Monday, July 30, 2012

Required VS Appropriate

Beacon Journal, July 27 2012.  The front page headline reads “Police Shoot Man to Death.”

The story goes: Mr. Grant led the police on an OJ car chase (slow speed) through Firestone Park.  He stops, gets out and according to the officers, drew a gun.  They ordered him to drop the weapon, he didn’t, the officers fired several shots and Mr. Grant was declared dead at the hospital.  

The newspaper states the police recovered a gun at the scene belonging to Mr. Grant.  Newspapers leave a lot of important stuff out.  

I don’t want to discuss any of that.

What I want to discuss is the difference between police and the armed civilian.  It doesn’t have to be in a CCW context.  It could be in your home.

The police are charged by society and the legal system to use necessary force to maintain the common good.  The civilian is charged with using equal and comparable force to preserve life and the well being of those he protects.

Why the difference?  Well, the police are required to enforce the law, even if it entails some element of danger to themselves.  The citizen can simply turn away and allow the crime to occur or the criminal to escape.  Citizens can even hold someone at gunpoint one moment and the next decide to release him.  The police officer cannot.  Those actions could be construed as dereliction of duty and he better have a very good reason for his actions.

This doesn’t mean that a lone police officer is required to storm a building containing several armed and dangerous men.  He can wait for backup, for specialized (SWAT or STAR) teams to arrive and take over. 

I, a civilian,  don’t even have to report a crime in commission.

I have to use equal and appropriate force.  I can tell a political pollster to leave my property.  If he doesn’t, I can’t run him over with my car.  If you are told by police to stay on the other side of the crime scene tape and you don’t, expect to be pepper sprayed, or tased, or physically manhandled and arrested.  Clearly different standards.

So what does this have to do with us?

CCW does not give you police-like powers.  We can’t use necessary force, only equal and appropriate.  Who gets to decide if your use of force was excessive and inappropriate?  

The jury.   

And honestly this isn’t straight forward just because criminal charges are not filed.  The civil case jury could decide you were 10% responsible for your assailant’s death.  Since all they can do is take money from your pocket, filter it through a lawyer and pass along the remaining to the defendant or their estate, that’s what they do.  The percentage could be bigger if they don't like you or think you were excessive or could have prevented it.

Or they could decide you had no responsibility as you did not use excessive force and are not legally responsible.

I’d rather roll the dice than lose my life.  But I can help myself by not doing anything stupid.  I need to de-escalate if I can do so safely.  I can start my de-escalation with appearances and names.

This was once the evil  Black Talon.  Vilified in the newspapers, but is now available as  Range SST.  So much friendlier!  Why shoot something that can bite you in the butt?

I will not use a .44 magnum or 454 Casull.  Nor will I use a .25 ACP that requires me to shoot someone 10 or 12 times and then hit him over the head to stop him, unless I have a very good reason.

Nor will I put a Punisher skull emblem on my semi-auto’s slide, name my gun with an exotic/erotic name (“Great Penis of Death”, really who would do that?….) or shoot ammo with unusual descriptions like Zombie Max Death.

What do you think the jury remembers when they are alone?  And really....did it make you shoot any better?

Should I name my gun?  After all, if you shoot several gun sports you need something more than “my gun,” but that works pretty well too.  Use a descriptive name like: Model 66 with the Hogue grips, or the 1911 with the new sights.  No matter what you say, a lawyer can twist it.  Choose wisely, Grasshopper!

Don’t make it sound like you were planning on inflicting excessive force.  It’s one less problem you might have to deal with.

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