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My Problem with Concealed Appendix Carry

by George on August 14, 2014 12:11

A recent argument for the advantages of the inside-the-waistband (IWB) Concealed Appendix Carry came across my virtual desk.  The author did a good job making his case for carrying a concealed handgun inside the belt at the belly.  There are several distinct advantages to carrying the weapon at the front of the waist rather than at the side or rear on the gun-side.  And I won’t carry my concealed handgun in front of my waistband.

My problem with the Concealed Appendix Carry involves the NRA’s Firearms Safety Rule #1: don’t point a firearm at anything you aren’t willing to destroy or kill.  Pointing your weapon at your nether region when you draw or holster your handgun is inviting tragedy.  And everyone I’ve ever seen when holstering or drawing from the front waistband, including me, directs their muzzles at their important parts.  So I don’t do it.  Maybe you might want to reconsider your carry options. 

 

Advantages of Concealed IWB Appendix Carry

As explained in the article, with some modifications, the immediate advantages of the Appendix Carry are:

  1. Greater protection of the weapon.  Whether it’s in a crowd or a suspect attacking your weapon, there are biomechanical advantages to protecting your handgun if carried in the front waistband.  In a crowd, you need not fear someone bumping into steel as is common when carried on your gun-side hip because people don’t normally collide at belly level face-to-face.  If there is a disarm attempt, you are stronger pressing the weapon into your body in front of you than you will be if it is at your side.  Additionally, your torso will fold forward during this effort, creating a mechanical block of both your hand(s) and your torso to removing the weapon.
  2. A more covert deployment.  Because there is less tell-tale physical motion in drawing the weapon—the gun-shoulder rising and/or the gun-elbow floating out to the side—it may be far safer to draw in a situation where the larger motion required to draw the handgun from a gun-side carry is likely to provoke fire.  Additionally, the non-gun hand’s effort to lift and clear the shirt is far less noticeable.
  3. Easier to deploy in a fight, either standing or on the ground.  If deadly force is needed when locked up with the suspect, either on your feet or, especially if grappling, the Appendix Carry permits safer and quicker draws than traditional gun-side carry positions.  Note: In this single point, I disagree.  Teaching defensive tactics for more than 30 years and Tactical Duty Knife classes since 2000 where officers are trained to draw weapons in deadly force situations during intense physical conflict, there is no real problem with drawing from a gun-side carry position (other than the suspect fouling the draw in some manner).  However drawing from an Appendix Carry can be problematic based on the context of the fight and the body position of the officer.  If the officer’s torso is curled forward from effort or simply by positioning, then the Appendix Carry is a much more difficult to draw for the same biomechanics that make it superior for weapon retention—the torso blocks the draw from the holster.  Additionally, if the suspect fouls the draw as or after the weapon leaves the holster and the weapon is pressed against the officer’s belly, the officer is now a five to eight pound trigger press from being disemboweled (Rule #1). 
  4. The Appendix Carry is faster than any other carry position.  There is no question of its speed compared to other concealed carry positions.  Because of its more central positioning, there is less travel time for both hands.  The non-gun hand lifts the shirt on the midline and the gun hand moves naturally forward to the grip.  It is much faster than gun-side carry where the non-gun hand must travel across the body to lift the shirt while the gun-hand (and shoulder) must make larger, longer moves to first reach the handgun, then lift it far enough for the muzzle to clear the holster.
  5. The Appendix Carry is easier to conceal.  Unless obese, the Appendix Carry is less likely to print through a shirt, especially if the shirt is untucked.  It’s not even close to other waist carry options for concealment.

 

Appendix Carry and the Possibility of Unintentional Discharges

The first firearms rule we all learn is to point the muzzle of a weapon in a safer direction.  That means that no matter if it fires either intentionally or unintentionally, no one—including the shooter—will be inadvertently injured.  I’ve learned this after a long life: having any firearm pointed at any part of me is not a good idea.  Pointing it at a region of my body that is critical to survival is worse.

When I was in 7th grade wood shop, the first day our teacher, Mr. Burroughs, told us to look at each of the machines in the shop.  He said each machine had an “automatic cut-off feature”: any part of our body that machine touched, it cut off automatically.  Having never matured beyond junior high school (so my loving wife tells me), I think of the muzzle of any weapon in the same fashion: any part of my body or anyone else’s it points at, it shoots off.

The IWB Appendix Carry puts the muzzle to an area that contains your femoral triangle as well as your…parts.  The femoral triangle is the area from your pubic bone (actually, inguinal line) down the inside front of the leg to approximately four inches below, and includes your femoral artery, vein, and nerve, as well as your great saphenous vein.  A gunshot wound to this area is extremely dangerous and a very real threat to life.  A contact wound to this area, where not only the bullet but the muzzle blast and gases enter into the wound, will likely blow this area apart (at least internally), creating an even greater survival challenge.

If an unintentional discharge occurs when holstering or drawing, it could result in a fatal wound.  If that round happened to miss the vital femoral triangle, it still will likely hit and destroy some or all of the shooter’s reproductive organs.  In either case, taking a self-inflicted round to the femoral region or to one’s package is not a good way to begin a gunfight—or end a day at the range or home or station.

 

Many Dismiss the Possibility of Their Having a UD

Dismissing the possibility of an unintentional discharge (UD) when pointing a firearm’s muzzle at your package or femoral triangle is disingenuous and arrogant.  Every time a handgun is handled, there is a possibility of a UD especially when drawing and holstering.  Discounting that, saying, "Just keep your finger off the trigger and it won’t go off," is absolutely, 100% correct.  It’s also prideful.  And wishful thinking gets people killed.  Arrogance, like alcohol, and firearms gets folks hurt.

Thinking that one is immune to UDs presupposes you will be perfect each and every time you handle a weapon.  Perfection: that quality of being free from all flaws or imperfections; completely faultless.  That means perfect awareness; perfect action; perfect control.  No mistake.  Ever.  There’s a real hitch in that get-along though:  we aren’t perfect, we’re human beings.  And that goes with our weapon-handling.  "It'll never happen to me.  I always keep my finger off the trigger," is betting your life you are just that good—every time, no matter what is about to, is currently, or has just happened.  That's why the first rule is about keeping the muzzle in a safer direction and is the most important failsafe.  If the weapon goes off unexpectedly/unintentionally, no one is injured.

I’ve watched experienced guys to include “operators” on the range—where everyone is supposed to be super safe—dig at their holsters with the muzzle of their weapons.  And not just once, but repeatedly poke and prod around with the weapon angled into the gut until they can finally get the handgun holstered.  One mistake and the contact shot would functionally eviscerate them.  A contact shot to the femoral would likely be non-survivable.  A contact shot to one's package might make one hope it was non-survivable.

Fundamentally, the IWB Appendix Carry automatically points at parts when holstering (and while drawing).  With guys I’ve brought this up to, they swear they never do that, that they actually suck in their gut and point the weapon forward as they holster.  They even demo their belly-dancing moves accompanying their holstering.  Yeah, that’s all good until they don’t, which is all the time except when they’re lying to themselves and explaining how they never do what I just saw them repeatedly do.  Video can be a great learning tool and irrefutable proof.

 

Conclusion

I’ll continue to carry on the waistband at 4 to 5 o’clock (or carry a snubbie .357 in my pocket holster), knowing full well that I will be slower to draw, that it is more difficult to conceal, that it is harder to retain (which is why I always carry my Benchmade Model 810 on my non-gun hand side), and all of the other reasons given as to why the Appendix Carry is superior.

And while I'd like to believe that I am conscious and on top of my game each and every time I handle a weapon, I refuse to assume that I will be perfect and absolutely focused each time I handle a handgun, especially in those times when I am under threat and have other things to do.  One of the very few benefits of being in my dotage is that my arrogance has taken a sufficient number of hits over the years.  I've acted unthinkingly enough times that I understand there can be fierce consequences to being intentionally blind through pride. Instead of thinking, "It'll never happen to me," I think, "If things go wrong, what’s likely to happen?"  After all, Murphy is a loyal friend that I’ve always tried to ditch, but he’s stuck by my side my whole life.  Since I've adopted this less arrogant thinking, I believe I've been safer with my weapons.  Now to work on the other areas of my life where arrogance is blinding me to the fierce consequences of my unthinking actions.

Pre- and Post-Shooting Actions for the Legally Armed Citizen

by George on June 25, 2014 08:19

As national leaders in firearms training as well as international firearms trainers, we are often asked by legally armed, prepared citizens about protecting themselves from the legal system in the event of a shooting.  The reason for this post is to assist you with understanding your obligations and rights in legally carrying a defensive firearm.

We have the right under the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution to keep and bear arms as citizens.  That right is not granted by the Constitution, but is recognized as an inherent right of a free citizen.  Laws have been passed by most states regulating that right.  Whether or not we agree with those regulations, as legally armed citizens we abide by these restrictions.  In all but five states, this requires residents to obtain a concealed carry permit for loaded handguns to be carried in any condition other than openly in a holster (I’ll not go into why we should not open carry should among the more timid of our citizens other than to say it is rude to unnecessarily frighten frightened people and it is tactically stupid to give up your advantage of surprise to a criminal who just might shoot you or disarm you because of your frivolous and immature display of your weapon).

In the event you are forced to shoot someone, there are steps you must take to protect you legally that may possibly prevent you from being prosecuted. 

NOTE: This is not intended as legal advice—consult an attorney before acting on or depending upon any of the following.

 

PRE-EVENT

Learn your state’s self-defense laws. 

  • Look them up.  Read the laws on self-defense yourself.  Each law has the elements it requires that you must satisfy for your shooting to be ruled justifiable.
  • Go to a law library (generally located in your county’s courthouse) and ask for help in researching self-defense case law.  Reading case law is the best way to understand what the courts require for you to explain and what limitations are placed on citizens in self-defense situations.  Case law provide context.  You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand what the courts say about self-defense and defense of others.
  • Take a class--or several--from a reputable local or national instructor.  Hint:  Just because the instructor is a police officer, former officer, or former Spec Ops member of the military doesn’t mean he or she understands civilian self-defense law.
  • Depending upon your state law, deadly force is generally permitted when you have a reasonable belief that your life or someone else’s life is in actual or imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury based on the totality of the facts known to you at the time.  This means that another reasonable person would believe, based on all that you know and reasonably believe, that the person you shot was actually attempting or was about to attempt to murder you or injure you so badly that you could not continue to defend yourself or even flee.  In some states, you are required to retreat and have your back to the wall (no other reasonable option) before firing.  Again:  Know your state’s law!
  • Never shoot anyone who is running away.  Only cops are permitted to do that under very limited and specific circumstances.
  • Don’t shoot someone who is stealing from you (as opposed to robbing you).  Stealing is the act of a thief.  You can buy new stuff but cannot justify shooting a thief over the loss of your stuff.
  • A “robber” is someone who deprives you of property through force (physical violence or use of a weapon) or fear (brandishing a weapon during a robbery in a manner causing you fear for your safety), threatening your life or safety.  An armed robber’s actions, causing you to believe he is armed or pointing a deadly weapon will generally qualify as putting you in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury—the basis for self-defense. 
  • Never draw your firearm or point it at someone you do not have a reasonable belief that you are likely to be forced to shoot.  Brandishing (handling a weapon in a reckless manner and creating fear in a reasonable person) or “scaring” someone with a firearm if not justified by the circumstances is a crime.  In some jurisdictions, reaching back and touching your weapon like you might draw is considered brandishing.  If a reasonable person would believe, under all of the circumstances at that moment, that you are in a potential self-defense situation, and you believe you are about to be assaulted in a manner that would lead to deadly force, it might justify drawing your weapon and even pointing at a person in an attempt to prevent the need to shoot.
  • ALWAYS immediately report the incident to the police and explain his threatening actions and behavior in extreme detail forcing you to draw your weapon to prevent being attacked.  You want to be first reporting it and not attempting to explain what happened a couple of days later to an officer who has a warrant for your arrest for brandishing.  If his actions were frightening enough for you to draw your weapon, he needs to be reported to the police.  Not reporting a serious incident or leaving the scene without reporting is seen as the act of a criminal.  Be the first to call 9-1-1.

Obtain Legal Insurance.  We suggest you become a member of the “Armed Citizens Legal Defense Fund.”  The Defense Fund provides members with a $10K legal retainer for an attorney when you are involved in a self-defense shooting.  This fine organization also provides training videos on deadly force and the aftermath.  We know Attorney and firearms instructor Marty Hayes who runs the defense fund well.  He is a good man and provides a very valuable service for a modest price.

Develop your skills.  Our best advice:

  • Practice shooting often.  Ammo is expensive.  Funerals are more expensive.  Nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities are beyond expensive.  Hitting the wrong person when you are attempting to save your life is insanely expensive, and worse, you’ll have to live with yourself knowing that you hurt or killed an innocent person.  Go to the range.  Practicing your shooting skills does not require burning through a mountain of ammo.  It requires conscious practice of the fundamentals of hitting:  Grip your weapon with a locked wrist; ignore the wobble as you concentrate on the front sight; and get that surprise trigger press as you press and end with perpendicular pressure on the trigger.  Then find your front sight before looking at the target (follow through).  Practice your malfunction drills and reloads until they are habits. 
  • Practice, practice, practice from a good concealment holster.  Buy a red or blue gun (a non-fring plastic replica) and practice with it from your concealed position—yes, tuck your shirt in each time before you draw, just like you carry.  Training is where you develop the problem-solving skills when you make mistakes.  If you leave figuring out how to regrip your handgun when you have a handful of shirt or your front sight getting caught in your waistband or shirt during the one and only time you are drawing that weapon to save your life, it might not go well for you.  And never practice your draws with your loaded pistol except at a live-fire range.  
  • Get professional training from a reputable instructor.  No matter how much training you’ve had, more is always better in growing your skills and keeping them crisp.  Be sure to document that training if you are not presented with a certificate.

Act responsibly while armed:

  • Be mature: keep your weapon concealed to retain your tactical advantage.  Carrying a loaded weapon is not cool; it is a grave responsibility. 
  •  Don’t drink alcohol at all if you are carrying concealed.  Period.
  • Stay out of conflicts with folks in public while carrying.  If an argument develops, leave even if you are in the right—and forget about having the last word.  If things get ugly and you are forced to shoot in self-defense, you want to be 100% squeaky clean in the lead up to this incident.  Don’t give anyone an opening to question whether or not you are the good guy in this incident.  If you let yourself become part of the problem you then need to shoot your way out of, the civil jury will later decide what percentage you contributed to the problem and hammer you.  A firearm on your hip means you have no opinion about anything in public.
  • Intervene in a problem only if you believe there is a threat to life—call the cops instead. If you’re armed, intervening in a fist fight or domestic dispute may result in a shooting or being disarmed and getting shot.  If you are seen as contributing to the shooting through your actions pre-event, it will make it more difficult to prove you were the victim of a deadly assault.

 

IMMEDIATE POST-SHOOTING ACTIONS

If someone forces you to shoot them, immediately call or have someone call and report it.  Everything you say is recorded.  It is vital that you begin to establish your status as the victim of a crime, who responded in self-defense or defense of others, in the first call for assistance.  

Tell the 9-1-1 call-taker:

  • My name is (First and Last Name).
  • A (man/woman) armed with a (type of weapon) just forced me to shoot him
  • I need officers and an ambulance to respond to (the location—if you don’t have an address, describe the buildings or area).
  • I am the victim and I look like (give them your description: Gender/race/height/weight/hair color/eye color/clothing).
  • I am still armed.  What do you want me to do?

If there are outstanding suspects, give their descriptions as well as their direction and mode of travel (E.g., “There were two males who also had knives.  One was a white male, 15 to 20 years old, tall and thin, with blond hair wearing a black hoodie sweatshirt and orange running shoes.  The second as a black male, 18-25 years old, tall with a medium build, black short hair wearing a gray hoodie as well.  Both were on foot, running northbound on Second Street.”

If someone is injured, ask for emergency medical assistance (ambulance) to be sent.  

  • If it is safe to do so, holster your weapon.
  • If it is safe to do so, immediately engage in life-saving efforts of staunching blood flow with direct pressure, tying off excessive bleeders with expedient tourniquets (cinch a belt above the wound in a limb and tighten it until it stops bleeing), and, if necessary, perform CPR.  Also recognize that this person who just attempted to murder you or someone else may transmit some blood-borne pathogen that will sicken or even eventually kill you.  Use emergency precautions such as gloving up before contacting blood or body fluids.  Make a decision now about whether or not you are willing to risk performing rescue breathing on someone given the dangers of disease transmission.


SURIVING THE INITIAL POLICE RESPONSE 

Think about what the police officers who are dispatched to this call are responding to.  What they know for certain:

  • There is a firearm involved.
  • At least one person was willing to shoot another person.
  • Regardless of what the dispatcher tells them over the radio or computer, that person may be willing to shoot police officers.

 The cops responding to this call are amped up and scared.  These are types of calls where officers are routinely murdered.  If you do anything that can be remotely interpreted as a threat to their lives, they may justifiably respond with deadly force and you may be severely wounded or even killed.  Be very careful in the next few minutes until the officers are satisfied they are safe.

The initial contact with the police is generally the most dangerous—it is up to you to safely navigate this first contact.  They have a process that permits them to more safely gain control over a scene, lock it down, and then figure out who is a criminal and who is a victim.  By shooting in self-defense, you have just entered into that process and it is in your best interest to cooperate fully with the police as they attempt to safely handle this call.  Pay attention to everything you do—feeling bad about shooting another human being, going into shock after having almost been killed, or being apprehensive of the subsequent legal process has to wait—you need to physically survive the first contact with the police without yourself being shot by an officer who misinterprets your action.

  • Unless there is a continuing threat and a real possibility of needing to shoot again, holster your weapon before the police arrive.
  • If it is not safe to holster your weapon, be prepared to drop it to the ground the moment the first officer arrives.  If you don’t want to scrape and ding your weapon by dropping it on the concrete, don’t carry it.
  • Never disturb the crime scene.  Do not collect personal property from the ground or elsewhere.  Everything in the immediate area is evidence and it will be used to either prove or disprove your version of the events. 
  • It is likely you won’t know the officers are on-scene until someone in uniform is pointing his or her own firearm at you and yells, “Police.  Drop your gun!”
  • NEVER turn toward an officer with a firearm in your hand!  If you do, you are likely to be legally shot for creating the perception of imminent danger to the officer.
  • You can tell when the cops are scared because each of them will be yelling orders.  Often, those orders are contradictory, e.g., “Don’t move!” “Get down!”  “Turn around!”  If you are getting contradictory orders, freeze while keeping your hands absolutely still and yell slowly, “What do you want me to do?”  One of the officers will begin to understand the problem and get the others to be quiet, then take charge of you.  Do what the officer tells you and comply by moving deliberately.
  • In the police officer's world, hands kill cops and pockets and waistbands hold weapons.  Put your hands only where they tell you and only there.
  • Do everything the officer tells you.  If you are ordered to the ground, get on the ground even if it is wet and muddy or covered in snow.
  • You will likely be handcuffed.  Relax, don’t resist, or attempt to talk them out of it.  There will be plenty of time to explain and to talk with the police after the officers take control of the scene and feel safe enough to begin their investigation.
  • You will be thoroughly searched.  Don't take offense.  Yes, at this point you are being treated like a suspect because the officer doesn't know the facts.  Let the officer do his or her job so that the investigation can begin.  It will help the officer (and help show you have nothing to hide) if you point out, "Officer, I have folding knife in my (left/right) (front/back) pocket, as well as a spare magazine of ammunition in my (left/right) (front/back) pocket." 

 

THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS

Once things settle down and the investigation begins, a police officer will begin speaking to you about the shooting.  You are being lawfully detained and are not free to leave.  You may or may not remain handcuffed at this point.  You are required to give them your name, address, date of birth, phone numbers, etc., when asked. 

At some point,  they will begin to ask you questions.  Tell the officer no more than the following information about the incident and your decision-making:

  • “I thought I (or the person I was defending) was going to die when that guy came at me with the gun/knife/club/etc.”  (Translation: I am the victim of a deadly assault).
  • “I had no choice.”  (Translation:  I am not the aggressor and I didn’t want this to happen).
  • “I want him arrested” (even if you know the suspect is dead).  (Translation:  I am the victim of a criminal assault and am pressing charges). 
  • “I will cooperate with you and investigators, but I need time to recover and talk with an attorney before you question me.”  (Translation:  I’m not a dirtbag criminal who is lawyering up to escape the consequences of my voluntary actions, but rather a victim of a crime who is rattled having almost been murdered and wants to legally protect myself before giving my statement to detectives). 
  • “Thank you for being here.”  (Translation: I’m not a criminal because criminals are never glad the cops are there.  I'm glad that you are here because your presence means I am physically safe.  I want to assist you in your job.).

By the way, the officer will not dislike you or treat you any differently if you invoke your rights or tell him/her that you need to speak to an attorney. Too many people unaccustomed to dealing with the police (other than traffic stops) are worried that if they don't cooperate and immediately answer all of the officer's questions, it will make it more likely the officer will be displeased with them and go harder on them.  The patrol officer can't go harder on you because he or she is only determined to get the facts of the case.  The more that officer or any officer digs into this case, the better it will be for you.  Remember, this is the officer's job, and people invoke and don't cooperate with the police all of the time. 

The one rule in dealing with the cops is:  Never lie to the officer.  If you think a fact may not look good or be favorable to you, it is better to refuse to answer than to lie or even shade the truth to the cop.  Any lie is going to be found out based on the evidence, other witness statements, surveillance video, etc.  Lies are difficult to keep track of and everything you say will be compared to everything that you will ever say about the incident.  Once discovered, that lie will taint your entire defense and may turn an otherwise justifiable shooting into a prison sentence.  Don't do it.  Tell the cop the truth or don't say anything at all.  

If you are Mirandized, invoke.  You’ll know you are being Mirandized when an officer reads from a card that begins, “You have the right to remain silent…”  When they ask if you understand all of your rights, you answer in the affirmative.  When they ask if you would like to speak to them at this time, your answer (again) is:

  • “I will cooperate with the investigation after I’ve spoken to my attorney.  I thought I was going to die” (Or, “He was going to kill me/another person.”).  I have to speak to my lawyer before answering any more of your questions.” 

Then say nothing about the case.  Until your shooting is ruled to be justified by the DA/Prosecutor, the police and legal system are not your friends.  Every word you say must support the facts of your case and carelessly speaking to an officer who is not recording your exact statement may be misinterpreted and used against you.  You have nothing further to say to the police until you talk to an attorney, rehearse the facts you know with your attorney, and then give your statement to detectives a couple of days from then.

  • Do not prattle on about the shooting because you are full of adrenaline.
  • If they arrest you, be quiet.  Don’t talk about it in jail.  Inmates are definitely not your friends.
  • If they let you go home, be quiet…you may speak only with your spouse, attorney, licensed clergy, licensed psychiatrist or psychologist (not a counselor), or licensed medical doctor (M.D.).
  • Everyone else you tell your story to until the D.A/Prosecutor clears you of criminal charges becomes a potential witness against you.  Be smart:  be quiet.


JUSTIFYING YOUR DECISION-MAKING

Citizens too often believe they just need to say they were scared and that he had a gun, and then all of the rest will fall into place.  While this can still happen in some places in the US, it is increasingly unlikely.  It is naive to think in this day and age that just because you believe you were justified will mean that your community, the media, and the justice system will automatically agree.  It is probably best to hope for a smooth process where the shooting is ruled to be "justified" while expecting that you will likely have to prove to a jury that you were justified.  Taking this approach means you can realistically prepare for what is needed and what you will probably experience.  Being surprised at being "treated like a criminal," that an adverse and on-going media reaction occurs, and that you are forced to stand trial means you are likely to make mistakes along the way that just might ensure an adverse result.  

The aftermath of a shooting having a positive ending is all about your ability to humbly and comprehensively describe why you had no other choice other than to shoot someone who was about to kill you/someone else or harm you so badly you could no longer defend yourself or others.  You will need to put the listener (police detective, District Attorney/Prosecutor, and, if need be, each juror) into your shoes and looking through your eyes at the event.  Talk about facts and explain why those facts made you fearful and concerned for your safety.  Explain from the perspective of the suspect being the actor and you being forced to react to his/her threatening actions.

It will be vital you include your training and experience.  This means all of your training as well as those incidents you are familiar with that lead to your reasonable belief you needed to defend yourself or others with deadly force.  This permits others to understand more of your state of mind.  And it is from your reasonable state of mind that you will be judged according to the reasonable person standard ("Would another person in the same or similar circumstance, given that person's training and experience, respond the same way or make similar decisions?")

The laws in most states permit citizens, like the police, to make reasonable mistakes.  If you do mistake a cell phone for a gun, you are going to want to convince the detectives and the DA that anyone in your shoes would have made the same mistake.  Essentially, the DA/Prosecutor is looking for any reason why this was not a “reasonable shooting.”  A reasonable shooting ruling results when you are able, based on the facts of the case and your articulation of your perceptions and beliefs, to convince the DA/Prosecutor that any other reasonable person would have done the same thing you did.  This is why you must have the best lawyer and go over your statement using only the facts you know (and never permit your lawyer to talk you into shading the truth—they are used to dealing with lying criminals who are volunteers in the legal system, not stand-up citizens forced to defend themselves as victims).

 

ABOUT THE MEDIA

The shooting will be a big deal for a while in your county.  Hopefully it won’t blow up to become national or international news (e.g., Zimmerman shooting Martin in Florida in 2012).  The media is not your friend and they can become your enemy.  Hopefully you can duck the media bullet.  If not, avoid a “No Comment“ comment—it makes you look like you have something to hide.  If you are contacted by the media before you give your statement to the District Attorney/Prosecutor, explain that you cannot give a statement until that is completed. 

After your official statement, if you cannot avoid them without making the media hostile, avoid speaking about specifics—you are a criminal defendant pending trial.

  • Remain focused on the fact that you were the victim of a criminal attack, that you felt your life and safety were in danger, and that you had no other choice than to resort to deadly force to protect your life/the life of another.
  • Tell them that all of the facts of the case will come out in your criminal trial and you will give a full interview following either the DA's/Prosecutor's/Grand Jury's decision (to indict you or not) or the jury’s verdict.
  • Never give a statement without your attorney present and follow his or her instructions.

 

FINAL WORD

Carrying a weapon fundamentally means that we are taking responsibility for our personal defense and the defense of others if we choose.  It also means that we are taking responsibility for each and every consequence of introducing a loaded weapon into any situation.  Shooting and possibly killing another person is not something anyone takes lightly. Preparation for carrying that weapon should not be taken for granted and neither should the eventual outcome of either the shooting or the legal process taking years that can extend from a grand jury hearing to a criminal trial to a civil trial.

Being a prepared and legally armed citizen is more than simply legally carrying a loaded handgun.  It requires each of us to understand when we can lawfully shoot, to act calmly, responsibly, and reasonably within society, to make legally sound and defensible deadly force decisions, to hit what we are aiming at, to then act in a manner making it safe for the responding police to contact us, and to be able to comprehensively and truthfully articulate the basis of our decision to shoot another person.  If we are the victim of a crime that results in terribly injuring or killing our attacker(s), we must prevent being secondarily victimized by the legal system because we fail take the steps to protect ourselves.  Understanding what the process needs from us to justify our actions and to be found to have been reasonable in our decision-making and actions is our responsibility as well.

 

NEED TRAINING?

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What Training is Sufficient for Civilians in Responding to an Active Shooter?

by George on December 20, 2012 09:33

Active shooter.  That phrase creates many strong emotions in many of us.  For example, on December 14, 2012, a gunman shot his way into an elementary school where firearms, by law, are prohibited, murdering 27 children and teachers before taking his own life as law enforcement approached.  Yet on December 16, 2012, an off-duty Bexar County Sheriff’s sergeant shot and wounded a gunman who shot one person at a movie theater in San Antonio, Texas, ending what might have been another massacre of innocents.  As firearms instructors, there is no question that a person who is armed and willing to confront those who willfully and serendipitously murder the unarmed is the best way to stop the killing.  And if we can’t be the one at the tip of the spear, we want to the ones who taught that person how to end this senseless killing.

The question of the sufficiency of training must be addressed by those who not only train police officers, but also instruct legally armed citizens.  Some instructors will flatly state that only the elite military and SWAT operators should intervene, while others will set a more reasonable standard as that of an average police officer.  Due to the inundation of newscasts about the tragedies of Active Shooter events, you, like me, are probably being approached by legally armed citizens asking questions about how they might be able to protect their families and others in these situations.  The questions they are asking are, “What kind of training would be required to effectively stop that level of violence?  How long would that training take?  What kind of reoccurring practice would be required?

Questions such as these indicate thoughtfulness and a serious consideration of what is involved in possibly interrupting this type of attack.  Different individuals are going to gain proficiency differently given the same number of hours training, and then will maintain that proficiency to various degrees of competency.  Shooting is a perishable skill, and regular practice increases familiarity and may create increased skill if—and only if—that training is consciously performed.  When developing training or answering questions related to any training topic, the foundation must be within the context of the problem.  In this case, what training is sufficient to interrupt the murder of innocents, divert the shooting, and either physically stop the shooter, cause him to commit suicide, or create a situation that permits the police time to respond and intervene?

This level of skill development and mental preparation is likely much, much more than most citizens (and just as many police officers) are willing to do.  The reality is that hits with handguns at extended distance are more a matter of luck than skill while being shot at by your target.  Shooting on a square range on a sunny warm day with a range master and a red flag run up the flagpole may allow for consistent slow-fire hits on a man-sized target at 100 yards with a handgun.  However hitting a man who is moving, murdering people, and maybe shooting at you from 25 yards may be beyond what most people can reliably do with a handgun. 

If it is unlikely that the citizen or the officer armed with a handgun will be able to hit the Threat at realistic distances, why train anyone with a handgun to attempt to interdict an Active Shooter event?  Again, we must look at the context of the event.  According to Ron Borsch, 90% of suspects involved in an Active Shooter event commit suicide on-site (http://www.policemag.com/blog/swat/story/2008/05/active-shooter-response-revisited-part-1.aspx).  When confronted by any significant resistance, these people immediately turn their weapons on themselves.  The legally armed citizen who is able to quickly confront the Threat with fire may actually wound the individual.  Significantly, whether or not the Threat is hit, in most situations the murder of innocents is stopped as his attention is diverted and the threat is soon ended.

After decades of studying these events (having coined the term, “Active Shooter” with Jeff Martin in 1999), it is my belief that any intervention by a legally armed citizen or police officer will generally end the attack on the innocent, and the earliest intervention regardless of whether or not the citizen or officer actually hits the Threat (the criminal gunman) will save lives.  If the statistics are correct, approximately two-thirds of these events are stopped by either the legally armed citizen or police officer (Ron Borsch). 

 

WHAT KIND OF TRAINING?

To prepare any person to competently and contextually respond to this type of defensive shooting, I believe the training would minimally entail:

  • Familiarity with the laws of deadly force in your state.  It is vital if you are going to carry a handgun that you understand when you can legally press a trigger, when you cannot, and know what to say and do following that shooting.  Saving your life or someone else's may be a good thing, but spending your life in prison following the shooting because you don’t understand the law or you say the wrong thing to police detectives is probably not on your bucket list.
  • Sufficient marksmanship skills.  While tight groups on a paper target do not automatically translate into solid hits on a gunman who is shooting at you, putting bullets through the bad guy with combat accuracy is how shootings are generally ended.  Combat accuracy is defined as any hit disrupting the imminent threat.  For those who have never felt bullets just missing them, with the corresponding adrenal dump and the well-known effects on perception, decision-making processes, and the ability to accurately fire a weapon, shooting at paper in a slow-fire method without a care in the world is as dissimilar as flying an F-22 combat jet and a single-prop Cessna airplane.  Both are airplanes, both take off and land, and both move through the air, but that is where the similarity ends.  Again, hits matter, but any shots disrupting the gunman’s murder spree is sufficient, and sometimes just knowing he is being shot at may cause him to shoot himself.
  • Sufficiently aggressive mindset.  You have to be willing to make yourself a target: when you move aggressively, it will be different from every other person who is fleeing, inviting him to target you; when you begin firing, you will also invite him to target you.  Your willingness to do this will be answered only when there is lead in the air and blood is flowing.  The moral question of whether or not it is morally acceptable to shoot and possibly kill another human being must be resolved before you hope to act on-time, in-time.  You cannot hope to act decisively when you have sights on the Threat and hesitate, wondering if it is moral to shoot this person.    This question must be resolved prior to carrying a firearm.  An appropriately aggressive mindset will be enhanced by mental imagery, imagining your response to this deadly situation in vivid detail.  In this way, you will create memories of actions, facilitating your schema, or mental maps, to quickly orient to the situation, avoid being shocked, and giving you that feeling of, “Oh yeah.  I know what to do!’  These mental patterns permit you to act decisively in a situation where aggressive action (either fighting or fleeing) is safer than non-action.  Firearms instructor John Farnham accurately said, "A confused countenance always locks you in position and generates a focused response by predators.”
  • Sufficient tactical competency.  Knowing the human limitations of responding to a deadly attack, as well as the tactics that can give you time to react and positively respond allows you to fight when you are surprised by the sudden nearby gunfire.  How to use cover or concealment (and knowing the difference), how to move safely to position yourself to shoot the bad guy, and how to respond when he targets you will be required.  Ensuring you have a clear gun-target line (the imaginary line between the muzzle of your handgun and the targeted area on the Threat) as well as a reasonably clear background (to protect innocents when you miss the Threat) will be necessary.
  • Sufficient understanding of police response.  In this case, police officers responding to this violent event will be both frightened and excited, and will have a high degree of urgency to end the event.  While it is in everyone's best interest for the police to arrive early, they are not your friend at this moment.  Standing in a public place with a handgun in your hand where shots have been fired with innocents down will not be healthy for you when the police arrive.  Understanding how to survive this second threat to your life is as vital as surviving the first.

Practically speaking (rather than the ideal minimum training above), a legally armed citizen actually needs just two things to make a difference disrupting the Active Shooter event:  a loaded weapon that functions every time the trigger is pressed, and the guts to get into the fight. 

 

HOW MUCH TRAINING?

The honest answer to this is:  As much as you think you need and are willing to pay for in range time, ammunition, and training hours.  If I told you that in one week you are going to face a murderous shooter who will attempt to take your life, your family’s lives, and dozens of innocents’ lives, what level of training would you want to have under your belt?  IF this happens to you (a big if, but then again, if it happens to you, it's 100%), what capability do you want to have?  The real question that can only be answered by the student is, “How much preparation is practical for you for an event that can happen, may happen, but likely will not happen to you?” 

For example, I was driving within 5 miles of the Clackamas Town Center  mall shooting when it began (Oregon, 12/11/12).  10,000 people in the mall all have a story to tell about what they experienced in an event that took the lives to two innocents and wounded a third.  This occurred in a metropolitan area of approximately 1.5 million people.  For most of the 10,000, no training was necessary because they fled at the sound of gunshots and sight of people surging past them, or they were locked down in stores.  Perhaps only 300 people in the mall may have been able to make a difference and would have benefitted from being armed and having undergone this training.  There are reports of one concealed pistol permit holder who pointed his handgun at the Threat but did not take the shot because of innocents in the background.  This young man believes the murderer saw him with the handgun, and then took his own life moments later.

For some of us, it was a case study on what these events look like, how they unfold, and to ask how I might better react to protect myself, my family, and those around me as a legally armed citizen or police officer.  After each Active Shooter event, I ask myself, “How might I modify my training courses to better meet the needs of my students?”  For most people, however, it was just another horror-filled event that shocked them out of their denial for a few days before they re-entered their imaginary and safe “gun-free zones” where the police protect them from all harm and their belief that if they are nice people, no harm will come to them. 

The question of how this training should be delivered lies in frequent, short duration, high-intensity training sessions.  This training regimen is far more valuable to skill development and retention than a long course where the same intensity is sustained over days.  Therefore, most training courses should be three to four hours max, with subsequent training sessions weekly or semi-weekly. 

A basic course for a first-time shooter to gain sufficient competence to build upon through independent practice and minimally react to an Active Shooter as a lawfully armed citizen is a minimum of seven classes, each 3 to 4-hours in length. 

  • One 4-hour class on defense/deadly force law and its aftermath, as well as tactical theory.  
  • Four live-fire range sessions, with 1,000 rounds of practice handgun ammo, plus 50 rounds of carry/defensive ammo (to ensure reliability).  This is sufficient to familiarize the new shooter with weapon function and marksmanship capability suitable to hit what they're aiming at on the range at a reasonable distance, from one-foot to 50-yards.  However, it must be emphasized that this may NOT translate to hitting a person at that distance who is shooting at that him in a gunfight).
  • Two 4-hour sessions on tactics (500 rounds).  This is fighting from a barricade as well as movement work. 

At the end of 1,550 rounds over a seven to fourteen week period, this person should be capable of going from a non-shooter to someone who is competent in their tactics and marksmanship and may be able to safely disrupt a mass murder event through their skills and tactics. 

 

MAINTAINING PROFICIENCY

After fundamental marksmanship, tactical, and skills training, the shooter would have to determine the level of proficiency he wishes to maintain.  Firearms proficiency may either be enhanced or degraded with each trigger press in training.  To be of value, training must be conducted with intent to improve the fundamentals with each shot, even during rapid fire, and an understanding of the very real contextual and human factors limitations we all possess.  It is only through conscious training goals and application of effort that any shooter may progress.

With a conscious training plan, that lawfully armed citizen may be able maintain a sufficient degree of proficiency through self-initiated practice.  That practice would include:

  • Regular range training.  Approximately 500-1000 rounds per year in a course of fire that included periodic, regular training that focused on fighting skills as well as marksmanship skills.  This training should emphasize functionality and familiarity with your weapon as a fighting tool.
  • Mental imaging and preparation.  Playing reasonable "If-Then" games prepares you to respond competently to a suddenly evolving event.  Reading about the situations that occur throughout the world and mentally placing yourself at Ground Zero and then "gaming" possible responses will give you options should you be presented with the real thing. 

No matter how conscious your training practices might be, there will be habits you create that become invisible to you.  Most of these habits will serve you, but others will not.  Allot at least one practice session per year, probably only for one-hour or two, with a competent coach who can observe and correct these invisible habits before they degrade your ability to hit, or worse, get you killed. 

 

CONTEXT IS KEY 

In every aspect of this discussion, the context must be considered if the answer is to be addressed.  The answer to the question, “How much training do I need if…?” is different for everyone.  The proper response is, “At what level do you want to operate?”  When that “if” is a question about the training necessary to function as a SWAT team operator on an entry team during a hostage rescue, the answer is going to look much different than, “I have a concealed pistol permit, and I want to learn how to better protect myself.  What do I need to learn?” 

As a defensive shooting instructor, it is important to ask questions and determine the practical context of the event we are preparing our students for prior to snapping off a pat answer.  While I am willing to train any lawfully armed citizen to operate their weapons at the highest possible skill and tactical levels, I need to remember that they may not have a clue about what they really want.  It is up to me as the instructor to determine the context of the training course I will suggest to them to meet their needs.