There's been several recent self-defense shootings around the country, most notably the one in Florida, that have reminded me of a discussion I typically have at the end of teaching an NRA Basic Pistol Course
/Ohio CCW course. Many of my students have a lot of questions about carrying a concealed weapon, anticipating their soon to be Ohio License to Carry a Concealed Hangun... or CCW permit as many folks call it.
Often, a barrel full of lawyers and a dozen prosecutors couldn't produce a tangible answer on using a firearm or other weapon for self-defense if you covered 'em all with honey and tied 'em to an ant hill. So I provide (I'm not God, your pastor, your mama, or your attorney) some things to think about in light of what my students just learned, along with the Ohio Concealed Carry Handbook
, the affidavit they'll be signing when they apply for the license, and my general knowledge gained from many years of experience and reading.
There's things everyone who decides to use a firearm for self-defense needs to think about, consider, re-think, and continually process. It kind of reminds me of the ol' Kenny Roger's song, The Gambler...
"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run."
"Ev'ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away and knowing what to keep."
The Ohio application
has a statement that you are swearing to that says, "I desire a legal means to carry a concealed handgun for defense of myself or a member of my family while engaged in lawful activity." I believe that is a pretty good place to start and I think you really have to be careful when you go beyond that and intervene with your gun on behalf of others.
I'm ready to give my life or spend time in jail protecting my wife or daughter... I'm not sure I'm ready give my life or spend time in jail protecting your wife or children at the expense of my family's well-being... although my basic instinct and natural inclination is to step in and help.
Ohio has the "Castle Doctrine" that applies in your home and vehicle, but it does not have a "Stand your Ground" law. The three conditions that legally apply in Ohio, and other states, if you want to claim self-defense for using deadly force are:
1. You can't be at fault (nor can the person you defended)
2. You must be in fear of immediate death or serious bodily harm.
3. You must show that you could not retreat (or the person you defended does).
The problem with defending others in Ohio and many other places is that even if you fear immediate death or serious bodily harm for someone else, you may not know whether they're at fault or failed to retreat when they were able to or should have. Now I'm in favor of Stand your Ground laws, but even in states that have such laws, you still can't be found to have "Advanced your Ground" and claim self defense.
Like many folks, I feel this inherent need to help people. It was there long before my time in law enforcement and it is still there long after, but I'm not afforded the protection, both in terms of criminal and civil liability, that I had as a police officer. Now before everyone start beatin' up on cops... that's just the way it is... and I whole-heartedly support it for good, honest folks serving in law enforcement. I don't support it for those few that tarnish the badges of the good ones.
Even if you want to help others in self-defense situations, you should look at all options and consider the consequences of your actions 'cause one second of helping someone else could cost you a life-time of helping your family and those you love... and as a Christian husband and father... that is where my priorities are.
Now, I do believe that others have just as much right to defend themselves as I do, but I can't necessarily assume responsibility for all those who don't take any steps towards assuming responsibility for themselves. A large part of why I became a firearms instructor years ago was, and is, to help others safely protect themselves and their families while promoting firearm safety and the second amendment.
If you're looking for a good read on what happens after a self-defense shooting, I've got a lot of books on the topic, but a good place to start is with Chris Bird's Thank God I Had a Gun: True Accounts of Self-Defense
. 'Cause even if you make it past the cops, the prosecutors, and criminal considerations... you'll likely still have to deal with the attorneys and civil litigation. Bird has true stories about many scenarios faced before, during, and after folks used a gun for self-defense.
Ultimately, when it comes to self-defense and getting involved, just like the gambler... you need to... Know When to Hold'em or Fold'em...
So what do ya'll think?