Aside from taking the required training needed to obtain a permit-to-carry a firearm (if required by your state), individuals that intend to carry a firearm in public for personal protection should seek additional specialized training from a qualified instructor. This instructor may or may not be the same person that teaches your permit-to-carry class. In general, most permit-to-carry classes are not intended to teach firearm safety in great detail nor is the class designed to teach marksmanship skills or in-depth legal concepts related to self-defense. The average person just cannot dedicate enough time and money to become an expert marksman and rise to the level of pseudo-attorney specializing in self-defense law. Therefore, most specialized training will attempt to condense the most important topics into a class schedule that can range from ~10 to ~40 hours. Permit-to-carry classes typically are in the ~2.5 to ~8 hour schedule. Some states have a minimum requirement for class length, others have no such requirement as long as specific topics are covered.
The average person seeking to carry a firearm for self-defense should focus in two areas of specialized training:
- Marksmanship and firearm safety
- The legal aspects of using force including deadly force against another, either in the home or outside the home (laws can be different inside/outside the home depending on where you live)
First, if you don't know how to fire a gun accurately or handle a gun safely and end up shooting an innocent person while trying to defense yourself, you'll most likely be prosecuted and sent to prison.
Second, if you don't know when it is legal to shoot someone while defending yourself or you speak to law enforcement without an attorney you might end up saving your life just to spend your remaining years in prison.
With self-defense, where deadly force is used, there are no "winners" only various degrees of losing. Why? A jury might find that your shooting was in fact justified but a "not guilty" verdict might cost you your life savings, your home, your job and your family and in some cases, after losing everything, the victim can suffer bouts of severe depression.
So why should you actually document your training? Why does it really matter? Short answer: The more you know prior to having to shoot someone (in the home or outside the home), the greater the degree to which you will be able to defend yourself in court.
If you cannot prove you had specific knowledge prior to the event (a self-defense shooting) it [your knowledge] will not be allowed in court (rules of evidence).... which is why, when you take Ayoob's MAG20/40 class, he will state that you need to start preparing your self-defense case TODAY and not while you are awaiting a bond hearing. To begin preparing for a future self-defense claim, you need to begin the process of documenting all the classes you have taken on self-defense (by note taking to prove you did not sleep through class), document the self-defense books you have read (folks don't usually buy books without reading them but a book-report would be more helpful), print out court cases and news articles relevant to self-defense:
- Disparity of force cases
- Knock-out "game" cases where the victim dies, has brain damage or spends time in coma
- Cases where the perp claims "Money or your life" and kills the compliant victim anyway
- The stranger and more obscure cases are better. Every juror can see where a knife or gun presents "ability" to cause great bodily harm or death but a juror may have never considered the shod foot or fist to be a deadly weapon
- News articles that highlight violent crime in your area
- Document signs that are precursors to violence i.e. body language.
- Document information on gang symbols, specifically tattoos. If you ever have to shoot an unarmed man, it might be helpful to articulate in court that you recognized the "243" tattooed on your attackers wrist as a gang symbol consistent with someone who has committed battery on a police officer and the dagger on his neck as someone available for hire to kill other prisoners. Links to gang information can be found on this site under the Resources menu tab.
- Print a copy of the Tueller Drill that explains just how lethal a knife can be from a distance of 21 to 32 feet
The court will judge you for what you did and the decision that you made with what you had to make it with. Documenting your training and documenting your information gathering will educate you on the realities of a deadly threat encounter and in court you will be better equipped to convey these facts to the jury.
In other words, your knowledge gained from professional training and reading can possibly be used to aid in your defense by providing a factual basis for your decision making, leading up to your use of deadly force. Undocumented training or information obtained after the fact is generally not admissible because the information has no relevance in the decisions that were made during the event in question.
For example, if you shoot an unarmed attacker and discover weeks later that he has a criminal past and was trained to kill in hand-to-hand combat while in the military, this information may not be used in court because the attackers history and specialized training in the destructive arts was not known to you at the time of the attack and therefore could not have played a part in your decision-making. For all you knew, you were shooting the deacon of the local church.
Most people do not know that it takes 1.5 seconds to draw a gun from an exposed holster and fire, and that it only takes 1.5 seconds for a person running at you to close a distance of 21 feet and plant a knife in your chest. If you shot an attacker from a distance of 21 to 30 feet, would it be important to have previously documented that you read and understood the findings of the Tueller Drill? Of course, because learning about the reality of a knife fight, lethal distance, the immediacy of the threat and reactionary times after the fact may not be admissible in court due to exclusionary rules of evidence. Without the Tueller Drill, the prosecution may be able to convince the jury that a knife based attack at a distance of 30 feet did not constitute an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm. Expert testimony would be required to clear this up. If expert testimony is not allowed (judges discretion), you may have a very large hole in your defense.
To further illustrate:
- You are walking home one night and are attacked by an unarmed man, much larger than you in size. Frightened, you pull your firearm and shoot and kill the suspect. You claim a disparity of force existed, thus a claim of self defense. The county prosecutor has a differing opinion and you go to court. You previously documented the fact that you read Defensive Tactics with Flashlights by John G. Peters which references a chart published in Close Quarter Combat by Juste David Meyers which states that a person your size against a person the size of your attacker only has a 30% chance of surviving a violent attack. While this published work may or may not carry much weight in court, it can be used to help support your decision making process for choosing to use deadly force. Conceivably this is information your attorney can leverage to establish enough doubt in the minds of the jury and possibly win your case.
- You are walking home one night and are confronted by a man with a knife standing 30 feet from you. After pausing, the attacker continues his forward motion. You pull your firearm and shoot and kill the man. In court the prosecutor spins a carefully crafted story about how knives are not lethal weapons nor was the attacker ever an immediate threat because he was 30 feet away from the alleged victim. The judge has disallowed expert testimony in this case because of a personal bias. Luckily for you, you had documented the fact that you read, How Close is Too Close by Dennis Tueller as a part of your training and continuing education. The article, written by a law enforcement officer, highlights the level of danger actually present when confronted by someone with only a knife and 30 feet away. Without expert testimony and had you had no prior knowledge of the Tueller Drill, the prosecutor may in fact be able to convince a jury that you were in no danger when confronted by a man with only a knife and 30 feet away.
- If you just had dinner with your wife in Uptown and you were confronted by an attacker holding a gun to your forehead and he said, “give me your wallet or I will kill you” and you reached behind your back, pull your gun and shoot him down, are you justified in doing so? You probably are but what about “preclusion” as outlined in the AOJ-P analysis? Your attacker gave you an ultimatum, you had a choice. Did you really have to shoot? Is it possible an overzealous prosecutor might want to take advantage of the situation and make an example of you because you had a choice in the matter? In this scenario, it would be helpful to have documented that in the Minneapolis and surrounding areas that on more than one occasion the attacker provided an ultimatum, the victim complied and the attacker killed his victim anyway. Based on this information, it would be reasonable for you to conclude that there was a high probability of being killed regardless of whether or not you complied with the assailant’s demands.
What about expert witnesses willing to testify on your behalf? There have been judges that have disallowed expert testimony because some believe expert witnesses are bought and paid for. The one person that you can count on to be at your trial is you. Document your training because your freedom may one day depend on it.
How to Document your Training
Package all your documentation (books, articles, court cases, notes from classes, etc...) and mail the package to yourself and or your family attorney via USPS certified and registered mail. The package is to remain sealed until needed in court. If your knowledge and training is ever needed in court, this packet should ONLY be opened "in the well of the court" so that all can see that the package was postmarked prior to the event (shooting). As you take more training, open the packet, refresh the documentation and re-mail it to yourself USPS certified and registered mail.
A quote from Marty Hayes, J.D. on training from a recent interview titled, "The Top Three Errors Armed Citizens Make in Self Defense":
"Failure to document training or not being trained to begin with. Here’s the deal: the jury gets to view the evidence that is presented through the eyes of the defendant, but the defendant has to be able to explain to the jury what he or she was feeling, seeing and perceiving. If they don’t have specific training to rely on to be able to say, “Because of this training I perceived this was about to occur,” if they just say, “I had a bad feeling,” that is not going to be enough. The foundational work is the concept of pre-attack indicators. Members of the Network have all had training on pre-attack indicators in the video with Marc MacYoung. This is why we felt that training program was so important for every member to view, and why we put it out so early on in our educational lecture series. Of course, the knife defense, the Tueller drill concept is an important part of it, too, if you are dealing with a contact weapon. The ability to articulate why that individual was a documentable threat to you is huge. You have got to be able to explain to the jury and fall back on your training to let the jury know why you felt that your life was in danger or about to be placed in danger."
Visit the Armed Citizens' Legal Defense Network for more information.
If you would like training above and beyond what you received in your permit-to-carry class, the National Rifle Association is a great training resource for individuals at all skill levels. Specific classes of interest may include:
- NRA First Steps Pistol Orientation
- NRA Basic Pistol Shooting Course
- NRA Basics of Personal Protection Outside the Home
- NRA Defensive Pistol
Non-NRA sources for legal and or firearm training: