Use Of Deadly Force Exceptions

111_0611(3).jpgEvery gun owner I know or have had contact with understands that deadly force is only used when your life, or the life of another, is in mortal danger. The gun grabbers would have the general population believe that we gun owners have, “itchy trigger fingers” just looking to pop a cap in the ass of some bad guy.

They’ll point to the handful of incidents a year where some idiot goes off half-cocked and crosses a line. In the eyes of the gun grabbers, all 100 million of us gun owners are represented by those nut jobs.

We “good guys” understand the heavy burden involved in owning and using a gun. We willingly accept that burden. The very last thing we want to do is to use our guns for self-defense, but the “bad guys” don’t always give us much choice. If we believe you are a threat to our life or the life of another, we will shoot you in self-defense.

Most of us have gone through training on how to ensure we only have to shoot the fewest number of shots to stop the threat. THIS is a key concept we all understand: We MUST stop shooting once the threat has stopped. Otherwise, in the eyes of the law, we’ve become the aggressor.

A great example: I was teaching one of my introductory pistol classes on a Saturday. My classroom is way in the back of the gun range/shop. All of what follows happened without any of us in the classroom being aware it was going on.

All of my students had shown up early, so my door was closed by 10:45, and class had begun. Out in the shop, the manager was alone. The other employee was delayed.

Around 11am, a guy walked into the shop, and was asking questions about the pepper spray. He wanted to buy one for his girlfriend. The locked display case for the pepper spray was on a wall out in the store.

The manager grabbed his keys, and was pulling out a spray when his head got slammed into the edge of the case. The “customer” grabbed for the manager’s sidearm. Thankfully, it was in a Serpa retention holster, and the guy couldn’t get it out.

The manager shook off the stun of having his head slammed and threw an elbow backwards into the face of the bad guy. The manager cleared his head, drew his weapon…. and cursed.

The bad guy was running out the door towards a get-away car. The manager had ample opportunity (and skill) to drop the guy as he ran, but his training stopped him.

He had gone through similar scenarios in his head enough times to know NOT to shoot. The manager would have been hauled off to jail for murder/attempted murder.

SecondCall Defense recently ran an article on some other scenarios where you may not be justified in using lethal force:

Initial Aggressor – Once again, laws vary from state to state. However, in most cases, if you are the one who initiates violence, you risk losing the ability to argue self defense. If you throw the first punch, then later start losing the fight and pull a gun to defend yourself, you may be considered the bad guy.

True enough. Good reason to walk away from a fight especially if you’re carrying concealed. The law will likely side with the other person. Opening statement from the DA in court: “Mr. Smith – who was carrying a gun during the altercation – clearly felt omnipotent when he assaulted Mr. Jones.” Lose/lose situation.

Escalation – Anything you do that causes a bad situation to get worse can be held against you. For example, if someone is verbally threatening you and you respond with counter threats, you are escalating the situation. Escalation means you are playing a part in creating a deadly force encounter.

The key here is, “verbally threatening” you. Remember the old, “sticks and stones” rhyme from your childhood. Words cannot be considered by you to be a mortal threat. Use your head, and don’t taunt the aggressor.

Committing Felony or Unlawful Act – If you are robbing a gas station, physically assaulting someone, or otherwise committing a crime, and in the process you are faced with a deadly threat, you will have a very difficult time arguing self defense. It depends on the facts of the case, but in general the law is not designed to protect criminals.

Break the law while using a gun, means you’re going down. As you should.

Reengagements and Pursuit – Given the premise that justifiable use of deadly force must be something that is thrust upon you and not something you cause or seek out willingly, you can hurt your self defense argument if your attacker runs away and you then chase him in order to continue the conflict.

The example of the manager above is the perfect illustration of this principle. Drill this into your head: Once the threat has stopped, YOU must stop your self-defense.

States like California throw in additional exceptions.

If the aggressor would not be considered a physical threat by a reasonable person, deadly force is not justified.

For instance, I’m a physically big guy. If a little old lady starts coming after me with a baseball bat, I’m likely not in fear for my life. I can likely take the bat from the little old lady, and the incident is over. But, if I were also a little old lady, and the aggressor was coming after me, I WOULD be justified in using deadly force, as the two actors in the incident are of equal physical stature.

There must be a reasonable expectation that you’d be severely harmed before you can use deadly force.

I guarantee you, though, that a “reasonable” person is very different in San Francisco than they are in Dallas. In San Francisco, the gun grabbers only consider armed self-defense to be reasonable when they literally have a gun pointed to THEIR heads. Otherwise, you’re expected to chit-chat and delve into the psyche of the assailant to uncover why he’s been forced to point a gun at someone else’s head.


Using deadly force is not for the timid, or the easily taunted. I’ve mentioned before that if you use your gun for self-defense in any circumstances, you should expect to be arrested. Get that in your head – right now – so that if you are arrested, you don’t make the situation worse by resisting arrest.

Membership in organizations such as SecondCall Defense educate you on how/when it’s justified to use a firearm in self-defense, and then provide legal and financial support once the incident is over.

Of equal importance is for gun owners to train on an ongoing basis. Walk your own home to understand the various strengths and weaknesses for cover and concealment you can use. Gain the, “home field advantage” by having insider knowledge about which walls, structures and appliances will provide you with cover from bullet penetration.

Understand your “fields of fire” in your home. If you shoot in that direction and miss, what’s on the other side? A window? An easily penetrated plaster board wall? A bedroom? In my precious metals store, taking – or not taking – a few steps in one direction makes a missed shot go into a wall… or into a busy parking lot.

Go through scenarios in your head. If someone is walking towards you with a knife, when do they become a real threat? What are you going to say and do as they approach? What if they have a pepper spray or stun gun? At what distance are you really threatened?

Are you defending a life or property? This is a crime – or not – depending upon your state and your location (home versus a business).

Understand and train for different situations before you’re in them for real.

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