It’s not just newcomers. Folks who have been armed all their lives and some of us outspoken types who are in it quite deep have this quiet (sometimes not so quiet) wish that self-defense could be, how should we put this … a little more robust?
A little more bumper-sticker logic and a little less legalese. Getting to Dirty Harry the vermin without squandering life savings on lawyers later. That would be more, shall we say, satisfying to a certain kind of woman or man. It would certainly seem more American than constantly watching bad guys skate while little people get trounced in courts.
Or would it? When you read about the trials and tribulations following a self-defense shooting, it makes your blood run cold. It’s not fair. If you’re really innocent and some vicious assailant just contracted lead poisoning instead of confiscating your precious life, that should be the end of it, right?
You deserve a medal and a free pizza or something. Police have a name for when bad guys receive those hot rounds — the “good-riddance factor.” That’s true.
When it really is an open-and-shut, absolutely slam-dunk case of self-defense against a complete stranger who typically already has a violent history and you survive, you do get pizza and people do buy you drinks. (The handcuffed ride downtown could be optional.) But that kind of clarity in homicides isn’t common.
It’s unfair — and it can help if you’re a lone woman at home at night minding your own business and you never met the dead perps. Sometimes. It could depend on your state or your state of mind. Which also isn’t fair. Blind justice these days takes sides with “diverse” causes and groups unimaginable just a few years ago — down to how much courts decide you didn’t like the deceased.
“Hate crime” effloresced from thin air in a novel, migrating into our culture and courtrooms. Shooting someone criminally, for example, or doing it with animosity, causes identical damage and should yield similar punishment, though political correctness rejects such logic. But I digress.
The legal wrangling afterward (and dire warnings from us about ever using lethal force) are just natural outcomes of the nature of life itself. Wrangling over a person, now dead, is the biggest wrangle there is, bigger than who dented your car or who’s missing what amount of cash. Life, being irreplaceable, generates the great debate, the greatest crimes and the greatest consequences, forever, per incident. It’s only natural. Get more used to that than tactical reloads.
Maybe we’re too deeply steeped in the American sense of justice we get from TV and movies, especially old Westerns. Scenes and plot lines are carefully staged, emotions are played, morality runs its course, facts are established and every single person watching the picture — by the millions — arrives at the exact same conclusion. That never happens for real.
We imagine ourselves in similar pickles. Clear facts, an evil enemy who really is just that, perfect justification at the key moment, praise and a sense of victory on surviving, drinks on the house. It’s not even that way in the movies if you start watching carefully. That ain’t reality — and real cases are never even close. Start watching any screened gun activity for whether the shots were fired with justification or what crime the fired shots, or even the pointed gun, are attempting to stop.
Shots fired in public always represent a crime. Either shots are justifiable as defense against a crime or attempted crime, or the shots themselves are violations because there is no justification for them. Even (especially!) warning shots are criminal acts. You can’t legally use a gun as an audible warning device; the law has no tolerance for this. It puts innocent people at risk, and unless you have a sound legal reason to use deadly force, you can’t discharge a firearm out in public. In Westerns, they do it all the time without consequence — pure Hollywood nonsense.
Practically everyone you deal with after a self-defense incident has never met you before. You meet all these new people on whom your life depends, and most of what they have to go on is your story.
How good of a storyteller are you? How well can the best possible recitation of a story tell what actually happened when you discharged your sidearm? We’re not even talking about truth or innocence any longer, or what actually happened; we’re talking about defeating the system’s attempt (and apparent desire, it would often seem) to nail you to the wall.
We’ve gone over this before: It’s always impossible to establish “precisely what happened” because that doesn’t exist. It’s an existential problem: An observer to your north sees a 180-degree different picture than one to your south. Recall the cliché: two witnesses, four stories. Each time you (and they) recount the incident, it will change, and it will change again over time as human memory changes, all without leaving recordings.
An uninhibited manual decades ago recommended only carrying revolvers because they don’t eject evidence. In a perfect self-defense shooting (determined by you apparently), just leave, it said, because justifiable homicide isn’t criminal. Much blood, but no foul (it believed). If you’re never found, there won’t be any questions to answer (it posited).
Of course, leaving the scene that way could generate multiple problems and, depending on the jurisdiction, could be criminal. If you’re caught and the trial finds you weren’t justified, you fled a murder, and that’s very not good for your status as a reluctant participant.
You might wish this were the Wild West, but it isn’t. The best strategy remains Gunfighting Safety Rule No. 1: It’s always better to avoid a gunfight than to win one.