Admittedly, I am not a big fan of the Huffington Post et al.  Nor do I subscribe to much of the rhetoric from either of the far left or right.  Rather, I try to keep an open mind, I try to see the other side (s) of things and although I pretty regularly question and challenge convention, I do try to stay pretty well balanced toward the middle.  Ideally,  with common sense and  pragmatism leading the charge.  However, when I read this recent article from the Huff;

…I nearly lost my fucking mind.

People ask me why I don’t teach legalize in any of my classes (except for some case law, usually reserved for the LE family).  I explain that actually I do teach a lot of legalize, just not a lot of statutory legalize.  I teach that if you are in fear of your life, or fear for the life of another then you can AND SHOULD use deadly force to stop that fear.  I teach what constitutes being in fear for your life, what kind of weapons and items should cause that fear, what those weapons and items can do to you or another to cause that  fear and how to determine if that fear is REASONABLE.  We talk about imminent and immediate danger.  We talk about the Five Arenas Of Combat and how they relate to our “Survival” discussing at length that surviving isn’t reliant on the pulling of the trigger alone.  We talk about where in a civilized society does property trump human life in our priorities of life.  And I teach that most of the time our evil little friend Ego, gets us in a lot of trouble.

But I don’t cite statute or ordinance numbers.  I don’t tell students when they should “shoot the dirtbag”.  I don’t play the expert and expound that if he is doing this, you can do that or tell you that you’ll “be covered” if you do such and such a thing based on a law.  Why don’t I?  Well, for a lot of reasons.  First, I’m not an attorney or a judge and although I do have a lot of knowledge and experience with things legal, a student taking action on my interpretation of a law might get us both in a mess.  Second, not all my family of students comes from where I do, and laws are different in different places.  But lastly, and maybe most importantly, I don’t teach legalize because responsible gun owners don’t need it.  Here’s my thinking; if you are looking for a legal reason–a permission slip as it were–to shoot somebody, then you are already outside the boundaries of responsible gun ownership.  You are an aberration, an anomaly and you are wrong on many levels.  On the other hand, if you are left with no other choice but to rely on shooting someone to save your life or that of another, if you have though about other options and knew they weren’t going to work or the bad guy kept you from them, if you have no other choice but to kill or be killed (paraphrase as you will) and then you use your gun, then you are just.

I recently attended a training event where a very well pedigreed…uh, I mean credentialed lawyer presented his version of protecting gun owners from criminal prosecution.  He continually presented fairly complex legal concepts, in the form of state statutes,  and how they would protect his new “clients” if needed.  I must tell you, he was a rather spectacular speaker and I even caught myself nodding my head yes and wondering if I should put him on retainer.  However, common sense got the best of me and when he asked if there were any questions I queried him as to his prosectorial  experience.  “Sir, I noticed that you have a very impressive record during your years as a prosecutor.”  I led with.  “Thank you” he replied as he began to explain his awesomeness in a jury trial.  I felt myself shift my weight to the outside of my feet as I am prone to do when I know I’m about to jump in, “So sir, I’ve heard you tell all of us how under these statutes you can protect us from any liability, and that if we do end up in court in front of a jury, we will be ok.”  He said “Yes, absolutely.”  (remember that word please)  Time to set the hook...”so regarding your exemplary prosecutorial  record, would you say that every time that a jury retired to deliberate a case you had presented, you knew without a doubt that they would come back in your favor?”  Wow, he didn’t see it coming, never lead with your chin folks.  He arrogantly replied, “Of course not, anybody who has been in the business as long as I have can tell you; you never know what a jury is going to do.”  bump, set, spike…game over!!!  He actually almost caught himself in mid sentence, he just couldn’t shut up fast enough, but the look on his face made it clear he got the point, and so did the rest of the crowd.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think that a strong legal base of knowledge and a stronger legal team are critical to our journey to becoming professional gun owners.  But it really gets stuck in my craw to hear that as long as I do something under such and such law, then I will be ok.  That is simply not true.  And we segue into the Huffington post article;

How in the hell does any right minded, PROFESSIONAL gun owner find it appropriate to set a trap for someone to come into their home and then justify taking their life?  Should we be led to believe that Markus Kaarma and Byron Smith truly felt that they were forced to resort to shooting someone because their lives were in imminent and immediate danger?  Paul Ryan, Kaarma’s attorney said “Kaarma didn’t intend to kill Dede.  “He was scared for his life. It shouldn’t be up to a homeowner to wait and see if (an intruder) is going to shoot him when he announces himself,”  Actually, and taken at face value I agree with that last sentence, and I think this is the principal that the “Castle Doctrine” etc. is based upon, that a citizen of this country should not have to retreat from within his home to prove that he was in fear.   But for fuckssake, Kaarma left his house, went outside and shot back INTO the garage “sweeping the garage with three low shots and a fourth high shot”.  Exactly where in this is the fear?

I see in all of this a blossoming trend of us creating our own fantasies of what the bad guys are going to do to us, and then using a blanket of legal authority to justify our actions BEFORE an incident even occurs.  We know that most force type litigation is based upon the perception of  the shooter at the time of the incident.  What the shooter felt was going to happen to them if they didn’t shoot right then.  So it becomes a very difficult situation I think because we all know that we certainly don’t want our actions being second guessed any more than they already are.  But by the same token, there has to be some transparency to actions leading up to the event.  Let’s look at the situation handled in two very different ways:  I can see a huge difference in a situation where a homeowner–after a burglary–buys a gun for protection, installs extra locks and lighting and, while on the phone to 911 and barricaded in their bedroom shoots an intruder.  That is a professional gun owner.  On the other hand, when a homewner moves their vehicle to make it look like no one is home, prepares their self with food and water and records them self telling the people he shot that “you’re dead” and “you’re dying” that is a criminal, and obviously a black eye to all professional gun owners in this country.

But what do we think is the actual difference?  I mean, what does one have that the other didn’t?  I think I can sum it up pretty quick, Ego.  That little dude gets us in all amounts of trouble doesn’t it?  He is the voice in our head that tells us that a human life is not worth as much as our purse is.  Does that really make sense?  To kill someone for stealing our purse?  Or our TV?  Of course it doesn’t and most of us, absent our EGO, will agree with that.  But as I alluded to earlier, I think we get ourselves in situations where we create a possibility that a crime is going to be committed against us and then formulate a response.  Tragically that response often ends with the probability of us shooting someone as 1.  Meaning that that is the only response we favor, and we continue to justify it to ourselves by using statutory law reinforcing that we CAN shoot someone under that circumstance.  I will submit that this may be the difference in an amateur gun owner, and a professional gun owner.

I think that as we all continue to mature and progress into a state of professionalism as gun owners, we must continue to recognize what professionalism is and what it isn’t.  Although that may be slightly different from one of us to another I do believe there are some similarities that most of us desire.  I hope that none of us want to be featured in the Huffington post for murdering a couple of stupid kids.  Rather,  I would hope that any of us that are forced to use our guns to defend ourselves will be able to say that we did so only as we realized it was the only action left for our survival.

Finally, as you all know I think training is key.  A lot of training, not only on that pesky tactical load technique, but on how to run away, how to hide, how to not get blocked in at a gas station etc.  All too often as amateurs we get caught up on the technicality of the gun and what cool gadget we need next.  But as professionals that changes, and evolves us to where we can use the gun, and well.  But only if we have to.  So train hard, train real….and come shoot!–Rich




7 Responses to “Are you an amateur? Or a Professional?”

  1. Chuck Hunt,

    Good points, all.
    My TV, no. My truck, nope. My wife or children, oh yeah. Property is not worth a person’s life, no matter how new, or what it cost.
    Most people have no idea what it does when you end another human’s life. They shouldn’t, it’s not in our psyche to kill. The armchair Rambos and barstool Punishers don’t have a clue.
    If you set up a situation wherein you lure someone in, just so you can “justifiably” kill another person, then you need to spend many, many years in prison. I understand the desire to protect your property and, if circumstances warrant escalating to deadly force while doing so then you should, but not as a primary response.

  2. BTTFadmin,

    Gracias’ el sabio viejo I needed a touch of affirmation….sometimes I begin to doubt myself. I guess it really is a good thing that everyone who says they would “kill ’em “if”–can’t and don’t. We’d have a much different society huh? Our colleague Dave Grossman said it well, “It’s like virgins talking about sex”!
    The tragedy I think is that those folks really believe that is what they are gonna do, but then they don’t. That’s where the bad things really start to happen. It’s been said many times before–We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training!

  3. Cade Brawley,

    This is a great post and a topic that needs to expounded on in the shooting community. It seems to me that regardless of party affiliation conservative or liberal when one group gets something we want to take it to the extreme. For example in theory welfare sounds like a good idea. People come on hard times lets have a system in place to help them out. Give them some food clothes and shelter and they will get back on their feet. However it gets taken to the extreme. People get on it for a lifetime instead of a short time. They use it for products they don’t need. They have more kids because that means more $$. Then they become entitled to it and it becomes their “right”. It gets used in a way it was never intended. So we want to throw stones at the more liberal segments that foster this so that it gets taken to an extreme. Look at what some do in the gun community though. I think the castle doctrine is a great thing. If i have to defend myself it provides legal protections but we have our own segment that wants to take it to the extreme. People go to a class and want to know just right up to what point can i shoot someone and get away with it. Some people want to use the castle doctrine to entitle themselves to shoot someone. So a good law that was designed to protect those who had to use force justifiably is being exploited by some to shoot people because this law give them the “right” too. Setting a trap and shooting through a garage door give me a break.

  4. BTTFadmin,

    You’re very right Cade, and while on one hand that attitude and the associated perception it brings to “professional” gun owners is bad enough, on the other hand how is society supporting this kind of mentality in any way? Where has the sense of right and wrong gotten so skewed? Like you said, it is hardly a question of party affiliation, or religion or whatever. It is a question of human decency and morals. And somewhere those are suffering!

  5. Billy Collins,

    Good article Rich. Very thought provoking.

  6. Eagle C Tovar Jr,

    I know I’m kind of late…but this is an excellent article and should be required reading to anyone who owns firearms. It is fortuitous that this article mentions Maarkus Kaarma, as this name comes up now and then when I talk to people who ask me about self defense. I tell them that there are two things that they should do…one is to retain an attorney and the second is to get good reputable training. I tell them that the guy mentioned actually set up an ambush–perfectly acceptable in combat, but definitely out of bounds at home.

    So many people have the notion that a self-defense shooting is always so clear cut that at the scene of the incident they will get a pat on the back, the keys to the city, kudos from the neighborhood and a new aura that makes them the most studly man (or woman) in the world. They start telling me about they will do “this” or “that” in a shooting, and that it will automatically be so “righteous” that everything will be OK.

    This is before I tell them about the reality of the incident…that I (or any other responding officer) have only the facts in front of us to go on–there is a person who is more than likely dead, who has had violence done to them, and has suffered grievous or even fatal injury.

    They will be standing there, with a gun in their possession or maybe close by.

    The only thing I have to go on is the facts before me. Thus, when I tell them that the first thing that I say to them will be the Miranda v. Arizona admonishment they get a look on their face that says, “What?! You can’t do that! I’m the good guy!!!”

    I tell them that I am NOT a judge, nor am I a jury. I have a homicide in front of me, and I am talking to the person that has committed the act. Now, that freezes them up right there. “Homicide? But, this is self defense!” It is a HOMICIDE–the taking of a human life by another human being. All I am is the responding officer–and I have probable cause to believe that the shooter has taken a life. It is not my job to determine guilt or innocence. It IS my job, to take said person and deliver them to the Court–the trier of fact–who will determine guilt or innocence.

    I tell them that–absent OVERWHELMING proof that the shooting was justified0–they will be going into the back of my patrol unit, in handcuffs, and they will be talking to detectives. I conclude with telling them that the best thing they can do at that point is to seek competent counsel.

    Your article points out a flaw in a lot of people’s thinking–that they can somehow shoot another human being and escape consequences if the shooting is done under questionable circumstances. Thanks for an interesting and informative read!

  7. JLatham,

    I am reminded of Gandalf’s advice to Bilbo Baggins – “True courage is not about knowing when to take a life, but when to spare one.” Responsible gun owners are faced with this choice almost every day – at least the ones who have a permit to carry and do so. Every day? Think about road rage … how long has it been since you had a near encounter with some lunatic (your opinion of them at the time of the near encounter) and thought “someone ought to just shoot that #$u@ker and save the world” but did nothing about it? That’s knowing when to spare one, congratulate yourself for showing both restraint and wisdom.

    The internal conflict is always going to be there in another form for the permitted carrier or armed home defender: most of us have never fired a single shot at anyone, period. Not in anger, not for self preservation or in defense of another. And yet we MUST, as responsible gun owners, be prepared to take that dreadful final step – to end a life because it must be done. Not because you want to. This is a mindset that must be firmly held; that should that need arise then you will rise to meet it. But as it was so well pointed out in the entry, none of us should ever seek out or plan such an act. And we must know some of the legalize involved also – I’m reminded of the pharmacist in Oklahoma City, who legitimately defended his place of business from armed robbers by shooting one and chasing a second from his store. At that point he was pretty much a hero and he should have stopped right then. However, he then chose to reload his pistol and shoot the first would-be-assailant again. That put him over the line and into prison. And I have never spoken to one responsible gun owner who had any mercy in their heart at all for him once the full story came out. He easily decided when to (try to) take a life, but sadly he forgot when it was time to show even more courage and spare one.