Wednesday, January 11, 2012

After you draw your gun?

Over the last twenty-plus years, as more and more states have allowed good, honest folks the ability to legally exercise their second amendment rights... a lot of men and women have taken the steps necessary to exercise their God-given right to protect themselves.  If you've made the decision to keep or carry a firearm, whether it be concealed or out in the open... at some point you may be faced with having to draw the gun to protect you or your loved ones.

Now there will likely be a lot of other opinions and contrary views, but I've been thinking, reading, askin' questions, and studying on these matters for a couple of decades and while I don't have all the answers, there are some things the gals and I have determined that we, and you, should consider and implement after you draw your gun, but be advised... I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY.  Back in my days working in law enforcement, I was in a much different situation drawing my gun when the need arose... as opposed to being a citizen drawing my gun... I don't like that there's a difference, but there is.

Seems like when I teach the NRA Basic Pistol course and we get to the non-NRA part about Ohio Concealed Carry and Self-Defense law, we look at the State of Ohio's thoughts on legal use of a gun for self-defense, castle-doctrine, and I'd bet that a barrel of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors couldn't come to a consensus on almost any part of it at any given time - PRIOR - to someone drawing their gun.

Now you'll notice that I've talked about drawing your gun and not shooting your gun.  Deciding to draw your gun is the first step.  From what I've read, seen, and heard... if you've done all you can and avoided trouble, yet still find yourself in a position where your life or the lives of your loved ones are in danger... often, drawing the gun can eliminate the problem without actually pulling the trigger.

Sometimes I've met folks who want a gun or want to get their license to carry a concealed handgun (as Ohio calls it) just so they can scare someone who threatens them.  A self-defense gun isn't for scaring someone and it's not for wounding someone... a self-defense gun is for killing someone (and in Ohio it is defined as deadly force)... or in politically corrected terms, for stopping them... we don't shoot to kill, we shoot to stop... police don't shoot to kill, they shoot to stop.  HOGWASH!

We don't practice shooting arms, legs, or the bad guy's gun hand.  You only draw your gun if someone is threatening you with serious bodily harm or death and you shoot to kill!  I believe that if you don't have the mindset or beliefs and you're not willing to take a life in defense of yours or your loved ones... then DON'T CARRY A GUN!

Now at some point if you're using a firearm for self-defense, you may have the unfortunate situation that requires you to draw your gun.  Now we're not going to spend much time on discussing training and preparation in this post, but you should be training and preparing yourself.  If you have to draw your gun, one of two things occurs next... either you pull the trigger or your don't.  Either way, you need to contact law enforcement and as I always tell my concealed carry classes... we are in a day and age that if you carry a gun, you should carry a cell phone 'cause Superman can't find any phone booths to change in these days.

Here's the basic plan the gals and I intend to follow after you draw your gun:

1. Call law enforcement and ask for EMS if needed.

2. Identify yourself when they arrive and state:
"That man (woman, they, etc.) attempted (threatened) to kill me, 
I acted in self-defense and I want him (her, they, etc.) arrested."

3. "I don't want to say anything further 
until I've spoken with my attorney."

4. Don't answer anymore questions, 
but comply with all other law enforcement requests.

1. Call law enforcement and ask for EMS if needed.

Typically, the first person to call is the "victim" until determined otherwise.  Let's say you pick up some carry-out dinner and you're walking back to you car around the corner of a building and a man approaches you holding a knife and demands your wallet.  Let's assume you have no other choice so your toss your food at him and draw your gun and seeing the gun causes the mugger to tuck tail and run off.

Call law enforcement, because if the jerk runs over a street and dials 911... "Yeah, some guy in a green coat just pulled a gun on me in the parking lot at...", then the police arrive, see you in the green coat... ask you if you have a gun... and now that they confirmed the mugger's story... you're in handcuffs for the ride downtown trying to tell police the mugger had a knife (which he tossed after running off from seeing you with your gun so the police find no knife on him) and that the mugger is the real criminal - real story.

2. Identify yourself when they arrive and state: "That man (woman, they, etc.) attempted (threatened) to kill me, I acted in self-defense, and I want him (her, they, etc.) arrested."

If you draw your gun and pull the trigger, then call and ask for the police and EMS (ambulance).  Keep it simple... "I need the police and EMS at 123 Elm Street, a man tried to kill me and I shot him in self-defense, please hurry!"  Repeat it if necessary, but I wouldn't answer too many more questions on a recorded 911 call as the 911 dispatcher is going to begin a game of twenty questions... they're trained to.

Why do we prefer to say he attempted to kill us?  We could say we were in "fear for our lives" and may say that instead, but it's just not what most folks say in these parts.  Folks around here don't say, "a car crossed the center-line and I was in fear for my life."  Here 'bouts they say, "a car crossed the center-line and nearly killed me."  If you don't sound sincere or if you sound like you're giving a memorized or made-up line... the police will sense that.  By the way... don't ever lie of fudge the facts, they can usually figure that out pretty quickly from the evidence.

You can stay on the line and give the dispatcher updates, "The guy who tried to kill me just crawled behind the blue car...", but be careful what you say because if you're angry and say, "that jerk just tried to kill us, I hope he bleeds out and dies slow."  Guess what, "I hope he bleeds out and dies slow" is going to be played about ten times at your trial by the prosecutor.

If you've holstered your gun by the time police arrive, keep your hands up and in plain sight.  Personally, I don't recommend holding the criminal at gunpoint unless the criminal still presents an immediate danger to you or others.  It there is no immediate danger and the criminal wants to run, crawl, or hobble away... let them... the police can track them down.  If the criminal is down either due to submission to your requests or because you shot the idiot... DO NOT approach him... he may be armed with an additional weapon or try to take yours.

When the police ask you what happened, respond and say, "That man threatened to kill me with a knife, I acted in self-defense, and I want him arrested."  This makes your mindset clear... you thought he was going to kill you... your were in fear for your life... not in fear that he might hurt you or mess up your hair or clothes, but kill you.

3. "I don't want to say anything further until I've spoken with my attorney."

There's an old attorney saying that they've never had to defend anyone against something that wasn't said.  When the police start to question you further about what happened, just simply say, "I don't want to say anything further until I've spoken with my attorney."  Now if there is something immediately pertinent, let them know such as, "the one that was shot is right there, but the other two ran that way... they were wearing..."

This is not the time to begin thumbing through the yellow pages looking for the firm of  Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe.  If you are carrying a gun for self-defense and do not have an established relationship with a good attorney that knows or practices criminal defense - yes, criminal defense - and knows self-defense related law, then that should be on your list of things to do this week.

4. Don't answer anymore questions, but comply with all other law enforcement requests.

At that point, cooperate with law enforcement or they can make your life pretty miserable.  "Where's the gun?" let them have it if they ask - and they will... "Please wait over here" you should... "Do you have any identification on you?" give it to them... "What was the mugger wearing when he ran off?" tell them.  These are the folks who will be writing the initial and possibly additional reports.  Of course, they may not like that you won't answer more specific questions about the actual incident, but it's your right not to... and if you're otherwise cooperative with them, they'll remember that.

Now I know that some advise you to identify witnesses, but in the first few minutes after a shooting you may have other concerns on your mind.  Also remember, you might identify a witness who you think saw everything and their statement reads, "I heard a shot, looked up and that guy in the green jacket (you) was shooting the dude that's dead."  Wait, he didn't see the knife that was first pulled by the mugger?

There are a lot of books and even DVDs on this subject and I own pretty much all of them.  I agree with some, pull advice from others and disregard some.  Massad Ayoob is one of my favorite authors on the subject, but you'll notice our four steps don't completely align with his.  Ayoob says you should tell the officer "you'll sign the complaint", but most folks around here just want the perpetrator "arrested".  One book I read last year indicated that you should call your attorney first and have your attorney call 911.  If you do that and end up in front of a jury on a man-slaughter or murder charge, you better enjoy windows with bars... 'cause the jury will think you're the most callous jerk they've seen... IMHO.

I have not had to shoot anyone in my lifetime.  There are numerous times I've had to draw my gun during my law enforcement days and a couple of times it was pretty close, but currently as a citizen I may have to as I'm armed most of the time and everyone who has made the decision to arm themselves or carry for self-defense needs to consider these matters so you'll know what to do.  We're still re-thinking this all the time... so what are you going to do... after you draw your gun?


  1. Ayoob will tell ya to point out witnesses (they tend to disappear) and evidence (like empty shell casings, which also tend to disappear.)

  2. "I was in a much different situation drawing my gun when the need arose... as opposed to being a citizen drawing my gun"

    You were still a "citizen" when you were in law enforcement.

  3. That's pretty much in alignment with what we were taught in our carry permit class by Joel Rosenberg (now passed on). His four statements were:

    1. "I was attacked and was in fear for my life."
    2. "I will sign (later, after consulting with my attorney) a complaint against the attacker."
    3. "There's the evidence (and/or witnesses)."
    4. "I do not consent to a search, and I want to talk to my attorney before I say anything else."

    Joel literally wrote the book on carrying a firearm in Minnesota, and is greatly missed.

  4. Another thing to consider when calling 911 for EMS that I was taught in my Concealed Carry class was that you should never say "I shot someone" even if it was in self defense because he was trying to kill you. Instead, you should only say, "someone has been shot and needs help, please send EMS quickly". This shows compassion (helpful later during your court hearing) and also does not leave any recorded evidence against you that could be used out of context and you have still not admitted ON TAPE to shooting someone. Otherwise, this is great advice -- thanks Dann!

  5. @Anonymous... you are right, I was still a citizen when I worked in law enforcement, but I had different privileges and considerations as a police office in using or carrying a firearm... privileges and considerations that EVERY law-abiding citizen should have... IMHO...

    I think the main reason for this post is that the Gals and I are always re-thinking this... and your comments are appreciated... and folks need to think about this before they are in the situation...

    Dann in Ohio

  6. I grew up around guns. My dad was a chief of police most of my years growing up. I loved going to the firing range and all of that.

    Very interesting post. It's always good to know the local laws before you might even need them.

  7. Very well written and thought out. Kudos.

  8. This is awesome! Thanks for this post!!!

  9. I plan to lawyer up if shots are fired. It's all well and good to draw bright lines about what you should and should not say to the police, but not very practical. I will have just lived through the worst experience of my life; adrenaline will be flooding my body. Law enforcement officers are trained to get people like me to say way more than we intended to, and I respect that training. They are at their best and I will be at my worst.

    The down side of this plan is that I will almost certainly spend a night in jail, perhaps a few if the incident occurs over a weekend or holiday. The upside is that I hopefully won't be haunted at the criminal and civil trials with something that, taken out of context, make me out to be some sort of looney tunes vigilante.

  10. The advice to get in contact with a lawyer before you start carrying a weapon seems highly sensible. Thanks.

  11. If you have a cell phone, it likely has a camera. Take many pictures while waiting for the police to arrive. Or video. But document the scene. It may matter later.

  12. "A self-defense gun isn't for scaring someone and it's not for wounding someone... a self-defense gun is for killing someone (and in Ohio it is defined as deadly force)..."

    I mostly agree. A self-defense gun is for defending one's self, and that may mean having to kill someone. Better to realize that, and deal with that potential outcome now than later.

    "... or in politically corrected terms, for stopping them... we don't shoot to kill, we shoot to stop... police don't shoot to kill, they shoot to stop. HOGWASH!"

    I disagree. It's not hogwash to refer to the concept of "shooting to kill" as "shooting to stop," especially when we realize what a litigious society we live in--wasn't that the whole point of getting in touch with a lawyer BEFORE you need one? If you admitted on the stand (or anywhere else) that you were "shooting to kill," you'd be prosecuted for murder and certainly sued if you managed to escape prosecution. If you said that you were shooting to stop your attacker, they'd have a hard time finding a way to paint that as intent to commit murder.

    The whole point of shooting someone in self-defense isn't to kill them, it is to stop them from killing you. If they die from it, so be it. It's not "shooting to kill" as much as it is "shooting to live."

    I completely agree that people who carry a gun MUST come to grips with the fact that they may be forced to shoot someone, and that if/when that moment arrives, they must take the shot that has the highest percentage of ending the attack and it will likely involve killing their attacker. They must be prepared for the fact that that may end someone's life. That is not the intention, but the likely outcome. "Shoot to wound" or "shoot to scare" are Hollywood nonsense. But neither of them should be construed to be the equivalent of shooting to stop.

    It's not "shoot to stop" vs "shoot to kill."
    It's "shoot to stop" vs "shoot to wound."
    The first is a viable method of self-defense, the second is not.

    Shooting to stop the attack is the goal. This means aiming at center mass and taking the shot that probably is going to cause the death of the attacker. It's not the goal, but a likely side effect.

    Shooting to kill is murder, or it will be portrayed as such by the prosecutor.

    Shooting to wound is just plain stupid, and should only be done in Hollywood movies.

    Just my two cents.

  13. @Shrimp: Actually, I think we agree, but it's just semantics... when I say "shoot to kill"... I'm referring to the act of shooting someone...

    Regarding what we (the gals and I) will say after the actual act of shooting an attacker... and after talking to our attorney... We would probably say that the person was trying to kill us and we shot to stop him...

    I was just trying to indicate the mindset when you perform the act of shooting someone... In my opinion, and according to Ohio law... you're trying to kill them when you point a gun at them and pull the trigger... even in self-defense... and even if we really didn't want to kill them and were just getting them to "stop" their attacking us...

    Dann in Ohio

  14. "I was just trying to indicate the mindset when you perform the act of shooting someone... In my opinion, and according to Ohio law... you're trying to kill them when you point a gun at them and pull the trigger... even in self-defense..."

    True enough. I'm just wary of having it said in those words. True enough that pointing a gun at someone and pulling the trigger is lethal force--the only question becomes whether that homicide is justifiable homicide or murder in the first. I'd hate to see a perfectly legitimate self-defense shooting categorized as something other than self-defense because of the person's own unfortunate choice of words.

    In a perfectly normal world, this discussion would probably never have to happen, but since we live in a world where prosecutors look for every possible way to hang someone up, the mere use of the word "kill" could put a person in trouble--even though that is exactly what happened.

    Maybe it is mere semantics to argue "shoot to kill" vs "shoot to stop." I tend to think that intent is important, and saying that you shot to kill is equivalent to saying you "intended to kill," at least it will be in the mind of a judge or prosecutor.

    I think the problem comes from the unreasonable idea that there is ANY other way to shoot someone, other than aiming at their center mass, shooting them in a way that is likely to kill them. We would do that because it gives us the highest percentage of hitting our target and the highest probability of causing enough pain and damage and blood loss quickly enough to cause our attacker to cease and desist. There is NO other way to do it.

    But, thank you very much, Hollywood, for giving us the trick shot of shooting a gun out of someone's hand. Thanks again Hollywood, for giving us the idea that under stress, while being attacked, we can "shoot to wound" and that will magically save the day, ending the attack, even though the attacker may not experience significant blood loss, or pain, or even notice that he's been shot.

    Eh, whatever. Here's to hoping that it never happens for any of us. But if it does, here's to hoping we are prepared to deal with it.