In the realm of reality, self-defense differs greatly from the action-packed scenes portrayed on the silver screen. Confrontations, far from being glamorous, are often characterized by noise and an overwhelming sense of stress. In an instant, they can escalate into violent encounters.
While many individuals may contemplate how they would react in an attack, such plans often crumble in the face of actual physical conflict. Gone are the fantasies of executing Jackie Chan-like maneuvers involving potted plants and ladders to swiftly subdue a group of assailants.
German Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke aptly stated, “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” This sentiment is often paraphrased as, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
Whether armed or unarmed, a confrontation typically catches you off guard and concludes swiftly. Exceptions exist, naturally, but as a general rule, these encounters are resolved in mere seconds, not minutes. However, the aftermath can endure significantly longer, encompassing trips to the hospital, legal battles, and potential psychological repercussions such as nightmares and anxiety attacks.
Anticipate sustaining injuries, even if you emerge victorious. It would be nothing short of miraculous to overcome your attacker unscathed in most cases. The only exception would arise when you are armed, particularly with a firearm, while the other person is unarmed or unable to effectively employ their weapon. Otherwise, prepare for the possibility of getting bloodied. Ultimately, the paramount objective is to wake up the following morning, still breathing and standing on the right side of life’s continuum.
The foundation for personal safety is laid long before any physical confrontation occurs. In fact, the ultimate goal is to never have to resort to using your weapons. Employing both common sense and situational awareness can significantly reduce or even eliminate instances where you find yourself in trouble.
Situational awareness involves removing the blinders and actively observing the world around you. Keep your head held high and remain alert, constantly scanning for potential threats as you navigate through your day. This doesn’t mean succumbing to paranoia or being afraid to step outside your front door.
Rather, it means refraining from constantly updating your social media accounts every few seconds and instead focusing on the tangible reality unfolding before you. Criminals seek out individuals they perceive as vulnerable targets. By exuding confidence, maintaining an upright posture, and attentively monitoring your surroundings, you deter potential muggers and other wrongdoers, prompting them to search for easier prey elsewhere.
Common sense plays a crucial role in this endeavor as well. Avoid placing yourself in situations with a high probability of turning dangerous. Steer clear of dimly lit, unfamiliar alleyways, especially during nighttime. Whenever possible, refrain from walking alone. If you have the choice, avoid venturing into unsafe neighborhoods.
Even when at home, remember to lock your vehicles and keep your doors securely shut. Avoid engaging in activities that make you an appealing target. Generally, criminals prefer the path of least resistance and are more likely to target individuals who appear meek, oblivious, or physically vulnerable. By diligently practicing strong situational awareness, you immediately remove yourself from those vulnerable categories.
Training is vital
The choice of weapon you carry holds little significance if you lack experience in its use. Without proper training and practice, your chances of achieving success in self-defense diminish significantly. It is crucial to acquire the necessary skills to effectively wield your chosen weapon in various scenarios, including adverse weather conditions, both standing and on the ground.
Merely spending ten minutes brandishing a knife in your apartment, pretending to be a budget-friendly ninja, falls woefully short in preparing you for real-life situations—pun not intended. It is imperative to seek comprehensive training from a qualified instructor, regardless of whether you are considering a firearm, blade, or bludgeon.
Familiarize yourself with your weapon’s strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. This knowledge cannot be gained through a mere perusal of a few books or watching a handful of YouTube videos. To truly master your weapon, you must be willing to step outside your comfort zone and engage in practical, hands-on training.
Remember, your safety and effectiveness in self-defense rely on more than just possessing a weapon. Investing time and effort into proper training will equip you with the skills necessary to handle your weapon effectively and confidently when it matters most.
What should one do after the confrontation
The confrontation has ended, and you have emerged victorious. Now, what should you do? Here is some advice for different scenarios:
You used a firearm against a home intruder, and the intruder is incapacitated. Your immediate action should involve making two phone calls as soon as possible. One call should be to your attorney, and the other to 911, although the order may vary.
When contacting the authorities, provide your name, location, and request both police and rescue squad units to be dispatched. Keep the conversation with the dispatcher concise and stick to essential facts, such as reporting a gunshot victim in need of assistance. Avoid going into explicit details about how the person was shot or who shot them.
However, provide a detailed description of yourself, including your appearance and clothing, to help responding officers identify you quickly and prevent any confusion.
Unless you believe there is still imminent danger, securely holster or secure your weapon. When the officers arrive, raise your hands to demonstrate they are empty. Respond promptly to their instructions, as they are unaware of what transpired.
Anticipate a certain degree of assertiveness from the officers until they have gathered the necessary information. It is crucial to comply with all instructions and avoid engaging in discussions regarding self-defense or the justifiability of the shooting. Refrain from discussing the event extensively until you have legal representation by your side. Despite the circumstances, it is strongly advised to maintain politeness and respect towards the responding law enforcement officers.
This is not the appropriate time to become argumentative or disrespectful. Remember that officers, like anyone else, experience stress and emotions. Responding to a call involving weapons is a tense situation for everyone involved. Focus on reducing anxiety rather than escalating tensions.
Allow the emergency medical personnel to examine you. Adrenaline and shock can mask injuries, including potentially severe ones. Ensure that all wounds are thoroughly cleaned, particularly if there is a risk of contamination from bodily fluids like blood or saliva.
You used a firearm against a home intruder, but the intruder managed to escape through the back door. Before taking any further action, ensure that the intruder has indeed left the premises. Use a window overlooking the direction of their escape to observe the area.
Avoid exiting through the same door they used, as there could be a possibility of them lurking nearby. If you have close neighbors, gather your family and seek refuge in their home before contacting the police. It is crucial to remember that home invaders often work in teams, and there may be another individual in your home who has not yet been seen.
When contacting the police, provide them with a detailed description of the intruder, including their direction of travel and whether they were armed or not. Inform the dispatcher of your location and physical appearance to prevent any confusion when the officers arrive. Subsequently, contact your attorney.
It is worth noting that while many incidents are resolved quickly, depending on the applicable state and local laws, you may find yourself involved in a longer legal battle within the court system.
Self-defense legal concepts
I want to emphasize that I am not an attorney, and the information provided in this chapter or book should not be considered legal advice. However, it is important to discuss some legal concepts related to armed self-defense. I encourage you to conduct your own research and carefully consider each situation before employing defensive measures.
Currently, there are four types of policies regarding concealed carry laws in the United States:
The state allows concealed carry and requires a license or permit. The requirements for obtaining the permit are clearly defined in the law and are relatively easy for most people to meet. These requirements may include paying a fee or completing a class.
The state allows concealed carry and requires a permit or license, but the decision to issue the permit is at the discretion of the issuing agency, such as the police or sheriff’s department. This means there is some flexibility in determining who receives a license and who does not.
The state allows concealed carry without requiring a license or permit.
The state does not permit private citizens to carry concealed weapons.
At the time of writing, the majority of states fall into the “shall issue” category. Additionally, many states recognize licenses issued by other states. However, there may be restrictions on the size or caliber of firearms or other weapons allowed to be carried.
It is important to understand what constitutes concealed carry. Generally, if a weapon is carried in a way that it is not easily visible to the naked eye, it is considered concealed. For example, carrying a handgun in your waistband and covering it with a shirt would be considered concealed carry.
In some states, if the weapon is in a holster and the holster is at least partially visible, it may not be considered concealed.
Laws regarding concealed carry vary significantly across the country. It is crucial to thoroughly research the laws in your area to understand what is permitted and what is not.
Deadly force generally refers to actions that can reasonably be expected to cause serious bodily harm or death to the subject. Shooting someone in the chest or stabbing them in the neck with a knife are clear examples of deadly force.
It is important to note that even non-lethal means of defense can potentially turn deadly. For example, an expandable baton can cause severe head injuries or be used for restraint. Intent plays a significant role in determining the nature of the force used.
To illustrate this, let’s consider the example of using an expandable baton to restrain an assailant. If, during the struggle, the baton unintentionally rises across the assailant’s throat, resulting in their death, your intention to restrain them may be evident from your actions and the crime scene analysis.
However, if you continue striking the attacker’s head with the baton even after they are already incapacitated, it becomes difficult to argue that your intention was solely restraint. In such cases, the evidence may suggest a different intent.
As a general rule, the use of deadly force is typically justified only when you genuinely believe that you or another person will suffer great bodily harm, sexual assault, or death if action is not taken.
Castle doctrine is a legal principle commonly relevant to self-defense. The fundamental idea is that your home is considered your castle, and you have the right to protect yourself and your family within it. However, the application of castle doctrine varies between states, and it is essential to conduct your own research to understand how your state’s judicial system interprets and applies it. Case law plays a crucial role in clarifying ambiguous or unclear aspects of castle doctrine.
Typically, castle doctrine operates as follows: If someone unlawfully enters your home, and you, as the occupant, reasonably believe that your life or the lives of your family members are in immediate danger of physical harm or death, and you have not provoked or encouraged the intruder’s actions, you are legally entitled to defend yourself using force, including deadly force.
It is important to note a few aspects regarding castle doctrine:
Lawful actions by law enforcement or situations involving landlord/tenant agreements may not fall under castle doctrine.
The concept of reasonableness is often considered. For example, if a reasonable person would believe their life is in immediate danger, the use of deadly force may be acceptable. However, what is considered reasonable can be subjective, so it is advisable to err on the side of caution and be certain of the threat and the intentions of the individual.
Castle doctrine does not apply if you initiate a confrontation or act in a provocative manner. If you start an altercation and then retreat to your home, castle doctrine may not protect you legally, as you bear responsibility for your actions.
Duty to retreat:
Some states employ the concept of “duty to retreat” instead of focusing on castle doctrine. In these states, the individual defending themselves must reasonably believe that they have no other options available before employing deadly force. This means they must have attempted to flee or felt that fleeing would place them in even greater danger.
However, castle doctrine often supersedes the duty to retreat if the incident occurs in the person’s home, workplace, or vehicle. It is crucial to thoroughly understand the laws applicable in your state.
Stand your ground:
In certain states, there is no duty to retreat, and individuals are legally permitted to stand their ground. This means that as long as you are not engaged in criminal activity and are legally present in a particular location, if you genuinely believe that you are in immediate danger of significant harm or death from an assailant, you are legally allowed to use deadly force without first attempting to retreat or flee.
Once again, I strongly advise conducting thorough research to understand the specific laws and regulations in your state, as they can vary significantly. It is essential to be knowledgeable about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to self-defense.
Criminal versus civil law
There are two primary types of law: criminal law and civil law. While this is an oversimplification, criminal law typically involves matters handled by the police, while civil law deals with lawsuits.
Castle doctrine and the related legal principles discussed earlier primarily focus on the criminal aspect. Castle doctrine is considered a valid defense against criminal charges that may arise from an incident. However, it does not guarantee that you cannot be charged with a crime. It simply means that you have a legal defense against such charges, provided that your actions align with what is legally permissible in your state regarding self-defense.
Many castle doctrine statutes also address the potential for civil lawsuits arising from the incident. These statutes may provide immunity against lawsuits filed by the family of the intruder you rendered motionless in your back hallway. It is important to note that in the United States, anyone can file a lawsuit against another person for various reasons. Filing a lawsuit does not necessarily mean they will succeed, but it may still incur attorney fees for you to have the case dismissed.
In summary, if you find yourself involved in an incident where force is used, it is advisable to first call 911 for immediate assistance and then contact a competent attorney. They can provide you with appropriate legal guidance based on the specific circumstances and help protect your rights and interests.