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As frequently seems to be the case, Hollow Point Ammunition: A Basic Rationale, inspired a large number of comments. Two in particular, however, are often heard in discussion about the use of deadly force. Reader “Former Water Walker” wrote: “Good post. Well except for the verbal gymnastics of ‘stopping,’ but not wounding. Of course I want to wound some criminal when I stop him. Or kill him…” And “Hannibal” agreed . . .

I get a little tired of the semantics as well… given that the means of ‘stopping’ someone in this case involve putting holes in him with metal until enough of his blood leaks out to put him into hypovolemic shock or his nervous system shuts down I think we can safely say we’re shooting to kill.

I’ll not be addressing the primary physical mechanisms of stopping human beings by shooting them here. That’s an article for another time. But as a teacher of English and a former police officer and teacher of police officers, I know it’s important to discuss the semantics of the use of deadly force. Keep in mind that I am not an attorney, and every gun owner is responsible for knowing the law where they live and travel, however, there are some universal legal principles.

To review: one may employ deadly force when faced with an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to oneself or another. The three elements that must be fulfilled are means, opportunity and jeopardy. One may use deadly force against a criminal when that criminal has the means–a gun, knife, baseball bat, shovel, etc.–the opportunity–they’re close enough to use their weapon–and are placing their victim in jeopardy, which means they’re actually doing something, or are seconds from doing something, that a reasonable person would believe would put them in danger of serious bodily injury or death. They’re demonstrating the imminent intention to kill–in mere seconds, not minutes, hours or later–or are actually acting on that intention.

One additional element is proportionality, but this is an element generally fulfilled not by the attacker, but by the victim. The primary exception here is in disparity of force. The law will give more latitude to a slight women attacked by a much larger and heavier man, even if he is not armed. Men are generally capable of seriously injuring or killing most women with their bare hands, and the courts recognize this.

Being legally authorized to use deadly force, one may shoot their attacker with as big a gun as they can carry as many times as necessary to stop the attack. If the attacker dies as a result of being stopped, too bad for them, but one shoots to stop, never to kill. One may shoot only until the point that a reasonable person would believe the attacker is incapacitated–the attack is over–and at that moment, may shoot no more. If one bullet stops the attacker, that’s great. If eight are required, that’s legally proper, but not nine. Using more force than a reasonable person would believe necessary to stop an attacker can instantly turn a victim into an attacker.

And this is where words matter.

The law is words. In the application of the law, at the level of the police, for prosecutors, at trial, and for judges at the trial and appellate levels, words matter. They define what is and is not permissible. The Halbig decision, for example, and the future of Obamacare, hinges on a single word: “state.” The Affordable Care Act–Obamacare–says, in clear language, that subsidies are available only to those obtaining insurance through exchanges established by “the state.” Rationally, an appellate court ruled that “state” means state, and not federal government, which caused the Obama Administration and the progressive architects of the law to claim that “state” really means “federal government,” and that’s what they intended to write all along, “so ignore what the law really says and enforce what we meant.”

It’s possible the Obama administration might get away with such linguistic slight of hand and misdirection, but no gun owner should expect any court to read the law so sloppily, or to smile if a defendant’s lawyer tries to do the same. The two words at issue are: “stop” vs. “kill.”

If the three elements are present, if one is lawfully justified in using deadly force, obviously the application of that force might kill an attacker. It is, after all, potentially deadly force, and American law recognizes a difference between homicide–the unlawful killing of another–and justifiable homicide. One may legally kill, but one may never legally murder.

That being the case, why dance around the word “kill?” Why is saying “stop” a smarter idea? Because words, in common usage and in the law, have denotations and connotations. Regardless of the denotation–the dictionary definition–of a word, people often hear, react to and act upon the connotations of a given word, particularly when those connotations have a strong emotional component.

The denotations of “stop” and “kill” somewhat overlap–take the links; you’ll be surprised by all the definitions–but in the context of the application of deadly force, “stop” most obviously means to keep from carrying out an imminent or in-progress action. This is an essentially neutral verb. “Kill,” however, inescapably means to end–to take–someone’s life. It produces images of blood, violence, tears, heartbreak, loss, shattered lives, lost love, and more. Whether one took that life lawfully or not, the negative, emotion-charged connotations cannot be avoided, or controlled.

In the aftermath of the use of deadly force, emotions run high, which is the last thing anyone forced to use deadly force should want. Not only will the person forced to defend themselves be subject to powerful emotions, so will any witnesses, the police, and to a lesser degree, prosecutors and judges. Remember: the standard by which one is judged is that of a reasonable person. Would a reasonable person, confronted by the same circumstances, have believed they had no choice but to employ deadly force? Regardless of whether they were entirely justified, reasonable people, people that want to stay out of prison, do not say: “Yeah, I killed the scum, and he deserved it.”

Perhaps he did. Perhaps society is better off because that particular armed robber was killed by a 90 pound, 5 foot nothing woman who was a better shot, but the moment that convicted felon died, he became someone’s meal ticket, a saint, and a potential recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Every gun owner that carries a concealed weapon should have an attorney experienced in defending self-defense cases on retainer. This is a booming field of law, and firms across the nation provide these services for reasonable yearly fees. Among the first things such firms will tell their clients is should they be involved in a shooting, they must say as little as possible to the police–to anyone–until they have had the opportunity to speak with their attorney. Most would suggest that the first phone call should be to their attorney, then the police.

When the police arrive at the scene, they won’t know who did what, who violated the law and who is a danger to them. If you had to defend your life, you must expect to be arrested. You must expect your life to change forever in ways you can’t imagine. But you must remain silent, except perhaps to say: “he pulled a gun on me, said he was robbing me, and forced me to defend my life. I will speak with you after I speak with my attorney.” You’ll want to blurt out your emotions; don’t do it. The police will record whatever you say. They will use it against you.

No rational person wants to kill others, even violent criminals. It’s not like the movies or TV. You can be glad you were able to quickly stop the aggressor so that you and others weren’t seriously hurt or killed. But you should never so much as suggest that you’re glad you killed them. You want to present yourself as the innocent victim forced to stop a violent, deadly assault on you or others. No rational person wants to be put in that position.

If you come across as anything less than an innocent, unwilling victim, it’s much more likely that the police will arrest you, that you’ll be prosecuted, and that you’ll be convicted — even if the letter of the law is in your favor — despite the law’s denotation, because people will act on the connotations. Ask any competent defense attorney which word he prefers.

But can’t you stop someone without killing them? Doesn’t this mean you should shoot to wound? Absolutely not. You always shoot to stop an attacker as quickly as possible. To do less will cause the police, prosecutor, juries and judges to doubt that you believed you were lawfully authorized to shoot in the first place. Consider too that merely wounding an attacker does not stop him. All it is likely to do is make him less mobile, and perhaps, more determined to kill you. If he is wielding a gun, that’s obviously a bad choice.

Shooting and quickly stopping a moving human being under deadly stress is difficult indeed. It’s not uncommon for even police officers to empty their guns at criminals at inside-a-phone-booth range and miss every shot. It’s always better to keep it as simple as possible. Shoot for center mass, shoot to stop, to stop because if you did not, you surely would have suffered serious bodily injury or death. Do not speak about it with anyone but your attorney, because there is always the possibility of criminal prosecution and civil suits to compensate the family of that saintly potential Nobel Peace Prize winner for their immeasurable loss.

In deadly force encounters, what a victim says is very important. It can mean the difference between being free to recover, or being thrown behind bars and losing every penny you could ever own. It’s not just “semantics” or “verbal gymnastics,” it’s using the right words that express exactly the right sentiments and intentions, that avoid evoking uncontrollable connotations, and that put you solidly on the right side of the law.

Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.

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  1. Ummm…nice quote? May I add I hope I don’t ever have to shoot anyone. I know enough not to be gleeful if I had to fire at someone. It’s not just 90 pound women who get some leeway. I’m in my 60’s & I guarantee that would work in my favor.

  2. “To review: one may employ deadly force when faced with an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to oneself or another.”

    No offense, but that is incorrect.

    By that standard a rapist about to be shot by his victim would be entitled to use deadly force against the victim to avoid his own death or injury. Which is not, obviously, the law.

    Similarly, the 16 duty-to-retreat states might have something to say about the failure to note the legal duty-to-retreat. And even many of the 34 so-called “Stand-Your-Ground” states still demand retreat under a variety of circumstances that often trip up well-intentioned armed citizens. (If anyone thinks that the legal doctrine of “stand-your-ground” completely takes the issue of retreat off the table in a defensive shooting, you misunderstand either its scope or limitations or both.)

    As the author notes, words do indeed matter, especially in the law. The absence of controlling words also matters.

    I would suggest that there’s a certain hazard in beginning a column with the words “Keep in mind that I am not an attorney” and then writing >1,700 words on “universal legal principles,” especially when one apparently has only a loose understanding of what the law in this area actually demands.

    Caveat emptor.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    • One other little tidbit. Quite a few states authorize the use of deadly force to stop the commission of any violent felony against persons or property. No direct threat to the shooter is required. In fact, simply tying to break down the door of a dwelling constitutes the “commission of a violent felony”.

    • In most states, there are laws which state that if you kill someone while committing a forcible felony (rape is one of them) then it becomes murder, thus making the rapist in your scenario a murderer.

      • Sure, because the rapist fails on the element of “innocence,” required by the law of self-defense in EVERY state.

        My point was precisely that the author’s stated law of self-defense: “To review: one may employ deadly force when faced with an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to oneself or another” fails to capture that element, which is one of the ways in which it is an incorrect statement of the law.

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    • The article is clearly written for the perspective of a stand your ground state. The article applies even in my partially-communist state of California. I’m not sure if NJ is different. I also took “check your local laws” and “have an attorney on retainer” as a significant disclaimer.

      • “The article is clearly written for the perspective of a stand your ground state. The article applies even in my partially-communist state of California. ”

        FYI, California IS a stand-your-ground state.

        Indeed, California is the MOST AGGRESSIVE stand-your-ground state in the country.

        In California, the jury will be instructed that not only did the defendant have no duty to retreat before acting in self-defense, he can PURSUE HIS ATTACKER if necessary for his safety. See CALCRIM 505.

        No other state has such an aggressive stand-your-ground jury instruction.

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      • …every time I hear someone try to downplay, justify, or tiptoe around the subject of rape, I get this gut feeling that they’re the kind of person we have in mind when promote self-defense to our lady friends.

    • “By that standard a rapist about to be shot by his victim would be entitled to use deadly force against the victim to avoid his own death or injury. Which is not, obviously, the law.”

      Alrighty then, smartypants. How should that paragraph be written? Give us some useful information.

      • You’re looking for a comprehensive generic deadly-force self-defense statute that encompasses all five elements of the law of self-defense? Sure, here you go:

        “Deadly defensive force may be reasonably used to stop an imminent and otherwise unavoidable threat of death or grave bodily harm to an innocent.”

        See the five elements of the law of self-defense?

        1. Innocence
        2. Imminence
        3. Proportionality
        4. Avoidance
        5. Reasonableness

        You’re welcome. 🙂

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        • “Even a criminal can defend himself, and he’s not innocent.”

          You understand that one must qualify to argue self-defense at trial? It’s not some kind of inviolate human or Constitutional right, it’s a traditional legal defense you can easily lose entirely if you don’t meet the necessary conditions, jump through the right hoops?

          Because if you don’t know that, you ought to learn that.

          Or not. Up to you. Whatever.

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        • Even a criminal can meet the requirements to claim self defense.

          And they have. There’s precedent.

          • “Even a criminal can meet the requirements to claim self defense.”

            In some states.

            But “innocence” here refers to the actual physical conflict, not some ancillary crime.

            The aggressor in the physical conflict cannot justify that use of force as self-defense. Period.


    • Dear Andrew:

      No offense taken. And thanks for your comment; it’s appreciated, as always.

      Perhaps “general principle” might have been a better choice than “universal principle,” but I trust readers understand the intent.

      I recommend Andrew’s book “The Law Of Self Defense” to all TTAG readers. It deals with the topic in a way that no single article can, and has useful information about each of the states. As I noted, everyone is responsible for knowing the law where they live and travel.

      Thanks again!

      • Hey Mike,

        Very kind of you. 🙂 This is, of course, a tricky area of the law–and perhaps I should have prefaced my original comments by noting that you clearly know more about the subject than 99% of lawyers out there.

        Normally I’d offer to send you a complimentary copy of my book, but it seems you already have one.

        If, however, you know a deserving person who could benefit from a copy, I’d be happy to send you that complimentary copy to pass along. If so, you can email me a mailing address using my first name (at) lawofselfdefense (dot) com.

        Oh, and if they’d like an autograph (I know, but some folks do, don’t ask me why) I’d be happy to do that, as well.

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      • Second this comment. Law of Self-Defense is a great book and should be read by anyone who carries or keeps a gun in the home.

        Mike, I enjoyed the article. I think Andrew’s comments are correct, but the overall point of your post is spot on – Words Matter.

      • Third this comment…;)

        When I first started considering buying a handgun for self and family defense several years ago, I did a lot of reading and found some of Massad Ayoobs writing on the law of self defense to be very helpful, to the point that Mike is making here: now the laws in YOUR state before you consider making the decision to use deadly force, and make sure your actions are defendable in court. One innocent “common sense” mistake, and you could spend thousands in legal fees, or time in jail.

        I also read that laws change over time, and vary widely between states, and case law further defines how the laws are interpreted. And be VERY wary of what you read online…if only because the legal jargon is so unfamiliar from a laymans perspective, that a well meant effort can fall short, due to subtleties impossible to cover in the space provided.

        So if you are traveling, and intend to be armed, Mr Branca’s book is indispensable, IMHO, as is further study in your home state. I’ve taken the time to find someone to call and have that card in my wallet, even tho my personal hd situation is relatively low risk, as you never know when that might change, and you want to know the rules, how you will react, and that your plan is wise in advance, and you have help to explain the same, to the cops or jury, if it comes to that.

        You wont do your family any favors selling the house to pay attorney fees, or put them on the street, if you spend time incarcerated for a boo boo you could have avoided with a little education.

    • Your explanation misses one key point. In order to claim self defense you must not be the aggressor. Whether you are a rapist or start a bar fight you can’t use self defense statutes, in court, to excuse your actions.

    • I’m guessing that you missed the word imminent. Imminent meaning that retreat is impossible. Also turning the very accurate statement used around to apply to a rapist is an obvious attempt to poison the conversation. The article was not addressed to criminals or rapists, obviously. It was addressed to the every day law abiding citizen. Nitpicking is just unnecessary douche baggery. The condescending tone in your comment falls into that category as well. The main point of the article which applies regardless of a law degree is that you shoot to stop the threat and you use proper articulation when asked to explain what happened. Some of those “duty to retreat” states have no such thing in their state code. For example, my home state of Virginia is considered a “duty to retreat” state. We also are sometimes considered a castle doctrine and a stand your ground state. None of these concepts are explicitly stated within the state law. These things have been ironed out by case law. I suggest you change your presumptuous tone and nitpicking in order to show your legal prowess. It does nothing but put you in the aforementioned category of douche baggery. That being said nothing in the article was incorrect.

  3. Excellent article!

    Also apply same brevity of words to 911 operator, those are recorded too.
    Who, what, where, why (hint “was in defense of my life”) then hang up phone!!!

  4. Pretty much. Shooting to stop means that the goal is defend oneself and stop the attack, whether that takes one flesh wound from a poor first shot or a full mag into the bad guy’s chest. So long as the threat is stopped, you shouldn’t much care whether the bad guy is running away unharmed or just needs a band-aid or is badly wounded or is assuming ambient temperature. All are good results that achieve the goal of your safety. Shooting to kill is problematic because it implies that you’ll keep shooting even after the threat is stopped.

  5. We’ve heard from several LEOs that they were trained to empty the mag. They have different definitions of “stop”, perhaps?

    • Do not ever make the mistake of imaging that cops and non-cops will ever be held to the same standards on use of force. Ever. Cops can get away with uses of force that a civilian would never get a pass on. Happens all the time.

      One recent example is the Joseph Walker acquittal in MD. No non-cop would have escape a murder conviction in that state under that fact pattern.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      • Sort of my problem with the Military & Police Tacticool crowd. The mere serfs must play by a stricter set of rules.

    • There are indeed different standards, and there are wrongful shooting investigations, holes in houses, and dead dogs which clearly attest to the facts that police need more stringent scrutiny.

    • Well, for what it’s worth, I was NOT trained that way and no such language was used.

      We were trained to stop the threat.

      Maybe it’s changed since way back then. It has been nearly two decades since that training.

    • WHAT?

      Where are these guys cops? That’s ONE OF the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard! I haven’t heard of ANY department that teaches that. If that’s true (what they said, not your saying it), that department would open itself up to incredible amounts of liability (not to mention negligence) if they ever got into a shooting!

      Please take what SOME cops say with a grain of salt and get your own firearms and legal training!!

  6. One thing I have pondered is that if A bad guy should pull a knife on me, at close range, and I am forced to shoot him to “defend my life” of course, will I be justified, if in a panic situation, to empty a 7 round magazine on him, in short order.
    One could argue that one or two shots could have stopped the threat. One could also argue that when the perp is in your face he must be put down immediately, before he uses the knife.
    I would hope that after the event, I could regain enough to tell the officer that “I was in fear of my life” and nothing else!

    • The greater your use of force, the easier the prosecution’s narrative of guilt and the more difficult your narrative of innocence.

      But obviously surviving the fight must be the first priority.

      Any prospective legal difficulties become somewhat less pressing if one has lost a deadly-force encounter.

      I give hundreds of hours-long seminars on self-defense law every year, and I start and end every seminar with that precise point–the first priority is to win.

      The second priority, having won, is to not spend the rest of your life rotting in prison.

      With appropriate knowledge of the law, and how it is actually applied in real-world self-defense cases, there need be nothing inconsistent between those two goals. Each of us can build a legally-sound self-defensive strategy that works best for our circumstances, if we’ve made the effort to learn how.

      Ignorance–whether tactical or legal–is our greatest enemy.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  7. Eh, I’m fine if an attacker stops without being wounded. If he (lets be honest here) stops at the mere sight of my gun, or if I just miss and the sound stops him, and he complies and lies down and waits for the police to arrive and arrest him, then I’m fine with that outcome.

    I don’t take “stop” to be a euphemism for “wound” or “kill.” I recognize those are very likely to be synonyms for “stop,” but my goal is still only to stop an attacker, further implications be damned.

  8. @larry,
    i doubt they were officially trained, but i bet they were advised. emptying the mag helps insure there is only 1 side to the story.

  9. “The law will give more latitude to a slight women attacked by a much larger and heavier man, even if he is not armed. Men are generally capable of seriously injuring or killing most women with their bare hands, and the courts recognize this.”

    This statement is pretty dangerous, and better left unsaid. There better be a whole lot of abusive or violent water under that bridge if you shoot someone YOU KNOW is unarmed. “But a punch could kill you and I thought he was going to punch me” is a ticket to prison…

    • Totality of circumstances and full array of facts are the key. Armed or unarmed is only one (sometimes tiny) slice of the pie.

      If “imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury” is met, the details of armed or not are far, far less important.

      What McDaniel was alluding to with that comment was disparity of force, and it is a very real component of these cases – especially if the opponents are small woman and large man.

      Oh, and “history of abuse” might make good TV on the Lifetime channel, but THIS case will generally be decided on THESE facts.

      There need be no history of abuse, anyway. The victim does not even have to know the attacker. Unarmed man tries to rape an armed woman?

      That’d be his mistake. He chose his victim unwisely.

  10. Has there every been a case of someone shooting a home intruder where the victim shot the intruder from inside of a safe room or hardened area through a gun port? I’d imagine that the perp shouldn’t have threatened to burn down the house.

  11. also, what is the likelihood that comments made here or elsewhere online might also be used against me if i had to defend myself in court?

    • “also, what is the likelihood that comments made here or elsewhere online might also be used against me if i had to defend myself in court?”

      The prudent person would assume the likelihood is 100%, and conduct themselves accordingly.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      • Very true. I have had people on forums go on about gunning down crooks for trying to steal a Wally World DVD player. Stupid.

      • MOut of curiousity, as I’ve read one coment about “comments in online forums being subpoenable”, are you aware of any cases where a gun user was tried and anonymous blog comments were discovered and used?
        How would that work, on a blog such as TTAG, where posters use screen names? Vs say Facebook, where presumeably everyone uses their real name, and is location tagged, with timelines for every stupid thing you say saved in the massive data aggregation for sale of your personal info business model works there.

        Not to be paranoid, just aware that any stupid comment can be misconstrued by someone with an axe to grind (misogynist, by MDA Alinskyites, to use one example),
        and wondering how that can be used or abused in a court of law…)

        Feel free to use CA for your example, IF YOU’d like specifics, Mr Branca, for the hypothetical.

        • It’s a great question, and I wish there was a simple answer. Unfortunately, state rules governing the admissibility kind of evidence vary considerably state-by-state, and further there is ENORMOUS discretion placed in the hands of the judge. Then layer on top of that the always present vagaries of a given self-defense fact situation (e.g., your “We don’t call 911” sign on the front door of your home might be more relevant if you shoot someone on your porch than if they are breaking into your place of business).

          The bottom line is that if you can’t be certain that a given social media comment CAN’T be used against you–and you can NOT be certain–then the only safe position is to assume that it CAN be.

          But, really, that’s just common sense, right? Frankly, we shouldn’t feel as if we’re “hiding” such comments. Just don’t be/think that way (e.g., unlawful use of force), then you won’t say/post such things, and there’s nothing to worry about. 🙂

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        • Once they get your computer they can find out what sites you visit. These sites require valid email addresses. It is not all that hard to find out what you have said on the internet. If you can’t, or don’t want to, defend a statement in court don’t publish it on the internet. Once out there it can’t be removed.

    • That’s a good reason not to ” use your real name instead of you company name or keyword spam.” Few search warrants are served to get access to computers in a self-defense shooting.

      • “Few search warrants are served to get access to computers in a self-defense shooting.”

        Few is not “none.” Just depends on how motivated they are. If they’ve charged the defendant (e.g., you) with murder, they’ll get whatever they care to get their hands on. A murder prosecution gets all kinds of search warrants.

        Comes down to the same answer in every scenario: You can’t be sure they WON’T get your social commentary, so the prudent person must assume they WILL.

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        • With that amount of fear there is no need for the government to censor us, we will have done it to ourselves.

  12. I believe the best thing to say when you call 911 is ; I’ve been assaulted , I had to defend myself.. and repeat the same when the police arrive. say no more until your lawyer arrives.

  13. “I’m glad I was able to stop him. I’m not glad that I had to, nor that he died due to what I was forced to do.”
    “Why did you shoot him 11 times?” -> “Because he didn’t stop after the first 10.”

    You had to stop him
    Putting holes in him is the best way to do that
    The consequences of those holes are not something to be joyous about

  14. Really? So shooting someone 11 times when they aren’t even coming after you isn’t okay?

  15. It isn’t possible to cover every avenue of self defense, but my personal plan is to fire 2-7 rounds center mass at a lethal threat if I’m armed with any of my typical .357, .40, or .45 ACP handguns, and one round if I’m carrying my 12 gauge 00 buck followed by a quick evaluation of effectiveness. Of course multiple targets complicate matters greatly, and will cause me to go into single or double tap mode. Reaction time and stress clearly come into play, and I’ve been fortunate enough that I didn’t have to shoot in my DGU’s, which were all on-duty.

    A DGU with shots fired is a mix of tactics, lawyers on both sides, judges, and juries. There’s also an idiotic media that one may have to deal with. God only knows what juries will come up with, because they are easily the most stupid and unpredictable element in the LA County judicial system. In Orange County, the average IQ is roughly 30 points higher than LA, and the population is also more Republican / conservative. I’d much rather have an off-duty DGU in the OC than LA. Since it isn’t possible to control when and where you are attacked, one must first survive the fight before one is possibly faced with the legal battle.

    Knowing your local laws is helpful, but then again there is also potential to be that martyr who shines light on how asinine some gun laws (such as 10 round mag limits) are.

    Civilians are doing a better job with DGU’s overall than cops, and I’ll do the best I can on-duty or off.

  16. Good artice. I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations on a law firm in the bay area in Northern California that I can call and and talk one on one with an attorney (I would pay of course)? Articles are great, but I think that nothing beats face to face conversation with someone.


  17. Hi Bill. I live in CA and have done a little bit of homework on this:

    1. – lots of attorneys post there, and there are regional forums that I am sure would produce some recommendations from customers in your area.

    2. Not sure if they are taking on clients in Bay area, but expect they could give you a referral or two.

    They are the west coast coordinators and attorneys for Peruta. You can get a useful info kit, and a book similar to Mr Brancas, that is CA specific.

  18. Looking at the map, it looks like the rural states that are armed to the teeth, ironically have less defensive gun use than a lot of other states. Indiana and Kentucky are really very gun friendly.

  19. Having an attorney friend; he has stated trying not to get in a situation where you have to shoot is the best policy. The attorney friend also states having a gun can give you a false sense of security. Not having to shoot is best, if possible.

    • “Having an attorney friend; he has stated trying not to get in a situation where you have to shoot is the best policy. The attorney friend also states having a gun can give you a false sense of security. Not having to shoot is best, if possible.”

      Agree with first and third sentence, 100%. My first rule is run, run, run, so long as safely possible. And if you HAVE to make that loud noise, it’s highly unlikely your life will ever be quite the same again.

      Bottom line–don’t ever, ever, ever shoot. Unless, that is, you have a really, really, really good reason for doing so.

      Second is really a function of a person’s maturity. I’ve never found this to be true for myself–I run given the slightest safe opportunity, and I consider myself as well-armed and trained as reasonable circumstances allow for a non-LEO carrying concealed.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  20. In most DGU’s no weapon is ever fired as the mere presence of a good guy with a gun is enough to stop the bad guy. Many and probably most DGU’s involve handguns. Eighty percent of people shot with handguns survive. Given this any claims that defensive gun use is meant to kill is ludicrous. The perpetrator may die but that is a byproduct not the goal.

    If this terrible day ever comes, state that you feared for your life, point out any evidence that might disappear like a knife or a gun, say you will cooperate after you have spoken with your attorney, then shut up. Expect to spend the night in jail.

    • “Eighty percent of people shot with handguns survive. Given this any claims that defensive gun use is meant to kill is ludicrous.”

      I can assure you that the courts consider the shooting of someone with a handgun to be the use of deadly force, even if 80% of them end up surviving.

      And I can assure you that an intent to kill may ALWAYS be inferred from the use of a deadly weapon–and that a gun discharged at a person is always deemed a deadly weapon.

      All the clever world play in the world doesn’t change one whit how the courts apply the law to actual self-defense claims in trial.

      That line about “80% of people who are shot with handguns survive, therefore I had no intent to kill” isn’t going to get you very far. At. All.

      But if it does, let me know, I’ll include it in my next book.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  21. While I don’t disagree with the article above, I’ve got to disagree with the concept that we good guys in defending ourselves or our loved ones (or strangers for that matter) should be restricted to some “reasonableness” standard in the face of an unreasonable action by a bad guy. Why must we be hamstrung when our assailants don’t follow the ‘rules’?

    • “Why must we be hamstrung when our assailants don’t follow the ‘rules’?”

      The lawful ALWAYS play under different rules than the lawless.

      Or why bother?

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  22. One of the issues here is that it is much easier to ‘kill’ someone than to ‘stop’ someone.

    • What? Umm… No. You are much more likely to wound someone with a handgun than kill them. And, unlike in the movies, weapons aren’t death rays that throw people 10 feet. Even in combat there are more wounded than KIA. People can survive an amazing amount of damage.

      • I read a stat once that on average about 80% of victims with a single gunshot wound survive but about 80% of victims with multiple gunshot wounds do not survive. If you put a 9mm round in each of someone’s lungs and one in his liver he will not survive, but it will probably take 15 minutes for him to lose consciousness. If he has a firearm you have not stopped him, but you have already mortally wounded (killed) him. Therefore it is easier to kill someone than to stop someone. On the other hand if someone comes after you with a knife and you shoot him in the kneecap at 10 yards you have stopped him without killing him (provided you don’t miss and hit the femoral artery), so it is possible to stop someone without killing them, but it’s easier to aim for center mass than the kneecap.

        Usually in battle soldiers give up the fight once wounded. They also tend to be shot in the extremities at extremely long range and get wounded by shrapnel. Our soldiers also cover their vital organs with hard plate armor that can stop a 7.62×39 round at close range. Very different set of circumstances than any civilian self defense scenario.

  23. Interesting comments, and a lot of different views.But I cant help but harken back to the latest Defensive shooting that took place here in my area…

    I think when we listen to advise from lawyers, we need to keep the term ” PRACTICING law” in mind.. because like doctors, one opinion is not gospel.. I would STRONGLY encourage a person to seek out different opinions concerning use of force and home/ personal defense, particularly in their own state.. Remember.. Half of the lawyers hired lose their case in court there has to be a winner, and there has to be a loser… 50-50 odds in a courtroom are not very good odds

    No offense to Andrew,Im sure he is a competent lawyer but keyboard lawyers giving blanket advise online, other then to “run, run, run” should be taken as a grain of salt. Bad advise can get you thrown in prison, to be sure.. and bad advise can also get you killed.

    • “Half of the lawyers hired lose their case in court there has to be a winner, and there has to be a loser… 50-50 odds in a courtroom are not very good odds”

      What an interesting comment. You realize that defense lawyers are obliged to work with the facts their clients give them, right? We don’t get to control beforehand what our clients did in using force against another. Clients ignorant of the law make mistakes that even the best lawyer cannot overcome, on every single one of the elements of self-defense.

      Yet you wish to place responsibility for that on the obvious fact that in a criminal trial only one side wins?

      Surely you also understand that it is the prosecutor, not the defendant, who chooses whether a case goes to trial. There is, I can assure you, a very, very strong selection bias on the part of prosecutors when they make these decisions. Cases that look like easy wins (e.g., an ignorant defendant clearly violated the law of self-defense) get top priority and go to trial–prosecutors like to win, an easy win all the better. Cases that look hard to win (e.g., a knowledgeable defendant stayed well within the bounds of the law of self-defense) get bottom priority or kicked out of the system entirely–as much as prosecutors like to win, they hate to lose even more. By their very nature those cases do not go to trial.

      That’s where I try to get my students, to the bottom of the priority list. But I’m not standing with them when they’re attacked, any more than a cop is. They need to know enough about the law of self-defense not to end up with a fact-pattern so bad for the defense that a prosecutor is fairly bright-eyed with the prospect of bringing it to trial. Hence my books, seminars, blogging, public speaking, academic debates, and any other forum I can imagine will get that necessary information into people’s minds in a way that they can apply it in the real world, so they can maximize their prospects for surviving both the physical and legal battles.

      If you have suggestions for how better to do this, I’m all ears. 🙂

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  24. Great essay.

    My question is a simple one: what does law say when the criminal is a police officer?

    Considering the increasingly brutal behavior of cops as of late, I’m curious whether you’ll have the courage to answer this question without attempting to defend the indefensible. ..

  25. The only method of worrying about legality is dealing with the three S’s:
    SHUT UP.

    The Law will piss and moan over the poor little angel we ended, but if the person is THERE, in my home? He (She!) is there wit ill intent. If I can avoid the police ever finding out about it, I’m A-OK with that.
    And since I don’t OWN any guns, you can rest assured they’ll be digging up lots of interesting pieces here, there, and everywhere.

    I understand it’s off-topic in a big way, but unless we take off the kid gloves, the SOBs who mean to rule us WILL SUCCEED. They’ll just keep redefining terms, blocking us into corners where we can neither attack nor defend without breaking some GD law or other, and then we’ll be the “criminals,” disarmed by law, and possibly imprisoned (and safely under control) for life.

    Stand up for your rights, hold frequent pig roasts (gas and matches are cheap), and we’ll win this.
    Just never have a motive….
    And realize you’ll have to get your hands dirty, there’s no way to be “honest” or “moral” about this: the game has been perverted, we’re playing THEIR game – and it’s FIXED. House always wins, unless you burn down the house. (You can rebuild it afterwards – but they intend to burn it down anyway, and don’t want it rebuilt. )

    Let’s call a spade a spade and quit with the useless “exist within the law” cr@p. Appeasement is NOT victory.

    • “The only method of worrying about legality is dealing with the three S’s:
      SHUT UP.”

      If such appeared on my blog I’d delete it.

      But I’m just a guest here. 🙂

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      • Well, sir, you are looking at what’s legal.
        I’ve become a fan of the practical, and since the pigs can kick in your door, kill you, terrorize your family, kill your pet, and “OOPS! Wrong house, sorry!” and get away with it?

        Well, when the law is corrupt, I could give a (censored) less.
        Rabid dogs are put down.

        We should follow that in all these cases. If you’re attacked (rabid dog), what direction they’re facing is irrelevant. They get away, they just go after someone else. But once they’re buried, they don’t bother anyone…

        Sad, but those are the facts. Immoral, corrupt “just-us” system means you need to cut out the cancer. Uniformed or not, cancer is cancer.

        If they respected the law, and there weren’t 10,000 pages of Federal law alone? I’d be with you.
        But since the rules only apply to us little people, I’ll try my luck on not getting caught, should I ever end up in this situation.

        It’s like the running from the cops over a speeding ticket, given that “X” over the limit is automatic fine, maybe jail time, suspension of license. Then it’s plea-bargained down to JUST MONEY.
        Who’s the criminal again? there’s no injury. Just an excuse to legalize theft by Uncle Sam.

        this isn’t the country I was born into (1970s). This is becoming nazi germany, and the pace is accelerating every day.

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