Let’s do a Gedankenexperiment .
Let’s assume that your most likely deadly force encounter was to involve two assailants, one who faced and threatened you, and another who always lurked in the shadows and waited to attack you until you managed to put down the threat that faced you. It’s a good bet that much of your training — and the time, energy and money that it involved — would be centered around effective skills, techniques and tactics to deal effectively with both assailants.
Well, the criminal scrutiny that faces you after a shooting is not likely — it’s a certainty. Even if you were completely morally right, but legally not perfect, you can easily go to jail for decades, lose every dollar and asset that you own, lose your job, family, and all prospects. While dealing with this prospect is a secondary consideration to the first of surviving the encounter, it is so serious that it is secondary only in name — it’s really the second act of a single play. And it’s not just you who faces this second attacker, your family does to, in ways that I trust are obvious.
I hear you saying that you shouldn’t have to worry about such things. Well, you shouldn’t have to worry about being attacked in the first place. Yet you’ve accepted the fact that the world is the way it is and not the way you’d like it to be already in that you carry a weapon and have invested considerable (I hope) time and energy in training with it. Why then deny the reality of the legal consequences?
Sure, the law isn’t always the champion of justice that you’d like. Suck it up, buttercup: it is what it is; you have to deal with it.
I’m NOT saying that you ignore gun skills in favor of learning the law, I’m saying you get good at BOTH. Like you need to know how to read AND do math. Life’s tough.
Objection 1: But that’s not FAIR! OK – here’s an analogy (and like all analogies and all metaphors, it eventually breaks down, but it does illustrate a point). You’re going to a set of two interviews for a new job. The first interviewer expects you to show up in business casual attire, which you do. The second has an expectation (and you know it) that you’ll wear a suit and tie…but you don’t because, you know, it’s only fair that you should be judged on your skills not your clothes. And of course you don’t get the job.
You get no sympathy from me.
Objection 2: I shouldn’t need to learn the law — I have a RIGHT to carry a gun and defend myself. Another analogy. I’d argue that you certainly have a right to wire your own home any way you please. But I’d also hold you in contempt if you didn’t know the electrical code and just took the wiring advice of the guys down at the local watering hole. And I’d want you thrown in prison if your ignorant, crappy job cost the life or health of an innocent person.
You do have a right to buy and carry a gun, and you do have a right to defend yourself. You also have an moral obligation do so legally, and to do an adequate job of legal preparation and training. If not for the consequences to yourself, then to your family who will suffer nearly as much as you do if you go to prison for even a righteous, but illegal, shooting. Most people spend countless hours shooting…and none — none– on legal prep and education. Is asking that you spend $25 on a book, maybe a hundred for a seminar, and then a few hours on scenarios, too much to ask in light of all the time you spend putting rounds downrange?
Or maybe you like the group showers in prison.
Besides, it is my concern, indirectly, if you shoot someone wrongly or otherwise misuse a gun. You cost me tax money to prosecute you, and you cost me dearly by tarnishing the reputation of gun owners, who are one supreme court justice away from confiscation. Your behavior reflects on me, rightly or wrongly. So straighten up and fly straight.
Objection 3: I’ll just know when to use my gun – it’s common sense. It is NOT. You literally don’t know what you don’t know; unless you’re a legal expert in this area you have no idea what you’re talking about. The law is complex and not always intuitive. Sometimes it seems that it’s way too complicated, and that the deck is stacked against both you and common sense, and sometimes that might be right. But often the law is the culmination of centuries of common-sense decisions by serious people, and you simply haven’t thought the issues through from stem to stern (and probably don’t even know what they are). Lots of seemingly “common-sense” stuff is like that. In fact, whatever you do for a living, assuming it’s not digging ditches or washing dishes, probably seems easier and more ike “common-sense” to someone outside the field than it actually is.
Objection 4: I shouldn’t have to spend money to learn the law. Well, nothing’s free. Another analogy. The first amendment gives you the right to free speech. You can say any ignorant, foolish, even dangerous thing that you want (so long as the speech itself doesn’t put someone in imminent danger). Yet I trust that we all detest the countless ignoramus that bloviate all over our culture. If someone suggested that they actually learn something before they spouted off, they might object that “I have a right to my opinion” and “learning stuff costs money!” They’d be right. But the flip side of rights are responsibilities– even if most people ignore them and there’s no penalties for doing so.
The right to be armed doesn’t mean that you get guns for free. Neither does the commensurate responsibility of knowing the law of use-of-force mean that you get that knowledge for free. Most gun people have no problem repeatedly spending money on their guns, so what’s the big deal about spending a very small percentage of that on knowing what the hell you’re doing with them? Andrew Branca’s book is $23. You can’t afford that????
That is all; rant over. For today! 🙂