“I’m in Fear for My Life!” Written

by Greg Ellifritz

“I’m in fear for my life! “I’ve heard this phrase pop up a couple of times in the last month.

The first time was during a close quarter shooting class I was teaching.  The students were working a weapon retention drill and I had instructed them to use loud, repetitive verbal commands when defending their firearm from a takeaway attempt.

One of my students got his gun back from his attacker in a scenario, cleared his malfunction and then trained his gun on his simulated attacker.  The verbal command he yelled was “Stay away from me! I’m in fear for my life and I will shoot you!”

The command sounded forced and unnatural.  I asked the student why he chose to use those particular words.  He told me “When I say that, the criminal will know that I’ve met the legal standard for use of force and if he continues his attack, I’ll be justified in shooting him.”

I’m not so sure about that…

More recently, I read an article (from an author I respect) that advocated barricading into a safe room in the event someone breaks into your house.  The author instructed his readers to yell something like: “I have a gun and am in fear for my life.  Leave now!”

How is that phrase tangibly better than merely saying: “I have a gun. Leave now?”

 “I’m in fear for my life” is a curious phrase.  I don’t think that using it will improve the outcome of your defensive encounter.  Telling someone that you are in fear for your life is simply not the same as BEING in fear for your life.  It’s not a shortcut to provide some sort of instant justification for shooting someone.

Being in fear for your life is generally grounds for using lethal force only when such fear is objectively reasonable given the circumstances.  Your statements have very little bearing on this standard of objective reasonableness.  The attacker still must have the ability and opportunity to cause you serious injury in order to justify your shooting.  Furthermore, you must reasonably believe that you are in jeopardy of being seriously injured by your attacker.

Let me give you an example…

If I’m physically attacked by an unarmed eight year old girl, do you think I would be justified in shooting her so long as I’ve screamed “I’m in fear for my life?”  I hope not.  The law doesn’t work that way.  Likewise, you won’t be justified in shooting a criminal attacker unless the ability- opportunity-jeopardy standards are met no matter how many times you tell him that you are scared.

Let’s take a look at another issue…

Have you ever been truly scared that you might die?  At the moment of impending death did you think or say “I’m in fear for my life?”  I’m betting you probably didn’t.  And neither has anyone else who has been in true danger.  We simply don’t vocalize very well when we’re truly scared.  All of our brain’s resources are being put toward working on a solution to ensure our survival.  You won’t be waxing eloquently about your perceived fear.

In fact, if I was the attorney prosecuting you for attempted murder, I might use your casual statement against you in court:

“If the defendant was truly as scared as he said he was, why didn’t he try to run away?  He didn’t make any effort to escape.  Instead he calmly talked to the victim about his fears.  That isn’t the action of a person who is really scared to death.  The mere fact that the defendant could calmly utter those words is evidence enough to show that he WASN’T scared.”

Can you see how that statement might cause things to go sideways?

Beyond the legal considerations, consider the impact that such a statement will have on the criminal.  We know that criminals choose victims who are scared and unable or unwilling to fight back.  What message are you sending when you tell your attacker “I’m in fear for my life?”  Do you think it will scare him away or do you think it will embolden him to more violent action?  My bet is on the latter…

And if you think that those magic words will make the criminal understand that you have somehow met the legal grounds for using deadly force, think again.  The dudes attacking you are not legal scholars.  If they were, they would likely have a job that doesn’t involve hitting people like you over the head with a steel pipe.  The criminal doesn’t know when it’s legal for a citizen to shoot him.  More importantly, HE DOESN’T CARE!  He’s a criminal.  By definition he couldn’t care less about the laws that govern most of the people in this country.  He isn’t going to understand the message that you are attempting to communicate.

Words have meaning.  It’s important to choose them carefully.  Don’t say anything in a defensive encounter that might come back to bite you in the ass.

When Citizens Fight Back; Are We Training Wrong?

By Tom Givens

The holy grail of firearms trainers and students has been to know what really happens in an armed citizen gunfight. Not in a law enforcement gunfight or a military encounter, but in legal defensive gun uses by CCW holders. For decades we’ve bemoaned the fact while there are excellent data sources for the distances, times, conditions, shots fired, etc. on law enforcement and military gunfights, there is not a similar database for civilian encounters. After all, if there were such a repository we’d know what to train for and, by extension, largely how to train for it.

I’m not a professional statistician, nor do I have a database of thousands of incidents. I have, however, been training people professionally for over 35 years and doing so full-time for the past 18 years. I have trained tens of thousands of students and most of them are in Memphis, one of the most violent metropolitan areas in the United States. To give you some idea, the violent crime rate here per capita is about double that of Los Angeles.

To date, I have had 64 private citizen students — I am aware of — who have been involved in using a handgun in self-defense. Although not a huge number of data points, we clearly see the same things occurring over and over again in these incidents. A policeman would call this a clue. I believe this is the kind of data we ought to be basing our civilian training on. Generally, what works in a military battle overseas, or what works for police officers stateside — won’t work for Sam and Suzi Homemaker.

Differences

As the global war on terror winds down, a lot of former soldiers are getting into the training business. The military paradigm, however, is vastly different from self-defense in America. The military typically fights with shoulder guns, with handguns relegated to a backup role. In a military operation the planners have to factor in projected losses of friendly personnel. In our world the level of acceptable friendly losses is zero. Military operations have an acceptable level of collateral damage. We don’t.

Military engagements are often offensive in nature while ours are defensive. This is not to say military veterans, particularly special operations personnel, cannot teach you how to shoot extremely well under adverse conditions. One needs to be careful, however, not to confuse their conflict environment and rules of engagement with those of the private citizen. We also have to remember while the citizen generally fights alone, military units fight as a team, and that experience can influence what someone teaches.

Law Enforcement

Except for a SWAT team, most officer involved shootings can be traced to one of three activities: traffic stops, alcohol-related/influenced contacts (at bars, fights, etc.) and domestic violence complaints. These situations put police officers in different situations and proximities relative to their attackers than street violence does with a CCW holder.

Cops have to get close to people to interact with, interview, restrain and handcuff them. Police engagements tend to be very close in affairs, a fact reflected in the now well-known statistic 75 percent of police fatalities occur at 10′ or less. Citizens, by contrast, have none of these responsibilities, and their job is to move away from trouble, not close in on it.

The cop has a sworn duty to seek out, confront and arrest a person who has broken the law, to chase him if he flees, to fight him if he resists and to press forward in the face of armed resistance. The private citizen, on the other hand, should be doing none of these things and should disengage at the earliest opportunity.

A lot of trainers make the mistake of using data like the FBI’s law enforcement officers killed and assaulted summary as the statistical basis for their firearms training for private citizens. The above analysis should cause us to question the appropriateness of using law enforcement data as the basis for training civilians. And indeed, my civilian gunfight data shows it is not appropriate.

The Armed Citizen

At the time I write this, I’ve had 64 students involved in defensive gunplay. These were ordinary citizens, mostly white-collar and professionals, and only about seven percent “blue-collar” workers. The majority of our students are in sales, management, IT work, the medical field or other professional activity.

The majority of these incidents involved an armed robbery, which I believe is probably the most likely scenario for armed self-defense by private citizen. We’re talking about business stickups, parking lot robberies at gunpoint, carjackings and home invasions — all crimes likely to get you killed. The reason the bad guy uses a weapon is to create standoff and to terrorize the victim into compliance, before closing in to take the wallet, purse, car keys, etc.

The thug will, however, need to be close enough to his victim to communicate his desires and to easily close the distance and take the goods when the time comes. Thus the typical armed robbery occurs at anywhere from two or three steps, to roughly the length of a car — between the robber and his victim. That is, then, about three to seven yards typically, or say nine to 21′ or so. This is the distance at which most of my students have had to use their guns.

I believe we should do the bulk of our training and practice at these “most likely” distances.

Anomalies

Only two of my students’ shootings occurred at contact distance. In one of those cases the physical contact was purely accidental. In the other case physical contact was intentional, but the victim missed a large number of cues before he was struck with a club.

At the other end of the spectrum we have had three students who have had to engage at 15, 17 and 22 yards. The other 92 percent of our student-involved incidents took place at a distance of 3 to 7 yards, with the majority occurring between 3 and 5 yards. The rule of thumb then is most civilian shootings occur within the length of a car.

Only about 10 percent of our student-involved incidents occurred in or around the home, while 90 percent occurred in places like convenience stores, parking lots and shopping malls. The majority of the incidents began as armed robberies or carjackings, with a few violent break-ins involved.

The success/failure tally among the incidents involving my students is 62 wins, zero losses and two forfeits. Every one of our students who were armed won their confrontation. Only three of those were injured, and those three recovered. To the best of my knowledge, two people have gone through training with us and subsequently were murdered in separate street robberies — but neither was armed. This is why we put a great deal of emphasis in our training on the necessity of routinely carrying your gun.

Training Implications

Based on this data, we believe the following are key skills the private citizen should concentrate on in their training:

·       Quick, safe, efficient presentation of the handgun from concealed carry.

·       Delivery of several well-placed shots at distances from 3 to 7 yards.

·       Keeping the gun running, including reloading and fixing malfunctions.

·       Two-handed firing. We train our students to use two hands if at all possible and most have done so in their fights. Bring the gun to eye level. This is the fastest way to achieve accurate gun alignment. All but two of our students brought the gun to eye level, and as a result got good hits. Two had to shoot from below eye level due to unusual circumstances.

·       Some effort expended on the contact distance problem, including empty hand skills and weapon retention skills. However, these are secondary skills for the private citizen.

·       Some effort dedicated to longer shots in the 15- to 25-yard range.

Mindset

One of the things we stress in our training is the likelihood of your needing a gun in self-defense is not a one in one million chance. The possibility of you encountering a deadly force incident is much higher. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the US Justice Department, there are over 5 million violent crimes a year in the United States. For statistical purposes violent crime consists of murder, aggravated assault, forcible rape and robbery. These are the very crimes one would carry a handgun to defend against.

Also, the police will very likely not be there when you are chosen to be the victim of one of those serious crimes. You are actually the first responder. Accepting the fact violent crime does not only happen to other people and making carrying your handgun part of your daily routine can go a long way toward making you and your family safer.

Your Tactical Training Scenario…Shots in the Dark

Written by: Greg Ellifritz

You and a family member hear noises outside the house at 12:30 am. Suddenly, your electricity is cut off. You think that someone is outside messing with your electrical hookup.

Your family member decides to go outside and check it out while you barricade yourself in your locked bedroom to call the police. After a few minutes you hear noises outside your bedroom door. You are certain it isn’t your family member who walked outside.

What do you do?

The same situation happened to a woman from Houston Texas. Read about it at the link below:

 Woman shoots, kills intruder – her cousin

The woman inside the house opened the door and began shooting at the human figure she saw moving in the darkness. The figure fell to the ground, dead. As she approached she recognized that she had shot her own cousin. He was trying to steal from the house, but I bet this woman wishes she hadn’t fired her weapon so recklessly.

I hear it all the time from shooters I train…

“If someone is in my house at night, they are getting shot.”

My new students justify their actions by telling me how they “know their house” and are keenly aware of the difference between the sounds of a family member and the sounds of an intruder. They also tell me how they are justified under state law, especially in states that have “Castle Doctrine.”

Here’s the problem…

Being legally justified doesn’t mean being right. If you can avoid shooting someone (even where it is legal to do so), you should. There are tremendous complications that could arise once you pull that trigger. You will face legal scrutiny, you will likely be sued, your gun will be taken for evidence, and many of your neighbors and friends will stop talking to you because they don’t know how to act around a “killer”. Have you ever thought how much the crime scene cleanup will cost you? Even if you do everything right and win in court both civilly and criminally, you are likely to have to spend a whole lot of money on your defense.

Is it worth it? Set your ego aside for a minute and think about whether you would be willing to pay $50,000 in legal fees to win your trials if you shot someone in your home. I know I don’t have a spare fifty grand laying around that I want to donate to an attorney’s BMW fund.

Target identification is key. If the person inside your house is not trying to hurt you, DON’T SHOOT! Order him at gunpoint to leave your house. If he doesn’t leave or attacks, then you know you’ve done what you can to avoid the shooting and take care of business. If he leaves, call the police and let them do their job. The hit your ego will take for “letting the criminal get away” is a much better outcome than paying out thousands of dollars to win the inevitable civil suit after the shooting.

Think about this woman. Do you think she wanted to shoot her cousin? What would have happened if she yelled at him to get out instead? Even better, what if she had used a high-powered flashlight to better identify the target before shooting? If she had done either of those things, she likely wouldn’t have killed a member of her family.

Something else to ponder is the fact that not everyone who criminally enters your house is a threat to you. I have responded to numerous calls as a police officer when a drunken person accidentally stumbles into the wrong house by mistake. Does that guy need to be shot? Probably not.

Here’s my best advice:

- Have good locks on your doors and windows and USE THEM!

- Install a solid core door with a deadbolt on your bedroom door.  It will buy you a little more time to make a better decision.

- Have a reliable firearm and bright flashlight together near your bed.  You must practice searching and shooting with the flashlight and the gun.

- If you think someone has broken in, stay in your locked bedroom and call the police.  Yell out that you have a gun and order the intruder to leave the house.

If the intruder attacks, you will be in a more legally justified position to shoot. If he leaves, you just saved yourself a whole lot of money! Don’t allow your ego to dictate your response. Most of the time it’s better to be smart than violent

Your Tactical Training Scenario- Racking a Shotgun

Written by: Greg Ellifritz

Written by: Greg Ellifritz

How many times have you heard this statement?

 “Just get a 12 gauge pump shotgun for home defense.  The noise of the slide racking will make any burglar piss his pants and run.”

 Does that actually happen?  Sometimes, yes.

 Here’s a recent example where a store clerk sent an armed robber running by merely racking his shotgun.  Look at the link below for more details….

Flint man faces federal charges after store clerk pulls shotgun on him following threat

 While it worked in this case, I wouldn’t rely on the technique of merely racking the shotgun to be too much of a deterrent value against a determined criminal.  Let me provide you with a counter example…

 It was in my first couple years as a cop.  I was working the midnight shift and really believed what my instructors told me about the “awesome power” of the shotgun and that merely racking the slide would cause criminals to cower in fear.

 I got a call about an armed man assaulting someone in a Taco Bell drive through in our city.  The caller worked at Taco Bell and heard a man violently beating his girlfriend while stopped in the drive through lane.

 The restaurant worker thought the beating was so bad that he attempted to intervene.  When he ran up to the car, the assault suspect pulled a pistol on him.  The worker ran back inside the door and called the police.

 When we arrived only a couple minutes later, we found an abandoned car with a bloodied woman crying inside.  The caller told us the man with the gun had just run across the street.

 Being a smart cop, I thought “If he has a gun, I want a bigger gun.”  I grabbed my cruiser shotgun and took off after him.  As I closed the distance, I saw our suspect run inside an all-night Laundromat.   By then I had two other officers with me.  I sent one officer around to guard the back door while I went to the front door with the other.

 Normally, rushing into a situation with a potentially barricaded gunman is unwise.  The problem was that we didn’t know if there were any potential hostages inside.  If there were innocent people doing their laundry in the establishment, we didn’t want them to be hurt by the violent suspect.  We went in.

 As soon as we entered we saw the suspect at the far end of the building.  My partner was holding his .45 pistol on the guy and I had the shotgun.  As soon as I saw the armed man, I racked the shotgun and ordered him down to the ground.

 To my surprise, instead of cowering in fear at the mighty 12 gauge, the suspect charged us!  He was being held at gunpoint by two cops and he chose to attack.

 We didn’t know where the gun was, but the suspect’s hands were empty.  Because the man was so far away from us when he started his charge (maybe 25 meters), I was able to draw my pepper spray with my off hand and blast him in the face as he closed the distance.  It was the first and only time I’ve had pepper spray work instantly.  The suspect fell down on the ground as soon as he was hit and we safely handcuffed and arrested him.  He had ditched the gun during his flight.

 Here’s the deal….

 A motivated attacker isn’t going to be deterred by anything less than using more force against him than he is willing to experience.  Rape whistles, yelling the word “no”, or racking a pump shotgun WILL NOT deter a motivated attacker.  For that job, ruthless violence is the only solution.

 But not all attackers are that motivated.  Some, like the man in the linked story above, WILL flee when they hear a round being pumped into the chamber of a shotgun.

 Does that mean you should choose a shotgun for home defense because it has a built in potential deterrent mechanism?  No.  I don’t think that’s the right answer.  A criminal who flees at the sound of a racking shotgun will also likely flee when you yell out to him that you’ve called the police.  He would likely flee at the sight of ANY gun being pointed at him as well.  There’s nothing magical about the shotgun.

 Don’t get me wrong.  I like the shotgun as a home defense weapon.  I have one under my bed as I am writing this article.  But it’s not for everyone.  Some people who buy into the “rack it and they’ll run” argument would likely be better served by handguns or carbines for personal protection.

 Choose your defensive weapons because they fit your needs, not because some idiot believes that criminals will magically disappear because your gun makes a clacking sound

 

Quick Quotes

A few quotes I felt were worth sharing with all of you.

"Empty hand techniques are only for the times when you have been foolish enough to find yourself without a weapon"  -- Colonel W.E. Fairbairn

"Your number one Option for Personal Safety is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence and de-escalation.  Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.  We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather we have those because we acted rightly.  We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit".  -- Aristotle

"We must all be active participants in our own rescue!"  -- Dave Spaulding

"The purpose of fighting is to win.  There is no possible victory in defense… The sword is more important than the shield and the skill is more important than both.  The FINAL WEAPON is the brain…  all else is supplemental".  -- John Steinbeck

Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People

How often have we heard that expression? But it is true? Have you ever read a story about a gun loading itself, aiming and pulling its own trigger? I haven’t, all the stories I’ve heard had human intervention. I could, if I really wanted to which I don’t, kill someone with a 2×4 board, pencil, a knitting needle, my car…as easily as a gun. It takes a deliberate action to pull the trigger and make the gun go bang. Living an armed life means being a responsible citizen, someone who walks away when some jerk is trying to start something, someone who apologizes and steps back even if they are right…all to avoid the confrontation. That is not wimpy; it takes a lot of courage and inner strength to let it go.

It takes a lot of courage to carry a gun. You know you can defend yourself, but you also know that you may have to seriously injure or kill someone to defend your life. Guns are not good luck charms; they are, for lawfully armed citizens, a serious self-defense tool. You will never hear me refer to my gun as a “weapon”. A weapon can be almost anything, a knife, a bat, a pencil, or yes, even a gun…the common thread is the implements are used offensively; they are used to attack someone. I will never start the fight, and I will not draw my gun to threaten someone. I will not draw my gun period unless I have made the decision to use it to defend my life or the life of someone close to me. To me, that makes it a defensive tool, and therefore, not a weapon.

Be responsible. Remember that your firearm is “defensive” not “offensive”. If you are forced, by the threat of someone else, remember that you are responsible for every round you fire. Know your target and what is beyond it. We all miss sometimes, and even Hollow-Points can over penetrate on occasion. If you can’t be reasonably certain that your shot will only hit the aggressor, you probably don’t want to take the shot. If you draw intending to shoot and he or she panics and turns to run away, you cannot take the shot, let them go, call the police, be a good witness.

Also, be responsible with your firearm when it is not in your possession. Don’t leave a loaded gun out of your control where an unauthorized person could come upon it. That could be someone doing work on your home, or a curious child, or anyone in between. Do not be responsible for a tragedy. Do I keep a gun in the night stand? Sure, at night. But I also don’t have kids in the house. If I did, there are lots of small, easy to open gun safes, including biometric safes that you can set to open based on your fingerprints so you can get to your gun in the dark.

Be safe, be responsible and always use your firearm appropriately.

Thanks to Lynne Finch-Charlesworth and Gun Shows Today for this information