What you need to consider during a violent encounter.
Please keep in mind that none of the following should be considered legal advice. I’m not an attorney and if you have questions about the use of deadly force you should consult an attorney that is an expert in this area of the law.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the use of deadly force is a complicated topic. The concepts that govern the use of force aren’t all that difficult themselves but the circumstances where they are applied are. The variables are unending, diverse and they change again each time a new person puts themselves into the circumstances. That is the beginning of the complexity.
Add in the idea that if you make a mistake in the use of deadly force and you will face severe consequences and now we face complexity with high stakes.
Often in life we handle situations like this by simply behaving conservatively but when it comes to deadly force we need to respond appropriately. Too much of a response and you become the criminal and face a loss of personal freedom and or your financial security. Too little of a response and you or those that you love face serious injury or death.
Your Actions Matter When You Use Deadly Force
In fact, your actions matter all the time. It shouldn’t be a surprise. There are consequences for all of your actions and choices each and every day. We have discussed some of the impacts that your actions BEFORE a use of deadly force can have.
It should be a common sense realization that your actions AFTER a violent encounter have an impact on the overall outcome of the scenario and we will discuss that later this week.
I would have to say that there is little imagination required to understand that the things that you do and the choices that you make during the incident itself have a significant impact on not only the outcome of the incident, but also on the way your actions are judged. Today we are going to take a look at some general concepts that you should keep in mind when it comes to your response to a lethal threat.
Deadly force is your last resort.
I wish that this could simply go unsaid and be the default mode of thinking when it comes to the use of force. Unfortunately it isn’t.
The problem begins with the question I hear so often in gun counter chat, online discussion and from students in my concealed carry courses:
“If this, this and this happen can I shoot him?”
The question shouldn’t ever be “can I shoot him.” Just because the law allows it doesn’t mean that you should. Instead, you should be asking, “do I need to shoot?”
I consistently tell my students that the best way to avoid the negative consequences of violence is to avoid violence itself. If we take that logic to the next step, the best way to avoid the consequences of deadly force is to avoid using deadly force. If you can find another solution to the problem other than taking a human life it makes sense to do so. In fact, I would argue that you are ethically and morally bound to do so.
In many places (like Ohio) you are also legally required to take any other alternative. The legal term is preclusion and it makes sense to follow it even if it isn’t the law in your state. Do you really want to deal with the negatives of deadly force if there is some other alternative?
Now, don’t think for a second that I am suggesting that you put yourself or other innocent people at risk. I’m not and the law isn’t either. You typically aren’t required to take any action that increases the risk associated with the threat against you or others.
The bottom line is this:
If you think there is some other alternative that will end the situation without further risk to you or other innocent people, that is the action you should take.
When it comes to the use of deadly force many people think about the handgun as one of their go to options for self-defense. Once the decision has been made to use deadly force the application needs to happen as quickly as possible. Safety Solutions Academy’s Critical Defensive Handgun is designed in a way to help you carry out the physical act of using your defensive handgun a simple and automated process so that your mind is free to focus on the complex decision making that is commonly a part of self-defense. Find out more about Critical Defensive Handgun by following the link.
Make sure your application of force is REASONABLE.
The reasonable man standard is an important legal principle to understand when it comes to the use of deadly force because it is part of the formula that your actions will be judged on.
The question that will be asked is something like, “Would a reasonable person respond the same way that you did if they were in your shoes, with your background, your skills, your physical make-up, knowing what you know, etc.”
If you are an 65 year old male with mobility issues and you are being attacked by a 24 year old male with a screwdriver, people will look at your situation and ask “If I were a 65 year old man with mobility issues being attacked by a 24 year old male with a screwdriver would these actions seem reasonable?”
This seems like a reasonable way to be judged if you ask me! It doesn’t require perfection from you in an imperfect set of circumstances it simply expects you to be reasonable.
Take this example under consideration:
It is dark, and you are getting out of your vehicle to head into the house for the night. Out of the shadows jumps a fit male with his face covered by a shirt pulled up over his nose and a hat pulled low over his eyes. His hand is extended in front of his body pointing toward you, and holding what looks like a gun. He barks in a low voice, “Give up the keys!” Your 3 year old child is strapped into a car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. You draw your handgun as you move away from the car and fire until the attacker drops what was in his hand and turns to run.
You immediately get your child out of the vehicle and move into your house locking the door behind you and call the police. When the police arrive they search the area and find your attacker deceased behind a dumpster a few blocks away. Next to your driveway instead of a gun, they find a black cell phone.
The question is NOT, “Were you right to shoot?” Instead, the question IS, “Was your response reasonable?” Would another individual under similar circumstances have behaved in the same way?
These are the questions you will need to be able to articulate the answers to and it is the standard that you will be judged by should you need to use deadly force.
It is also the way that we should strive to act. Not because it is how we will be judged, but instead, reasonable is simply a quality standard to live by.
When the Threat Stops Your Use of Deadly Force needs to stop as well
It seems that people have a difficult time understanding this one, however, I feel that it is fairly straight forward. Remember, you are legally allowed to use deadly force to protect yourself or other innocent people when certain conditions exist. One of those conditions is an imminent deadly threat or an imminent threat of great bodily harm. If the threat that you face is gone so is your justification to use deadly force.
It is important to think about what that really means and what it might look like in real life as there are many ways that threats can dissipate.
Lets take a look at a few examples:
- You draw your gun and the threat drops his weapon, turns and runs away.
- You fire shots at the threat who crumples to the ground motionless.
- You issue verbal commands as you draw your gun and the threat drops the weapon and raises his hands.
The list could continue and you should extend it both in your mind and in your training. When you visualize the scenarios listed above and the ones you determine in your mind, you need to cease your use of force when the threat is no longer imminent or deadly.
In the real world, if you continue to use force after the threat is gone, you may be held criminally and or civilly liable for your actions.
Take a look at the following video.
Here the pharmacist makes two errors in his application of force:
- He exits the front door and pursues his assailant. That teenager running away down the street is most likely no longer a threat to the pharmacist.
- The pharmacist returns into the store, walks past the teenager who is shot on the floor, retrieves a second firearm and then shoots the unconscious teenager on the floor 5 times.
This is a misapplication of force and it has a legal name: MURDER.
Don’t put yourself into a situation where you fail to understand when to cease your use of force.
Deadly Force: A complicated topic.
There is no doubt that deadly force can be a complicated topic at least in its application. As someone who is interested in increasing your personal safety it is imperative that you understand the laws that surround deadly force and how you need to act to preserve your physical well being, physical freedom and financial security.
There are specific actions that you can take before, during and immediately following a violent encounter. Yesterday we took a look at actions you can take prior to a violent encounter and today we looked specifically at actions that may be legally beneficial during the violent encounter.
The suggestions I made in these two posts are not exhaustive as there are many things that you can do to improve your legal standing. In addition, there are some things that you should not do. Understand that it is your responsibility to assess the specific circumstances that you are facing and apply your knowledge. These posts are general in nature and are designed to be a springboard for your learning. If you have further questions please seek additional training or consult an attorney.
Here is what you should do next:
- Get a hold of a copy of Deadly Force by Massad Ayoob. Read it.
- Get quality defensive handgun training that includes constant assessment and processing of information. Critical Defensive Handgun is specifically designed to help and develop those skills.
- Register for a MAG-20 or MAG-40 Course to get more of the critical legal information that you need to make sure you are on the right side of the law.
Thanks for taking the time to consider what I have to say!
-= Paul Carlson =-
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