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Are You Ready To Defend Yourself In Court After A Shooting?

There are three fights for your life that you have to be ready to win: the fight before the fight, the fight itself, and the fight after the fight. If you win one and two but lose the third, you’re in an incredibly bad spot. So are you ready to win the fight after the fight and defend yourself in court?

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We spend the majority of our time at Active Self Protection talking about the first two of the three fights for your life, and with good reason. If you lose the first fight (the fight for awareness, for the Rules of Stupid, and for de-escalation, escape, and avoidance) you’re in for a deadly force encounter. If you lose the second fight, you’re dead and the fight is over. But if you win those two but lose the legal fight that is almost sure to come after, you’ve still lost. It’s that simple.

Think it can’t happen to you?

Oh, plenty of people as good or better than we are have thought so.

In my home state, consider the case of Harold Fish. Harold was forced to kill a man to save his own life, and despite it being a clear case of self-defense, his defense cost him almost half a million dollars. He spent more than three years in prison before his sentence was overturned.

George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, but his legal defense has brought him $2.5 million dollars in legal debt ALONE. His life is over because he was crucified in the press and wrung through the legal mill.

Jay Rodney Lewis, a former LEO, shot a man who had attacked him with his car. A jury found him innocent, but he had to use a public defender because he was broke. He couldn’t post bail so he spent 112 days in jail waiting for his verdict. The incident left him without a job and homeless.

That sucks. All of it. Losing the fight after the fight ruined these three men’s lives, even though their actions were entirely justified. They point out that it is entirely necessary, in my opinion, to be prepared for the fight after the fight.

Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) have their unions behind them, professional liability insurance, and a huge support network to get ahead of the legal investigation and communicate with the press. Unless you’re very, very wealthy, if you’re not an officer you simply don’t have that. I sure don’t, on my own. But it’s something we all need as concealed carriers.

So what do I do about it?

I started looking into this issue about three years ago when I really started thinking about the legal aftermath of a defensive encounter. I have been through three different programs as I have continued to research, and so I thought I would bring you the options out there, the benefits and limitations of each, and allow you to pick from what is available to find works best for you in your situation.

Below is a grid showing what each organization offers, and what each offers in terms of legal protection for CCW carriers. First, allow me to introduce each organization with their affiliated website:

ACLDN: The Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network

GOLD’N: Gun Owners Legal Defense Network

USCCA: The United States Concealed Carry Association

US Law Shield

CCW Safe

NRA Self Defense Insurance

Second Call

Also, allow me to explain some terms:

Type of product: really, there are only two “types” of products on the market. One is an insurance (or insurance-backed) product, where the insurer reimburses you for expenses after the court case is finished. The other is a membership, where the member receives services from the organization directly in the event of an incident.

“Crisis Management Team”: This is a broad term, which you should look at each organization for their definition. In broadest terms it refers to some group that will assist you in the crisis after you defend yourself, be it picking an attorney, talking to police when they arrive, being present to bail you out, etc. The ones that offer it, offer different services as part of it. So be aware!

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(click the picture for a larger size that you can actually read)

So what do you need?

To me, the question of what you need comes down to three factors: how much do you think your legal defense (both criminal and civil) might cost you, how much civil liability insurance do you think your need, and cost.

Legal defense limits: Personally, I want as high as I can get and still be able to afford it. The three cases above, while exceptional, are not isolated. Lawyers cost a ton of money.

Civil liability limits: This one really depends on your state. In Arizona, where I live, civil liability is nonexistent in cases where the person was committing a forcible felony. I also have significant liability insurance through my homeowners insurance (though you need to check to be sure on yours that it does not exclude intentional acts such as self-defense!). For me, then, having an additional insurance product is unnecessary. If your homeowners insurance excludes intentional acts (I am with USAA, which doesn’t), you might want insurance. If your state has poor self-defense laws (I’m looking at you, California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey), you might well want some kind of insurance product.

Cost: Some of the products can be up to $600 per year, which for me is exorbitant. Regardless of how much protection you want, you have to be able to afford it.

How Do I decide?

1. Decide that you need some kind of protection. Seriously. If you take the time to be prepared for a deadly fight for your life, you need to be prepared for the next fight.

2. Decide what type of product you think you need. I need someone to get ahead of the game for me and work from the word go, not reimburse me after everything is said and done and I have had to mortgage my house to get the attorney retainers. I don’t like the insurance products for this reason, because they all come to bear after you’re done.

3. Decide which product has the best value and services for you and yours.

4. Decide what your budget is and what you can reasonably invest in your legal defense.

I make no secret that I personally chose CCW Safe. I have been through two other organizations, but in the end I really appreciate what CCW Safe has to offer. They act like a police union for CCW holders, and as someone who is more than a firearms carrier alone I like the fact that they are one of only two that covers more than firearms uses. As a martial artist and one who carries a range of tools, that’s very important to me. They are the only one that requires members to be CCW holders, which means members are generally very law-abiding and safe bets. I like that they’re only $99 a year for membership, which is ridiculously cheap in my opinion for what they offer. And I like that there are no limits on the coverage for defending you criminally or civilly.

I recommend them highly, and am a member in good standing.

You choose what’s right for you and your family. If I lived in California I might want more civil liability than I have, but honestly for me I would probably get an umbrella liability policy and still go with CCW Safe if I had a CCW permit there. But every situation is unique, and I present this information for you to jump off on your own research.

*I am a CCW Safe affiliate, and if you sign up through my affiliate link in this post I will receive a commission on that. It doesn’t cost any more to do that, but they do compensate me for referrals.

**CCW Safe is also a sponsor of Active Self Protection’s narrated videos. That said, my membership with CCW Safe predates both my affiliate partnership AND their sponsorship of ASP. In fact, I approached them about being a sponsor of the videos because I believe that every concealed carrier needs their product. (my membership is effective July 22, 2015 and the sponsorship wasn’t until September 1, 2015) I can send you a picture of my membership card if you’d like me to prove it. I approached their team in mid-August about a partnership after doing the research for this post, and they agreed. It just took me 2 weeks to get this post together!

Officer Involved Shooting In Florida

This is how fast a gunfight really is. This officer involved shooting shows why we talk at Active Self Protection about being ready before you are in a deadly force encounter, because everything happens so fast it’s ridiculous. Have you tried to hit moving targets while moving, as in a force on force class?

Original video from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office: http://get-asp.com/62ay

News story with more details: http://get-asp.com/xju1

What does this officer involved shooting teach LEO and CCW alike?

1. To defend against this kind of attack, you need emotional fitness. Emotional fitness is defined as the ability to internally represent a situation or predicament to yourself in such a way as to make you strong and able to successfully defend yourself against it. Repeated practice and thousands of reps of sparring and self-defense absolutely build your emotional fitness to be able to handle whatever comes your way. These officers hung in the fight and put enough shots on target to be effective, which is awesome. They used bowling words because that’s what we sometimes do in these kinds of situations, and that’s okay too!

2. Marksmanship matters! The old saying is quite true: you can’t miss fast enough to win a gunfight. As a self-defender you need to practice and train to put your first shot on target as fast as you can, but the key is to put as many shots on target as possible. It’s usually the first person to put a shot on target that wins the fight, and thankfully that was the officers.

3. Capacity matters. My rule of thumb is that I want a minimum of 5 rounds for each bad guy I might face, which accounts for 2 misses and 3 shots on target for each. (of course, you never want to miss…I am just accommodating me on my worst day) This incident saw 3 of 11 shots find their target, which is in the ballpark of my estimates for all of our worst day. Might you do better? Maybe. Do you want to have any margin for error? YES.

4. In a gunfight, movement is your friend. You must be ready not only to draw and fire, but to draw and fire while moving laterally, back, and diagonally. You simply will not stand still in a gunfight because it is against every instinct you have when in mortal danger! People who focus too much on stance or isosceles vs. Weaver forget this fact, but as self-defenders we must know that we will be moving. So practice and train movement on the draw and fire. This is a great reason to have airsoft trainers and practice draw and move in your dry-fire regimen as well.

5. If you have a partner with you when you’re attacked (be it a LEO partner if you work on a team, or your spouse or martial artist buddy), you want to do everything you can to work as a team. Knowing each other well and communicating clearly will help you protect yourself from danger. This takes training and practice and commitment, but two partners working together present a formidable challenge to any attacker. These officers communicated to one another well, and that helped them end the threat.

6. In the moment of need, the old saying goes that you will not rise to the occasion but fall to the level of your training. Usually, you’ll fall to the level of your WORST DAY in training. That means you want to train hard, train regularly, and make no excuses (to paraphrase one of my martial arts mentors, Skip Hancock) so that your worst day is good enough for the fight you’re in.

Attitude. Skills. Plan.

(music in the intro and outro courtesy of http://www.bensound.com)

Officer Involved Shooting Shows How Quickly a Gunfight Develops

The reality is that you may have time to decide if you need to use your firearm, but in many cases such as this officer involved shooting, you’ll have to use whatever Active Self Protection you have to choose in a literal split second what your decision will be. When is deadly force warranted? Could you have protected yourself in this instance?

Original video: http://get-asp.com/z6tm

News story with details of the incident: http://get-asp.com/mgdj

What does this officer involved shooting teach LEO and CCW alike?

1. In the moment of need, the old saying goes that you will not rise to the occasion but fall to the level of your training. Usually, you’ll fall to the level of your WORST DAY in training. That means you want to train hard, train regularly, and make no excuses (to paraphrase one of my martial arts mentors, Skip Hancock) so that your worst day is good enough for the fight you’re in. These officers were ready for the fight and in the moment of need there was no hesitation. That’s what it takes.

2. Capacity matters. My rule of thumb is that I want a minimum of 5 rounds for each bad guy I might face, which accounts for 2 misses and 3 shots on target for each. (of course, you never want to miss…I am just accommodating me on my worst day) These officers hit with 5 shots and we can see several misses. How many do you want on your person when the balloon goes up?

3. The human body is designed to take a ridiculous amount of punishment and still function. You can shoot someone multiple times and they can still pose a deadly threat! Even mortally wounded people can continue to pose a threat for several seconds to even minutes after being shot, so don’t think for a moment that shooting someone will necessarily immediately incapacitate them. That is Hollywood myth. After being shot 5 times this man was still alive, and could still have posed a threat.

4. Marksmanship matters! The old saying is quite true: you can’t miss fast enough to win a gunfight. As a self-defender you need to practice and train to put your first shot on target as fast as you can, but the key is to put as many shots on target as possible.

5. First aid skills are important. If you’re going to train and prepare to take a life to defend yourself, you should also have skills, training, and equipment to save life should you need to. Often that will not involve defensive encounters, and in a defensive encounter your primary responsibility is to yourself and your loved ones. These officers used their skills after the fight was over to save this man’s life (it was clearly a case of suicide by cop), and for that they should be commended.

Attitude. Skills. Plan.

(music in the intro and outro courtesy of http://www.bensound.com)

Officer Involved Shooting Caught On Video

This officer involved shooting in Costa Rica goes down in a hurry, but also contains some significant lessons for all of us, LEO and CCW alike. Could you have prevailed in this instance?

Original video: http://get-asp.com/tc7e

News story (Google Translate required): http://get-asp.com/c2xh

What does an officer involved shooting teach all of us about self-defense?

1. Marksmanship matters! The old saying is quite true: you can’t miss fast enough to win a gunfight. As a self-defender you need to practice and train to put your first shot on target as fast as you can, but the key is to put as many shots on target as possible. Thankfully, the armed robber’s first shot missed and the officer’s didn’t.

2. In a gunfight, movement is your friend. You must be ready not only to draw and fire, but to draw and fire while moving laterally, back, and diagonally. You simply will not stand still in a gunfight because it is against every instinct you have when in mortal danger! People who focus too much on stance or isosceles vs. Weaver forget this fact, but as self-defenders we must know that we will be moving. So practice and train movement on the draw and fire. This is a great reason to have airsoft trainers and practice draw and move in your dry-fire regimen as well. In this instance we can see from the officer that the second the shooting started, he started running. You need to train to move while you shoot so that in the real thing you do so smartly.

3. Transitional spaces are places where we MUST be more careful of potential attack. A transitional space is any location that (1) allows attackers to prey on potential victims with an element of surprise and (2) provides ready escape for the attackers. I am guessing that this cop wasn’t looking to be involved in an officer involved shooting that day, but as he came through the door of the establishment he walked right into one! When you’re approaching a transitional space, be aware of what is going on inside and outside so that you’re ready for what might come.

4. The human body is designed to take a ridiculous amount of punishment and still function. You can shoot someone multiple times and they can still pose a deadly threat! Even mortally wounded people can continue to pose a threat for several seconds to even minutes after being shot, so don’t think for a moment that shooting someone will necessarily immediately incapacitate them. That is Hollywood myth. In this instance the mortally wounded attacker was still able to chase the officer down for perhaps 5 or 6 seconds after being shot. Lesson: shoot until the threat stops!

5. Capacity matters. My rule of thumb is that I want a minimum of 5 rounds for each bad guy I might face, which accounts for 2 misses and 3 shots on target for each. (of course, you never want to miss…I am just accommodating me on my worst day) This officer involved shooting shows this principle as well, in that the officer took 8 shots just at this one suspect. If he was shooting a 1911, he was out. If he was shooting a neutered 10 round pistol, he had 3 left (considering he loaded a full mag plus one in the chamber). The lesson: carry the highest capacity firearm you can reasonably conceal, and keep a spare magazine with you if at all possible.

Attitude. Skills. Plan.

(music in the intro and outro courtesy of www.bensound.com)

Officer Involved Shooting Caught On Camera

Do you have the attitude, skills, and plan to survive this kind of attack? This officer involved shooting shows us some important Active Self Protection lessons about how a real deadly force encounter goes down. Would you have come out alive?

News story: http://get-asp.com/la42

Original video (most of it irrelevant): http://get-asp.com/f3j2

What can this officer involved shooting teach LEO and CCW alike?

1. Deadly force encounters seldom announce themselves before they become life or death. There was no escalation or warning in this officer involved shooting; the officer asked the guy to step over where he wanted him, and the knife came out. This looks like “suicide by cop” to me, but the fact remains that knife-wielding attackers seldom telegraph their intentions. You must be ready to go from discussion to deadly force in an instant.

2. I know some people will get frustrated with me for saying it, but this shows that some of our training hinders real life. In a LOT of movement training I see on the range people are taught to shuffle step or drag their feet for safety or so they won’t trip. That’s all well and good for range safety, but if someone’s coming after you with a knife you won’t shuffle step. You’ll run as hard as you can! This makes it very important to work on Force on Force training that involves realistic movement and putting shots on target in less than optimal positions.

3. Shoot to stop the threat. This officer did a great job of shooting until the threat stopped rather than shooting once and admiring his work, and he also did a great job of shooting until the threat stopped and then not shooting any more. Once the perp was down he was not in range with his knife and so the officer stopped shooting.

4. Range matters. A knife is a fast-moving, short-range tool. A firearm is a fast moving, extremely long range (out to 25 yards or so with a pistol for most) tool. That means if you’re wielding the knife, you want to get CLOSE. If you’re wielding the firearm, you want DISTANCE. The tool you have determines your plan.

Attitude. Skills. Plan.