, the crew, and listen or subscribe to the podcast. Of course, like any podcast worthy of the title, it's available on iTunes as well.
-=[ Grant ]=-