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Old November 15, 2010, 12:10 PM   #1
Ruark
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Overemphasis on "killing"

A little background: I'm 60 years old, been shooting and reloading for 45 years - pistol, rifle, handgun, for skeet, bench rest, IPSC, Steel Challenge. Have been an NRA Certified Instructor in Home Firearm Safety, Personal Protection and Pistol. I have carried a CCW many times for personal protection when I was a witness in a murder case, or for security when traveling. I have never actually fired or brandished a firearm in self defense.

This forum has some excellent discussions that should be required reading for anyone interested in the topic of using a firearm in self-defense. One of the most important subjects is dealing with the "aftermath" of a self-defense shooting, when you're standing over a dead body with a smoking gun in your hand. Justified or not, in many cases that can be a life changing event, possible life-destroying as well.

Once you get on the 10 o'clock news and the front page, you can lose your friends, your job, your neighbors won't let their kids play with your kids, all kinds of things can happen. Beyond that, you may also have to deal with up to $80,000+ in legal costs if you're the target of a Wrongful Death lawsuit or criminal charge (depending on where you live). As was once said, "you can shoot somebody in self defense if you fear for your life, but by the time it's all over, you might wish you had let him kill you instead."

My point: I've often disagreed with the TOTAL focus on KILLING an attacker. The standard position seems to be that you'll either do nothing, or kill him. Obviously, there are some situations where killing is the only effective response: he's pointing a gun at you, he's thrusting a knife inches from your body, etc.

The shooting ability of the victim might come into play, say if it's an panicked, inexperienced shooter with a CCW pistol with a 2" barrel he's fired once since he bought it. Such persons usually have no choice but to point at the center mass and blast away.

Otherwise, I can see a case for a different, but equally effective, response: shooting the attacker in the foot or knee. Say somebody's following you across a dark parking lot. You tell them to stop and they keep coming. Or somebody threatens you with a knife, but they're still a few feet away.

Speaking for myself, I'm not going to kill him. I'm going to display my weapon (probably a compact 9mm+P or a 4" .357 revolver) and if he doesn't desist instantly, I'm going to shoot him in the FOOT. 99% of the time, a 2-inch hole blown through his foot will deter him from continuing. In the rare case that it doesn't, blowing a hole through the other foot will.

If the foot, for whatever reason, isn't a reliable target, say if he's moving quickly or is further away, hit the knee instead. If you can continue attacking me with a .357 HP through your knee, please raise your hand. And I'm not even going to discuss a .357 through both knees.

Even a 9mm or .357 could be excessive. In most cases you could do just as well with a .380 or even a (gasp... is he serious???) a .22.

The point is, for a reasonably practiced shooter, these are viable targets and are completely effective, and most importantly, they COMPLETELY avoid the horrific "aftermath" situation mentioned above. In fact, depending on the location and circumstances, you could probably just get in your car and drive off and leave him there, and he'll be fine. He won't die, he won't bleed to death. And you very likely won't be charged with anything. What's he going to do, call the police? "Uh, I was robbing this guy, see, and..."

Of course, it might be prudent to report it, again depending on circumstances. That could mean anything from going to the police station and filing a complete report, to stopping by a pay phone and making a quick anonymous 911 call. To avoid thread hijacking, I'm starting a second thread on this - "Report a wounded attacker?"

In the unlikely event that you DID end up in a courtroom, you're looking much, MUCH better. You used a small firearm, not a Dirty Harry cannon. You just shot him in the foot to stop him, instead of automatically killing him, even though (depending on location and circumstances) you legally could have. And so on.

I just wanted to bring this up, as we so frequently act like the ONLY way to use a firearm in self defense is to blow the sucker all over the landscape. I beg to differ.

- Ruark
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Old November 15, 2010, 12:29 PM   #2
Sefner
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Good post, Ruark. But there are some tactical as well as legal issues surrounding your proposition.

The first is that very few of us here ever advocate "shoot to kill". Many of us, myself included are "shoot to stop" types, we shoot to stop the threat. If that means we fire one shot, miss, and the BG turns tail, situation solved, this is a great outcome. If that means you have to empty a magazine, reload, and empty another one into three cracked out meth heads then so be it. Not the way I'd prefer that situation to end, but that's the situation they put the shooter in.

You talk about the legal aftermath, and it is a valid point. It is also one that many state legislatures are considering. For instance, here in MI, we have what is called the Self Defense Act, which states, in part, that if a homicide is found to be justifiable then the shooter cannot be held civilly liable for anything that resulted from the shooting. Ie: the shooter cannot be sued by the "victim" or their family.

Now, about the "shoot them in the leg" thing. I applaud your unwillingness to kill. But none of us want to kill anyone. The problem is, when we discharge a firearm in the direction of a human being, no matter the circumstances, we run the risk of ending that person's life. That is why using a pistol against someone is deadly force. Shoot someone in the leg, you might hit the femoral artery and they could bleed out in a matter of minutes. Shoot them in the foot, they could die of infection. This is why it is a legal matter. If you shoot but try to not kill them you're using disparate force; you did not fear for your life enough to use deadly force but you used deadly force anyways. This will land you in a world of legal trouble much much worse than what you described. Any use of a pistol (even pointing sometimes) is deadly force.

In this case, if you ended up in a courtroom, the prosecutor would make you out the be a gun-happy lunatic. You shot someone in the leg, you just wanted to inflict pain, you didn't even fear for your life yet you risked killing this person! If you get back into society, you might shoot someone in the leg over a parking space because hey, you didn't kill him!

And to be honest, there is a point there. If a person is using deadly force when they are not truly threatened (otherwise they would be using deadly force)... Just saying, there is a point there.

Now the tactical issues. If I'm in a situation where I fear for my life, my adrenaline is going, I'm nervous, probably shaky. The foot/leg is a relatively small, relatively fast moving target. I really want to stop this guy, so I'm going to take a shot that is most likely to do that: a COM shot. A COM shot is better because it's a bigger target and it's closer to vital organs. Like I said, I don't want to kill anyone, I want to stop a threat, and a COM shot (ideally several COM shots) is the most practical way to do that. I just don't want to bet my life on the leg shot. A man can keep coming with a leg shot.

One more point, if you don't want to kill the guy, why not use a tazer or pepper spray instead of a gun? They are much much less likely to kill and will incapacitate a criminal just the same (at least you'd hope).
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Old November 15, 2010, 12:38 PM   #3
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Almost forgot, always always be the one to report an incident in which you are the shooter in a self-defense shooting. A crime has been committed, whether it's homicide or attempted robbery, or assault. It is a crime to not report a crime and it will look really bad to the judge and prosecutor when you are caught if you don't report it.

Quote:
What's he going to do, call the police? "Uh, I was robbing this guy, see, and..."
No, he will say "I was walking down the street and asked this guy if he had any change and the dude pulled a gun and shot me in the leg!". And if he reports it, the police are thinking the same thing you are: "he wouldn't have called in if he was guilty of something...".

Always be the one to report the shooting to the police. There is absolutely no good reason not to and every reason to do so.
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Old November 15, 2010, 12:47 PM   #4
Ruark
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Thanks for the reply, Sefner. A few quick points:

- you mentioned several times not doing this "if you didn't fear for your life." I'm talking about situations where you DID fear for your life. That's a given here. Sorry if I didn't get that across well enough in the post.

- you also mention some issues with "leg shots." I'm referring specifically to foot shots, with a knee shot as a possible alternative, not just blasting away at a leg.

- infection could possibly be a fatal consequence of a foot injury, but these days it's highly unlikely if emergency treatment is obtained within a reasonable time. In any case, other circumstantial requirements being met, it's certainly better than slaughtering him.

- I absolutely agree about using a COM shot - that's the only alternative IF you're not confident about taking the foot or knee. I can think of a number of situations, by the way, where a COM shot won't stop an assailant in his tracks, whereas a hot round through the knee(s) would drop him instantly.

As far as using pepper spray or a taser-type device "in case I don't want to kill the guy," those are good choices if I can get him to fill out an application before he attacks me, so I'll know which weapon to carry when I leave the house that night.

- Ruark

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Old November 15, 2010, 12:50 PM   #5
Eagle0711
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Iv'e never heard of a law enforcement agency or a firearms trainner advocate shooting only to wound, as in the foot. You are probably looking to commit suicide with that tactic in mind.

The aftermath I think depends on where you live. Around here I've never saw where the D.A. charged anyone with a crime if you were within the law when you acted.

If you get sued, that is going to be a difficult challenge for them.You can't enjoy any of your matrrial possessions if your'e dead. Do it right and at least in this area I think that you would be ok. If you put 17 rounds in some SOB, you may have a problem. Just a little common sense.
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Old November 15, 2010, 12:52 PM   #6
gearchecker
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Strong argument in opposition to your statement

This isn't going to be easy to explain without getting flamed, but I'll give it a try.
The biggest argument with your decision in an attempt to disable somebody by shooting them in the foot or the knee is that it's in direct opposition to the use of "Deadly force".
If you're threatened to the point where you feel the need to pull and fire your weapon, you must be in a frame of mind to absolutly stop that threat, and that warrants deadly force.
If you can shoot to disable, isn't the argument strong enough that your option to flee would possibly have been greater?
Deadly force or use of a firearm in defense is the last resort. It's always classed as a deadly force, not a disabling force.
I'm trained and prepared to defend myself fully if the need ever arises, God forbid it ever happens.

I understand many handgun owners and some members here are vocal about their preparedness to kill an attacker if necessary. It sounds crude and out of the norm of society, but it's still the only time such force should be considered.
There's a very thin line to cross between the need to fight or flee. If you feel threatened with the possibility of injury, it's a far cry from having your life threatened and needing to use deadly force.
If you can get out of a situation that doesn't require deadly force you need to do so to the best of your ability, and quickly.
Most juries will have a difficult time acquitting somebody of using deadly force if there was a way out, and deadly force was used instead.
Use of deadly force is a very tough position to hold and defend, let alone ever use.

Regards,
gearchecker
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Old November 15, 2010, 01:15 PM   #7
Ruark
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Funny - the "quote" button disappeared...

Gearchecker: "If you're threatened to the point where you feel the need to pull and fire your weapon, you must be in a frame of mind to absolutly stop that threat, and that warrants deadly force. If you can shoot to disable, isn't the argument strong enough that your opti on to flee would possibly have been greater? "

Agreed, but you have an obligation to use the minimum amount of deadly force, as long as it stops the attack.

If an assailant is walking towards you with a knife 10 feet away and saying he's going to kill you and the "run away" option is off the table, you're advised not to empty ten clips into him or shoot him with an RPG.

UNLESS circumstances simply made it impossible, I would definitely take his foot or knee, because that's all that would be necessary to stop the threat.

I started thinking about this a few years ago when an incident happened that was on the news. A police officer was called to a scene. Upon arriving, a very agitated, obese woman was standing outside the office of an apartment building, yelling towards the door. She was angry with the management; she hadn't paid her bill in several months and they had told her to move out. She was holding a large kitchen knife.

The officer told her to put down the knife. She ignored him and started walking towards the office door, holding up the knife. The officer couldn't physically intervene or block her because he was about 10 feet from her, to her side. He pulled his weapon and killed her on the spot with several COM shots. This was in mid-afternoon, in the wide open, in broad daylight, in front of many witnesses.

I often visualized myself in the same situation; why in the WORLD didn't he just shoot her in the foot? It would have "stopped the threat," to use the popular language; she would have been disabled instantly, and of course as an on duty LEO he could have EMS there in a matter of seconds. Of course an investigation was conducted, and the shooting was found to be justified under all the usual "deadly threat, deadly force" principles.

Been thinking about it ever since.

- Ruark

Last edited by Ruark; November 15, 2010 at 01:31 PM.
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Old November 15, 2010, 01:21 PM   #8
geetarman
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Interesting points of view from all.

I hope that I am never in such a situation.

For me, I would shoot to stop the threat. One round or several. I would shoot until the threat was ended.

I would then call the police.

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Old November 15, 2010, 01:27 PM   #9
okiefarmer
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Although the old saying "rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6" has some validity, I will shoot to kill before I shoot to wound. Missing an arm is much easier than missing a chest shot, and you may not get a second shot.

And, there have been too many cases where the perp, who was wounded, ends up suing the one who was "justified" in ths shooting, AND WINS, because some lame jury pool bought his case when he came dressed as a Sunday school teacher, and the bleeding heart scum sucking lawyer convinced them he was just there (at 2:00 in the morning) trying to sell them a vacuum cleaner.

Dead people don't sue.

your quote from above
"If an assailant is walking towards you with a knife 10 feet away and saying he's going to kill you and the "run away" option is off the table, you're advised not to empty ten clips into him or shoot him with an RPG. "

I'm 55, and hobble somewhat just to get from point A to point B. If perp is 10 feet away and says he/she is going to kill me, I will not turn and run, as in less than 15' this perp will catch me. He will be dropped before he can take two steps. You are encouraging us to do exactly what our government wants us to do with all this TSA crap now. Be sheep. Not me.
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Old November 15, 2010, 01:46 PM   #10
Ruark
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Let me put this topic in another form: of a hypothetical scenario, if it's OK with the moderators.

A large, powerfully built assailant is walking towards you brandishing a knife and making verbal threats. Running away is not an option. You display your firearm and say "stop," and he sneers, utters an obscenity and keeps coming. You are now legally justified in the use of deadly force.

He is 8 feet away. What would be your response?

- Ruark
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Old November 15, 2010, 02:04 PM   #11
Southern Rebel
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Quote:
Once you get on the 10 o'clock news and the front page, you can lose your friends, your job, your neighbors won't let their kids play with your kids, all kinds of things can happen. Beyond that, you may also have to deal with up to $80,000+ in legal costs if you're the target of a Wrongful Death lawsuit or criminal charge (depending on where you live).
And yet, at the end of the day, I am alive to support my family and he has suffered the consequences of his actions. I am ok with both of those outcomes and will deal with the the above-described consequences for me. Once someone has chosen to place my life in jeopardy, his life is not my major concern - I am rather selfish in that way. I neither wish for his death nor wish him to survive - I just intend to do the best job of stopping his attack without harm to me.

If you wish to preserve your attacker's life and possibly increase your own risk of death in order to accomplish that, more power to you. I do not condemn or criticize your personal beliefs and moral values. (I do question whether you have witnessed gunshot wounds on the battlefield and the incapacitating power of a knee or foot wound. I can tell you that it is not as predictable as your post implies. A lot depends on what damage the bullet has caused and a lot also on the individual shot.)
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Old November 15, 2010, 02:04 PM   #12
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Quote:
Let me put this topic in another form: of a hypothetical scenario, if it's OK with the moderators.

A large, powerfully built assailant is walking towards you brandishing a knife and making verbal threats. Running away is not an option. You display your firearm and say "stop," and he sneers, utters an obscenity and keeps coming. You are now legally justified in the use of deadly force.

He is 8 feet away. What would be your response?
According to the training I've taken and to all of the responsible advice I have read, seen on this and other boarrds, and been given by LEO friends, I would very quickly shoot twice at center mass, very quickly decide whether the threat remained dangerous, and if yes, very quickly shoot again.

I would most certainly not try to shoot him in a limb or other appendage. Much less likelihood of hitting, much less effective in terms of stopping him immediately even if I did hit him, and possibly more likely to result in his unnecessary death than shots to COM.
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Old November 15, 2010, 02:11 PM   #13
KenpoTex
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruark
A large, powerfully built assailant is walking towards you brandishing a knife and making verbal threats. Running away is not an option. You display your firearm and say "stop," and he sneers, utters an obscenity and keeps coming. You are now legally justified in the use of deadly force.

He is 8 feet away. What would be your response?
Shoot him in the face...

At a distance of 8 feet, your attacker is only a couple of steps and a thrust away from being able to open you up like a tin-can. Attempting to knee-cap him is probably going to get you killed. You would have to actually damage/destroy his bone/joint structure, eliminating his ability to stand, in order to have any significant effect.

You're entitled to any opinion you choose, but I think your assertion that it's better to shoot to would is completely "off base," both legally and tactically.
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Old November 15, 2010, 02:18 PM   #14
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I hear you Ruark... This a very interesting thread. Clearly, police trainers have a certain job to do, and a big bandwagon has been jumped onto regarding this subject since a long way back. But lately I've been reading QUITE A LOT of news reports of "well-trained" LEOs following what they were taught... and killing mentally-challenged people with knives and so forth. It bothers me and I'm sure it bothers them too. I've read Ayoob and others on the subject and I also hear you, Ruark, and must say that I consider myself smart enough and in control enough and marksman-like enough and quick-thinking enough to take a LOT of factors into consideration in that prescient shot-taking moment to make up my OWN mind where my first shot/shots should go BEYOND thinking ONLY simply, robotically CENTER OF MASS.
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Old November 15, 2010, 02:19 PM   #15
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One of the things often overlooked in these threads is the very obvious but serious risk of hitting an innocent by mistake.

When you aim at the center of an attacker's chest, a miss by a few inches in any direction will not hit a bystander. It will hit the attacker.

When you aim at an extremity, a miss by a few inches will miss the attacker entirely. That will send the bullet to land -- where, exactly? -- and put bystanders at risk. Even a downward shot doesn't fix this problem, because ricochets happen and can be deadly.

Even a "well practiced shooter" can miss by a few inches when shooting at very small, very rapidly moving targets under extreme stress.

With that, I'm going to close this thread. TFL exists to promote the advancement of responsible firearms ownership. We aren't here to provide a platform for people who want to promote dangerously bad ideas.

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