An Attorney’s Best Advice For New Gun Owners – Guns for Beginners

Attorney Advice Gun Owners Training Firearms Academy Seattle


By James E. Oliver

“What’s the best advice for a new gun owner?” is a question I sometimes get at dinner parties, or from new clients. In those situations, I generally get a little background info from the person that guides my answer. For purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that the new firearm owner has no military, or other weapons handling experience.

If that’s the case, then my advice is that every firearm owner absolutely requires basic gun skills training by a certified instructor in the gun owner’s home state, or state where he/she will be carrying. I emphasize “home state” training because most reputable firearms instructors will include training on local gun law.

We’ve all seen the memes and posts by the anti-2A crowd stating that only police or military service members should be allowed to carry guns. That’s not an uncommon opinion, especially here in the People’s Republic of Western Washington. In all of my gun trials, jurors have cared deeply about whether a shooter was properly trained, and whether he acted in conformity with that training when he drew or shot.

I recently tried a brandishing case in which my client, a former Navy Master at Arms, was accused of flashing his SIG P320 to stop an attacker. Fortunately, most of what my guy was accused of doing was tactically and legally sound when he drew his pistol to stop a younger and more aggressive man from assaulting him.

The jury believed that my client should have retreated (it was a Seattle case), but they still acquitted him of all criminal charges. They felt that he used the least amount of force necessary to prevent the altercation from escalating.

They liked that he first issued a warning, was mindful of what was downrange, and spoke authoritatively about his training and desire to not hurt anyone. His training was essential to getting the acquittal.

I, like many shooters, am a firm believer in the old adage “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.” I’m also a believer in hedging your bets, so if you’re going to own a firearm, then get training and shoot regularly.

Follow up on that training with more training, and more shooting. If I could give you two pieces of advice, it would be to also develop a relationship with an experienced gun attorney before you need one.


This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 



  1. avatar Sam I Am says:


    1. avatar frank speak says:

      learn the law…and your rights under it….

  2. avatar Michael says:

    Amen…and more and more…and practice… perfect practice makes perfect. And, don’t talk to anyone except your attorney, we have a right to remain silent, we need to remember to use it. Let’s not win on the street and gaff it in the Court. Best article I’ve seen in a long time. 30

  3. avatar Salty Bear says:

    I’m guessing the jury probably also liked that he was a former member of the only-they-should-have-guns group.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      In Seattle? I doubt it. People who are comfortable with violence are considered a disease.

  4. avatar Mike Oregon says:

    First rule of rule of survival, don’t panic. Training wide competence, competence aids confidence, confidence aids in not panicking. Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t do it wrong.

  5. avatar what would spock say says:

    The legal training is a great idea and I wish state PD’s would release (for free) a video for ccw holders that go over all the local minutiae that can get well-intentioned people in trouble. Storage laws, castle doctrine, duty to declare to law enforcement, best way to handle traffic stops to avoid pucker factor on both sides, brandishing, duty to retreat, when it is ok to cross state lines to use a range and when not, etc…so many legal booby traps out there that shouldn’t be that only affect folks trying to do everything right.

    1. avatar GunnyGene says:

      I would not trust what the local or State PD has to say on the subject. Too often they are way behind the curve when it comes to the law, or they hold the opinion that no one but them should be armed. I’ve seen that happen. Their job is simply to arrest whoever for whatever, and you get to argue your case before a judge. They are not lawyers, or judges. They are cops. Period.

      In MS right now, we have a case that has gone up to the State Supreme court about exactly this kind of thing, involving certain county sheriffs that object to the State laws about carrying.

      1. avatar frank speak says:

        laws are constantly changing…join the NRA…and religiously read their literature and updates…it’s a legal minefield out there…

  6. avatar L says:

    Completely disagree about requiring training from an instructor. Gun safety is incredibly simple, just follow a few simple rules and understand a few things related to function such as clearing a gun includes clearing the chamber as well as the magazine. Follow, follow, follow those rules and eventually it becomes habit.

    Even good stance and grip can be done without an instructor. I’ve done it myself through years of trying different things, reading up online and watching videos and lots… lots… LOTS of practice.

    1. avatar Phil Wilson says:

      In fairness, what the author was talking about was potential jury perception, which may or may not have much to do with objective reality, but their decision is legally binding nonetheless.

      1. avatar L says:

        The part where he said getting training was required was before he even mentioned anything about using a firearm in self defense or juries. But yes, in that case you want to CYA and do everything you can to make yourself as appealing as possible to the jury.

      2. avatar Sam I Am says:

        Got my attention when the author stated his client had testified to his training and capability. Sorta goes against the “say nothing” mantra.

        1. avatar Rusty Chains says:

          That “say nothing” is in regard to talking to police. Unless you are a bad guy, you want to talk to your lawyer, and it would be a good idea to be able to document the training you received with a paper trail. That said you are better off if you are defending yourself from a bad guy where the DA and juries don’t suck. Remember the bad guy chooses the time and place, if you aren’t there then he isn’t your problem.

        2. avatar Sam I Am says:

          Rather thought “say nothing” included not taking the stand. Could be misapprehension on my part, but the article seemed to indicate the defendant testified before the jury.

        3. avatar J Gibbons says:

          Any self-defense claim won’t get very far if you refuse to take the stand during your trial.

        4. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “Any self-defense claim won’t get very far if you refuse to take the stand during your trial.”

          You’re saying asserting an affirmative defense doesn’t require the prosecutor to prove you didn’t act in self-defense?

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:


      For better or worse, most people in our society love credentials and formal training. Your personal training and self-assessment, while exemplary, carries very little weight with most jurors. Formal training is the key to a jury seeing you in a more favorable light.

      And after typing this comment (before the few minutes to edit has expired), I see that your comment above reflects the same idea.

  7. avatar Jross says:

    I’d say write down the serial number as a first thing to do.

  8. avatar Old Region Fan says:

    Mr. L ‘Years of trying different things” could have been years of doing things right, had you learned the right way early on. I coached elementary wrestlers for a long time, I told all the first graders, If your teacher tells you CAT spells dog, all the practice in the world will still cause you to loose the spelling bee. FIRST. Hopefully as early as possible, learn the proper way, then practice.

    1. avatar L says:

      In doing something incorrectly before correcting it, you understand why right is right and wrong is wrong. Doing something because someone told you isn’t the same. I’d rather understand than know. Experience is the better teacher for me. Just my .02

      1. avatar Defens says:

        You are certainly entitled to your *opinion*, but multiple studies have proven that it takes far more repetitions of a task to unlearn incorrect behavior than to learn it correctly in the first place. As a Certified NRA instructor and an Associate level PSIA ski instructor I can see from many years of experience that it’s much easier to teach a “green” person without previous experience to ski or shoot than it is to reteach one with bad habits already ingrained.

        Presumably, “learning” from YouTube videos also presupposes that the dude doing the video actually knows what he is doing. That is seldom the case.

        1. avatar Red in CO says:

          Very true, and the Army has had a similar experience. At this point, a not-insignificant number of top scoring recruits in basic training have zero prior shooting experience. No bad habits to unlearn….

  9. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    Interesting….guy drew his pistol and gives a ‘verbal warning’?

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “Interesting….guy drew his pistol and gives a ‘verbal warning’?”

      In general, one could say that “giving” a warning is no different from launching a warning shot – threat was not imminent. However, all law is local. Need an attorney who understands the local terrain, and what “sells” a jury.


      formal training could bite you if the prosecution takes the tack that you had plenty of training, and thus you knew better than whatever, making you doubly guilty.

      1. avatar J Gibbons says:

        Huge difference between a verbal warning and a warning shot in any state.

  10. avatar Gman says:

    I sure hope that picture is not indicative of proper training.

  11. avatar Scott says:

    I am also a lawyer, and I disagree. The training I received from my father, who qualified as Expert with a rifle in Army basic training, has been quite sufficient. No certified instructors have been needed.

  12. avatar Michael B says:

    Concealed carry insurance is not a bad thing, at all, to have. No matter how ‘in the right’ you are, you may end up in court like this fellow did — for ‘brandishing’ a weapon. What did that cost him to exercise his right to defend himself — and he didn’t even shoot the guy? Yet he ends up in court.

    I got the USCCA insurance a few months ago. I read about enough situations — this one is a perfect example, it seems — where you’re clearly, unquestionably in the right — and you end up in court. The thousands of dollars in fees begin. Doesn’t matter if you’re trained, or whatever. This guy was. And he ended up in court.

    I carried for quite awhile without the insurance. I’m glad I have it now. No, I’m not a pitch man for USCCA. There are other carriers. I’m just glad I have it. If it happens, at least you’re not alone.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      It’s looking more and more like liability insurance is a good idea. Lets’ hope the powers to be don’t mandate it like car insurance because it’s going to be MORE expensive if they do.
      I see a ridiculously high level of coverage so the lawyers can feed along with conditions that would make it hard to carry anywhere and even harder to make a claim if you cleared leather.
      The insurance business is not there to pay claims it’s there to collect premiums. But cops have their union, qualified immunity, a 3 day get your story straight period, and friends on the force. We don’t have shit. So in the absence of that safety net carry insurance is the next best thing.
      I suggest carrying a card for a good attorney. I’ve got one and he can do federal cases. Not cheap but he’s good. And if I call him it will be money well spent.

      1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

        “It’s looking more and more like liability insurance is a good idea.”

        Not so sure on that one.

        Isn’t “liability” an admission or determination of responsibility-guilt?

        That feeds the Leftists the idea that all gun carriers are nothing more than potential murderers…

        1. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “Isn’t “liability” an admission or determination of responsibility-guilt?”

          Just like automobile, business and personal liability insurance.

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      would strongly recommend this…if you plan to carry a gun around….

  13. avatar anarchyst says:

    Police automatically get 72 hours in which to “get their story straight” after a shooting, whether in uniform of off-duty. No such “right” exists for the ordinary citizen who is involved in a justified “use of force”.
    The best course of action for a civilian in such a situation is to request medical attention as soon as the cops arrive. This will delay their questioning, as one can state that he is too “shook up” to talk about the situation. Get a lawyer and SAY NOTHING…

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “request medical attention as soon as the cops arrive. This will delay their questioning,”

      Nice idea, but….

      plan on being taken to the ER in cuffs. Requesting medical attention will not delay an arrest.

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        No but when under the care of a physician you can avoid being in their little room with video cameras and no bathroom breaks for 3 hours. When your attorney shows up the cuffs can be carefully removed and he can discuss what happened with the government representatives.

        When a round leaves a barrel the fun begins.

        1. avatar RAM says:

          I dont know where people get this idea that police have days to come up with a narative. If we get into an OIS webhave until the prosecutors office investigators get there. Statements will be made as soon as possible. You also have to make a statement to Internal affairs, you have no 5th ammendment with them. I think it shoyld be mandatory for a wait period to jnterview and self defense shooting suspect regardless of leo or not.

    2. avatar Michael B says:

      Best advice is what you said: say nothing to police. Get a lawyer. Immediately.

      There is nothing you can’t say later to the police — with a lawyer, through your lawyer — which has to be said at the moment. What you say can, and will, be used against you. What you say is rarely if ever used FOR you.

    3. avatar strych9 says:

      Get a lawyer and say nothing…

      You can stay quiet as long as you like. 72 hours 1237 hours… whatever. The problem is that most people can’t STFU.

      As for the “little room”… This is where you use your words. “Am I under arrest?” If the answer is “No” then just fucking leave saying “My lawyer will get ahold of you”. If they won’t let you leave then demand an explanation of why you’re being detained. If they cant give you one (by providing probable cause or articulating reasonable suspicion [a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of breaking the law] that you have committed a crime), leave.

      They won’t like it but they can’t stop you.

  14. avatar TheBruteSquad says:

    Seems like the best advice for getting a sympathetic jury is DO NOT LIVE AROUND LIBERALS.

  15. avatar Aaron M. Walker says:

    Nothing like lawyers helping to reason away everyone’s constitutional rights…Nothing says gun control than mandating “Mandatory Safety Courses” before being able to purchase a firearm..Or adding other hurdles to a constitutional right…Like local/state police permissions, or permits/licensing…Sounds almost like The People’s Republic of M–Assachusetts…

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      they just keep adding hoops to jump through…join groups that actively combat this..there’s strength in numbers….

  16. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

    “it would be to also develop a relationship with an experienced gun attorney before you need one”

    Absolutely. Professional criminals pay lawyers in advance for defense in the future. Civilians who carry should do the same. Don’t be caught out with no legal representation should you have to draw your firearm. You carry for the extremely possibility that you may need to use it, why not prepare for the likelihood of legal problems should you do. Consider it the same form of insurance as concealed carry is.

  17. avatar Wood says:

    What constitutes a jury of my peers? Well, my peers are gun owners, not progressive wankers.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      unfortunately your perception…not their’s

  18. avatar Docduracoat says:

    Another vote for the USCCA insurance.
    It’s only a few hundred dollars and a lawyers retainer will cost at least $10,000 to $20,000
    It pays for bail, retainer, stand your ground hearing, investigators etc.
    I also recommend one of Andrew Brancas legal courses.
    He has state specific legal courses for every state.
    They are eye opening!

  19. avatar Bruce Clark says:

    Good sound advice except he made one glaring omission. Get a good Insurance plan to help pay your court costs and paying for a bottom feeder lawyer such as him, he’ll probably cost you $100,000 by the time he gets done. LMFAO.

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