Updated: Dec 13, 2018
I saw the following piece in an e-mail I receive regularly (The Tactical Wire). It seems that in many of the classes I teach and conversations I have with legally armed citizens, there seems to be a 'gap' in their education regarding the use of deadly force. The author, Rich Grassi, is well known in the firearms community and offers some sage advice in this article.
Editor's Notebook: Avoidability
-- The "circumstance" that justifies homicide: "Immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to the innocent." – Massad Ayoob.
I do believe Mr. Ayoob surprised students who believed they could use the ultimate force option without a colossal investigative probe – that result often involves handcuffs, a ride in the back of a patrol car, some interesting questioning techniques and more. I know I was surprised. A good many coppers operate – and have operated for several decades – in locales where even police uses of deadly force are routinely run past a grand jury. This topic came up recently involving a case in which I had absolutely no interest. It involved a protest march and a blogger – some have described him as being confrontational with people in the past. I have no idea because I'd never heard of him. An example of a screaming headline in the case had to do with a self-defense from an "angry mob." Anyway, he was convicted. A few attorneys apparently pontificated on press reports of the case and focused, as the state apparently did, on his apparent ability to escape the threat but deciding to hang around after the incident to do an interview – in close proximity to the previously "angry" crowd. The judge decided there was plenty to convict on and did so. As to the particulars of the case, I remain uninterested. For me, the object lesson is "if someone's going to have a deadly encounter, tell me about it after it's over – because I'm not going." The best fight is the one never engaged. And I can just hear the real heroes of the keyboard now – "My rights! I have the right to be there!" Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure you do. So what? Even if you end up with a felony conviction and never do time, you don't vote, your employability plummets and you lose other essential civil rights. Bet it was worth that, yeah? This is called "The Tactical Wire," so let me give some tactical advice: If someone's giving a battle, be absent. One of the points of departure that would have prevented his situation was simply not going where he wasn't wanted. I . . . that has a "chilling effect on the First Amendment." Please. As John Farnam teaches, "Don't go to stupid places, don't associate with stupid people, and don't do stupid things." That lesson alone is worth a fortune. The avoidability component of the circumstance that justifies homicide is seldom discussed in print, in internet forums and in gun magazines. It remains one of the best off-ramps from the road to disaster. When I taught use of force to law enforcement practitioners, I warned that part of the judgement they faced would be based on whether or not the circumstances leading up to the force application could have reasonably been stopped. Using a little shorthand, I cautioned that one should "never be in a hurry to die" – or to take a life. The risks are that high: your use of force won't be judged by government officials if you're dead. In every fight, there's a chance you'll lose and if it's a deadly force encounter, your expiration date is most certainly on the table. With risks that high – death or crippling injury on one side and criminal and civil liability on the other – there's no percentage in looking for trouble. Be reluctant. Prepare for the worst, strive for the best. -- Rich Grassi