Does the kind of firearm you use in a self-defense situation matter? If you shoot a home invader to protect your family with a suppressed handgun, does that present legal problems you wouldn’t face if you’d shot the attacker with a Ruger GP100? That’s a question that was raised recently by a commenter.
When a reader asserted that if you use a NFA-regulated gun (say, a short-barrel rifle) or a suppressor to defend yourself, “your ensuing legal adventures are going to be much more complicated and cost you a lot more in lawyers’ bills,” reader Cicero, an attorney, wrote this . . .
This is an important point that is commonly ignored.
Are suppressed SBR’s, suppressed AR pistols with an arm brace, or suppressed handguns great self-defense weapons? Of course, and they do have *some* advantages over unsuppressed weapons. But do those tactical advantages vs. a non-NFA weapon outweigh the inherent and serious additional legal hazards of using an NFA weapon for self-defense, especially with the current politicized DoJ or if you live in an unfriendly jurisdiction?
Imagine if you are in a Rittenhouse/Zimmerman self defense shooting, in a jurisdiction where the prosecutors are Soros puppets, or 1/6 DoJ-prosecutor types, or otherwise under political pressure to make an example of you.
If they collaborate to have the feds go after you, they can argue that you used an NFA weapon (SBR, suppressor, etc.) in a “crime of violence” (e.g., manslaughter if the perp dies, aggravated assault if he doesn’t).
Under 18 USC 1924(c)(1), it’s a **THIRTY YEAR** mandatory minimum sentence if they get you. And whether state “stand your ground” and other state procedural protections apply in federal court is at best unclear. So even if you just winged the perp, you’re looking at 30 years in federal prison if they convince the jury it wasn’t a good shoot.
With people like AG Garland willing to sic the FBI on parents merely seeking to exercise their first amendment rights with local school boards, does anyone doubt that his DoJ won’t try and throw the book at you, especially if encouraged to do so by the local Soros DA?
It’s up to you to weigh the advantages vs. risks. But for me, the advantages of using a suppressed vs. unsuppressed weapon for self defense do not outweigh the additional inherent legal risks, especially with the current politicized state of the DoJ.
We thought this was an interesting enough question that we sought out an attorney who deals in firearms law every day and has experience as both a local and a federal prosecutor.
I talked to Doug Richards, a partner at Richards Carrington in Denver. He has represented dozens of people involved in defensive gun uses (he’s an independent program attorney for US LawShield). Prior to that, he was an Assistant United States Attorney and an Assistant District Attorney in Houston. In other words, he has a lot of experience on both sides of the issue.
While he said the question of additional liability when defending yourself with an NFA item is a valid concern, Richards told me that in his experience, it rarely affects the prosecutor’s decision when evaluating a case of armed self-defense. He said the much more important question is whether the shooting itself was justified by the circumstances and the evidence. In a “straightforward” home defense situation, he told me, any additional risk is virtually zero.
If, however, there’s a question about whether or not the shooting was justifiable, it’s possible that the presence of an NFA item can become an additional problem for the defender depending on the prosecutor.
He stressed the importance of having an attorney speak for you in what he called the critical moments following a defensive gun use. As another attorney once told me while shaking his head, everyone has the right to remain silent, but few people are capable of it.
I brought up Cicero’s hypothetical of a high profile self defense situation. I asked him what would have happened if Mark McCloskey had a suppressor on the AR-15 he waived at protesters in front of his home back in 2020.
Richards conceded that in a case like that, in which self-defense was at least questionable, the presence of an NFA item is, in fact, more likely to result in more or heavier charges from a prosecutor. He reiterated, however, that those situations are very rare.
Maybe the the best indicator of what Richards really thinks of any possible additional legal jeopardy that might be involved in a defensive gun use while using a federally regulated firearm or silencer is his own choice for home defense.
He told me that his home defense nightstand pistol is equipped with a suppressor. He’s obviously not concerned about the possibility of facing additional federal charges if he has to use his gun to defend himself or his family. The question of how much that possibility is a problem, however, is up to you.