Let’s assume your most likely deadly force encounter was to involve two assailants, one who faced and threatened you, and another who always lurked in the shadows and waited to attack you until you managed to put down the threat facing you. It’s a good bet much of your training — and the time, energy and money it involved — would be centered around effective skills, techniques and tactics to deal effectively with both assailants.
The criminal scrutiny facing you after a shooting is not a maybe thing — it’s a certainty. Even if you were completely morally right, but legally not perfect, you can easily go to jail for decades, lose every asset you own, lose your job, family and all prospects. While dealing with this seems a secondary consideration to the first of surviving the encounter, it’s so serious it’s secondary only in name. It’s really the second act of a single play. And it’s not just you who faces this second attacker, your family does too, in ways I trust are obvious.
I hear you saying you shouldn’t have to worry about such things. Well, you shouldn’t have to worry about being attacked in the first place. Yet you’ve accepted the fact the world is the way it is and not the way you’d like it to be. You carry a defensive weapon and have invested considerable — I hope — time and energy in training with it. Why then deny the reality of the legal consequences?
“But that’s not fair!” Yup, but life’s not fair, as you have already acknowledged by carrying a gun.
“I shouldn’t need to learn the law — I have a right to carry a gun and defend myself!” You do have a right to buy and carry a gun, and you do have a right to defend yourself. You also have a moral obligation to do so legally, and to do an adequate job of legal preparation and training. To do otherwise is only doing half the job. If not for the consequences to yourself, then think about your family, who will suffer nearly as much as you do if you go to prison — even for a righteous, but technically illegal shooting. Most people spend countless hours shooting, and none — none — on legal prep and education. That’s not dealing with the problem, that’s just having fun.
Besides, if you shoot someone wrongly or otherwise misuse a gun you cost me tax money to prosecute you, and you cost me dearly by tarnishing the reputation of gun owners. Your behavior reflects on me — on the rest of us — rightly or wrongly.
“I’ll just know when to use my gun. It’s common sense.” It’s not common sense. You literally don’t know what you don’t know. Unless you’re a legal expert in this area you have no idea what you’re talking about. The law is complex and not always intuitive. Sometimes it seems it’s way too complicated and the deck is stacked against both you and common sense. Sometimes that might be right. But often the law is quite properly in opposition to what an ignorant person might think of as “common sense.” Lots of seemingly “common-sense” stuff is like that. Whatever you do for a living — assuming it’s not digging ditches or washing dishes — probably seems easier and more like “common-sense” to someone outside the field — than it actually is.
No Free Ride Folks
“I shouldn’t have to spend money to learn the law.” Get ready for big news here — nothing’s free. Consider the first amendment gives you the right to free speech. You can say any ignorant, foolish, even dangerous thing you want, so long as the speech itself doesn’t put someone in imminent danger. Yet I trust we all detest the countless ignoramus who bloviate all over our culture. If someone suggested these people should actually learn something before they spouted off, they might object, saying “I have a right to my opinion” and “learning stuff costs money!” They’d be right about that. But they’d still be ignorant and stupid.
The right to be armed doesn’t mean you get guns for free. Neither does the commensurate responsibilities of knowing the laws of use-of-force mean you get that knowledge for free. Most gun people have no problem repeatedly spending money on their guns and ammo. What’s the big deal about spending a very small percentage on knowing what the hell you’re doing with those guns? Andrew Branca’s book —The Law of Self Defense — is $23. You can’t afford that?
Find Andrew’s book on amazon.com