There is an enormous deficit in the understanding of legal principles concerning the use of force among most gun owners, even among those that carry a firearm for personal protection. This needs to change. This is one issue I tend to broach immediately with new shooters who are interested in self-defense. I find there is a bit of an aversion to this subject among many trainers and this is perhaps due to the usual “I am not a lawyer” routine. Yes, I get that, I am not a lawyer either. However, there are certain principles that are almost universal throughout the United States that govern the use of force and those who are very experienced carrying a defensive firearm should absolutely have a solid understanding of these. Those who train others should certainly have a very sound working knowledge of these legal tenants.
There is no need to delve into particulars and details of the law, but you should attempt to educate new shooters and gun carriers in this regard and at least encourage them to seek out this knowledge. What good does carrying defensive weaponry do for an individual if that person uses force inappropriately and ends up in prison? I am dismayed by the sheer ignorance among many who are causal gun carriers, but in fact do carry sometimes, and they are clueless regarding the laws of self-defense.
We hear it all the time. “If you need to shoot someone make sure you finish them off so they can’t sue you.” Or, “if you shoot someone on your front porch just drag their body inside to make sure it is home defense.” Ignorance at its finest. Just “finishing someone off” is usually considered execution if they have been neutralized and no longer pose an immediate threat. Any crime scene investigator can tell when a body has been moved. Follow either of those pieces of advice that Bubba and Joe Bob gave you and you will spend your life in prison.
If you teach others anything related to using firearms for self-defense you need to broach the subject and impress upon them the absolute importance of it. If you are not comfortable addressing the subject directly tell your pupils how pressingly important it is for them to educate themselves. Tell them that there are many good resources out there for them to read or classes for them to attend that will teach them the laws of self-defense and the appropriate use of force. Tell them that it is a gravely serious matter that they need to address before carrying a gun. Knowing the laws that govern the use of force is a prerequisite.
The two best full-length books on the subject are The Law of Self-Defense by attorney Andrew Branca and Deadly Force: Understanding your Right to Self-Defense by acclaimed firearms trainer Massad Ayoob. If you teach shooting in a defensive capacity to others you should own these books and you should suggest that your pupils do the same. Being ignorant of the legalities that govern your rights as a self-defender is a prescription for disaster and honing your knowledge of these principles is just as important as honing your shooting skills.
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