Looking for a Fight?
You’re going about your typical day, running a few errands. But suddenly, you are thrust into the middle of a violent encounter. You carry a firearm legally for your protection; you’re one of the “good guys.” If you’re forced to use your firearm in self-defense, there shouldn’t be any issues afterward, right? There’s no possible way anyone could think this was your fault, is there? Unfortunately, the aftermath of the incident is often worse than the actual incident itself.
If you choose to carry a gun, the first thing you should understand is that using the gun in an actual self-defense situation is still a negative outcome. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use a firearm to protect your life or your loved ones if forced to; it is simply a reminder that you should take every possible opportunity to avoid or disengage from a potentially violent encounter. Remember that using the firearm is a last resort when no other option remains. Of course, many states have Stand Your Ground laws, meaning you may not be legally obligated to retreat, but avoiding violence is always your best option.
Avoiding an Incident
The easiest way to avoid many potentially violent incidents (and to avoid accusations of looking for trouble) is to refuse to be drawn into altercations for any reason. Whether you encounter someone being rude in public, engaging in generally socially unacceptable behavior, driving poorly in traffic, or any number of potential scenarios doesn’t matter; you do not need to respond or correct their behavior for them. If someone is doing something illegal but otherwise unharmful to you, call the police. Unless there is a direct threat of violence to you, you don’t need to do anything. What may be a simple exchange of words from your perspective could be a deadly insult worth killing over to someone else, and there’s no way to be sure who you’re dealing with until after the fact.
I Didn’t Go Looking for Trouble, but Trouble Found Me Anyway
Sometimes, being selected by a person intent on victimizing someone is unavoidable. If you find yourself in this type of situation, there are still some things you want to do to make it abundantly clear that whatever level of force you are compelled to employ is reasonable, given the situation.
1. If you are able to at least attempt retreat without putting yourself at further risk of harm, do so. Worst-case scenario, you are not able to escape successfully, but the evidence shows that you tried to. Best-case scenario, you remove yourself from the situation without harm.
2. Have an understanding of what legally constitutes “serious bodily injury” or “great bodily harm” (depending on your state of residence) and of disparity of force. In the eyes of a jury, the physical responses available to a woman facing an unarmed male attacker are often significantly different from those available to, say, a male athlete with a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu. In the first scenario, there is an apparent disparity of force; in the other, without extenuating circumstances like multiple attackers or other severe disadvantages, it’s less clear and a response with deadly force may not be reasonable.
3. There are three things that generally need to be present before it is appropriate for you to use a gun in self-defense, and they are all dependent on not having done anything that would preclude your use of force or deadly force. (1) You believe the attacker has the physical ability, either through the use of a weapon or a mismatch of physical attributes or circumstances, to cause you death or great bodily harm. (2) You have to believe that they are capable of bringing this ability to bear on you in the moment (often referred to legally as “imminence” or “immediacy”). (3) And most importantly, your attacker must be acting in a way that you believe your life is in jeopardy. All of these beliefs must be reasonable. If any of these requirements are not fully satisfied, using a gun would be an inappropriate response. Whether or not you ultimately fire a round, if you utilize your gun and your attacker ceases their attack and tries to escape, LET THEM.
I Had to Use My Gun—Now What?
If you have planned ahead, you have access to a service like U.S. LawShield. If that is the case and you are a U.S. LawShield member, you should call 911 to alert them of the situation and immediately call the emergency number on the back of your member card. You’ll speak to an attorney in a matter of seconds, and they’ll walk you through everything you need from there.
If, however, you’re not a U.S. LawShield member, you still need to call 911. But trying to get an attorney on the line will likely prove difficult if you want advice before police arrive on the scene. Either way, get to safety, call 911, and cooperate with law enforcement instructions while invoking your legal rights.