Whilst out and about for the first time in a couple of days (thanks, sinuses!), I spent some time at a bookstore. (See yesterday’s scintillating read) And something else occurred to me. Something that I hadn’t thought of as far as the concealed carry thing goes. In fact, I started this post right after I finished the other one, but decided to sleep on it, to see if I had any fresh insights in the morning, it was such an eye-opener for me. Okay, a hypothetical: What if I had to pull my gun and use it to defend myself? Would I be able to talk about it here? The answer is…um…NO, I couldn’t.
You see, I realized something, sitting there. As a gun writer, I’m kind of in the crosshairs, no pun intended, for any- and every-body who opposes guns. Fair enough. But, God forbid, I have to use mine. THEN I’ll be in a world of hurt.
Every word I’ve written – every jot and tittle – will be fair game for some (hopefully understanding/not overzealous) prosecutor to use at his or her discretion to win a conviction against me for using my gun against someone else. If the prosecutor is of the anti-gun bent, they often take cases like this and make the CHL holder out to be the bad guy.
One tactic they use to vilify the accused is to dredge up everything they’ve ever done or said regarding guns in order to paint them as some kind of nut, looking for an opportunity to go all Dirty Harry on somebody. Now imagine what would happen if said prosecutor was able to draw on the depth and breadth of articles I’ve created here for TTAG. It’s almost like handing a prosecutor a conviction, all gift-wrapped. Except that my work shows (I think) that I’m far from a gun nut, and in fact consistently advocate both reason and caution when carrying. (At least I hope that’s the impression I’m giving.)
You see the problem here is that there’s really no such thing as “THE TRUTH,” writ large. It’s like that old saw about how many sermons the preacher preaches on Sunday: there’s the one he intends to write, the one he writes, the one he practices, the one he intends to give, the one he gives, the one he thinks he gives, the one the congregation hears, the one he remembers giving, and the one the congregation remembers. That’s nine sermons.
Now compare that to the anatomy of a shooting. There’s what you perceive happening as it comes down. There’s what you remember happening in the adrenalin-fueled minutes after the event, there’s what you remember when you give your statement, there’s the version you remember as you talk to your attorney, and of course, the one you present as testimony before the grand jury, and (if you’re unlucky) the one you’ll give in court. Add to that ALL the statements of witnesses, and how their personal bias on the subject of guns will color how they perceive what really happened.
Kinda makes you wonder if this concealed carry thing is worth it, doesn’t it?
It does for me. And still, I do it. Why? Simple. I’m a dad. I’ve got to protect my kid – and part of that is protecting myself. If I’m not taking the Boy Scout thing (Be Prepared) seriously, I’m not doing my job. If that means I risk getting dragged into criminal and/or civil court because I chose to protect my daughter, then I’m willing to take that hit. But it does make me think.
And not like the anti-gun guys would have you believe, thinking “Oh, boy…I can’t wait to blow some scumbag away!” Nope. That thought really doesn’t enter into it. No, truth to tell, I’d rather NEVER have to pull my gun, or use it for that matter. EVER. End of story.
Nope, the thing that runs through my mind is, “Lord God, please don’t ever put me in a position where I have to use this, but if you do, please let me use it wisely, and not hurt any innocent person.” Does that make me sound like a wimp? I dunno. I’m good with that, if it does. And I’m serious as a heart attack about that.
The only thing I can think of that would be worse than using my gun and having to shoot someone – anyone – would be to watch my child get hurt through my own inaction or ineffectiveness – or my failure to protect her by being armed at the right time.
Carrying a firearm is one awesome responsibility. That’s why you don’t find a lot of trigger-happy concealed carry folk out there. It’s why the statistics on gun crime feature so few people that have CHLs committing crimes. And it’s why I constantly train.
Training is a big deal. Think about it like this. Would you wanna take a ride in a private jet with someone who owns the jet, but only flies it every year or so? I don’t think so. You’d want them to be either in a flight simulator, or logging real hours behind the yoke, every month, keeping those skills sharp. And to continue that metaphor, you’d want them to train not just in good weather, but experience fog, rain, sleet, snow, ice, and every other crap weather Mother Nature can throw at a pilot. (At least in the flight sim. I wouldn’t wish that kind of thing on pilots in real-world situations just to prove a point.)
So why wouldn’t we all take gun training with the same kind of respect/imperative? I dunno. I get to the range as often as I can afford, which isn’t nearly enough to suit me. I’m a pretty good shot, but I miss the IDPA training I had when I was in the Panhandle. Shooting at a stationary target is fine, but it’s no substitute for shooting at something moving, or better yet, shooting at a moving target as you are moving. That’s a whole ‘nuther world o’ hurt, if you know what I mean.
And don’t get me started on low-light, no-light, indoors, outdoors training, as well as training with a forced handicap (say, going from a pitch black room to suddenly dealing with lights-on), or shooting from a relaxed, semi-awake state.
In situations where you are not the agressor, you’ve got to realize you’ve already relinquished one huge advantage to the bad guy(s) – he/she/they got there first. In marketing terms, they have first-mover advantage. And in many real-world situations, that’s enough to tip the playing field far from level, and over to their side. Training is the way to tip the scales back in your favor. Ask anybody who knows anything about guns, and they’ll tell you that training will make the difference between you being an armed victim and a survivor.
So now, back to my quandary. Let’s say that I’m unlucky enough to have to use my gun to defend myself or my family. Now what? Well, first things first. I’d make sure I was the first to call 911. The police have a name for the first to call 911. “Victim.” The second guy to call 911 is usually called either “perp” or “witness.” I’ll leave it to you to figure out which. I don’t want the police to respond to a shooting situation, see me holding a gun, and even remotely assume I’m the bad guy.
Next I wanna repeat this phrase over and over: Yes officer, I will cooperate fully with your investigation. I would prefer to make my statement with counsel present at the police station. Can’t tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard about people that thought they were doing the right thing (and in fact did) but ended up in hot water because of the statement they made to the police on the scene. Next, I’d retain the services of an attorney who has experience defending people with concealed carry permits. (That begs the question, “when is the right time to find such an attorney.” My guess would be sooner than later, in other words before you need them.)
Lastly, I’d look to the attorney to see if an expert witness might be a valuable addition to your team of legal eagles. Those guys typically don’t come cheap, but can make the difference in getting off or getting time, especially if you are unfortunate enough to run into a prosecutor who wants to make your case a cause celebre to win his re-election.
From what I understand, there are organizations that offer not insurance policies, but financial assistance in the form of providing technical experts at no charge if you belong to their network of gun owners. I don’t (yet) know much about these groups, but I think that bears looking into, if only for my own piece of mind.
One final bit of irony – in any number of cases, the CHL holder ends up surrendering both his gun and his permit, either for the durration of the trial, or…forever. In a way, it’s kind of like a one-shot insurance policy – use it once, and you may never be able to legally do so again. Kinda makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?
So…let’s recap. We carry because we care. But if we had our druthers, the only time we’d unholster our guns would be to put them safely away for the night, to shoot at the range, or to clean them. And God help us if we do have to use them to defend ourselves. Because the actual shooting isn’t the end…it’s just the beginning.
I don’t know much about the admissibility of statements. I would be very concerned about speaking with the police at all w/o an attorney. On the other hand, I am sure that refusing to speak to them probably wouldn’t look good either.
Search for Responsibly Armed by Finn Aagaard, that’s how I feel about concealed carry.
A few points:
Ask an attorney, but it would seem that the moment prosecutor pulls in your columns he gets ALL of them whether he likes it or not — this would include letting your columns speak on YOUR behalf without you needing to testify.
Similar idea (and again IANAL): You can make a useful but short statement of fact and get a couple of key points in without ever testifying again: “Officer, he was trying to rob me, threatening to kill me, I was in fear of my life, there is evidence there, there, and there or witness there. I will be happy to make a full statement within 24 hours, but now I would like to speak with an attorney — would you please help me.”
That last is tagged on in the hope of re-invoking the ‘handling a victim’ mode of the cop. In general you use your firearm when you are in fear for your life, so as long as this is true, get it on the record. You might also use it when someone is committing a violent felony on your person, get that in the record. Notice there is nothing in the above statement abotu ANYTHING you did or didn’t do, anything you thought of didn’t think EXCEPT, “I was in fear for my life” and/or “He was committing this violent felony” — as long as these are true statements, get them in the cops little notebook.
Later, when the cop is testifying, he can be asked, “Did the defendant/subject make any statement at the scene?” Cop: “Yes, he said…attempted to rob him…in fear of his life”.
After “please help me” SHUT UP. Nothing else remotely about the situation much leave your mouth. If you talk to another officer, repeat at leat the “Speak with an attorney” and keep the conversation to procedure: “Are we going to the police station, hospital, can I use the phone now to call my attorney….”
Remember also, while training is great we must NOT support MANDATORY training for CHL or gun ownership. No evidence supports the need for this despite the fact that common sense dictates that WE should get all the training we can afford.
CHL holders in states like Washington (no training required) to Florida (moderate requirement) to Texas (one of the most extensive) show no real difference in outcomes.
The analogy with an airplane pilot is not parallel and thus incorrect, since the vast majority of the time a gun owner does NOT “use the gun” while every time a pilot takes to the air serious skill is required even for routine things like Take Off and more so for LANDING.
Another piece of training the prudent CHL holder will get is regular practice in ACCESSING under PRESSURE — as you have written, if we need the firearm (especially in public) it will almost certainly be true that the attack will already be underway.
The trickiest issue for the CHL holder is to balance “not pulling out the gun too early” (and becoming ‘crazy person with gun’) against “not presenting it too late” and thus becoming DEAD.
HerbM, you have some excellent thoughts and advice. I appreciate reading your reply just as much as the original article. Thank you both for sharing some great information.