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Pfc. Melanye Martinez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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The correct expression when discussing a defensive gun use is “shoot to stop the threat.” That’s what you’re trying to do when when your life or that of a loved one is threatened.

You are not trying to commit homicide, however justifiable that may be in a given situation. 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.

You are trying to make a violent attacker cease and desist. And you’re only doing so when you or other innocent people face an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm.

If you use the word “kill” in a firearms-related comment on the Internet, to friends with loose lips or, God forbid, to the police after a defensive gun use, you are opening the door to real legal jeopardy.

“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.”

“I was afraid for my life.”

Avoid the “K word” at all costs. Say as little to the responding officers as possible until you talk to an attorney.

There are a few 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 usually go very well for you during the subsequent investigation.

After a defensive gun use, use the words, “My life was in danger” as soon as humanly possible. When calling 911 insert that phrase whenever you can.

“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 again, “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 recording is admissible evidence even without anyone informing you of your right to remain silent. Above all, remember that your words matter during and especially after a defensive gun use.

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  1. Unfortunately the Police are like used car salesman in that way. They are NOT there to help YOU. They are trained to confuse you and IT IS LEGAL FOR THEM TO LIE TO YOU.

    To Protect and Serve? Maybe not so much.

    • You are correct. After a defensive shooting, ALWAYS request to go to a hospital. You WILL have chest pain or other discomfort that needs to be checked out. This will also deter the police from trying to question you and try to trip you up. Once medical attention is requested, all questioning by police should stop. The medical professionals are in charge.

      • Two flaws in your thinking:
        1. While we’re here, surely you wouldn’t mind giving us a blood sample for our investigation, since you’ve got nothing to hide.

        2. You’ve obviously never been in an emergency room with a cop and had the ER doc ask the cop what was wrong with you. Hey, you copsucking pile of shit, I’m the fucking patient, talk to me before I force feed that stethoscope to you.

        • Flaw in all the above. If the ER finds nothing wrong with you, you will look like an excitable person who makes false reports. If you threaten the ER doctor you have just proved yourself to be a violent person. Another thing, In the late 19th century an outlaw who have been thoroughly shotgunned by a posse was brought to the office of my great-great Grandfather. The outlaw threatened great-great. The moral of the story is do not threaten the guy who decides if your gun arm gets amputated.

      • On that note, don’t mistake the medical professionals for your medical friends. They are not.

        True, doctor patient privilege does extend ti the EMTs at the scene, the nurses at the ER, etc. However, privilege can be waived in many ways, just as many exceptions to your protection from searches exist. The presence of other people, particularly non-family members whom you have requested, invited, or allowed to be present, can void that privilege either immediately or subsequently, as when you file a lawsuit related to the shooting.

        This is important because you will want to unload your emotions after any life threatening event, such as a shooting, and talk your way into making sense of whatever just happened. Responding medical professionals are not your private therapists! Resist the temptation to reveal your every immediate and overwhelming thought to them.

        • Funny…my professional training organization always teaches all participants to shoot twice to the torso to stop the threat. If the perp continues to move and you perceive him as a threat, then you shoot him once more in the head to end him as a threat.

          You never SAY you wished to kill your attacker, but rather say you wished to end the threat. In reality, two to the thoracic cavity is an intention to kill, as is most certainly a follow-up shot to the head, if necessary.

        • Failure drills and head shots are a great way to look like an executioner. Mag dump in center mass, you shot to save your life, then shot to stop, and never shot to kill.

        • Arc, Failure drills are for attackers body armor. Are you suggesting an attacker wearing body armor in an impossibility?

      • This is one of those ridiculous pieces of internet advice like “you only have to roll your window down two inches on a traffic stop.” Technically true, but practically useless and often counter-productive.

        Instead of playing games, if you don’t want to talk to the police, invoke and ask to speak to a lawyer before being interviewed. Do so politely, maintain as calm a presence as you can, but simply say “I’ve heard that it’s best to talk to a lawyer first and I’d like to do that” and by firm in that statement. Forget the Jailitis claims. If they’re going to lock you up they will simply do it at the hospital anyway.

  2. Uh, huh. I see PC and ambulance chasers are now in charge of what you say to some ahole(s) who are about to rip your head off.

    “Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

  3. The article brought back memories of

    Running through the jungle.
    Where all the commies play.
    Pulled out my machine gun.
    And I began to spray.
    On your left, right, left, right, left-right, Kill!
    On your left, right, left, right, ya know I will!

  4. Don’t care what you think about it, or what you think about the guy. The fact is the only reason George Zimmerman isn’t in jail is because dead men tell no tales. Also the “witnesses” weren’t there to actually witness the happening.

    • Pacothemojado,

      Actually, the reason that Zimmerman is not in prison is twofold:
      (1) He spoke in great detail to police who were genuinely sympathetic to righteous self-defense. (Some police are, some are not.) Resulting police testimony actually corroborated and supported Zimmerman’s defense.
      (2) The physical evidence at the scene and on Zimmerman’s body was consistent with Zimmerman’s account of what happened and justified the use of lethal force.

      While it is generally bad for your defense to talk at length with police at the scene of the attack (and without an attorney present), it actually worked out greatly in Zimmerman’s defense in this instance.

    • “The fact is the only reason George Zimmerman isn’t in jail is because dead men tell no tales.”

      No, those who actually eye-witnessed the chain events verified Zimmerman’s testimony as to what happened…

    • Paco,

      When I was 19 or 20 years old, a close friend was visiting me at my rural home. A young girl (roughly 11 years old) ran across my yard and into the woods on my rural property. I thought nothing of it, bid my friend goodbye, showered, and went to work. Unbeknownst to me, while I was in the shower, my close friend went out, found the girl on my property, subdued her, assaulted her, kidnapped her, and dropped her off without further harm miles away. Later that day that friend stopped by again and told me that he saw someone trespassing on my property wearing camouflage and a ski mask and told the trespasser to leave. I thanked him for doing that.

      An hour or two later, a Sheriff deputy came walking down my road and told me that they would be coming through with a tracking dog. I asked what happened. The deputy said that someone kidnapped a young girl from my area. I described the girl that I saw earlier along with my friend’s account of the trespasser. The deputy immediately got on the radio and within minutes there were half a dozen police cars in my driveway. It turns out that the man who attacked the girl was wearing camouflage and a ski mask — and I was the last person to see that girl before someone attacked her. I helped the police tracking dog find the girl’s scent trail. I shared everything that I saw and knew. I invited the police into my home and answered every question that they asked.

      I also stated that I was really angry about that scumbag and that I was going out on my property to look for him. I also stated that I would be doing that with my .22 LR semi-automatic rifle in hand. The police were totally cool about everything, even me retrieving my rifle. Then they started asking me “odd” questions about my friend and it became apparent that he was the prime suspect. I answered all their questions truthfully and as completely as I could.

      I also had no idea that the police could have charged me as an accomplice or even as a co-perpetrator. (The fact that I had absolutely NOTHING to do with it doesn’t matter since the attacker was my close friend and perpetrated the attack on my property — guilt by association and all that.) I was lucky that the police were genuinely interested in capturing truly awful people and not jacking around someone because they could.
      Looking back, had I been cagey and refused to answer their questions without an attorney, they might very well have arrested and charged me as an accomplice. Instead, they thanked me for my cooperation and rightly arrested my friend.

      Sadly, we have no idea of knowing which way to go if an event happens. Cooperating with police without an attorney could be what saves your bacon. And it could be what fries your bacon. That is the real tragedy.

      • It’s one thing when you’re a mere, tangential witness to an event. It’s another when you’re the one standing over the dead body with a smoking gun in your hand.

        I get the point. There’s no need to become a militant, anti-police, BLM-type activist at the scene. You’ll look crazy and suspicious. Nevertheless, the wisest approach remains providing only the essential information to 911 and declining , respectfully, either to speak to police or to consent to their searches until after speaking with your lawyer. It’s very easy to talk your way into trouble. Silence, more often than not, is golden.

        • Jonathan,

          It’s one thing when you’re a mere, tangential witness to an event. It’s another when you’re the one standing over the dead body with a smoking gun in your hand.

          Good point. Whether or not I was involved in the attack on my property was uncertain. Whether or not I am involved when I am standing with a firearm over/next to a dead body is certain and best to wait for an attorney.

    • Bull hockey. The prosecution had no case, and even if the budding young thug had survived to testify, all the physical evidence bolstered Zimmerman’s story.

      That self-defense shooting was covered extensively here and discussed at length.

  5. You should have every legal right to kill your attacker, even long after they surrender. Tie em up dump em in a ditch and light them on fire, legal. One day the law and what’s right will be the same.

    The police should be giving you a medal and beer ticket for killing shitbags for them.

      • That’s not how it works. It doesn’t work the way he suggested, either, for that matter. If you attack someone and it doesn’t go your way, you suddenly don’t have a right to defend yourself against someone defending themselves. And if your defending yourself you don’t have a right to tie people up and rape them. I suggest you both read up on self defense law.

  6. Pfff, according to the movies I can just shoot someone in the shoulder area (accurately from a significant distance, with a pistol) and they will make a complete recovery

  7. Join Texas Law Shield. Nationwide Coverage for about $160. I did a long time ago. I never had to use them but it’s comforting to know that they are there for me. I also went to Frontsight and did the defensive handgun course. Best training I have ever had in 60 years oof being an active shooter.

    • I’ve gone through several of Front Sight’s handgun courses so far. Tactical Shotgun too. Love that place. Wish it were a bit nearer, though it’s always a good feeling when driving over the state border line from CA into NV and realizing suddenly I’m in Free America.

  8. I DON’T have to worry…I live in the People’s Republic of M Assachusetts…Lawful MA residents have NO RIGHTS…DON’T have to worry about firearms for self defense, the local/state police have an absolute monopoly in “controlling” a constitutional right…(re: thanks to all the Demo Authoritarians, SJWs , Hippies, Liberals, pot smokers, etc…Only Criminals/Cops/Companies/Politicians= CCCP, have immediate access to such privileges…In other words, your luck to be able to own a rape whistle….) So, in M Assachusetts, home to Liberals, SJWs, Fμ©KTARDS, Purple haired 💇 3rd wave feminists, Transsexuals, Zees/Zurs, whatever the Fμ©k, etc…Just Hug a bad guy today…Because if YOUR not part of the privileged class…That will be YOUR only hope….

  9. When I was taking the state-required class for a concealed carry permit, we were told that if we did have to shoot someone, as soon as the cops show up demand that your attacker be arrested — even if he’s dead.

    • Jerry,

      While I tend to agree with that sentiment, note our comments above where it turned out well for George Zimmerman and myself.

      The problem is, I don’t think we have any way of predicting which situations we should be vocal and which situations we should be silent until we have an attorney present.

      While I was not involved in a self-defense event, I lived at the property where my friend attacked a girl and I was home (although completely unaware and not involved) when it happened outside on the property. Cops could have easily charged me as a co-perpetrator or accomplice to the attack. Having absolutely no idea whatsoever that I was at significant risk of arrest and prosecution, I talked at length with police and answered dozens of questions without an attorney present. The cops acted honorably and never arrested me. Looking back, I believe the odds were pretty good that they would have arrested me had I clammed up and demanded an attorney before speaking.

  10. Are you an expert marksman? If you shoot someone in self-defense and they die, you could be prosecuted as someone who almost always hits what they’re aiming at. Me? I go to the range a lot, but generally suck at marksmanship.

    • Well, aside from the general truth that “you could be prosecuted”, because you can be for just about any phony nonsense (see the Trump impeachment proceedings, for example), that’s fairly silly talk.

      Even a layman can distinguish between someone’s range marksmanship and their accuracy in a life or death encounter.

      • You are correct Jonathan, but … I was thinking of an actual case. A smaller young guy was almost assaulted by a big drunk at night outside a convenience store. Young guy was ducking punches until he pulled his handgun out of his car and shot the drunk in the shoulder. Minutes later he was dead.

        Young guy was training for the Olympic team and shot thousands of rounds with great skill.

        “I aimed for the shoulder. Did I miss?” he asked the detective.

        The autopsy showed that he hit the shoulder and the mangled bullet deflected off the collar bone and descended into the lung tearing it up. The detective had to bend the prosecutor’s ear about the meaning of the autopsy because the prosecutor felt that this guy always hit this targets precisely and therefore should be prosecuted for murder. Stupid? Yes. But a real case from “The Homicide Hunter.”

    • TommyJay,

      That was actually a crucial factor in a homicide case in Colorado Springs many years ago. A U.S. Olympic pistol team member shot an attacker in self-defense at a party store. The pistol team member shot the attacker in the shoulder rather than in the heart or between the eyes.

      Police investigated and decided that the pistol team member could have easily shot the attacker in the heart or between the eyes if he wanted to. The fact that he did NOT strongly indicated his reluctance to use deadly force and was pretty much the sole reason that police and the prosecutor declared that the pistol team member acted in righteous self-defense.

      (Note: the defender used a handgun chambered in .22 LR — the bullet deflected off of the attacker’s collar-bone and traveled into the attacker’s chest cavity causing a fatal wound in the lungs or heart.)

        • Ha ha!

          By the way I obviously saw that episode of Homicide Hunter as well. Who would have ever thought a prosecutor’s decision to try you for murder would hinge on how accurate you are and your shot placement?

      • I was shocked by the story. My thought is that you’d better have a plan keeping in mind that you may not get any of the deference that a cop would.

  11. Two cops shoot 16 times at a target 10 to 12 feet away and hit him six times. The suspect was in the process of drawing a pistol from a gym bag. A bunch of innocent people got hit with direct fire and fragments from rounds hitting the ground. Empire State building nypd’s finest.

  12. If your domicile or family are in danger Always shoot to kill, otherwise you’ll be in court & probably loose every thing you own, just make sure it’s a righteous kill. Do not , repeat, do not wound the perp. You will pay forever, or even go to the hoosgow, always double tap your target. The law is always on the perps side. Thank your nearest lawyer for that.

  13. How many versions of events do you want told to the police, jury, media, judge, personal injury lawyer, insurance company, etc?

    If you’re genuinely defending yourself, your version should be the only version. Because the attacker’s would not be favorable to you. Not that you would ever have the time to make such a calculation. I am sure it would all be a blur.

    But to the extent you could think during such an enormously stressful situation, if you’re firing in defense of yourself or others, remember the old adage: ammunition is cheap, life is expensive.

  14. Was a Paramedic to get through nursing school, learned to shoot working in a prison, then decades as an ER nurse. My 2 cents worth; “I shot to stop the threat.” Never, ever, waver from this. If the dirtbag dies, well that was his choice, not yours. Get your chest pain treated IMMEDIATELY by ambulance (hyperventilation can cause chest wall pain in anybody). Most places I’ve worked don’t allow employees to draw blood for legal chain of custody. We can use the blood to save your life, but it’s not good enough for lawyers. LEO’s may take time to get their own vampire, if they CAN get one.

  15. Don’t say you were shooting to kill. Good advice. Saying you were “shooting to stop the threat” is BAD advice.

    Why? Because of articles like this. Because a jury that hears that is going to think you’re a robot. Investigators are going to immediately key in when you use a phrase like that and be more suspicious if you don’t have military or similar training where you would have picked it up.

    So what to say? The truth.
    -“I shot him because he was trying to bash my head in with a bat and I knew I didn’t have any choice.”
    -“I shot he was breaking into my house and I knew he was going to kill me this time.”
    And if someone asks why you didn’t shoot someone in the leg the answer is pretty easy: “I shot for the biggest target” or “that’s what I learned at the target range” (don’t lie, though).

    And this is the sort of question you should be asking your lawyer. And you better have one if you shoot someone.

    • I would say never use “stop the threat” especially if you have military or security training. It makes you sound like a killing machine.

      • It’s probably never a good thing to say except, perhaps, in the context of following policy to the letter. But generally I would always recommend not using buzzphrases like that. People get in the habit of making conclusionary statements in reports and accounts a lot, and it’s not useful when court comes around.

        “I perceived him as a threat” is useless.
        “I saw that he had a wooden bat between 3 and 4 feet in length and was striding towards me, raising the bat in his hands. He yelled ‘I’m going to kill you’ and pointed toward me. He then ran at me while lifting the object as if to swing it at my head” is a lot more useful.

  16. For Your Review:

    Iowa Supreme Court says stand-your-ground law has limits

    by Associated PressFriday, November 22nd 2019
    The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s 2017 stand-your-ground law doesn’t apply to defendants engaged in criminal activity prior to using deadly force. (Caroline Cummings-file)

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s 2017 stand-your-ground law doesn’t apply to defendants engaged in criminal activity prior to using deadly force.

    Friday’s ruling reverses an Iowa Court of Appeals’ order in May issuing a new trial to Miguel Angel Lorenzo Baltazar, of Des Moines. He is serving life in prison for the July 2017 shooting death of Jeffrey Mercado. Baltazar maintains he feared Mercado had a weapon.

    The Court of Appeals said Baltazar’s trial court issued faulty jury instructions that didn’t abide by Iowa’s new stand-your-ground law.

    The Supreme Court noted the new law says there’s no duty to retreat when a person isn’t engaged in illegal activity, therefore implying those engaged in illegal activity must retreat.

    Baltazar was illegally carrying a gun without a license.

    • Nice catch 22 there. Guess you better not jaywalk in the state lest someone attack you and you have to let them kill you.

      An exaggeration, but not much of one. Illegal behavior is so broad as to be nearly meaningless.

    • That is Florida’s Stand Your Ground law also, except in Florida the exception is written into the statute and not a court interpretation. The statute lists several exceptions including when “…engaged in a criminal activity…”

  17. Id reckon in a shootem up a feller would get pretty excited, probably empty the gunm on them. Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang, why dont that SOB die, Bang Bang. Unless of course you had a scatter gunm and blowed his head clean off. Nope If Im pulling iron I want the other guy dead .

  18. It isn’t just what’s said on the 911 calls. We are at a point where what you put into social media could be used against you.

    Being careful what you type into Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, gun forums, and sites like this one. It could come back to bite you.

  19. There’s a whole bunch of ‘nope’ in this article.

    Yes, you are shooting to stop the threat and yes, call the cops and request an ambulance. That part is golden.

    Now for the ‘nope’…


    Tell them that and tell them you were afraid for your life or someone else’s. Remember, you have a gun on you and when the cops show up (before the hose draggers) there will be someone shot and you don’t want a ‘Why didn’t you tell us you shot someone? Do you not think it was justified?’ conversation. This covers you in not lying to the police, AND gives EMS the info that someone got shot. You can then faithfully say ‘I gave as much info as I could to try and save the person who I thought was trying to kill me’. Feel free to use the ‘K’ word on your behalf as well.


    The dispatcher will tell the responding officers that you are no longer on the line, so they will become much more cautious and bad things can happen. It can also lead to ‘What did you do when you hung up with 911? If you don’t think you did anything wrong, why didn’t you stay on the line?’ which is not what you need right at that time.


    You don’t like it when people come into your space and tell you to f-off. Neither do the cops. Tell them your name, date of birth, and briefly what happened. When the cop asks questions, THEN you politely tell them you would like a lawyer. Simply clamming up and going all ‘Ah know ma raghts!’ WILL get you cuffed and stuffed, since the cop can only say with probable cause that you shot other person. when the cop asks ‘What happened?’ tell them the high points and when the cop starts trying to clarify, lawyer up.

    This blanket crap of ‘Never talk to the Po-leese’ is bad information, stupid, and will get you thrown in jail for defending yourself.

  20. For God’s sake. When will somebody expose what Trayvon Martin purchased that night. The “innocent” boy wasn’t just purchasing skittles. The hip-hop generation or whatever you call it make an intoxicating concoction called “DRANK”. Look it up in an urban dictionary. Google it! Drank is made with SKITTLES, cough medicine, and strawberry soda. I hope some day this gets exposure.

    • First off, you do not use skittles for DRANK (Lean). This was made popular in Texas by Houston rappers. It’s codeine/promethazine mixed with sprite and some people put a jolly rancher in the cup too. Smh. If you’re going to make wild reaching accusations, know what you’re talking about.

  21. If you are forced to shoot a attacker, after calling 911 UNLOAD your weapon, lock back the slide and place it out of your reach, so you don’t scare the police or appear as a threat. When the Police show up say “I was forced to shoot at XXX because I feared for my life, and I now wish to speak to a lawyer. Give them your ID. After that, any question they ask outside of establishing YOUR IDC, respond with “I wish to speak to a lawyer.” Cop says “Nice night”” “I wish to speak to a lawyer.” “Want some water?” “Yes, and I wish to speak with a lawyer.” If you are asked to get into the a car by the officer, do so willingly. When you get to the station expect to be printed and photoed, do so willingly, but keep asking for a lawyer. If place in interrogation, ask for a lawyer answer no other questions than those regarding your ID, age, home address etc. You can be polite and cooperative without getting yourself into legal trouble.

  22. Interesting. I would add that shooting to “kill” would likely slow down the shot too. In an intense situation where a gun is necessary, taking the time to aim for a kill shot just doesnt seem feasible.
    The advise about after having to defend yourself seems solid. Hopefully I never have to worry about it.

    • You BETTER aim. If you are good, and in practice sights are a little less important if the range is close. But even at 10 feet you better have the front sight< at least, on the center of the bad guy. At 7 yards its even more important. And I could be forced to make a shot longer than this in my house. So forget this spray and pray crap off your mind. You don't need a miss killing a neighbor or family member. Forget the panic crap, panic kills. Have a plan for a given scenario. "If a stranger comes in the house and I am at this location I do this" sort of thing. You do not want to be "deer in the headlights". If you can force the perp to leave so be it. If not or if he is armed, if there are several, then the options are greatly reduced. You must assume that if he will not stop advancing he is either intent on murder or great bodily harm or is so doped up he don't know any better. ALL are grounds for me to shoot someone in my house. And if I have a choice its not going to be with a handgun unless thats my only option. Do you know a lawyer? If you do ask him how much you can safely say without him being present. You cannot totally trust the police. They are not there to protect you. This is not their job. Give the cops the basic facts then lawyer up. If you so much as change an "or" to an "and" from one version to another of what happened they may decide you are lying. And if you just shot someone you probably should not be having long conversations with the cops because you are likely not in your right mind. Having the hell scared out of me makes me angry as hell. Having been frightened a few times I know this is true. Thus I probably should keep my mouth shut as much as possible.


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