Thank you for registering for The Law of Self Defense! Enjoy the book’s introduction below
A Predator’s Greatest Fear: the Armed Citizen
So, you’re contemplating the prospect of taking a human life.
That’s not to say you’re thinking of murder. No, you’re not one of society’ predators, killing from spite or greed or vengeance or just plain meanness.
Rather, if you’re reading this book it’s likely that you are, or are seriously thinking about becoming, that cowardly predator’s single greatest nightmare–the armed citizen. The idea that their next target of opportunity might be skillfully armed is the single most powerful deterrent to a predator’s attack–far more so than the speculative chance of police interference or the revolving doors of the court house.
Furthermore you’ve realized that as much respect as you have for the police and honor for their dangerous service, a cop is unlikely to be immediately on hand when you or your family become the target of a violent criminal.
In essence, you’ve decided to become your own first-responder. Good for you, you’re in good company, and welcome to the club.
Now pull up a seat. We need to talk.
Technical Competency: Necessary, but Not Sufficient
The skillful armed citizen is a powerful entity, capable of exerting enormous control over their immediate environment to prevent harm to innocents. Of course, considerable emphasis should be placed on “skillful”. One doesn’t become a true armed citizen by simply strapping on a gun anymore than one becomes a pianist by purchasing a piano. Your personal defensive weapon must become more familiar to you than any other single possession you own. Understanding its operation and its capabilities–and, most important, you’re capabilities with it–are essential elements to being an effective armed citizen. Indeed, they are a minimal criteria to avoid being an outward hazard.
Fortunately, the opportunities to gain such knowledge and expertise are widespread throughout the country. Many thousands of instructors, books, and videos are available as resources to bring your gun handling skills to where they need to be for safety and competency. For the purposes of this book I am assuming that you have either already acquired these necessary skills or plan to do so in the near future. Furthermore, since it’s a moot point if don’t, I will assume that you prevail in whatever violent conflict might be forced upon you.
Legal Competency: Knowing the Hazards of the Justice System
Even if you’ve not fallen victim to your attacker, however, the battle is far from over. You’ve protected yourself and your family, and that’s good. You’ve frightened away your attacker, or injured him, or perhaps even killed him.
The good news is that our system of justice says that what you’ve done is just fine — so long as you obeyed every last rule society set up to separate legitimate self defense from illegal killing. Indeed, stay within those boundaries and society doesn’t merely say you’re forgiven, they say you haven’t committed a crime at all. Even a Presidential pardon can’t do that for you.
Unfortunately, staying within the legal bounds of self defense is a tougher task than may be apparent at first glance. The rules governing the use of force are brutally unforgiving of even the most innocent of mistakes, and ignorance provides no protection whatever.
Really, it’s not difficult to understand why the rules are so carefully defined and enforced. We live in a society that vigorously protects the life of even the worst of our citizens. The most brutal serial killer might ultimately be executed in consequence for his actions, but not before he’s been read his rights, provided with a free lawyer, arraigned in court, tried before a jury, sentenced by a judge, given the benefit of many years of appeals, and provided with free food, shelter, medical care, and legal counsel throughout the entire process. In other words, he is gifted with every possible benefit of legal due process our country has to offer. And that’s as it should be.
Contrast that scenario with an encounter between an innocent civilian and a life-threatening attacker on any darkened street in America. Under the appropriate circumstances, that citizen can make an entirely independent decision, absolutely no approval required from any authority, to defend himself, and instantaneously snuff out the life of his attacker. In a brief moment it’s done, a human being lies dead on the street, and the man who killed him suffers no criminal punishment whatever. This is also as it should be.
After surviving such an encounter, most of us would consider it a victory. We are alive despite the best intentions of a predator who sought to bring grave bodily harm. And who could disagree?
The Second (Legal) Half of the Battle
It’s a bit too soon, however, to declare victory won. Although the physical fight is done, and no permission from society was required before we used force to defend ourselves, society will now take great care to ensure that the use of that force was absolutely lawful. The second half of the battle is about to begin: the legal battle. Losing this fight may bring many years, perhaps a lifetime, of imprisonment, with all the destruction to self, family, and fortune that comes with it.
Naturally, society will be making its assessment from the comfortable perspective of well-lit safety, with 20-20 hindsight. No darkened street for them, no up-raised knife, no desperate effort to get a child behind them, no chilling realization that everything, all of it, could end in the next instant. Actions will be judged by well-armed police officers with plenty of backup, by district attorneys with powerful political motivations, by judges who manage a constant stream of hardened criminals through their court rooms, and by jurors who know little of violence, even less about the use of force or guns, and nothing at all about taking a human life.
Even more, the jury bears the ultimate responsibility for finding you guilty or not guilty, but their decision will be based solely on the information that the court allows them to hear. If the judge does not permit you to argue self defense, the outcome can become dire, indeed.
For many people it is difficult to imagine that something like this could occur. Surely, we ask, if we’ve acted in self defense, and are brought before a jury, we’ll be allowed to explain what happened, to tell our side of the story. And they’ll understand, and acquit.
Losing the Right to Argue Self Defense: All Too Easy
The truth is far different. Before a jury will be permitted to hear any explanation of self defense, the judge must agree to allow it. And before the judge will allow it, the armed citizen must convince the judge that his actions were consistent with having acted in self defense. Not “self defense” as a typical person might think of it, in a general sense, but self defense as it is rigorously defined by statutes and case law. And not “consistent with” as having more or less met the requirements, but absolutely consistent with , having met each and every element required of self defense, without a single mistake, without a single oversight.
The slightest error in action or decision and the right to argue self defense before a jury simply disappears. You’ve failed to qualify, and that’s that.
Imagine that scenario. You’ve used lethal force in defense of yourself or your family. Your attacker has died as a result. You’ve been charged with murder and brought to trial. The jury gets to see the evidence allowed to it–the “crime scene” photos of the bloody body, the autopsy report, your registered handgun and the bullets recovered form the body that match that gun, and even your own statements admitting that it was you who caused that death. And then they hear nothing whatever about “self defense”.
The outcome is certain, and all too common.
But really, how easy is it to break the rules of lawful self defense, to lose the right to argue self defense before a jury? Surely there can’t be many ways for this to happen?
If you’re asking yourself those questions, you’ve come to the right book. Because there are a great many ways that the well-intentioned armed citizen can, and often does, lose the right to claim self defense.
Did the citizen contribute to the conflict (or can the prosecution tell a convincing story that he did)? Was there a history of prior conflict between the citizen and his attacker that could be seen as suggesting the event was mutual combat rather than self defense? Could the citizen have retreated rather than resorted to force (as judged with perfect 20-20 vision in the comfort and safety of a court room)? Even if the first shot was legally justified, was the second or third shot not excessive force that loses the protection of self defense? Did the citizen really believe his use of force was necessary, and even if he did might that belief have been unreasonable? Why did the citizen feel the need to use a gun, when all the “victim” had was a knife, or a bat, or rock, or his bare hands? And why was this citizen carrying a gun in the first place–none of us ever felt the need to do that, after all, guns are dangerous–perhaps he was looking for trouble, and sought it out until he found it?
Should any one of these or a dozen similar questions not be answered well, the right to argue self defense can disappear like a wisp of smoke.
Preserving the Right to Argue Self Defense: Know the Law
Right about now you may be wondering whether deciding to protect yourself and your family isn’t fixed to be a losing game. But the news isn’t all bad.
The good news is that the rules and standards by which the courts will judge your actions in using force need not be some mysterious black hole. Indeed, all the knowledge required is available, in the statues and (even more importantly) the court cases in which the statutes are applied to real-world situations. And by knowing the rules, and how they will be applied, the truly well-intentioned, reasonable, and well-informed armed citizen can position himself well within the boundaries of the law, avoiding the many traps waiting for the uninformed, while still maintaining a robust ability to secure the safety of himself and his family.
Unfortunately, although the necessary knowledge is available, if you’re not trained in the practice and research of law (ie a lawyer), finding and fully understanding this information can be extraordinarily difficult. Even worse, the available information based on the actual law is often diluted in a more accessible, but dangerously incorrect, body of “knowledge” obtained from poorly informed sources–the freelance journalist for a gun magazine, the friend of a friend at the local gun range, or even comments from someone called ‘gunsrgreat24’ on a blog post. Much of such information is simply wrong or misguided, but bits and pieces might be right. How are you to know which is which?
We Show You the Law, Not Merely Tell You the Law
The Law of Self Defense was created to address this imperative need of the armed citizen for accurate, trustworthy real-world information on the use of force in self defense. We don’t believe that you should rely on conjecture or anecdote or any individual’s unverifiable “expertise”.
Instead, we bring you to the core source of the law of self defense–the self defense statutes and, sometimes even more importantly, the court cases that apply those statutes to real-world situations.
In short, our goal is not to TELL you about the law of self defense, but to SHOW you the law of self defense. We don’t want you to simply accept at face value what some expert (whether us or anyone else) tells you. Rather, we wish to provide you with a sufficient context and understanding of the law so that you can apply it to your own life circumstances with the highest degree of confidence, and that you can look with a critical and informed eye on anyone’s claims about the boundaries of using force in self defense.
Bonus: Tactical Benefits of Knowing the Law
It’s also worth mentioning that a solid knowledge of the law of self defense does more than merely increase your prospects for success at trial. It also escalates your tactical abilities to defend yourself and your family to a higher level. By knowing exactly what the rules are, and what legal traps need to be avoided, you can conduct yourself in a violent encounter with greater confidence and certainty. When danger arises, you won’t need to spend precious moments thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening, what do I do now, and will it get me in trouble”? Instead you’ll be thinking, I thought this might happen someday, I know what my options are, and I know what I can do to defend myself and my family with the least probability of either physical or legal risk–and then simply do it.
As we mentioned at the start, being a true armed citizen means far more than getting a concealed carry permit and carrying a gun on your hip, or even training yourself to be fast and accurate with that gun. If that’s all you’ve got you’re only half armed, and a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Rather, the true armed citizen also understands the broader moral, ethical, and legal implications of preparing himself to use force to defend himself and his family. He’s ready to win both the physical and the legal battles awaiting him–and that’s the only total victory.
How to Use This Book
Keep in mind that achieving this goal is going to take real work on your part, as well. Nothing worth achieving is easy, and that’s true in the law of self defense, as well. Statutes and court cases are meant to be read by lawyers and judges, not by regular folks, and much of the terminology and language can seem like a foreign language. We think we do a pretty good job of clarifying such issues, but you’ll never make the mistake of thinking you’re reading a comic book. Our advice is to treat this book as you would any other serious textbook–read it in small doses, think about it, read it again. Keep it on your nightstand, so you can conveniently refer back to it on occasion to keep the knowledge fresh and your critical thinking active.
Additional Law of Self Defense Resources
In addition, we also encourage you to take advantage of other resources offered by the Law of Self Defense to complement this book. Our web site, www.lawofselfdefense.com, includes a blog on which a discussion around new self-defense relevant court cases are posted every few days. In addition to simply viewing these case discussions, we encourage you to engage in the discussion and debate about these cases and their possible applications in real-world situations (posting on the blog requires a free registration). There’s simply no better way to truly master any area of knowledge than to engage in discussion and debate with other well-informed members of the community. You can also email questions or suggestions directly to us. While we obviously cannot provide legal advice over the internet, we can certainly point you to resources, statutes, and court cases that can shed light on your question.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Learning to shoot well took practice, and learning to understand the law of self defense will take practice, as well. If that’s not what you had in mind, simply take advantage of our return policy to get a complete refund on this book, no questions asked. We consider our market to be motivated students of the law of self defense, and not merely gun owners who collect books on shelves. We won’t take it personally if you decide this book’s not for you.
If you’re ready to dig in and join us, however, we believe you’ll find the investment in time and effort well worth the resulting rewards.
Almost Forgot: Legal Disclaimer
In today’s litigious society, it is unfortunately necessary for me to include the following legal disclaimer:
This book does not purport to provide legal advice. This book is intended merely as an educational tool to illustrate important aspects of the law of self defense in the United States. Statutes and court cases are used for illustrative purposes only, and may be subject to interpretations other than those used here for educational purposes, or may no longer be law. If you are in need of legal advice, you are strongly encouraged to consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice law in the relevant jurisdiction.
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