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Old January 24, 2010, 07:11 PM   #51
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C Philip
...It would be like saying causing an deadly auto accident going 100mph in your Ferrari is worse than causing a deadly accident going 100mph in your Toyota Corolla. Either way you were speeding and killed someone....
But that's not really an apt analogy. Let me try to explain it this way.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the physical evidence in your auto crash case was, for some bizarre reason, equivocal as to the speed you were traveling at the time of the crash. (I know this would be highly unlikely to be the case in the real world -- it's just for the purposes of illustration.)

You are claiming that you were traveling no faster than 60 mph, within the speed limit and a safe speed under the conditions. Therefore, you were not at fault, and the crash was the result of the other car suddenly changing lanes in front of you.

The prosecutor, however, puts on an expert witness who testifies that from the physical evidence he has concluded that you were traveling at least 100 mph. So now the prosecutor argues to the jury that they should believe his expert witness and find that you were driving your car at an unlawful and indeed reckless speed and that they should, therefore, find you guilty of involuntary manslaughter (or whatever that particular crime is called in that jurisdiction).

Now, don't you think that whether you were driving a Ferrari or a Toyota Corrolla might affect which story and which evidence the jury believes?

Here's how self defense works at trial.

Ordinarily, in a criminal prosecution the state must prove the elements of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. So if the crime charged, and for which the defendant is on trial, is manslaughter, the state must in general prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the defendant was there; (2) the defendant shot the decedent; and (3) the defendant intended to shoot the decedent. In defending the charge, the defendant merely needs to create a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors as to any one of these elements. The defendant can try to cast doubt on the state's claim that he was there (alibi defense); that he pulled the trigger (some other dude done it) or that he intended to shoot the decedent (the gun went off by accident). But all of that is completely inapplicable when the defendant pleads self defense.

If you claim self defense, the prosecution doesn't have to prove, at all, that you were there, that you shot the decedent or that you intended to shoot the decedent, because you will have admitted each of those element of the crime of manslaughter. If you are claiming self defense you necessarily must admit that you (1) you were there; (2) you shot the decedent; and (3) you intended to shoot the decedent. You have made a prima facie case against yourself for the prosecutor, and he doesn't have to prove any of the things he ordinarily would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. You have admitted it all.

Your defense is that your act of violence on another human being was legally justified. The allocation of the burden of proof burden of persuasion between the prosecution and defense in a self defense case varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But you will at least have to put forward evidence establishing a prima facie case of justification according to the standard applicable to the use of lethal force in self defense in your jurisdiction.

The prosecution will seek to discredit, consistent with the applicable standard of proof in your jurisdiction, your claim of justification. Facts, like your having alerted your gun in certain ways, facts that might incline your neutral, but unsophisticated about gun matters, jury to think you might be a reckless, trigger happy gun nut obsessed with making your gun the most efficient instrument of violence possible will help the prosecutor in those efforts. And Suzi Soccermom, as she and her other jurors decide whether to believe your story, wonders why the gun as it came from the factory wasn't lethal enough to satisfy your pervert blood lust.

Quote:
Originally Posted by C Philip
...What I'm trying to say is that you can't logically conclude that weapon X makes a justifiable homicide any less justifiable than weapon Y....
But we know from post verdict interviews of jurors that factors like that can have an effect on how they evaluate the defendant and evaluate the evidence.
Quote:
Originally Posted by fiddletown, post 26
...We know, from post verdict interviews of some of the jurors in the Harold Fish case (in gun friendly Arizona), that some of them were bothered by his use of a powerful gun (10mm) and JHP ammunition. (Fish was convicted of manslaughter and went to prison. He did win his appeal, and is now free. But the point is that the gun and ammunition affected how his jurors evaluated the evidence.)...
Glenn Meyer, a research psychologist, has participated in studies that indicate that weapon type has an effect on jurors.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn E. Meyer, post 23
...There is a large body of research on what influences juries. Weapons issues have been shown to influence mock juries....
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Old January 24, 2010, 07:28 PM   #52
C Philip
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That makes sense. Thanks for explaining it.
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If you claim self defense, the prosecution doesn't have to prove, at all, that you were there, that you shot the decedent or that you intended to shoot the decedent, because you will have admitted each of those element of the crime of manslaughter. If you are claiming self defense you necessarily must admit that you (1) you were there; (2) you shot the decedent; and (3) you intended to shoot the decedent. You have made a prima facie case against yourself for the prosecutor, and he doesn't have to prove any of the things he ordinarily would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. You have admitted it all.
Saying this makes it sound like it might be better not to claim self defense, leading to the question posed in this thread. Might it be better not to claim self defense and make the prosecution prove everything?
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Old January 24, 2010, 07:46 PM   #53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maestro pistolero
Quote:
Originally Posted by fiddletown
First, if it was an otherwise justifiable shooting, a trigger job alone is not going to result in conviction.
Thank you. That was my entire point.
But you're missing the point that you won't be on trial solely because of a trigger job. You will be on trial because there were other factors, other evidence, that led the grand jury to conclude that there was probably cause to believe that the shooting was not justified, or that led the prosecutor to believe that he could overcome your self defense claim.

Remember, if it happens to you, there is no way you can know ahead of time whether in your particular case there will be ample evidence to support your claim of self defense or if, when the smoke clears, the evidence will be sparse that you were justified in using lethal force.

Everyone who has ever been on trial after a self defense shooting thought as he pulled the trigger that he was right -- that he had no choice. But the fact that he wound up on trial shows that in the aftermath the prosecutor found good reason to challenge the claim of justification and to believe that he could get a jury to agree.

If you are on trial, you and your lawyer will need to deal with any number of factors which, in some aggregation, could incline the jury against you resulting in a guilty verdict sending you to jail. In Harold Fish's case, using a powerful gun (10mm) and JHP ammunition, were two such factors. In another case, could a factor be altering a gun by having the trigger made so light that a qualified police armorer would testify that the trigger is unsuitable for a service weapon? Quite possibly. But then again, it's only a factor it you have chosen to do it.

As I mentioned previously, a 4 to 5 pound trigger on a 1911 shouldn't be a problem. I could find several qualified police armorers who will testify that such a trigger is suitable for a service 1911. And if one can't shoot a 1911 with a 4 to 5 pound trigger well, he needs some training and practice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by C Philip
... it might be better not to claim self defense, leading to the question posed in this thread. Might it be better not to claim self defense and make the prosecution prove everything?
I don't think so. Some of the reasons why that's not a good idea were discussed at length in that thread. And Boston T. Party doesn't think it's a good idea either:

"...I am not recommending that anyone flee the scene of a justifiable homicide,...In fact, after reviewing the precautions such a flight will require, most of you will properly conclude that it's far too involved and risky to succeed -- and that's my point here. Call 911; don't flee..." (Boston T. Party, Boston's Gun Bible, Javelin Press, 2002, pg 5/2)

And --

"...Criminals have a better practical chance of getting away with ...flight because they have prior experience (you don't), they can plan for it (you got surprised , and thus retrospectively left many inadvertent clues). They have the immediate support of the criminal underworld (you don't). They are ruthless (you are just an average person), they feel no guit (you will, at least in the form of doubt)...." (Boston T. Party, pg 5/10)
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Old January 24, 2010, 09:09 PM   #54
maestro pistolero
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I would agree with the point that, much under four pounds for a defensive pistol might be a little questionable. But I am simply not going to worry about something which has never happened, and which I conduct my life in such a way as to avoid at all costs. A so-called carry trigger job is usually in the range of 4.5. to 5.5 lbs. I'm comfortable with that. That, in my view, makes me a safer gun owner for all the reasons I have stated.

I'm more concerned about actually being responsible than appearing to be so. If that makes me naive, so be it. I would actually rather be accused of something egregious that I didn't do, than to actually do something egregious, and get away with it. In the first case, I could live with myself. In the second, I could not.
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Old January 24, 2010, 09:46 PM   #55
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Quote:
Still no cite of a single example? Find ONE intentional, otherwise justified self-defense shooting where a trigger job resulted in a conviction. Just one.
Quote:
But I am simply not going to worry about something which has never happened,
Quote:
...become the first in the history of jurisprudence to be prosecuted for it...
Please read post #29 on this thread for proof that it has happened.

Please read the rest of the thread to understand why even if it hadn't happened it's still clear that it could be a problem in some circumstances.

The point of this topic is NOT that a trigger job will convict you. It won't if the rest of the evidence clearly supports your claim of self-defense. The point of this topic is that if the rest of the evidence casts doubt upon your claim of self-defense, providing the prosecutor with MORE evidence that can be used against you is a very bad idea.

Given that it is impossible to predict the circumstances of a shooting, it makes sense to take reasonable precautions against providing the prosecutor with any evidence that might be used against you.

As pointed out, a "carry trigger job", preferably performed by a someone with the proper qualifications, that doesn't alter the safety function of the pistol and that provides a trigger pull that is within the typically accepted "prudent pull weight range" is NOT likely to be a problem.

Removing safety mechanisms, altering the basic function of safety mechanisms, lightening the trigger past the point that is typical for self-defense pistols, are not in the same class and could definitely be used against you under the proper (improper depending on how you look at it) circumstances.

Look at it this way:

If an armed serial killer, just escaped from the psych ward of the local prison, breaks into your house and you end up shooting him while he is in the process of abusing your wife and children there is no way that anyone is going to take a look at your gun to see if you've modified it.

BUT, if you are attacked on the street by a normal looking guy with no prior criminal record who pretends to have a gun in his pocket and threatens to kill you if you don't hand over your wallet and you shoot him with no witnesses present, that's a different story. When the police arrive on the scene, you are standing there with a gun that you just used to shoot an unarmed man. That is not going to be a clearcut case. It could very well come down to whether the jury likes you and believes you. If the prosecutor tells the jury that you don't have any regard for the safety of others as demonstrated by the removal/alteration of standard safety features of your firearm and brings in the local police armorer who testifies that the department doesn't allow such modifications for safety reasons, do you really think that won't make any difference at all to the jury?

Sure, you can bring in your expert witness to try to rebut the prosecutor's claims, but wouldn't it be a LOT easier and a LOT cheaper to be able to say something along the lines of: "My self-defense weapon is equipped with all the safeties that the manufacturer designed into it. Furthermore it is used by such & such LE organization in exactly that configuration."
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Old January 24, 2010, 09:51 PM   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fiddletown
Here's how self defense works at trial.

Ordinarily, in a criminal prosecution the state must prove the elements of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. So if the crime charged, and for which the defendant is on trial, is manslaughter, the state must in general prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the defendant was there; (2) the defendant shot the decedent; and (3) the defendant intended to shoot the decedent. In defending the charge, the defendant merely needs to create a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors as to any one of these elements. The defendant can try to cast doubt on the state's claim that he was there (alibi defense); that he pulled the trigger (some other dude done it) or that he intended to shoot the decedent (the gun went off by accident). But all of that is completely inapplicable when the defendant pleads self defense.

If you claim self defense, the prosecution doesn't have to prove, at all, that you were there, that you shot the decedent or that you intended to shoot the decedent, because you will have admitted each of those element of the crime of manslaughter. If you are claiming self defense you necessarily must admit that you (1) you were there; (2) you shot the decedent; and (3) you intended to shoot the decedent. You have made a prima facie case against yourself for the prosecutor, and he doesn't have to prove any of the things he ordinarily would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. You have admitted it all.

Your defense is that your act of violence on another human being was legally justified. The allocation of the burden of proof burden of persuasion between the prosecution and defense in a self defense case varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But you will at least have to put forward evidence establishing a prima facie case of justification according to the standard applicable to the use of lethal force in self defense in your jurisdiction.

The prosecution will seek to discredit, consistent with the applicable standard of proof in your jurisdiction, your claim of justification. Facts, like your having alerted your gun in certain ways, facts that might incline your neutral, but unsophisticated about gun matters, jury to think you might be a reckless, trigger happy gun nut obsessed with making your gun the most efficient instrument of violence possible will help the prosecutor in those efforts. And Suzi Soccermom, as she and her other jurors decide whether to believe your story, wonders why the gun as it came from the factory wasn't lethal enough to satisfy your pervert blood lust.
...and here's how self-defense works in the real world. Self-defense shootings are not are not rocket science. They are far easier to sort out than your typical homicide, especially if you tell the truth. Motives are absent, the shooter/shootee usually don't know each other, they normally occur on neutral ground or the defender's turf...basic stuff.

Self-defense doesn't result in a charge, or a 'trial'. Murder and manslaughter do- but they will only be charged if your actions meet the elements of those charges, in the jurisdiction where the shooting occurred, and the prosecutor believes he or she can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.

I can think of a half-dozen shootings or murder cases where we pretty well know who did it, pretty well know why, and yet they won't be filed because the REASONABLE DOUBT standard can't be met. Now if the state can't file those, why in the hell would they waste time filing self-defense cases where the shooter's actions are authorized under defense justification, castle doctrine, etc.?

Answer? They won't.
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Old January 24, 2010, 10:12 PM   #57
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Self-defense doesn't result in a charge, or a 'trial'.
Come on. Are you saying that anyone who has ever been charged or gone to trial is a murderer or manslaughterer?

The first TX CHL shooting went to trial and the defendant was acquitted--his claim of self-defense was upheld. Are you saying that he just beat the rap and must really be guilty since he was charged and went to trial?

I understand the point you are TRYING to make, that most self-defense cases don't result in a charge or a trial. However, it is completely inaccurate to claim that self-defense never results in a trial or a charge.
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Old January 24, 2010, 11:04 PM   #58
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BUT, if you are attacked on the street by a normal looking guy with no prior criminal record who pretends to have a gun in his pocket and threatens to kill you if you don't hand over your wallet and you shoot him with no witnesses present, that's a different story. When the police arrive on the scene, you are standing there with a gun that you just used to shoot an unarmed man. That is not going to be a clearcut case. It could very well come down to whether the jury likes you and believes you. If the prosecutor tells the jury that you don't have any regard for the safety of others as demonstrated by the removal/alteration of standard safety features of your firearm and brings in the local police armorer who testifies that the department doesn't allow such modifications for safety reasons, do you really think that won't make any difference at all to the jury?
Thanks John. I have trouble figuring out all the who's, why's, where's, and even quite a few when's. You cleared up a lot of it and it explained some of the other posts. Fiddletown explained a lot and it helps me to understand different aspects of this conversation.

I was wondering what about the guy who is minding his own business in his home when attack and the only thing he has to defend himself with is a gun he uses to target shoot. That gun has been heavily modified, but he is in his own home and he was attacked. Your explanation makes the other explanations clearer.

What about a guy like me, who is disabled and has trouble getting around. I am not capable of, nor wish to, take some of the beatings I took as a youngster . If I am working in one of my barns or fields and someone threatens me, and I honestly believe that my life is in serious risk of bodily harm or even death, what can I do. Do I have to worry about literally losing the farm? Probably not, because I would have met some of, if not all of, the elements needed for self defense.

Now Joe Billy Jim Bob has a gun with all the latest video game add-ons and he goes out looking for trouble, with a big sign on his back that says "I have $1K in my pocket". Well, he probably is going to have trouble claiming self defense.

The biggest unknown factor in all this, of course, will be a jury. The Human factor is not completely predictable and therefore should not be taken lightly.

Although I have learned a lot reading these forums, I still continue find this information very, very educational. I just hope and pray that I am never put into a situation where I have to find out what the local prosecutor thinks of guns.
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Old January 24, 2010, 11:12 PM   #59
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Originally Posted by JohnKSa
Come on. Are you saying that anyone who has ever been charged or gone to trial is a murderer or manslaughterer?...
That would be ridiculous. Your 'reformatting' of what I stated above changes neither the meaning or the truth of it.

What is ridiculous, however, is insinuating that anyone who acts in self defense is likely to have to claim self-defense 'at trial'; as if criminal charges are sure to follow.
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Old January 24, 2010, 11:59 PM   #60
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No one said that, what was repeatedly said is that if you go to trial, these factors can have an impact.

Being ridiculous is to continue to miss that point, repeatedly. It is also ridiculous to insist that juries are not influenced by such factors when the experience of lawyers, written up in their texts plus seen in trial presentations, and legal/behaviorial research also demonstrates the effects.

If you manage not to go to trial, good for you. If you do, good for you if your lawyer thinks such are ridiculous. Have a nice time.
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Old January 25, 2010, 12:09 AM   #61
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Your 'reformatting' of what I stated above changes neither the meaning or the truth of it.
You said: "Self-defense doesn't result in a charge, or a 'trial'." I quoted it verbatim. How does that qualify as 'reformatting'?

Self-defense does sometimes result in charges and trials. I gave one example, there are many others.
Quote:
What is ridiculous, however, is insinuating that anyone who acts in self defense is likely to have to claim self-defense 'at trial'; as if criminal charges are sure to follow.
No one has insinuated anything of the sort. The point isn't that every self-defense situation will result in criminal charges nor even that criminal charges are likely.

The point is that:

1. It is impossible to know ahead of time whether or not the situation you may end up involved in will result in criminal charges. It probably won't but it could. It is not likely but it does happen.

2. You can't prepare in retrospect. Once you're charged you can't go back and unmodify your gun to make it more acceptable to the jury.

3. If your self-defense situation results in charges and you have operated under the assumption that you would never be charged the consequences could be decidedly negative.

4. If one prepares based on the assumption that his particular situation (when/if it happens) could result in criminal charges and charges are not filed then there's essentially no negative impact incurred by taking the precautions recommended.
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Old January 25, 2010, 01:15 AM   #62
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4. If one prepares based on the assumption that his particular situation (when/if it happens) could result in criminal charges and charges are not filed then there's essentially no negative impact incurred by taking the precautions recommended.
And for me, those precautions mean having a firearm with the least likelihood of cause a round to hit an unintended target. Thus I choose a proper 'carry trigger'. Not incurring criminal or civil liability begins with not injuring an innocent person in the first place.

That is not to say that one is unnecessarily risking harm to innocent life with a stock trigger, if that's your comfort level. I prefer a little more precision for safety.

I would like to see the court docs or at least a synopsis of The People vs Grey from post #29. There is no detail, therefore it hardly proves any point being made here. This 1994 case resulted in a 2nd degree murder conviction, but why, what were the circumstances and other evidence? There is no way to weigh the incriminating role of a trigger modification in the absence of any of that information.
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Old January 25, 2010, 01:27 AM   #63
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Originally Posted by maestro pistolero
And for me, those precautions mean having a firearm with the least likelihood of cause a round to hit an unintended target....
And that's more a software than a hardware issue. As Massad Ayoob teaches, the priorities are: (1) mental awareness and preparedness; (2) tactics and proper use; (3) skill with safety equipment; and (4) optimum choice of safety equipment. Or as it's sometimes stated: mindset; skill set; and tool set.
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Old January 25, 2010, 02:11 AM   #64
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And that's more a software than a hardware issue.
Of course it is.
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Old January 25, 2010, 10:10 AM   #65
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But I am simply not going to worry about something which has never happened, ...
Not to be argumentative, but I've heard that sentiment before, more than once, though not in the context of anything related to violence. More than once the results were very unpleasant indeed if not disastrous. The phrase used varied somewhat from time to time, but it came to be known among us as "famous last words."

It must be pointed out that no one can know for sure that something "has never happened". Search engines are amazing things, but they will not find for you the notes taken during investigations or during plea bargaining negotiations, or transcripts of jury deliberations. Unless something has gone to an appellate court, the details are going to be very hard to find, and unless someone chooses to write about something that he or she was personally involved with, that something will probably remain in the realm of the unknown.

...as people have found out in instances with which I am familiar.

Of course, there is also the fact that there is a first time for everything.

When the amount of historical data is scant or the data cannot be found, one has to use other means for risk analysis. Simulation and testing can serve well. There are just not very many self defense shootings to analyze, and there are far more variables than there are results, making it impossible to draw definitive conclusions from history.

I'm perfectly willing to learn from mock jury results without asking about what may or may have happened in the past.
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Old January 25, 2010, 01:30 PM   #66
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Posted by Maestro Pistolero:
Quote:
And for me, those precautions mean having a firearm with the least likelihood of cause a round to hit an unintended target. Thus I choose a proper 'carry trigger'. Not incurring criminal or civil liability begins with not injuring an innocent person in the first place.
Very true indeed, and probably worthy of a separate thread.

Question is, is it better to follow the lead of a lot of police departments and CCW instructors (such as my instructor) and carry a gun that requires a long, deliberate, and rather heavy pull of the trigger to reduce the likelihood of an inadvertent discharge under stress, or to have one that is a little more accurate?

I'll bet that the consensus of the experts is the former.

However, I have found that at the range I can usually put more rounds on target more consistently with a good 1911 (the reviewer for Model1911.org tested the model I have and measured the pull at 4.5 pounds) than with DA revolvers or even small striker-fired semi-automatics.

So, which should one choose?

At this point, I do intend to carry my 1911 at least some of the time when the holster arrives from Boise. I will say that the only reasons I have even considered going that route (pistol with a single action trigger) rather than sticking completely with my Centennial and M&P9c are (1) the hopefully lower potential for hitting the wrong target by missing the intended one and (2) the fact that some experienced instructors who have taken advanced FoF training, Fiddletown among them, carry 1911 pistols.

Of course, practice is the real necessity...
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Old January 25, 2010, 01:50 PM   #67
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When the FBI chose a firearm for their hostage rescue team, the gun that won out was the Springfield Professional 1911 with an approximately 4 pound trigger. When they really needed precision, they went with a 1911.
Quote:
Fiddletown among them, carry 1911 pistols.
There you have it.
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Old January 25, 2010, 03:22 PM   #68
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I think that a defensive firearm should, as a matter of policy be box-stock. What is interesting is that I have read Mas Ayoob say just about the same thing. You see, getting charged after a defensive shooting is not just a matter of murder versus no charges. If a gun has a lightened trigger pull, then there is always the danger of a manslaughter charge, based on the claim that the lightened trigger ("hair trigger" to a prosecuter and the uninformed) caused the gun to discharge accidently, resulting in the death of a "fine individual who was just getting his life turned around."

Mas actually recounts that he testified in a Miami, FL case, years ago, where a cop was being crucified over a shooting. At the time, Janet Reno was the DA for Dade County. The cop ultimately "won", after 3-4 years and two riots in Miami. You don't need to leave that opening.

In a related vein, never say, "I didn't intend to shoot him," because saying that is an admission of manslaughter/negligent homicide.

Also, how hard a time the DA gives you will depend on the jurisdiction. In Travis and Dallas counties in Texas, one is more likely to be charged, or have to spend $50,000 on lawyers than in most other counties. The joke is, shoot a burgler in Travis county and you will have to spend the next year in court. But, if you shoot a burgler in neighboring Williamson county, the police will critique your group and give you tips on accuracy for the next time. That is, of course, exaggerated, but it does illustrate that there is a difference, depending on the jurisdiction.
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Old January 25, 2010, 11:20 PM   #69
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O.J. Simpson

Reading thru all of this reminds me of O.J.'s trials. O.J. was found not guilty in criminal court in the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. But O.J. was found guilty in civil court in the wrongful death of Ron Goldman. In the end, it was the civil case brought by Goldman's parents that brankrupted O.J. In a civil liability trial, a trigger job and handloads could weigh against you.
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