By Bob Walsh
SELF-DEFENSE AND THE LAW
MASSIVE DISCLAIMER HERE. I have been retired for 14 years. I no longer follow this issue as closely as I did when I was working and teaching. I have never been a street cop and am not a lawyer. My knowledge of the law outside of California is minimal. I am offering these thoughts as informed personal opinion and not legal advice.
Generally speaking the law does not permit the use of deadly force to protect personal property. You do have some rights to use deadly force to protect real property and to protect yourself or others from death, serious bodily harm or certain other crimes, such as robbery or kidnapping. In California these are called “forcible or atrocious crimes.”
That being said using deadly force to protect others is an incredibly risky thing to do, legally speaking. When you are protecting yourself or others in your immediate party you have a pretty good idea of what is really going on. When you stick your nose into somebody else’s business you can be surprised big time as to what is actually going on. By doing so you are risking your freedom and ever nickel you own or ever will own on a judge and jury agreeing with you.
A case in point. A young girl, maybe 12 or 13, is riding her bike down the street. A much older man in a ratty pick-up truck pulls in front of her, forcing her to stop. He throws her bicycle into the back of the truck, drags her into the truck and drives away. What, if anything, do you do about it?
What actually happened was the girl’s mother sent the girl’s uncle to fetch her for dinner. She didn’t want to come; she wanted to keep riding her bike. This real incident kept most of the police force in a large California city busy for most of a day. The people involved were immigrants and did not speak English. A friend of theirs mentioned in passing later that day that he had seen the report on the news. Let’s assume for the sake of argument you had elected to intervene. The uncle sees someone (you) who is not dressed as a cop trying to stop his truck. He doesn’t know what is going on so he refuses to stop. You pull your gun. He tries to run you down in self-defense. You shoot. Maybe you hit him, maybe you hit the girl, maybe you don’t hit anything. Whose ass do you think is going to be in jail that night?
What I am trying to get across is pretty simple.
1) In this day and age I think you are smart to carry a gun if you can do so legally.
2) If you choose to do so, buy a quality weapon that you can handle and shoot well.
3) Generally speaking you are better off with the biggest, nastiest thing that you can handle well and conceal effectively.
4) Think seriously about ammunition type and caliber.
5) Get some real training. It isn’t cheap but it is worth it.
6) You will probably never need it, but if you do you will need it very badly. (I have used mine twice over the years, both times for dog attacks.)
7) Recommended reading: There are a bunch of decent books, magazines and articles out there. There is an even bigger bunch of crap. You will need some time and experience to sort one from the other. I recommend these highly. SHOOTING TO LIVE WITH THE ONE-HAND GUN by Sykes and Fairbairn and PRINCIPLES OF PERSONAL DEFENSE by Jeff Cooper. The former is the oldest serious work on the subject, having been written shortly before WWII. Sykes and Fairbairn were in charge of the police in Shanghai during the 1920s and 1930s and had a great deal of been-there done-that time. Some of what they have to say is not applicable in today’s world, but the thought processes still are. The latter was written by the man who was the father of the modern technique of the pistol and deals as much with mindset as it does with equipment. These are both small books, almost pamphlets, and I believe are still available from Paladin Press.
Be smart and careful out there. Keep your eyes open and your auto-pilot turned off. Being alert will allow you to avoid most trouble. Avoidance is better for the private citizen.
This is the last chapter of Bob’s Armory. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I will probably re-run it in about a year or so to snag new readers.
Editors Note: Bob, Thank you for a set of valuable, common sense and informative articles.