Ep. 2 Should I Shoot? Why You Need a Lawyer Now


Editor’s Note: The following is a post from Sammy Reese,  a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.

During a defensive gun use, you may have to defend yourself or your loved ones alone. After the shooting stops, you will still have to defend your actions–but you shouldn’t ever do that alone. As distasteful as this will seem to some, you need a lawyer.

During my time as a police officer, I can’t recall the number of times a committee (usually a Use of Force Review Committee) took hours to tear apart an event that lasted only seconds. Even with detailed written reports and the events sometimes being caught on camera, every action was scrutinized with the benefit of no pressure to make a split-second decision and a whole bunch of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” based on the group members’ biases (and sometimes even lack of knowledge of the subject matter). This type of hindsight review of actions happens with all kinds of decisions we make. I can guarantee no event will be scrutinized more than a use-of-force incident — particularly one that involves the use of deadly force.

SEE ALSO: Should I Shoot? When Lethal Force Can Be Used

For armed private citizens who are forced to use deadly force to defend themselves or their families, the scrutiny will be in the form of homicide investigations from the jurisdictions in which the events took place. If you make the decision to be armed, you have to be prepared for more than just knowing how to shoot; you have to know when you can legally employ deadly force and you have to research local attorneys who specialize in representing clients who have used deadly force.


The saying, “You won’t acquire any new skills in the middle of a gunfight,” also applies to how you need to conduct yourself post-incident. Take the time to do your learning in the comfort of your own home. If you have read this far in this article, you’re well on your way.

Sitting at your desk, searching the web and having a nice warm cup of coffee while the dog naps at your feet is a significantly better learning environment than trying to figure out what do while in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car on the way to the station for questioning.

Find An Experienced Attorney 

I’m not a lawyer, but I have spent more hours with them than most. Some I liked and some not so much, but I do respect them for the knowledge they possess. Take the time to find a local attorney who specializes in defending good guys.

Knowing who you can turn to when and if you actually have to will make your life much easier and you won’t be forced to make rush decisions that can shape the outcome of the rest of your life.

Make A List of Questions

  • Make a list of questions you need to know the answers to. For example:
  • Does the attorney require you already have him or her on retainer in order to represent you?
  • What does he charge? (Don’t faint. It’s going to be really expensive.)
  • Will he arrange for you to be bailed out if you’re booked into jail or do you have to make your own arrangements?
  • What does he want you to tell the police before he can get to wherever you’re being held (this one is really important)?

Put A Plan in Place

Good guys always want to set the record straight and tell their side. Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given is pretty simple: “If you find yourself in the bottom of a deep hole, quit digging and figure out why you are in such a deep hole before you start digging again.”

Rest assured that your attorney will have particular feelings on what you should or should not do before she or he is beside you offering counsel. So, together with him or her, make sure you have a plan in place that outlines what you should do in the immediate aftermath of a use of force situation.

You Will Have Other Things to Worry About

Stressful events affect each of us differently, and events in which you have to employ deadly force will be as stressful as any you’ve ever experienced. Your body will be flooded with adrenaline and you might even get sick to your stomach at some point. Having already planned for this eventuality will put you one step ahead of the game. Listen to the advice the attorney gives you — there is a reason why it costs so much to retain one.

So–a virtual show of hands–how many of you already know the name of the lawyer you would call in circumstances like these?

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • billybob December 9, 2016, 10:16 am

    Your lawyers name & number should be on the back of your ccw card

  • Roy June 10, 2016, 9:08 am

    I am a lawyer and any lawyer and while my practice has evolved to primarily family law, I am quite adept at criminal law and having tried multiple criminal cases including a capital murder. Any attorney that has ever handled a criminal case will tell you (1) you have the right to remain silent, USE IT! Okay, that may be overly broad but I have seen more than one case end for a client because the client did not know when to shut up; (2) if it is important enough to pull your gun, it is important enough to dial 911 – this is true every time and if it is not true, then the reason you pulled the gun was not important, therefore it is still true. With these things in mind, remember a few simple rules – the truth is easy to remember, less is more, and breathe. You were probably (should have been) taught the importance of breathe control when you are shooting (aka BRASS), apply that when you call 911 -Breath, Relax, Aim (in this situation it means think about what you are about to report), Stop whatever extraneous thing you are doing, and Squeeze (don’t jerk, do this calm, and keep it short and simple). Always remember, IF, and that is the operative word “IF” the cops elect to arrest or forward the report to the District Attorney it is the State’s job to prove the case, your job is to NOT prove it for them. If you have to pull your gun, the second call should be to your attorney. A couple hundred dollars spent to get professional attention when you need it can save you thousands later and may well save you gun collection, your license to carry, your freedom, or all the above.

  • Jerry I June 10, 2016, 5:10 am

    You are under no obligation to say anything to the police, period. You aren’t going to talk them out of what they are going to do. You aren’t going to say something so convincing that they simply let you go. Another thing to remember is your call to 911 is recorded and will appear in court if it gets that far. You may not have been given your rights but that call to 911 can and will be used against you. Show all required paperwork, be physically obliging and go along with them but until a lawyer is sitting next to you make no statement other than “my lawyer is on the way and I won’t be making any statements until he gets here”. Tens of thousands have given their lives for your right to remain silent, use that right.

  • Kristine May 16, 2016, 3:56 pm

    The USCCA provides financial support for civil suit and damages protection, criminal defense protection, provides an immediate retainer fee and pro-2nd Amendment attorney, as well as an immediate bail bond. No out of pocket costs except your annual membership fee. Certainly gives you peace of mind should you have to use your firearm in self-defense.

    • Paul e Romer May 8, 2017, 2:32 pm

      Info please

    • Paul e Romer May 8, 2017, 2:40 pm

      Received information by phone from katlyn some how got deleted

  • CDC May 14, 2016, 10:47 pm

    What bothers me the most about this article is that it is necessary. How many sane people who are law-abiding citizens think that it should be the job of the police or the solicitor to scrutinize the actions of a law-abiding citizen in defense of his home self or dignity? This should be the easiest thing to understand for anyone. Criminal breaks into someone’s house, criminal gets shot in the front of their body, obviously it was self-defense. And for anyone in government to be waiting chomping at the bit to throw homicide charges at law-abiding citizens who were in their own homes those people need to go. They’re a danger to the citizens they say they are serving. No matter what they want to believe criminals have no rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness when they are attempting to deprive a law-abiding citizen of their rights.

    • Pat May 17, 2016, 12:35 am

      WELL SAID. I was reading it thinking, what is the purpose of this article? To promote socialism? They used to hang people for stealing horses, and now we are supposed to stick up for the losers in society? They aren’t worth the paperwork!

  • bill May 14, 2016, 5:13 am

    . YES,YES. Good Thing To Do. ???? And, YES, SHOOT To KILL. Do NOT WOUND. ?????. And you had Better, Have The MOUXE ??? To Pull The Triger. And Fast. ????? Never Pull A Gun, On Any One. If You Are Not Going To Shoot Them. ????? Good Luck. To All Of You That have Never Shot Someone. ???? It Will hurt You The Rest Of your Life. ????? As a Combat Vet. It is hard to Live With. ????? The Best > And GOD BLESS You All. /????

    • Patrick May 16, 2016, 10:33 pm

      Is there some special point you are trying to make with all the question marks?

    • mtman2 July 1, 2016, 8:32 am

      No- never point a gun at anyone you aren’t “willing to shoot: if you have to and that will be up to them.
      2.5+ million crimes are avoided in the USA per year just by producing a gun not 2.5 people shot dead.
      Of course it should be a serious situation and consideration to point a firearm at another person, which they should take serious and comply- to either leave- or put down their weapon and get face down and wait for the LEO’s ~!

  • JGW May 13, 2016, 11:30 pm

    Companies like US Law Shield and 2nd Call defense etc….. are a great idea to consider and join. I’m part of one and it is nice to know that the first call of course is to 911 to report “I’ve been the victim of a crime” and then my next call is to my already arranged legal representation.

    Not touting one or another. Do your research please to see which of these firearms legal defense programs are right for you. In the long run god forbid you have to utilize it any form of pre arranged legal defense specializing in the usage of a firearm in self defense is worth the small price to pay per month vs scrambling at the last second after you’ve been possibly charged with a crime. In many cases as soon as the cops know your already being represented the whole situation at the scene can change dramatically.

    YMMV as usual.

  • Cabbynate May 13, 2016, 5:47 pm

    Good article. Having an attorney on retainer is a very good idea. Also knowing what to say such as Mike said is extremely important. It can and will be the difference between you leaving in hand cuffs or not.. SuperG has made a very good point. That will keep out of pocket expense very low if the need arises. I will add that if you are active at night the odds you will need be in a bad situation go way up. Keep that in mind if you work late night or even shop or use ATM’s after dark. Under those circumstances I feel joining a group that provides insurance and an attorney are such a good idea. There are a few out there so do a little research and chose one. You piece of mind knowing you have a number to call may save your life.

  • Mike May 13, 2016, 1:45 pm

    Also, as harsh as it sounds, this is as told to me by law enforcement officials…if YOU MUST SHOOT, shoot to kill, never shoot anywhere but in the front of the body, and lastly just like the people at NRA and USCCA tell ya, KEEP your MOUTH SHUT other than basic, :I was forced to defend my self or others, I will cooperate fully but at this time I will only say “I was in fear for my/others lives, and acted in self defense” I know it sounds cold, Then immediately contact your atty!!! but remember, you can’t depend on a shot to wound, any more than (IMHO) u should never carry anything smaller than the legal size limit of a 45, because a .45 will knock them off their feet, no matter where you hit..9mm or 40 cal etc, cannot always guarantee those results, also remember “double tap, double tap double tap!!!”

    • Oaf May 13, 2016, 11:26 pm

      What is a “legal size limit” for a handgun? And please stop reading Mack Bolan novels where a .45 always knocks the bad guy on their ass. No hand held firearm will knock the recipient of a fired projectile on their ass….PERIOD! If you believe such drivel, maybe you should think twice about even carrying a firearm. As a retired LE office, over 28 years at state and local agencies, I have seen folks shot with all manner of firearms and calibers, from a .22 short up to a .460. NONE ever knocked someone on their ass, but they ALL will kill with proper shot placement. Some probably dropped like a sack of rocks when the lights went out, but that was due to where they were hit not what they were hit with. The very best handgun caliber to carry is the one you are actually carrying, regardless of caliber.

      • jim May 27, 2016, 8:03 pm

        Great response, Oaf. I hate the tired argument of whcih caliber is best. Most people who promote one over the other do not understand the importance of shot placement. Handguns, even the .45 and .44 Magnum, are compromises. They require you to exchange lethality for convenience. The gun you shoot the best, and are most likely to carry with you at all times, is the right one for you. My friend claims the .45 is the Holy Grail of CCW, while it sits in his drawer at home 7 months out of the year because “I can’t carry it concealed in hot weather” (his own words). How pathetic is that?

    • Pat May 17, 2016, 12:38 am

      All good advice.

  • pete May 13, 2016, 11:32 am

    1st question I the prosecutor would ask is when did you retain this shooting-defense lawyer – BEFORE the shooting? Planning on shooting someone, anyone, were you? Just make it look like you needed the lawyer for general purposes.

  • Birks May 13, 2016, 8:31 am

    I wonder if the authorities scrutinize the perps actions as hard as they scrutinize the law enforcement official?

  • Marcelino May 13, 2016, 7:36 am

    You should have (by way of reference) a good gun friendly lawyer’s card in your wallet.

  • Ron Stidham May 13, 2016, 7:07 am

    Very good article, I guess I need to do my part to protect myself and others by doing the research. I hope I never need to pull or use my CCW. Their are many factors that need to be considered in a split second decision. And protecting my rights, is not what’s going to be on my mind at that moment. Thanks for the advise. Those who know can educate the masses.

  • SuperG May 12, 2016, 11:40 am

    Good article. That’s why I joined a group that provides insurance and an attorney for me. It’s worth the $100/yr just to know I have someone in my corner if I ever need to defend myself.

    • Ben October 26, 2016, 3:35 pm

      Who do you have insurance with.

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