A person needs to attend formal firearms training courses for at least one, if not two, very good reasons. The first reason is, of course, to learn how to use the firearm safely and competently for self-defense. This necessitates a critical look at your lifestyle and priorities, and examining where your skills are lacking. Do you live in a crime-infested urban environment, where bars on your windows are practically mandated, or do you live in a rural area, where your German Shepherd will alert you to any approaching hominoids? In these diametrically opposed circumstances, the skills and layers of protection you need to employ are not the same, although in each case, there are definite security issues.
Skill at arms can come outside of formal training. Many people rely upon past military training as their basis for knowing how to shoot, while others rely upon competition to sharpen their self-defense skills. Additionally, many people were taught as youngsters how to shoot firearms, and in my opinion, this is where a young boy or girl’s initial training should occur.
I happen to be married to a lady whose father felt it was necessary to teach his two daughters how to use that .22 rifle he kept by the back door of the farmhouse. What a pleasure it was for me as an instructor to begin teaching her how to use a handgun for self-defense, as she didn’t have to fight through a fog of mixed brainwaves to learn the lessons she was being taught. There was no fear of guns, nor any moral re-programming necessary for her to understand that it was okay to use deadly force if threatened with the same. Her father (a God-fearing man) had taught her that before she was a teenager.
Try to Gain Confidence
Even if you have acquired the ability to shoot guns safely and competently, you must also examine how confident you feel in your role as your own number one protector. Do you feel confident in your skills and abilities? Do you find yourself fearful at times, even though you have your concealed carry handgun with you? If so, take it from a guy who has devoted most of his working adult life to helping people gain this confidence: Get some training.
But what type of training should you seek out? There has never been a better time in America’s history to find good trainers. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of folks teaching their fellow armed citizens how to use guns for self-defense. If your budget permits, you can get any type of training you want. Plus, training is fun. Yep, just like golfing and motorcycle riding. It really is fun to learn how to use a firearm skillfully. One of the greatest pleasures in my life is seeing the confidence build in people who were once, even hours before, apprehensive and fearful.
Legalities of Self-Defense
What does all this have to do with the legalities of self-defense? To answer that, you must put yourself in the shoes of a typical juror, deciding if the defendant on trial used a reasonable degree of force in self-defense. This takes us into the second reason for attending training courses, that being to document your knowledge of self-defense law and if you were capable of assessing whether or not your life was in danger. I cannot stress enough how critical it is for the armed citizen to be able to tell a jury, in their own words, the type of training they have received, and why they acted the way they did in that particular situation. When analyzing a claim of self-defense, a jury should be able to look at the incident through the defendant’s eyes, seeing everything the defendant saw and knowing everything the defendant knew.
In other words, you have the right, in open court, to let the jury know what was going through your mind at the time you pulled the trigger. You have the right to explain what you saw, what you heard, and what you were feeling at the time you pulled the trigger. You also have the right to educate the jury as to what you knew about self-defense considerations, within certain bounds.
Document your Knowledge
The first limiting factor is: Can you document your knowledge? How do you know that a person who is half a dozen steps away from you and armed with a contact weapon already possesses the ability and opportunity to kill you, if he so chooses? The ability to document your knowledge of the Tueller Drill (sometimes erroneously referred to as the “21 foot rule”) is vital to your being able to introduce this into court.
There is a saying in the legal arena: “If it isn’t documented, it didn’t occur.” What that means for the armed citizen is that if you cannot show the judge that you were trained or otherwise cognizant of the premise behind the Tueller Drill, you likely will not have an opportunity to testify to that. You show this through your training résumé, including notes, written material and videos that were presented in class.
The other boundary that a judge might put in the way of your testifying as to what you knew is making sure that any tenets of law are discussed by the judge and attorneys, not the defendant or witnesses. I once testified in a case where the judge disallowed a training manual to be admitted into evidence because it contained explanations of the law. I believe that training manual was critical to the defense, but it didn’t get in. An appealable point, for sure, and I hope the lady who was convicted and is now in prison brings it up on appeal!
Presentation to the Jury
Another question you must ask yourself regarding your training résumé is, how will this play to a jury? If the training courses you have attended all fall under the “Warrior Prince” label, and contain course descriptions that would make the average person wonder if John Rambo is sitting in front of them, I submit you have a problem. You and I know that most course descriptions are designed primarily for marketing reasons and not courtroom defense. But if all you can show a jury is that your training consisted of classes on how to efficiently kill your fellow human beings, and is deficient in showing that you also took considerable time, energy and money to learn when and under what circumstances deadly force is warranted, then I know you have a problem.
Don’t let holes in your training résumé turn what should be a relatively straightforward case of self-defense into a prosecution and conviction. Balance your training in how to kill with legal and moral training regarding that decision. You will be glad you did, and you might just learn a thing or two in the process!