It is surprisingly easy to get bad – and I mean really bad – advice on the legal aspects of defensive gun use. We all know that gun store clerks are not good, and are often worse than terrible, sources, but there are other, seemingly credible, sources that are just as bad.
- Lawyers Most lawyers aren’t criminal law lawyers; of those that are most aren’t use of force specialists; of those few have experience with lethal force; and of those almost none have defended an innocent person (whose defense is considerably different in both strategy and tactics than that of a guilty person). I have seen lawyers give the same dangerous, completely off-base advice that gun store clerks give, and have the same inappropriate and incorrect reaction to a case in the news that you’d expect of the most malicious, Alinskyite leftie. Plus lawyers think they know everything. Look to Andrew Branca, Marty Hayes, and Mas Ayoob for credible legal advice.
- Cops Most cops only know what little law they learned in the academy, and that was considerably watered-down from the law school version of the same. Most cops have no interest in firearms or the legal aspects of use of force and don’t know much about them. Their advice is often a mix of ignorance and the testosterone that comes with the job. Now, often a cop that has become a firearms instructor through their state process has a reasonable handle of the subject, but on the other hand all too many cops become FIs just to punch a ticket or get a raise. Even the most knowledgeable LE FIs are often inarticulate, so even they can’t do you any good.
- Websites Websites devoted to national issues, run by other than the three gentleman (really – they are!) named above, can’t be expert on all state issues. Websites run by people devoted to state legal issues are often pretty ignorant, too. I have first-hand experience here in my state with a website run by an instructor, which had become an often-referenced source of information on our confusing gun laws, being completely wrong on some issues.
- State officials Your state’s AG usually has no interest in explaining the law correctly to you, no incentive to do so, and suffers no penalties for giving you wrong information. Ditto your DA. When they even make a feeble attempt at it, it is often so general, conservative, and non-specific that it is all but useless. I’ve seen a police chief, appointed by my state to be the chief’s association expert on our confusing gun laws, provide wrong advice in writing.
So who do you trust? The three men listed above, really. Atty. Branca even has state-specific appendices in his absolutely must-read book, and more information available on his website. For non-force related laws, such as storage, weapon restrictions, etc., you’ll 1) have to read the actual statutes (free), 2) read the relevant case law (you might have to pay to get them), and 3) find, through arduous research, a source or two you can trust — maybe your state 2A association (but these can be bad sources, too). The forum devoted to your state’s firearms laws can be a reasonable source, but you’ll have to slog thru all the ignorant nonsense that anyone can post to them.
Firearms are responsibilities. The gumint makes it harder for us than it should to be legal, but the responsibility remains.
P.S. – Don’t get me started on NRA instructors. Thank God for the NRA, and I support their realpolitik approach to making progress in the face of the fire breathers in our community. But I tell no tales out of school when I say that their instructor programs pretty much suck and that you don’t have to be good, knowledgeable, skilled, or bright to qualify.