February 01, 2011

Me? Own A gun? Article 3: Life-Changing Realities

If you’ve already read the first two portions of this series (available here and here), you’re reasonably well versed in the philosophical and theological implications of weapon ownership and use. This essay concerns practical, moral and legal issues, as well as exploring some of the primary ways that carrying a concealed weapon must necessarily change your life. Keep in mind that I am not an attorney, and that you are responsible for becoming familiar with the law where you live. But before we begin, for a humorous and accurate take on her rationale for carrying a concealed weapon, see my wise and delightful co-blogger, Brigid’s post, here.

AWARENESS: Walk down any street and take the time to assess the situational awareness of those you meet. What’s situational awareness? It’s a very familiar term to police officers, soldiers, and others who engage in risky, dangerous endeavors. Think of it as a heightened alertness combined with the ability to predict what might happen in any given situation. Most people walk around in a fog, almost completely unaware of what is happening outside of their “personal space,” that bubble extending to arm’s length or less. It is this lack of situational awareness that helps killers fire many shots into crowds or classrooms before anyone is aware of what is happening. In the aftermath of such attacks, people often say: “I didn’t see it coming,” or “it all happened so fast.” That’s because most people lack situational awareness.

See that man approaching you on the sidewalk? Notice that if he looks at you at all, it will only be, at best, a quick glance at your face. His mouth may turn up at the corners in a semi-smile, or it may not. Notice that no one looks up; virtually no one looks higher than the level of people’s faces. The next time you walk down a familiar downtown block in your community, concentrate on looking up. You’ll be amazed at the details you’ve missed. In the same vein, no one looks behind them. Consider how vulnerable this lack of situational awareness makes you to two legged predators. This is one of the primary reasons that they can be successful. In true, survival of the fittest style, criminals tend to prey on those who appear to be weak and/or distracted, hence, vulnerable.

The late Col. Jeff Cooper, firearms guru and founder of the Gunsite training facility, developed a color code that is helpful in understanding this issue.

Code White: This is the level of situational awareness of most people, which is to say, none at all. In this state, you are essentially unaware of what is happening outside your personal space. You cannot anticipate and identify potential danger and have no chance of dealing with it effectively if it appears. Predators see you as a walking piece of meat wearing an “eat me” sign.

Code Yellow: This is the level anyone who does not want to be prey should adopt. It is the level you must adopt if you carry a concealed weapon. In this state, you have an enhanced level of awareness. While remaining relaxed, you are constantly on the lookout for potential danger. You have expanded your personal space far beyond arm’s length and are alert and prepared to avoid or confront danger. This level of awareness is not stressful and can be maintained day in and day out without danger of physical or psychological damage.

Code Orange: In this state, you have recognized an imminent potential threat. Say a man walking toward you suddenly thrusts his hand into his coat in the manner of someone reaching for a handgun in a shoulder holster. You immediately escalate from yellow to orange--until he pulls out and begins to read a pamphlet--allowing you to return to yellow. This state may or may not result in an adrenaline dump, but remaining in this state for long periods of time may be physically or psychologically harmful.

Code Red: In this state you have recognized a definitive, imminent threat, but still have time to choose options. You approach your car in a parking garage to find several gang bangers lounging on the trunk lid. As they see you approach, they nudge each other, stand up, spread out, and one pulls a knife from his pocket while you see the others reaching into their pockets. They are grinning in anticipation. They think they’ve seen an easy mark approaching. You feel the heat of an adrenaline dump and have to make a decision: Flight or fight? Can you safely change direction and walk away without provoking a pursuit, or is a confrontation unavoidable? If it’s unavoidable, what must you do to gain and retain a tactical advantage? Remaining in code red for more than a few minutes is impossible for most people and will almost certainly be physically and/or psychologically harmful.

Code Black: You are actually fighting and must assume, in any confrontation outside the sparring practice of a martial arts school, that you are fighting for your life, particularly if you are attacked by a stranger on the street (more on this shortly). Adrenaline is pumping and you may experience time dilation (seconds seem like hours) and a narrowing of your field of vision known as “tunneling.” Your hearing may become very dim. All fine muscle control is lost. This is a debilitating physical and psychological condition and those who experience it are often physically and emotionally exhausted after a confrontation that lasts only seconds. If you have not adopted the habit of maintaining situational awareness, you will almost certainly be at a serious tactical disadvantage and may be hurt or killed.

With only fiction and movies as a guide, most people do not understand that it is entirely possible--indeed, it may be absolutely necessary--to be capable of two modes of behavior which, to the uninformed, seem contradictory. Police officers, special forces soldiers, martial artists and others understand what I mean. It is entirely possible to live a quiet, unassuming life, a life that, observed by others, would appear to be not only non-violent, but incapable of violence. Yet, when confronted by a deadly threat, such people are instantly capable of acting with overwhelming speed, violence of action and focus which results in the elimination of the threat.

In all of my police years, my wife would often say that she could not imagine me doing violence. Many of those who knew me would often comment that I didn’t look or act like a police officer. It was because I existed in code yellow--as I do to this day--that I was able to recognize potentially dangerous situations and avoid them, thus avoiding the necessity of violence, yet I constantly trained, mentally and physically, to deliver it if necessary. No rational person wants to harm or kill others, yet no rational person should be without the ability should it become necessary.

It must be understood that most people are utterly unprepared to meet violence. While most Americans believe, at least in the abstract, that evil exists, they don’t tend to think of it in concrete, daily terms. Most people think of themselves as kind, considerate, polite people, people who obey the law and consider the feelings of others. This is admirable, but it is hard, perhaps almost impossible, for such people to realize that they live near people who are not at all like them, people who, if not truly sociopathic--people with absolutely no feelings for others, essentially those without a conscience--care very little for others and have no problem with hurting or killing them for fun, to get what they want, or both. The realization that we might live next to such people, or walk or drive past them at any time of any day is sobering, but may lead to taking the necessary steps to be prepared. That is what this series of articles is all about.

THE OBLIGATIONS OF CONCEALED CARRY: Those who choose to carry a concealed weapon are, whether they realize it or not, taking on obligations that others simply do not have, and they will be held responsible, legally and morally, for upholding those obligations. Among them are:

(1) Situational Awareness: You are now obligated to live in code yellow. You can no longer afford to be oblivious to your surroundings. You must, to at least some degree, think like a criminal and ask yourself how they would behave and what they would do if they were intending to break into your home, steal your car, or assault you. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve missed and at how much more vibrant and interesting the world is now that you’re actually much more aware of it in your daily life. You’ll also be entitled to a degree of pride in your ability to better protect yourself and those you love.

(2) Safeguarding Your Weapon: You are solely responsible for safeguarding your weapon. This includes keeping it concealed and ensuring that no one is able to take it from you. It also includes keeping it from those who should not have it, such as children. To fulfill this obligation, you’ll have to consider many things, including how you’ll carry your weapon, how to store it when you’re not carrying it, your wardrobe and how you’ll change your habits--and adopt new habits--to ensure that you don’t accidentally expose your weapon or accidentally leave it behind in a public restroom. You’ll have to alter your wardrobe and behaviors to accommodate the weapon, not the other way around. The premise behind concealed carry, and its value, is that since criminals cannot know who is carrying a concealed weapon, they must assume that anyone could be and act accordingly. You must develop consistent daily routines--do things the same way all of the time--to ensure that you don’t forget to do what you must. If you carry your weapon in your purse, for example, you can never allow that purse to be out of your immediate grasp, and certainly never out of your sight. At a restaurant, it should be on your lap, not on the floor near your chair. If this doesn’t work for you, you must find another means of carrying your weapon. In future editions of this series, I’ll go into the variety of available carry options.

(3) Maintenance Training: Shooting quickly and accurately is a matter of muscle memory and practice. It is a perishable skill. You must be willing to commit to a minimum amount of practice. How much? That depends on you, but generally speaking, once a month in live--on the range--fire, and once a week in dry fire--in the home--practice. The point is that your weapon should feel as familiar to you as your watch. Its mechanisms and use should be as easy and familiar as walking and should require no more conscious effort. New shooters should stick with a single weapon rather than carrying a variety of weapons. There is a venerable saying to the effect that the most dangerous man is the one with only a single gun. The point is that he probably practices with it enough to be truly proficient. If the point is being so familiar with your weapon that you need no conscious thought to employ it efficiently and quickly, that kind of familiarity will be hard to come by if you carry multiple weapons. Firearms aren’t fashion accessories.

(4) Avoidance of Danger: Firearms aren’t license to become a righteous avenger. In fact, if you’re carrying a firearm, you have a more compelling duty to avoid trouble. Firearms are to be used only as a last resort to protect your life, or the lives of others and to prevent imminent serious bodily injury or death. You must avoid places where danger is more likely such as bars and certain neighborhoods or areas where criminals are known to be. You must ignore insults, walk across a street to avoid people who might be trouble, even walk or drive blocks out of your way. If you are in code yellow, if you have enhanced your situational awareness, such things will be second nature because you’ll constantly be asking “what if?” You’ll be far more likely to recognize potential danger and avoid it. Predators will notice your awareness and will be far more likely to leave you alone.

On the other hand, if they’re too stupid to notice, or so bold or drug-addled that they don’t care, you’ll also be more prepared to avoid them or to gain a tactical advantage if it’s not possible to avoid a confrontation. Remember that if you do have to shoot someone, prosecutors will be asking themselves if you were looking for trouble because you were armed. Be sure that there is not only no evidence to support that theory, but plenty of evidence to the contrary. Most police officers will spend an entire career without ever having to shoot anyone, and they’re exposed to more danger in a month than most citizens will experience in a lifetime. Unlike you, they don’t have a choice; they have to knowingly enter dangerous situations. Prosecutors know this; so must you.

LEGAL ISSUES: There are two bodies of law with which anyone carrying a concealed weapon must be intimately familiar: The specific laws of their state that regulate concealed carry and the laws regarding the use of deadly force, in general, and those specific to their state. Of particularly concern are the places where concealed carry is prohibited as most people have their permits suspended for accidentally carrying their handguns into such places. These restricted zones vary from state to state, so it’s always wise to carefully research this issue and avoid violating those laws. Keep in mind, however, that Col. Cooper said that it’s much better to be judged by 12 than carried by six. In other words, it’s better to be alive and in violation of a given law than dead and faultlessly law abiding. I do not advocate violating the law, merely being aware of all of the issues relating to these topics.

State Laws: These regulate who is allowed to carry, the related fees, forms and tests (usually written and shooting), terms of license validity and the means of renewal, specify manner of carry (open, concealed or both) and specific zones and places wherein firearms may not be carried by licensees. They also commonly list states with whom reciprocity is shared. In other words, states that have entered into a compact of mutual respect for the concealed carry licenses of their respective citizens. Most states--at last count, 38--are “shall issue” states. In other words, if you meet the criteria for concealed carry under the law, no public official may deny you a license. In the other states, concealed carry is either completely prohibited (Wisconsin and Illinois), or a “may issue” system is in place where local sheriffs or state officials have absolute authority to decide who will be allowed a license. In such states, licenses are normally granted only for the wealthy, well connected, politicians, or similar worthies. The National Rifle Association website maintains an up to date database of state laws under its Institute For Legislative Action tab.

Municipal laws may also have some bearing, but only in those states that lack a state pre-emption statute, a law that prohibits municipalities within the state from regulating firearms. Ultimately, the point is to become very familiar with any state or local laws that might apply, not only where you live, but where you plan to travel. Even those states with reciprocity agreements with your state are sure to have some significant differences in law, and you are required to follow the law wherever you are, even if it differs from the law in your home state.

The Doctrine of Deadly Force: This is another area where you should carefully follow state law. The laws of some states are more lenient than the general principles of the use of deadly force, while some are more restrictive. The question is: When is the use of deadly force justified? Answer: When necessary to halt the imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death to you or another.
What this basically means is that in any situation in which a reasonable person would believe that they--or another--was faced with the imminent--as opposed to possible or future--threat of serious bodily injury or death, deadly force is a reasonable response. Of course, running away might also be a wise and reasonable response, but only if it is reasonably possible. In states that have enacted the Castle Doctrine--more about that later--it is not required.

It’s important to understand what “serious bodily injury” means. While the legal definition will vary a bit from state to state, it essentially refers to injury that, while not deadly, is crippling, seriously disfiguring, that will have a continuing, negative impact on your life from the moment it is inflicted. Getting shot in the leg or shoulder--as in the movies--is not something to be easily treated and shrugged off. Gunshot wounds are ugly, nasty and can be permanently debilitating. Equally, cuts inflicted by edged weapons like swords or knives can be as debilitating and in many ways, far more horrific and ugly. Many police officers who survive a gunshot wound may be physically healed, but never fully psychologically recover.

The means for determining--on the spot--if deadly force is necessary and justified is to apply the “means, opportunity, and jeopardy” test. There are a variety of similar terms/acronyms, but they all boil down to the same thing.

Means: Does your opponent have the means necessary to cause serious bodily injury or death? If you are a 100 pound woman, any man of average size and strength would almost certainly have the means necessary employing only his bare hands. Someone with a gun certainly would. Someone with a knife, almost certainly, and someone holding a variety of other instruments would also pose such a threat. Someone known to be highly skilled in a martial art, even if smaller than you, might also have the means.

Opportunity: Does your opponent have the opportunity to cause serious bodily injury or death? An attacker armed with a handgun certainly does, out to normal handgun ranges, perhaps as much as 50 yards away, although there is always such a thing as a lucky shot even at greater ranges. An attacker armed with a rifle has a much greater dangerous range. Someone armed with a knife is dangerous to at least 21 feet, perhaps even more, as practical experience demonstrates that even an average person with a knife can close 21 feet before they can be shot and/or stopped by a handgun-wielding victim. And if a knife- wielding opponent further away moves as though to throw the knife, a reasonable person must assume that they know what they are doing and can cause serious injury or death at a distance with that knife. Other tools such as hammers, bats, screwdrivers, etc. are also dangerous if the person wielding them is close enough.

Jeopardy: Is an opponent acting in such a way, here and now, as to indicate to a reasonable person that they, or another, is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death? An opponent you know to be carrying a handgun which remains holstered is not putting you in jeopardy, but when he, after uttering threats, perhaps even glaring at you menacingly, quickly reaches for his handgun, jeopardy attaches. Someone standing across the street with a knife yelling threats is not putting you in jeopardy, but when they begin to run toward you, jeopardy increases with each foot gained.

Notice that I keep referring to what a “reasonable person,” might think or do. This is the general standard applied by the courts in analyzing the use of deadly force. Shooting a slight 12 year old girl who yells “I’ll kill you,” while making ready to throw a baseball at you from 50 feet away would almost certainly be found to be inherently unreasonable. Shooting an adult male who has threatened to kill you and is bringing a shotgun to his shoulder from the same distance would almost certainly be considered to be inherently reasonable. Fortunately, the courts, even the Supreme Court, understand that one cannot be expected to be absolutely cool and calm and able to engage in extended intellectual reflection and debate when faced with imminent deadly danger. That necessary understanding does not, however, relieve anyone of the necessity of acting reasonably and properly in deadly force situations.

Shooting to Kill: You must never say, or even think, that you shoot to kill. You never shoot unless the requirements of the three part means, opportunity, and jeopardy test have been satisfied. If so, you shoot only to STOP the attacker, to immediately stop them from doing what they were doing that put you or another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. To that end, you shoot as quickly and effectively as possible to immediately end the threat. So how do you stop an attacker?

The Mechanisms of Stopping: There are three primary means of stopping a human being: (1) Neural damage; (2) Breaking the skeleton; (3) Exsanguination (reducing blood pressure through bleeding). There are, however, many other considerations.

(1) Neural Damage: Causing trauma to the brain usually causes immediate cessation of hostile action. In fact, SWAT marksmen, when possible, try for a brain stem shot. They try to hit a hostage taker exactly where the brain and brain stem meet, at the base of the rear of the skull. If properly placed, a bullet to this spot will cause the potential killer to drop as though a light switch had been switched off, and even if they have their finger on the trigger of a gun, they will not be able to pull it. The problem is that this area is a very small target. In fact, relatively speaking, the human head is also a small target, particularly if it is moving at all. Notice too that I am talking about a highly trained marksman making the shot with a scoped, highly accurate rifle, almost always with the benefit of a spotter and from a supported position. Accurately shooting a handgun at the same target, even at close range, is much more demanding.

(2) Breaking the skeleton. While breaking a femur, or the pelvis, for example, will cause most people to drop to the ground, they may still be capable of pulling a trigger, and if so, have merely been rendered less mobile, not stopped. And again,
making such shots with any degree of reliability with a handgun is exceedingly difficult, particularly because, compared with rifle ammunition, much handgun ammunition lacks the power to reliably break large bones.

(3) Exsanguination. Someone shot in an artery, or even the heart, may have up to three minutes of useful consciousness if they are truly determined to kill you regardless of the damage they suffer in the attempt. However, if sufficient blood is lost, the resulting drop in blood pressure will inevitably lead to unconsciousness.

If by now you’re wondering how people are stopped at all, good for you. You’re paying attention and really thinking. Again, you’ve likely been infected by Hollywood.

Fortunately, such matters are not only physical, but psychological. Many people, upon receiving even a survivable gunshot wound, immediately drop and cease hostile action because of what I’ll call the “OMG! I’ve been shot!” response. Others--thankfully relatively few--may absorb ridiculous numbers of bullets which might slow, but not stop them, as they try to continue their deadly attacks. Such people eventually succumb to one or more of the effects I’ve mentioned, but “eventually” is not helpful or comforting if they are attacking you.

The best course of action is to aim for “center mass,” or the part of the torso at or around the sternum, and fire enough rounds to force the attacker to stop. If a single round of .22 LR ammunition will accomplish this, great. If it requires ten rounds of .45 ACP ammunition, that’s fine too. It is the cumulative effect of blood vessel damage, neural shock, and psychological shock that will have the greatest effect, therefore more than one round may almost always be necessary. Do not expect anyone, even if shot with a shotgun, to fly ten feet backward. If any weapon possessed the power, solely through the energy imparted by the impact of its projective, to fling a 200 man ten feet backward, similar energy would be imparted to the person shooting the weapon.

Keep in mind that it is always a good idea, even if you cannot avoid or escape a deadly force situation, to try to avoid shooting. If there is time, you should clearly display your weapon in the “ready” position--pointing it at your attacker, but roughly at the belt line--and loudly and clearly say “don’t move.” Fortunately, many criminals, confronted with an armed and obviously prepared victim, will choose the better part of valor and promptly show you the rear of their sagging pants and the soles of their flying shoes. And if they do not, you’re in the proper stance to fire and have established your desire not to fire unless absolutely necessary to any bystanders and potential witnesses. “Yeah Officer, that guy told him not to move and wasn’t pointing his gun right at him at first.”

The general rule is that if you have legitimate cause to shoot, you may shoot as many rounds as necessary, with as large a firearm as necessary, to stop the imminent threat. However, once any part of the three part test is no longer operative, you immediately stop shooting. If the attacker is writhing on the ground and has dropped his gun, which is out of his reach, he no longer has the means or opportunity, and is no longer placing you in jeopardy. However, if he is down, but is still holding his gun, the moment he begins to move it toward you, jeopardy is again present, and you shoot until he is stopped, whether that takes an additional round or ten rounds. When the justification to shoot ends, the shooting ends. Even though some states allow it, never shoot a fleeing criminal in the back. If they’re fleeing, there is no jeopardy. If they should suddenly stop and turn toward you with their gun, jeopardy is again present. While there are a few, very rare, circumstances in which shooting a fleeing attacker might be reasonable, they are so rare as to be nothing about which you should worry.

You must never think about “shooting to wound,” let alone try to do it. The law does not require it, and it will be highly likely to backfire for several significant reasons. Obtaining the desired stopping effect with a shot that inflicts only a non-mortal wound is highly unlikely and could conceivably enrage an attacker who will press an attack he might have otherwise abandoned. The necessary physical damage and psychological effect is simply not there, and making such a shot accurately is highly unlikely.

In fight or flight situations, among the first abilities human beings lose--which accompanies time distortion, tunneling and hearing loss--is fine muscle control. This makes it very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to formulate the intention to shoot someone effectively in a small portion of the body so as to immediately disable them, to say nothing of actually carrying out that intention. For most people, it is simply physically impossible. Hitting center mass will be more than hard enough, but with proper training and practice, absolutely attainable.

In addition, substantial legal liability may attach. If you were so cool and detached that you could shoot someone in the knee, did you really have sufficient reason to shoot them in the first place? If you really thought that you were in deadly danger, why did you take the time to shoot them someplace that any reasonable person should know wouldn’t reliable stop them? Yes, stopping them will likely result in their death, but you did not intend to cause their death. You intended only to stop them from causing yours That they subsequently died is regrettable, but they made that choice, not you. You are not the attacker.

In all cases, if you shoot at all, you shoot to stop, and you accomplish this by delivering a sufficient volume of accurate fire to that part of the body most likely to cause them to stop. When the threat has stopped, you stop.

At this point, you may find yourself experiencing some degree of revulsion. If so, good for you. You have a conscience. I cannot say often enough that no moral, rational human being wants to harm or kill another. Violence is cruel, nasty, hateful and bloody, but the choice is simple and stark: Do you prefer to be alive and unharmed, or bleeding, perhaps dying on the ground, at the mercy of those cruel and inhuman enough to attack you? Which alternative would you prefer for those you love?

The Castle Doctrine. One of the most salutatory developments of recent years has been the passage of a growing number of state “Castle Doctrine” laws. Based on the common law principle that “a man’s home is his castle,” these laws create the legal presumption that if you are in your home, or any other place you are legally allowed to be, such as your car, on your property, in a store, etc., you have no duty to run away or otherwise retreat if placed in a deadly force situation. You may stand your ground and defend yourself and it is up to the state to affirmatively prove that you acted in bad faith. This is important in that some states and jurisdictions have historically badly treated law abiding citizens who legitimately used deadly force. Some states had and have laws that require you to try to run away or retreat, even within your own home, if attacked by a burglar in the middle of the night, before using deadly force. Some essentially make you prove that you did try to run away or retreat before using force.

Castle Doctrine laws are, of course, only common sense. If someone breaks into your home or car and tries to attack you, it makes no sense at all to run away, surrendering your vehicle or home to them, if such retreat was even possible. Because such idiotic laws actually put families in danger rather than deterring criminals, castle doctrine laws are welcome and rational. Who would retreat from their home, leaving their wife or children at the mercy of criminals deranged enough to break into an occupied home?

A related issue is the old--and completely wrong--advice that if you are forced to shoot a criminal in your back yard, you should drag his body inside. If you have the legal cause to shoot, it does not matter where the criminal is standing. When the criminal is stopped, you stop, and do nothing--absolutely nothing--to alter the scene in any way. Anything you do, no matter how innocuous, may be taken by the police and prosecutors as evidence of evil intent on your part.

THE AFTERMATH: Let’s say that you have been forced to defend your life. Walking back to your car with your wife after a movie, you were approached by a criminal who told you he had a gun and demanded your money. He threatened your life and began to pull his hand out of his baggy coat pocket. You were faster. You went to ready and ordered him, loudly and repeatedly not to move, but he kept trying to pull his gun out of his pocket, and he is face down on the ground and not moving.

The entire confrontation has taken only five seconds, but it felt like an eternity. At this point, your head may be swimming. Your breath is coming in shallow gasps, and your muscles ache. Suddenly, you’re aware of the world around you. You’re in shock and your wife is shaking and crying. You suddenly realize that you’re shaking too. What should you do?

First be sure that the criminal is truly stopped and not faking. If it’s not obvious, keep him covered, but avoid approaching or touching him. The last thing you want is to become involved in a wrestling match with a wounded, crazed criminal desperate to get his hands on your handgun. If his weapon is near him on the ground and you can safely move it out of his reach, do so, but again, do not place yourself within lunging reach of the person who just tried to kill you.

Immediately call your attorney. The attorney you’ve already spoken with; the attorney whose number is on your cell phone. Explain what has happened and get his advice.

Part of that advice will almost certainly be to call the police, which you will do next, and at the same time, tell them that they need to send an ambulance. Everything I’ve suggested thus far should take place within the first few minutes after the shooting stops. Tell the police as little as possible. Know that they are recording what you say and will use it against you. Ideally, you will tell them only that there has been a shooting and that you were forced to defend your life against an armed robber. Be sure to specifically describe what you are wearing and make the dispatcher repeat it, along with the understanding that you have described the good guy, not the bad guy. Remember, say only the minimum possible necessary to inform the officers who will shortly be arriving and no more. You will feel like blurting out your feelings--don’t.

Before the officers arrive, if possible, move behind cover while still keeping the robber covered. As they arrive, holster your weapon, putting it out of sight, and position yourself so the arriving officers can clearly see you. Keep your hands in the open so the officers can see them. Tell the officers, repeatedly and clearly that you’re the victim and obey their commands, moving slowly, deliberately, and only when they tell you to move. Remember that they are unsure what has happened and who is the bad guy. Don’t give them any reason to see you as a threat.

The officers will try to question you as much as possible. Follow your attorney’s advice and say as little as possible. If you were unable to contact your attorney by phone, tell them that you were forced to defend your life against a robbery attempt. In either case, assure them that you will cooperate fully as soon as you have had the opportunity to speak with your attorney, who should be on the way to speak with you. Expect to be arrested and do not resist if they do arrest you. Expect to be taken to a police station where other officers will try to question you. If they do not arrest you but ask you to come to the police department to make a statement, agree to go, but again, tell them only that you will cooperate fully as soon as you’ve had the chance to speak with your attorney.

As long as you have obviously acted within the law, it is likely that no charges will be filed against you, though you may end up spending some time in jail until bond is set. This is not unusual.

Thereafter, expect that the robber’s relatives will suddenly discover that the robber, regardless of a rap sheet a mile long, was spending his life waiting for a letter from the Vatican announcing his sainthood. Expect to be sued. Yes, it’s insane, but expect that it will happen. The good news is that you’ll probably eventually win--and that you and your wife are alive to be sued. That’s the point.

The next installment of this series will deal with the more practical aspects of concealed carry, including weapon choice, methods of carry, tactics, and other related concerns.

Posted by MikeM at February 1, 2011 09:16 PM

Really appreciated this post. I live in Iowa which just passed a shall issue concealed carry law and am looking into getting my license. It's really helpful to have things that are involved in concealed carry discussed beyond "you took the class and test and can now carry". After reading what you wrote I still wonder a bit about the Doctrine of Deadly Force. Of course you go through it in your head at the time and you feel that you had good reason to use your gun what stops the jury from going "eh, not reasonable" and packing you away? I guess maybe that is a good thought to have as it would help you even more to be sure but the thought still lingers. Hope that makes sense. Anyway, I look forward to your next post as other than the legal aspects it is the how of conceal carry that I'd like to know more about.

Posted by: Mark at February 2, 2011 06:34 AM

Dear Mark:

You've hit on a great issue and something that should concern everyone who carries concealed. It may give you a bit of comfort to know that most situations where shooting is necessary are really pretty unambiguous. Any reasonable person in the same situation would have done the same thing. At the same time, you can also deal with your legitimate concern by starting to practice "what if?" Ask yourself, in your daily life, what if this happens, or what if that happens? What would I do, what is my response going to be? What are my options?

I'll address proper training in the next post, and I suspect that will be helpful too. Thanks for reading, and thinking about these issues.


Posted by: mikemc at February 2, 2011 01:35 PM

or as I like to call it "Spacial Awarness".
I used to live in NYC and I was always reading about some poor slob who walked in on an armed robbery and became a victim of a surprised gunman who would later claim he "Didn't mean to shoot" the murder victim.
When I started working in the "Ghetto" I would sometimes have to stop in a local bodega for an item and I got in the habit of looking in the front window before entering the store to make sure it wasn't being robbed. It got to be a habit that I practiced before walking into any store, anywhere and everwhere I went.
Still alive to talk about it so I guess it's a good habit to get into.
As the man says:"an ounce of prevention....."

Posted by: firefirefire at February 3, 2011 04:36 AM