target

The correct expression is “shoot to stop the threat.” That’s what you’re trying to do when you perforate a perp. You are NOT trying to commit homicide, however justifiable that goal may be. Even if you’re aiming at the bad guy’s head or shooting him or her point-blank. You are shooting to stop the threat. To make a violent attacker – or potential violent attacker – cease and desist. And you’re only doing so when you or other innocent life face an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily injury. If you use the word “kill” in a firearms-related comment on the Internet, to friends or acquaintances with loose lips or, God forbid, to the police, you are . . .

opening the door to legal disaster. “So you wanted to kill Mr. Smith?” “I had to kill him! He was going to kill me!” No, you had to shoot him. To stop the threat. “I had to stop the threat.” Avoid the “K word” like the plague.

There are a couple of words you can use to help you during a defensive gun use, and after. If you have  the time and enough mental focus to yell at an approaching lethal threat, shout “STOP! Don’t make me shoot you!” Not kill. Shoot. If someone hears you shout these words, it will go very well for you during the subsequent investigation.

After the event, use the words “My life was in danger” as soon as humanly possible. When calling 911 after a defensive gun use, insert that phrase anywhere. “I want to report a shooting at XXXXX. My life was in danger. I’m 5’11”, grey hair, wearing glasses and a blue T-shirt. “Did you shoot someone sir?” Either don’t answer or say “My life was in danger.” “Did you shoot someone sir?” “Please send an ambulance to XXXX as soon as possible. I’ve got to hang up now.”

The longer you stay on the line with the 911 operator, the greater the chance you’ll say something that will be used against you in a court of law. [NOTE: the 911 call is admissible evidence even without anyone informing you of your right to remain silent.] Above all, remember that words matter.

84 Responses to Guns for Beginners: NEVER Shoot to Kill

  1. “Officer, I did not shoot to kill. That man died of natural causes.”

    “Natural causes, sir?”

    “Yes, officer. It’s natural to die when a bullet goes thru your heart.”

    All kidding aside, sound advice.

    • I don’t trust myself not to say something stupid…..
      I’m going with……
      “I’m in shock…I cant talk”
      I tell the kids to say the same thing with a car accident.

      • Actually the yours is the best advice. NEVER SPEAK TO A LEO until you have spoken to an attorney. If you fire on a human, you will see a judge. Remember that “Everything you say WILL be used against you.

  2. More parsing from the land of B.S.

    Shoot to kill, shoot the witnesses, shoot the driver-burn the truck, shoot anyone claiming that you stated your premise or description of your shooting incorrectly so as to not extend over the proper terminology boundary line. Shoot everyone that thinks otherwise.

    • it comes across like arguing semantics, but then again it’s an article for those freshly into the firearm and self-defense world.

      • It sounds like a continuous fall-back (falling-back) to an inevitably indefensible position.

        “Relating to the earlier example, most [U.S.] common-law, now supports the use of a gun to kill an intruder during a home invasion. If, however, the gun is then used to kill a lookout at the curb, and/or the driver of a getaway car parked down the street, the legal support for such action falls away.
        The limitation of support is intended to remove the right of the homeowner to act as final authority (judge) over the perpetrators who do not threaten his peace directly. It is there to protect the rights of the homeowner should he/she accidentally find himself/herself in front of another person’s house, or parked in a dark running car on a street in the middle of the night. It is there, too, to limit the negative consequences to innocent nearby.
        However, prosecution of these actions, as a crime, also smacks of unsustainable conflict.
        Would not the elimination of threat from the intruding individual be positively compounded by the elimination of the accomplices [11]?
        Does it not follow that a living, breathing individual who exists in permanent conflict and, in themselves, given over voluntarily to unsustainable conflict, cannot thereafter ever be safely considered to return [to have returned] to sustainable conflict. Thereby, flight from conflict NEVER indicates departure from conflict, merely the falling-back, the retreat, AND the repositioning for renewed attack!
        Does it not follow that it is easier to eliminate all of those interested in perpetrating crime than it is to permanently eliminate the employment of any of their tools?
        Further, is not the homeowner (by example) right to immediately assume an end-game posture with everyone he encounters after being subjected to such a crime until he is absolutely certain that the threat has diminished to the point that societal agreement is again worth attaining.
        Consider too, then, how much more heinous the act of the perpetrators that permanently lessens the quiet enjoyment that the homeowner may obtain in participating in and forming new societies.
        In the legal prosecution of the homeowner, too, is it not fair to ask ‘were the intruders working for the court, or is the court now working for the intruders?’ That is to say, “Which is true? Were the intruders massing an army [the law] against the homeowner? Or was it the law that was amassing an army [the intruders] against the homeowner? [12]” [TERMS J.M. Thomas R., 2012 Pgs. 40-41]

        • Please, what is this TERMS, where can I read it, and who is Thomas R? I see it mentioned here a lot and I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

        • You may have not been paying attention this week.

          It has been decided by popular opinion of statist deviants that “common-law”, law, natural law, natures law, custom, tradition, history and the CONSTITUTION are irrelevant. In at least THREE wacko “decisions” the Leftist loons or the Supreme court say that they are in charge of all. Whatever an unelected coven says is “law”.

          Will Congress find a pair? Smart money says NO. Be very afraid

        • Once upon a time a friend was guarding his business. Early that morning two burglars surprised him and one attacked with an iron bar. He was armed with a 9mm and killed his attacker whose accomplice ran away. For months afterward he received threatening messages from the friends of the man he’d killed. It took someone with gang connections to make the threats stop.

      • It is arguing semantics but the reality (especially if your DGU occurs in a jurisdiction that is not very 2A friendly) is that semantics can be the difference between not having charges filed against you, having to go through the costly ordeal of a trial but ultimately being acquitted and going to prison.

        Also, a lot states still have equal force doctrines. If someone dies because you took reasonable actions to prevent him from assaulting or robbing you (i.e. shot him with the intent of stopping the threat) it can be legally very different than someone dieing because you decided you wanted him dead (even if the reason you wanted him dead was because he was assaulting or robbing you.)

        The best advice I’ve been given is that if you are ever involved in a DGU the only thing you should tell the police prior to talking to a lawyer is ‘I shot him because I thought he was going to kill me.’

        Disclaimer: I am not lawyer. The above is not intended to be legal advice.

  3. It would be nice if we didn’t have to play vocal gymnastics, but in a time when police care more about conviction than justice, government is a proud enemy of private citizens, common sense is anything but common, integrity has gone into hiding, and emotion rules over intelligence, it’s necessary.

    • Oh I get it alright. There is definitely a “failure,” but it should rather be acknowledged by all, that it is safer to say, when all bets are off, that “Society” is an agreement between “pairs” (STRICTLY) of people, and “the law” and other members of society, are merely the “third man in the fight” that cannot be tolerated under such activities.
      [loosely paraphrased: TERMS, J.M. Thomas R., 2012]

    • “government is a proud enemy of private citizens”

      GOVERNMENT (regardless of where you find it on the planet [if truth be told]) IS “OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE” (it is just not [as it was ordained to be here in America] FOR THE PEOPLE).

      M A K E .N O .M I S T A K E:

      GOVERNMENT IS JUST YOUR STUPID A-HOLE NEIGHBORS WHO NEED JOBS. (They can pound their un-lubed personal motivations).

  4. Martin Zale in Michigan should have taken this advice. He might have gotten off if the prosecutor hadn’t gotten him to admit that his intent was to kill Derek Flemming in a road rage attack.

  5. It also bears mentioning that you should never shoot to wound or fire a warning shot – both imply that you did not “need” to employ deadly force and that can be used against you.

    Shoot to stop the threat. Period.

  6. THE NEW 28th Amendment to the Constitution should be
    “YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT”
    when the Govt. asks you a question answer “I refer to the 29th Amendment”

  7. Shooting to kill implies a recognition of the humanity of one’s attacker and an emotional animosity towards that attacker on your part. That emotion can also result in hesitation — no sane person really DESIRES to hurt or kill another human being, at least not a stranger. I realized this over thirty years ago, just after purchasing my first centerfire handgun for self-defense. And I realized that any assailant against whom I might need to use that gun would feel no such qualms about injuring or killing ME. So, I took classes and I read books and I practiced on silhouette targets with the goal of seeing only a THREAT, a TARGET, not a human being, if the use of that gun became necessary. One does not hate targets. One does not desire to kill targets. One merely tries to shoot the center of targets until that target ceases to be a threat.

    I had an intruder break into my home last summer. He was literally one foot-step away from being shot; the decision had already been made and his “deadline” established. Luckily for him, he obeyed and lay down as ordered. When I the deputy told me I’d have been within my rights to shoot him, I told the deputy, honestly, that I was glad it had not been necessary. I did not want to kill him. But had he taken one more step he’d have been shot just above his clavicle at the hollow of the left side of his throat and the bullet would have probably exited just above the righthand point of his pelvis. That would have stopped him and that’s all that mattered to me and that’s all that SHOULD matter. Wanting to kill is for haters.

  8. Personally for me I disagree. I would shot to kill. That is what is in my mind. For me the only way to stop the threat permanently is to kill them. No and if’s or buts about it. On a side note they are not there to say they were not a threat. On the other side I would never pull out my gun unless killing them is the only way to stop the treat. That’s just me though.

    • If you ever end up in a defensive shooting, go ahead and throw that out.

      Let us know how it works out. From prison, of course

    • Just say “I feared for my life. I will speak with you only after consulting my attorney.” And then listen to your attorney. Simple stuff. I work with lawyers every day. Their job is to debate the meaning of words. These people will debate the real meaning of every word that comes out of your mouth for years, and they will not ask you to clarify it. Do not think you are smart enough to engage in a war of words with them.

  9. i get why Robert and others say this but how does this play out with the Law of Transferred Intent? In almost all cases, unless you can site some, people who act in a self defense shooting and not a false flag like the guy who shot the Frat boys because he “felt threatened”, are almost always not charged.

  10. Okay, it is a Friday and I will open up a nice big old can of worms. In the situation that you just used a firearm righteously to defend your life from a violent attacker, should you even call 911 at all to report the incident? After all, we have a Fifth Amendment right to REMAIN SILENT and NOT incriminate ourselves.

    Think about the 911 call recording. Do you sound calm and level headed on the call? Now the prosecutor can argue that you were not really in fear of your life because you sound so calm. Do you sound hysterical on the call? Now the prosecutor can argue that you were hysterical and overreacted to a non-life threatening event. Remember, it doesn’t matter if your action was justifiable. What matters is how your prosecutor can present it to a jury. The more material you provide, the more options and evidence to support those options you provide to your prosecutor. Why hand anything to your prosecutor on a silver platter? Why not make them do their job and actually work for it?

    • Not reporting the incident would go even worse for you than telling the 911 operator “he had it coming”.

      Yes you’ll sound (and be) out of sorts. That’s why Robert suggests the interaction in the article. Keep it short, give them pertinent info, do not make statements that can be used against you. Just “Send an ambulance, there’s been a shooting, my life was in danger” and nothing more.

    • Ever PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point/911 dispatch center) has a “regular” non-emergency business number. See you phone book. May be located/operated by the local PD, Sheriff, FD, City. Find out who and get the # and put it on your cell phone.

      If you shot/killed the skull do you have an emergency? Or is the ambulance call for the neighbor experiencing a heart attack, the family who has a house fire going, etc the current “EMERGENCY” to which the PSAP needs to be dispatching EMS, FIRE etc. They are going to have to track down the med examiner/undertaker anyhow. So what it the rush to have every cop in the area walking on your roses?

      The bad guy may be cooling and soiling your home but is he going to be more dead? Probably better leave him where he feel (inside your home). Note that typically, at least in my area, the Sheriff’s non-emergency PSAP number is not recorded. Still, be smart as above.

    • You don’t have to call. And if you decline to call, they can’t use that against you as evidence. But what happens if the cops eventually link you to the shooting? You’re almost definitely going to trial.

      If it’s a clear case of self defense, especially with witnesses, call 911 and you start out as the victim in the eyes of Johnny Law, not the aggressor.

      Also, if the attacker survives, tell the police you want to file a complaint against him for his criminal attack on you.

  11. Yup. If I had to deal with such a situation (I haven’t so far, thankfully), I would hope the sight of the gun would make the bad guy turn around before I fired it. If I fired it, I would hope he was wounded and stops the attack and survives without any permanent disability. I could go on, but I’m sure you can figure out the pattern.

  12. Well, if they shout ‘Alahu Akbar’ before their attack I’m definitely shooting to kill.

        • That probably wouldn’t help.
          Most suicide bombs have a remote detonator, just in case the bomber’s stupidity and fervor fade at the last second. What you need is a Faraday cage.

  13. Faced with a lethal threat and no better option to resolve it, I’m shooting to stop that threat. Might that result in a mortally wounded perp? I don’t know. Maybe?

    At that point, though, that’s pretty much between him, the God of his choice, and the immutable laws of physics.

  14. Reminds me of a friend who dropped out of a martial arts self defense class because all they taught was kill tactics.

  15. Side note: rounds in that pic would be more effectively placed around the upper 9 and 8 ring in order “shoot to stop the threat.”

    High-center chest, ladies and gentlemen.

    • Shooting center-mass makes more sense than trying to be a sharpshooter. Better chance of a hit on a rapidly moving assailant.

      • Two inches higher will move the round from around the diaphragm to the thoracic cavity and likely be more effective.

        It’s moving your aim a few inches from a distance of a few feet. Don’t blow it out of proportion.

    • The unfortunate thing about being human, I will have to rely on defensive accuracy and center mass in a defensive shoot. I train weekly at the range, and I dry fire nearly every day. I study and train often for something that will likely never happen. I read every article I can find about defensive shoots, police action, and the anatomy of a defensive shoot. If that defensive shoot ever happens, I know that statistically my accuracy will suck, my fine motor skills will be useless, and time dilation will likely happen to me. I know that my 2 inch groups on the range will not happen in a defensive shoot. I know this because, quite frankly, I am human.

  16. NO!!! DO NOT HANG UP ON THE 911 OPERATOR. Tell them everything that the writer told you to say but DO NOT HANG UP.

    • Yes, hang up. Believe me. I’ve known a whole lot of 911 operators. I get dispatched calls from them every working day. They are not tacticians. They are not self defense experts. They are not competition shooters. They have a mission to extract information from you and to protect themselves and their employers from criminal and civil liability. They’ll have your number on ID and will probably call you back. Answer if you are in a tactically sound situation to coordinate police officer entering your home, and perhaps to keep your dogs from getting shot.

    • The point of calling 911 is to get the proper authorities on the way. Nothing good can come from chatting with a 911 operator after that.

    • If called before the attack, keep them on the phone. The police are your backup, and they need to know details. During the attack, drop the phone, but do not hang up. You want that 911 call to record your “STOP!!! DO NOT COME ANY FURTHER!!”. After the shoot, stay on the phone until the police arrive and take over the scene. Just because you shot one of the bad guys does not mean he is the only one. After the police arrive, give them a description of the other bad guy, if one exist, and then say “I feared for my life. I want to speak with my attorney before I make a statement.”

  17. This may be among the most dangerous posts I’ve seen on TTAG. Magic language isn’t going to turn a bad shooting into a good one. The more you say — regardless of how you say it or how you recite the mantra of “my life was in danger” — isn’t going to change a damned thing and will likely hurt you.

    The best thing you can ever say following a shooting — if you must say something — is: “I’m happy to speak with you and detail what happened as soon as I have a chance to speak to my attorney.”

    In almost every case, if I could tell my clients just one thing BEFORE they required my services, that one thing would be to shut the hell up.

    • Nope, it’s just fine. Police union reps advise cops to say the similar things in officer-involved shootings. “I was in fear for my life. I just wanted the attack to stop, etc.” Aiming for the head or heart is clearly lethal force, and the fastest ways to stop the threat. Use the most powerful gun you’ve got available. Sure, death may be a natural result, but that’s not something that you want the family to know when they are looking to take you for every penny you own. Because you shot their son. Who was “turning his life around.” Or looks like Obama’s son if he had one, or whatever.

    • You make an excellent point about contacting legal counsel immediately after the shooting. However that doesn’t diminish RF’s point that when you do make a statement to the police, you should say you felt that you were in mortal danger and that you shot to stop that danger.

  18. Perhaps George Zimmerman is the exception that proves the rule. He is not in jail because he cooperated with the police from the beginning. They were on his side at the trial.

    • But the political prosecutor used his cooperative statements against him in court. (Apparently he had the sort of small self contradictions a reasonable person would when describing a stressful situation multiple times.

      If the cops do ask questions, tell them you’d be happy to provide a written statement after discussing things with your attorney.

      • Actually, Zimmerman’s recorded statements to the police saved him. He didn’t have to testify in order to tell his story direct to the jury. Had he needed to take the stand, he would have found out how a quickly good cross-examiner could trip up an honest man.

        • Perhaps, but if so, it was accidental. Lawyers live to debate the meaning of words, whether that is a contract or words of a defensive shooter after a traumatic event. They will spend months twisting the meaning of your words to fit a narrative. Get your own lawyer, and let them speak for you. If they speak for you, there are no words to be twisted or untwisted.

      • The prosecution’s witnesses” acted more like defense witnesses.

        My advice is get an attorney and cooperate with advice of counsel. Go follow gun watch and see how many DGUs get called good shoots.

  19. “I heard a noise and discovered an armed intruder in my house, I have subdued the intruder, I need police and an ambulance here, the front door is open and I will be the one standing.” Click.

    • I’ve got 2 Taser C2’s at home with 15′ cartridges, LED lights, and laser sights. If I can get to them and use them, they are certainly an option. I’ve used the X26 to excellent effect on a homeless guy who I thought was armed with an axe, but was in a seated position.

      • The glorious Commonwealth of Massachusetts prohibits ownership of Tasers and stun guns by mere mundanes. So I guess that if I am faced with a deadly threat, I will be required to end it with three in the t.

      • I don’t own anything “less than lethal” for the precise reason that I don’t want to have to explain “why I didn’t just tase him.”

        Because I was in fear of my life and I had no idea what he might be on would be a reasonable answer to that question, but when have you known a liberal to be reasonable?

  20. when you consider that any shooting can result in death,
    and that the constitution bans cruel and unusual punishment
    the only justifiable shooting
    is a justifiable homicide

    if the shootee survives what would be decreed a justifiable homicide, all well and good. if the shootee dies and the shooting is decreed a justifiable homicide, all well and good.

    if you conclude a the crime in question merits a busted elbow and the shootee moves and takes it in the heart, good luck explaining that

    the only justifiable shooting
    is a justifiable homicide

  21. When the armed thugs were on the porch debating to break into my house with my wife and 2 year old little girl behind me, my thoughts were to kill all three of them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Blow PC smoke at the cops and DA later.

  22. If we learned anything from the Zimmerman trial, we learned that even though all the evidence pointed to a justifiable self defense shooting, yet he still faced a trial. Zimmerman’s testimony was his 911 call. Just because the state you live in has laws to protect us when we use justifiable deadly force is no guarantee that a over zealous AG will not try to punish an individual with a trial, or cave in to public pressure.
    I might add that if we find ourselves in a situation where we used deadly force, on top of being mindful of what we say to 911, we should secure the evidence at the scene, get witness information, take pictures of the scene that might show a route that is currently blocked from being able to retreat, and have the number of a lawyer ready to come to the scene.

  23. A man kicks in a door in the middle of the night. The occupant shoots the guy in self defense. The police arrive and ask what happened. The occupant says, “What does it look like happened?”, and says nothing else knowing that the evidence will tell a clear story. Here lay a dead guy, with black gloves and a balaclava on in the middle of summer and a gun in his belt with the numbers filed off. The cop looks at the scene and says, “It looks like you went out into the street in the middle of the night, grabbed this unsuspecting man, shot him, then rammed him into your door to make it look like a home invasion.”

    Police only care about putting away the easiest person – not the guilty. They don’t care who it is as long as they get home for dinner. Everyone is a suspect and the quickest to grab is the guilty party. Detective work and critical thinking are too much.

    • It always depends on the police department and the officer. In most areas of the country, the police are usually on your side if it is a legit DGU. In many big cities and blue states, it is far less likely that the police will be on your side. In these big cities, even if the police are on your side, the DA and political establishment may not be. Regardless, the best way to handle the aftermath of a DGU is to be nice to the police, and say those same magic words they would say in the same situation: “I feared for my life. I want to speak to my attorney before making any statement.” You say this, because you haven’t a clue who is going to get this case. The police officer may declare it a legit DGU, but someone else may want to pursue charges.

  24. When I took my CCL class we got a couple hours with a lawyer who specializes in firearms law and his advice was to call 911 and say “there has been a violent incident at xxxxx” and hang up. He was also very clear on not speaking to the cops. His opinion was that when you told them you wanted an attorney that they would probably take you to jail and at that point “99% of you will beg them to hear your story.” Moral of the story was you may have to do a night in jail in order to avoid a conviction and much longer stay in prison. He even handed out a card to give to the cops that said you weren’t going to talk to them and had a place to write your ID info and lawyer’s name and # on.

  25. “Officer, that man just committed suicide in my kitchen!”

    “Suicide, sir, how could he have committed suicide when YOU shot him?”

    “Well, officer, when he broke into my home and threatened the lives of me and my family, that is a suicidal act! He deliberately ran into my bullet!”

  26. “STOP! Don’t make me shoot you!”
    Sort of like when cops are yelling “Stop resisting” as they are kicking the crap out of someone that isn’t resisting 🙂
    Personally, I’m a fan of “Don’t talk. Shoot.” If someone is actually a threat, why would I give them the advantage of a warning? My safest action is to shoot before being shot at. I’m not going assume an armed assailant has not chambered a round. If yell something that warns them I am armed, the odds shift. My carry and HD pistols are always chambered unless they are in the locked cabinet.
    Granted I’m still a noob and hope I never have to face this kind of decision. Only a closeted serial killer would ever hope to have a confrontation.

  27. I have a business card in my wallet right next to my carry permit with what to do step-by-step (including the number of an lawyer who specializes in self-defense shootings). The other side of the card has exactly what to say to the 911 operator. If the police want any other info or statements from me they go thru my lawyer.

    We all know we should practice with our firearms that we intend to use in a self-defense situation. Rifle, shotgun, handgun etc… It is the responsible thing to do. The reason we do this is to ensure we get to grow old with our spouse and kids. Sitting in jail trying not to get raped daily, is not part of the plan at all.

    It takes one afternoon (about the time it take you to drive to a range, shoot, return home and clean your gun/s). Sit down and watch some youtube videos on what ‘experts’ say you should say and do. not some post on a forum. What does that police detective want you to do (that you don’t). Look up the current phone number of a lawyer that is in your area that handles self-defense cases. You don’t want to be searching the yellow pages for a number if the need arises. An afternoon of planning, learning, and putting the important info particular to your State/local area on a little card that sits next to your permit could make the difference between you sitting on the couch watching TV with the family and hoping for an early resupply of KY-jelly.

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