“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
― Edmund Burke
It appears that we as citizen gun owners have a bit of a flaw when it comes to learning from defensive gun uses. Everyone likes to read a happy outcome to a defensive gun use. We cheer for a righteous shoot and are certain we would and could do the same thing if the situation demanded it. It becomes a sort of confirmation bias, where we believe our fight will look the same, and result in the same positive outcome and everything will but cut and dry. We also tend to pass judgement or ignore all of the negative outcomes of defensive gun uses. Specifically the legal outcomes. We have to learn from others’ mistakes and do our best to keep ourselves out of those situations, or enable us to not fall into the same pitfalls that others have.For instance, I’ve caught myself saying, “How did that guy not know it was his daughter and her boyfriend in the garage?, I would never do that…” Well, friend, unless you figure out what went wrong, there’s no guarantee you won’t make that very same mistake. Then it could be you with your loved one’s blood on your hands, or a life sentence in prison.
In fact, I think the best thing we can spend our time researching is bad defensive gun uses. The FBI documents this very well for police in the LEOKA. I personally credit The Tactical Professor for getting me thinking about the large number of bad citizen DGUs that occur.
Learn where the situations took wrong turns, where the laws were broken, and what the laws are in your area. You will be held to these laws if you ever need to go to court over a shooting. Brainstorm and war-game with these laws in mind. I look for gun usages that end up in a conviction and then go back to read about the situation that developed which put the shooter in the position that allowed them to make a bad decision. I also try to uncover, as best I can, what their mental process was when they decided to bring the gun into play (if provided by the news). I’m going to go through some recent bad shootings and we’ll briefly look at the situations and the outcomes, and then see if we can find trends and how we can train ourselves to not make the same mistakes.
Mission: Learn from Bad Defensive Gun Uses and integrate the lessons into our personal shooting programs and training.
[M]an who shot an intruder outside his Dunkirk home was found guilty of a felony charge Thursday by a Jay County jury.
“I yelled for him to stop and freeze,” McLaughlin said. “He did not. … It was so fast I really didn’t know what was going on.”
“Were you in fear for your life?” defense attorney Jill Gonzalez asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” her client responded. “That’s why I fired. … I know I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The defendant said his gunshots were in response to arm movements that made him believe the fleeing trespasser was preparing to open fire with a gun of his own.
“I thought he was aiming back to shoot at me,” McLaughlin said.
Jay County Prosecutor Wesley Schemenaur maintained McLaughlin had made no such claims in interviews with police.
Schemenaur asked McLaughlin what immediate threat to his family’s safety had been posed by an intruder in a detached garage.
“What’s to say they’ll not try to get into my house next, sir?” the defendant responded.
I don’t pretend to know what was actually going through this man’s head. However, going to investigate a bump in the night in a detached garage was clearly his first error. Shooting without identifying what was in the man’s hands was another mistake. Being untrained and thinking it was OK to shoot at the time might have been another, if that’s indeed the case.
Inside the drugstore, Ersland shot Parker in the head, knocking Parker to the floor. Surveillance videos show he then chased after a fleeing Ingram, came back inside the drugstore, got a second gun and shot Parker five more times.
This is an older story, but Ersland made his mistake when he came back into the store after the initial good shoot and delivered the coup de grâce to the already injured Parker. He now is in Prison. Federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison. You must shoot when you need to shoot, and stop shooting when you need to stop.
Third Example: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/woman-shoots-7-year-old-grandson-after-mistaking-h/ng5Lt/
When she heard the chair sliding against the floor, she assumed it was an intruder and grabbed a loaded .22-caliber revolver she kept by the bed and fired one shot in the dark toward the door.
She assumed it was an intruder, and then proceeded to fire into the dark.
Fourth Example: http://www.kktv.com/home/headlines/Man-Fires-Shots-at-Carjacker-271167041.html
A man popped into a store Wednesday evening–and when he returned to the parking lot, someone was driving away in his car.
The victim fired a few shots at his own vehicle, but the suspect was able to get away.
He fired at his moving car, defending property as it drove away. Don’t go to prison or get charged over a car or a TV set.
Fifth example: http://www.whsv.com/news/headlines/Police-Man-Shot-Daughter-Returning-to-House-270954461.html
During further investigation, police determined that just before the original 911 call, the homeowner was preparing to get ready for work and heard his interior alarm sound indicating the garage door had been opened.
Police said as the homeowner was approaching the interior garage, he heard a bang and sounds coming from inside the garage, grabbed a firearm and approached the garage door. As he opened the door, police say he observed a person coming towards him, raised his gun and shot the person. The homeowner determined that he had just shot his 16-year-old daughter who was attempting the sneak back into the residence after sneaking out earlier that morning without him knowing, according to police.
This poor guy failed to identify targets and had no way to see in low light. I’ll go on a limb and say that this man had previously made up his mind that, ‘if that garage alarm goes off, some scumbag is in my garage, and I’m going to go out there with my gun and…’ He already had brainstormed his solution. He failed to war-game the scenario where it was his teenager sneaking back in after a night out.
Sixth Example: http://www.newswest9.com/story/26253637/howard-county-explains-why-car-theft-shooting-was-not-justified
“When the vehicle was stolen, it was parked at the TA truck stop. It was unlocked, unoccupied, the keys were in the vehicle and it was running. At no point was no force used to take this vehicle,” …Keck told dispatch the car belonged to his mother and he was chasing the thief … [the] vehicle Bricker was driving came to a stop and that’s when Keck shot Bricker in the face and killed him. Officials said the shooting was not justified…The deceased never fired a shot, he was not armed at any time during the incident,” Parker said.
Again we have a pursuit over property, murder, and no weapon in the victim’s possession. Also, like in the other car theft story above, we have keys left in a running car.
Seventh Example: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/12/kansas-man-shoots-wife-in-the-head-after-mistaking-her-for-a-burglar/
Authorities said that the man shot his wife in the head because he thought someone was breaking into their house.
Lack of identification of target, possibly related to low light conditions (5:15am).
Eighth Example: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cop-shot-in-case-of-mistaken-identity/
police shot and critically wounded an off-duty officer as he pointed a gun at a suspect outside a fast food restaurant early Saturday, authorities said.
Coming up to a scene where you have no frame of reference and deciding to shoot the person who has a gun out or is on top of someone else and punching them is a terrible idea. If you don’t know the whole story, don’t ride in on your white horse with guns blazing. It’s time to just be a good witness. There can be counter-examples of this, but they are rare indeed.
Let Us Boil It Down:
We have a cross section of BAD defensive gun uses. These weren’t cherry picked, they were literally the eight most recent articles I could find on bad gun uses. You can feel free to dig for more. You’ll see the same mistakes being made over and over. Here’s the top 5 I see:
- Lack of identification of target and decisional shooting (training/gear issue)
- Unnecessary pursuit (training issue)
- Lack of ability to identify target (gear issue)
- Defense of property, where there was no intent, ability, or opportunity to do bodily harm to the good guy (training/ignorance of law)
- Lack of ability or desire to present gun and hold someone at gunpoint, rather than just immediately start shooting (training issue)
- Intervening in someone else’s fight (training issue)
Some ideas to avoid these pitfalls:
- Carry A Flashlight!!!!!!!!!!! Have a damn flashlight in your pocket, and on your gun if possible. This is not up for debate. If you have a home defense rifle or shotgun, you must have a flashlight on it. If you have a home defense pistol, you must have a handheld light sitting next to it. Purchasing this simple (and highly useful) tool can save lives. It also lets you see where you dropped your remote under the couch, which is nice. If you can afford it, get a flashlight that uses lithium batteries CR123A Lithium Batteries, because they have tremendous shelf life and higher energy capacity. You can also get a Rechargeable Kit which will save money in the long run. Invest in a quality flashlight and it will treat you well and could keep you out of prison. Here’s a nice list of flashlights in the G.U.G. Amazon store that either I or people who I trust have owned and carried. Much like your gun, it only works when you’re carrying it, so chose one that you don’t mind having in a pocket or purse all the time. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Please get yourself a flashlight, and take a low-light shooting course.
- Practice Decision Shooting. I encourage you to take courses in this, or you can find drills that you can shoot at the range which force you think before you shoot (in future post will list drills I like for this). The shooting part is easy, it’s the decisions that have to be made in the moment that will bog you down and could force a bad choice. Thinking with a gun in your hand is not natural and requires training.
- Don’t shoot people for stealing stuff. It just doesn’t work out. Even if you are legally justified to do so, you still have to live the rest of your life knowing you blasted some guy for driving away in your truck. You might be really mad, but let it go man. It’s just stuff.
- Practice ‘draw to hold’ in your shooting. Sometimes when you draw, draw to a low ready or compressed ready instead of immediately putting one in the target’s heart. You need to know what it feels like to draw and stop at a low ready. Often (usually) just the presentation of a gun is enough to diffuse a dangerous situation. Opportunistic predators don’t want a fight, they want the easy lunch. Be prepared to show them you have the intent to shoot them, but have the restraint to hold. Don’t invite The Man into your life by shooting someone when you don’t need to.
- Practice Verbalization. When you’re dryfiring and practicing your ‘draw to hold’, begin planning what you’re going to say as a challenge. Something as simple as “Stop!” or “Stop! Don’t come any closer!” or “Get away, I have a gun!”. You have to get used to talking with a gun in your hands. This is harder than it might sound. It feels funny to yell and project your voice in an aggressive way (it is for me). If you don’t practice, anything could come out of your mouth. Having a verbalization ‘tape recorder’ in your head is crucial, because without one, you’re bound to say whatever you make up on the spot. Which would you rather a witness hear? “Stop, don’t come any closer” or “Die Mothafucka!”. You get the idea. In some cases, which will probably be very clear to you at the time, no speaking will be necessary. Just the shooting.
- Sometimes it’s best to do nothing, be a good witness, and keep the gun holstered. Don’t invite yourself into someone else’s troubles. You will draw your own line in the sand here. Just make sure you understand what can happen if you’re wrong.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I plan on compiling a nice list of drills that will help us work on some of the above issues at the range. As you can see though, a lot of these problems are not shooting problems, but thinking ones. Reflect on that well.
Until next time, Protect your brood.