Question of the day: firearm self-defense "rules of thumb"

Question of the day: firearm self-defense "rules of thumb"

This is a discussion on Question of the day: firearm self-defense "rules of thumb" within the Concealed Carry Issues & Discussions forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Being a FL resident and CWP'er, I own, have read, and continue to read the Gutmacher FL Firearms Law book. A few days ago I ...

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Thread: Question of the day: firearm self-defense "rules of thumb"

  1. #1
    Member Array xsquidgator's Avatar
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    Question of the day: firearm self-defense "rules of thumb"

    Being a FL resident and CWP'er, I own, have read, and continue to read the Gutmacher FL Firearms Law book.

    A few days ago I started a thread asking for opinions on using less than lethal force, such as chemical sprays (and the arguments still go on, there's not a single opinion on that issue).

    Today's question or dicsussion topic involves some self-defense "rules of thumb" a friend of mine from TN told me - he says an experienced sherriff or sherriff's deputy friend of his told him these rules of thumb. For me these 3 rules of thumb are easier to recall than the detailed "do's and don'ts" of the Gutmacher book, so I keep these in mind will trying to absorb the book.

    I know laws will vary by state, but what does everyone think of these easy to remember rules for self-defense use of a firearm? This according to a LEO amounts to a lot of what he says LEOs will cue on when called to a scene...

    1) If you have to shoot someone, don't shoot them in the back (hard to argue self-defense for you).
    2) If you have to shoot someone, they'd better not be more than 20 feet away (hard to argue self-defense for you).
    3) If you have to shoot someone in self-defense, you'd better stop the guy and it'll be better for you if he's not in shape to fib on you and say you instigated it. Kinda along the lines of better if he's not going to be talking, period.

    #3's a doozy, I thought about editing it but that's what 'he said, he said'. #3 departs from the self-defense arguemnt and starts sounding a lot more like manslaughter or worse even though I'm not a lawyer.

    But, I thought the first two rules were sensible, and although over-simplistic, they do seem to condense down many recommendations I think I've read on firearm and self defense law. What's everyone here think about these? Any more good simple rules to remember before doing anything drastic in a situation?


  2. #2
    VIP Member Array Redneck Repairs's Avatar
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    If you have to wonder if you should draw and or shoot you shouldnt .

    edited to add:

    I take exception to #3 , I will shoot to defend myself , and i will continue to shoot untill the b/g stops doing what made me shoot him in the first place and no longer . All else is not imporntant to me .. i could care less what his physical condition is at the end of the confrentation .
    Last edited by Redneck Repairs; October 21st, 2006 at 12:16 AM. Reason: additional thought
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  3. #3
    VIP Member Array peacefuljeffrey's Avatar
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    The big thing about #3 is that you have to balance the desire to have him be eternally silent against the need to not fire more than will be considered reasonable by a grand jury, prosecutor, or jury.

    I suspect that many a good shoot has gone bad because the shooter plugged the guy one more time, when he was on the way down or doing down, so that forensics indicate to a jury that the threat was ended and the firing continued.

    DO NOT shoot him one more time when he's on the ground just to silence him, even though you know you don't want to have to contest his b.s. story in court. You'll go down for murder then.

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    VIP Member Array peacefuljeffrey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redneck Repairs View Post
    I take exception to #3 , I will shoot to defend myself , and i will continue to shoot untill the b/g stops doing what made me shoot him in the first place and no longer . All else is not imporntant to me .. i could care less what his physical condition is at the end of the confrentation .
    You can take exception all you want.
    It doesn't change the fact that you can end up with a world of trouble if the guy is in a condition to lie in court about how HE didn't start the altercation, YOU did...

    It's not an argument to murder; and that's not what I or xsquidgator are saying. He merely pointed out a truism; and that is, it's probably better for you if your attacker is not able to be telling lies about you in court, which he will surely do if able.

    It's not an instruction to eliminate witnesses, dude.

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    1) If you have to shoot someone, don't shoot them in the back (hard to argue self-defense for you).
    Baloney.... and I'll tell you why: You cannot predict the scenario which you will face. What if the guys is on top of a loved one and the only shot you have is to his back? Are you gonna ask him pretty please to turn around so you can shoot him in the front?
    Scenario two: The BG comes at you with a machete, you draw your weapon and fire as he swings and misses you making the bullets hit him on his side and back.


    2) If you have to shoot someone, they'd better not be more than 20 feet away (hard to argue self-defense for you).
    Baloney again and for the same reason, you can't predict the scenario you will face. BGs are less than helpful in that matter.
    Scenario: BG is on a shooting spree at your family reunion. You are behind the only hard cover available but it is a 20+ feet away from the BG who also happens to have his back turned.


    3) If you have to shoot someone in self-defense, you'd better stop the guy and it'll be better for you if he's not in shape to fib on you and say you instigated it. Kinda along the lines of better if he's not going to be talking, period.
    You just advocated murder in a roundabout way. You shoot the BG, he drops the gun but he is still alive, what's next? A coup de grace so he doesn't lie?

    Cops are not stupid, they will reconstruct what happened and will compare your story with his and the evidence. However, if you lie even if you were truly defending yourself, you are opening yourself to a legal nightmare.
    CL, thechriskarel, DC and 4 others like this.
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    The best thing to do is make sure you're the first one to call the police after a shooting. Then the BG becomes the defendant. And as Miggy says, make sure everything you say is the unvarnished truth.

    But limit what you say, mostly just that you were afraid of being killed or badly injured. It's best to have the counsel of an attorney before you go into any detail. The police will encourage you to immediately talk about what happened. Politely say that you will be glad to cooperate after you have spoken with your attorney. Then shut up.
    Last edited by UtahRSO; October 21st, 2006 at 01:32 AM. Reason: More detail.
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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    If you were to pick simple "rules of the road" for justified self-defense using lethal force, I'd say it would have to be the principle of the "Deadly Force Triangle," which requires three criteria be met: (A)bility, (O)pportunity and (J)eopardy. This is the standard promoted by the U.S. Federal Bureau Of Investigation, The Lethal Force Institute (Ayoob), and many other organizations.

    The Deadly Force Triangle:
    1. Ability -- An attacker must posess the power to kill or inflict crippling injury on the innocent;
    2. Opportunity -- An attacker must be capable of immediately employing that power in an attack. It's a function of many factors, including distance, time, barriers (ie, a door, wall, car between you); and
    3. Jeopardy -- An attacker must be acting in such a manner that a reasonable and prudent person would conclude that the attacker had manifest intent to kill or inflict crippling injury.

    In one phrase, essentially, justified use of lethal force requires that the innocent be in immediate and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm.

    If these standards are met, if the use of lethal force is justified, then frankly it doesn't matter whether you use a knife, gun, baseball bat, car, or your bare hands ... lethal force is lethal force. And it wouldn't matter if you shot at the head, heart, pelvis, pinkie finger, or the back ... lethal force is lethal force.

    Of course, that's theory. The reality is, you're on the hook at all times to justify and explain your actions to those around you. I would think you should want to have a set of standards that are generally recognized as close to morally-unassailable as it gets. Because, even if you're completely justified to the highest standard, your actions are going to be scrutinized six ways from Sunday.

    For a simple run-down on the basic principles involved, check out this useful summary put together by the Champaign County [IL] Rifle Assn, page 9, as promoted by LFI; or, the FBI's Law Enforcement Bulletin; or get a copy of Ayoob's book, "In The Gravest Extreme."
    Last edited by ccw9mm; October 21st, 2006 at 03:43 AM.
    BenGoodLuck, TRX, DrDP6 and 5 others like this.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by xsquidgator View Post
    1) If you have to shoot someone, don't shoot them in the back (hard to argue self-defense for you).
    Well, actually, if he has a gun, nothing keeps him from shooting over/under his shoulder at you.

    "Graduated" from the FBI Citizens Academy recently and this is one of those scenarios they mentioned when we talked about deadly force.

    Stop the threat, and when the threat is stopped, stop. That's the simplest rule. And of course, be the first call 9-1-1.
    Armed & Dangerous...and Inconspicuous...

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    Practice, drill, rehearse. Train, train, train.

    Extensive training sharpens mental skills. It provides the CCW person the opportunity to immediately recognize the level of threat and respond according. It also means better shot placement to end the threat quickly and clean.

    There are numerous case studies where BG ends up with wounds to back or side because they turned after seeing the weapon or ready to flee after being hit with the first shot. Probably more common with small caliber weapons with less stopping power. Pumping a couple of extra rounds in the guy to keep him from testifying will get you locked up for a long time.

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    I would have to be real boring and repeat my mantra - ''Plat it as you see it''.

    A situation can have so many variables that the permutations are near endless and there is no time probably to even contemplate rules of thumb. If your life is in jeopardy for real - even a moment's hesitation (perhaps considering rules of thumb and legal issues) could be too long, which is not to say we should act in extreme haste either - the ''just in case he is armed" sort of deal!

    A BG can attack in so many ways - you could shoot him and he'll fall but still be actively engaging you, he may have an accomplice at a greater distance shooting at you - variables, permutations - you have to use best judgement and because you were in fear of your life, and the threat has to be neutralized.
    GH likes this.
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    VIP Member Array KenpoTex's Avatar
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    ccw9mm, you nailed it, great post!
    "Being a predator isn't always comfortable but the only other option is to be prey. That is not an acceptable option." ~Phil Messina

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    Member Array xsquidgator's Avatar
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    God points all. There are exceptions to rules of thumb which is why they're rules of thumb (approximations) rather than Laws. Several people have pointed out possible exceptions to #1 and #2 that I hadn't thought of.

    #3 is, well, controversial. I'm NOT advocating 'finishing him off', by the way. To put it in context, these "rules of thumb" were told to a friend of mine by a TN LEO friend of his according to what this particular LEO wants or expects to see when responding to a report of a self defense shooting. #3 was told to my friend in the context of a buddy telling another buddy what's best for the friend should things go to H, not what's necessarily legal or what everyone would consider moral. #1 and #2 were things he looks for at a scene that could arouse suspicion that it wasn't a self-defense shooting. #3 I think means he's encountered a number of bad guys who were shot in self-defense and who tried to shift the blame to the shooter by lying, just as I've experienced in car accidents (the driver at fault is friendly and apologetic about hitting you, UNTIL the police arrives, then suddenly it changes to "officer, this SOB ran into me!" In some situations the evidence isn't clear and they can get away with it sometimes)

    In light of the discussion so far, let me morph some of the responses into a couple of rules- these are my re-wordings so please don't be offended if you think I'm twisting your words, I'm just trying to get the general idea correct, not necessarily every last detail.

    0.5) Avoid at almost all cost a situation in which you will have to defend yourself.
    1) don't shoot unless you or a loved one is about to suffer death or serious injury if you don't shoot.
    1b) in Florida, don't shoot unless you or a loved one is about to suffer a "forcible felony" which includes death serious injury but also includes armed robbery, rape, treason, and some other things.
    1c) It will look less like self-defense if you shoot someone in the back or at a range of say 20' or more. Self-defense may require this but it's going to be harder to argue this to the police. See #4.
    2) You should stop shooting when the threat is stopped.
    3) To protect yourself, contact 911 / police asap. If you shot in self-defense, make sure you report it as self-defense. Don't say too much (which could be legally used against you even if this isn't "right")
    4) Get a lawyer, hopefullly one experienced with firearms and self-defense law and hopefully one you've selected well ahead of time.
    Don't say too much. I believe a LEO involved in a shooting is given up to 24 hrs afterwards to decompress and get settled before a detailed interrogation begins, and I think LEOs also have the benefit or option of having questioners deal with them through a F.O.P. intermediary. Get a lawyer.
    Last edited by xsquidgator; October 21st, 2006 at 10:38 AM.

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    pax
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    ccw9mm ~

    Excellent post, which clearly and concisely explains the issues. Way better than fuzzy rules of thumb which aren't necessarily true.

    IMO, it's far more important that the shot actually is legally justifiable self-defense than it is whether it merely looks like justified self-defense at first glance.

    pax
    Last edited by pax; October 21st, 2006 at 10:48 AM.
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    Senior Member Array XD in SC's Avatar
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    with regards to #1......wasn't Massad Ayoob the expert witness in a case to prove self defense of a woman that was able to pull off 4 or 5 rounds, that hit the BG in the side and back. Ayoob proved that the human body can react faster than the bullets flight, so the BG turned as the "pops" came out and got it in the back.
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    Quote Originally Posted by xsquidgator View Post
    0.5) Avoid at almost all cost a situation in which you will have to defend yourself.
    1) don't shoot unless you or a loved one is about to suffer death or serious injury if you don't shoot.
    1b) in Florida, don't shoot unless you or a loved one is about to suffer a "forcible felony" which includes death serious injury but also includes armed robbery, rape, treason, and some other things.
    1c) It will look less like self-defense if you shoot someone in the back or at a range of say 20' or more. Self-defense may require this but it's going to be harder to argue this to the police. See #4.
    2) You should stop shooting when the threat is stopped.
    3) To protect yourself, contact 911 / police asap. If you shot in self-defense, make sure you report it as self-defense. Don't say too much (which could be legally used against you even if this isn't "right")
    4) Get a lawyer, hopefullly one experienced with firearms and self-defense law and hopefully one you've selected well ahead of time.
    Don't say too much. I believe a LEO involved in a shooting is given up to 24 hrs afterwards to decompress and get settled before a detailed interrogation begins, and I think LEOs also have the benefit or option of having questioners deal with them through a F.O.P. intermediary. Get a lawyer.
    If I might be so bold:

    4a) Restrict your responses to initial questioning to "I was lawfully armed, I was in fear for my life, and I defended myself. I will be happy to fully cooperate and give a statement after I consult with legal counsel."
    4b) Remain Silent
    4c) Stand mute
    4d) Zip it

    Remember - the officer you are talking to may seem to support your actions. He or she may very well support your actions. The supervisors in the department and the prosecutor may have a different view.

    Be nice, be polite, but beyond the basic identification information and the short blurb above, say nothing.

    Even here in Florida, where the rules are pretty favorable for the lawfully armed citizen, the best bet is to stand by for counsel before committing to a statement.

    Just my opinion, for what it is worth.

    Matt
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