PLEASE NOTE: I am not an attorney and do not purport to offer legal advice. Please
view what follows as an initial guide to seeking further instruction and
legal advice specific to those jurisdictions where you live, work and travel.
Ability, opportunity and jeopardy form a tripod. If all three are not present
simultaneously, you cannot prove justifiable use of force. However, there's more ...
The Mantle of Innocence
I'm sure you've seen at least one Western movie where the evil gunfighter forces the
innocent rancher to go for his gun. When the rancher is beaten to the draw, all the bad
guy's buddies swear to the sheriff that the rancher went for his gun first.
Hollywood script writers notwithstanding, the law generally will not tolerate this kind
of behavior. If you go armed in society and seek arguments and fights, you may find a
judge or jury ruling that you gave up your mantle of innocence. If this is their
finding, you will not be judged to have acted in self-defense.
Robert Heinlein's contention that an armed society is a polite society, like most truths,
has two edges. If you choose to go armed, you'd better be polite, as well.
The Innocence of Others
While the law generally allows you to use deadly force in defense of other innocent,
human life, some jurisdictions may actually define whom you have a right to
protect. Again, I am not an attorney, so get some legal advice.
From a practical standpoint, undercover police officers have been known to have been
mistaken for criminals, not only by their "prey," but also by good Samaritans. On more
than one occasion, a good Samaritan, armed without the benefit of a license, has gotten
into some deep trouble. In addition to legal issues, you may also face difficult ethical
and moral questions about coming to the rescue of apparent victims who are not known to
A Little Knowledge ...
I have attempted to provide you nothing more than a skeleton of knowledge of how you may
be judged if you use deadly force in self-defense. I urge you to do a few things:
Study the specifics of the law in the jurisdictions where you live, work and travel. A
good starting point is Andrew Branca's book The Law of Self-Defense: The Indispensable Guide for the Armed Citizen. County law libraries will generally
assist you if you ask for help. Consult an attorney to help you interpret what you read. As with many things in life,
the law is not always exactly what it appears on the surface.
If face-to-face training does not fit into your foreseeable future, consider purchasing
some appropriate books on the topic and saving the dated receipts for the purchase. Then
make some notes on your readings as evidence that you actually read the books. If you choose
to rely on web pages like this, print them out and, again, makes some dated notes on what
you've read. If you consult an attorney, you may also want to make some notes of the
The last step you can take to increase the evidentiary value of your notes is
to photocopy them, then mail yourself the originals, by registered mail. When you
receive the envelope keep it sealed and store it in a secure place.
Material is posted on this page for information and discussion only and
purports to be no more than the personal opinion of
Stephen P. Wenger.
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by lawful subpoena or warrant. If correspondence from you would reveal indictable, illegal activity on your part,
I suggest that you reconsider such correspondence. I have no desire to abet such activity nor to become embroiled
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