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Old December 28, 2017, 02:17 PM   #1
SIGSHR
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Ethics and legality of headshots

We have all heard the old "two in the belly and one in the head" adage, and an LEO in my town dispatched a gunman holding a hostage with a head shot. But it seems to me that really exposes you to prosecution, being labeled a sadistic fiend out to do harm instead of engaging in self defense.
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Old December 28, 2017, 02:28 PM   #2
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Anyone looking to condemn a person for killing in self-defense is going to paint the shooter in a negative way. Was the force used necessary to stop the life threatening attack is the only question that counts.
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Old December 28, 2017, 02:29 PM   #3
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If you are justified in using deadly force then where your shot hits is not a relevant matter. Again , this assumes the shooting itself is justified.
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Old December 28, 2017, 02:37 PM   #4
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“Stop the threat”.
Location of impact is secondary.
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Old December 28, 2017, 02:44 PM   #5
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I will not allow those kinds of issues to take up valuable space in my head. I do not look for trouble, avoid it where I can, I always mind my own business and if forced to defend myself, I will do only what I must to secure my safety. Whatever happens after,.. happens after. I will worry then but not now and not in the moment. Being conflicted is a bad place to be when you need to make a critical decision right NOW. Being conflicted usually translates into hesitation or half-heartedness.
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Old December 28, 2017, 02:55 PM   #6
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When I got serious about self defense I practiced two to Center mass and one to the head

I also carried "killer" ammo

The I started reading many of the lawyers in the gun mags explain how juries think

We first moved to safer location
we changed training for this location
we decided basic .45 ball ammo or shot gun was good enough for our environment

If you rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6 then you need to be sure the 12 do NOT see you as the problem

we recently had a local 16 year old beat to death a 52 year old predator abusing him... jury still called it homicide....he got jail... as a victim (IMO) if I was on jury....it was justifiable

Full disclosure...and general assumption why he got jammed....after killing the predator he hid the body....

Most thought this seemed to suggest premeditation... I tend to think just a scared KID
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Old December 28, 2017, 04:33 PM   #7
Double Naught Spy
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Quote:
Ethics and legality of headshots
We have all heard the old "two in the belly and one in the head" adage, and an LEO in my town dispatched a gunman holding a hostage with a head shot. But it seems to me that really exposes you to prosecution, being labeled a sadistic fiend out to do harm instead of engaging in self defense.
Last I checked, no local, state, or federal laws specified locations in which shots fired in self defense must land. In fact, no local, state, or federal laws say you even have to hit the bad guy.

Also last I checked, there is no sadistic fiend law.

As for the ethics of head shots, I believe they are 100% ethical to alleviate undue pain and suffering so long as you were in a position to fire your gun in self defense.
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Old December 28, 2017, 05:55 PM   #8
Ruga Booga
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TXAZ View Post
“Stop the threat”.
Location of impact is secondary.
Seems like location of shots is somewhat of a priority. You cant stop the threat with misplaced shots
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Old December 28, 2017, 06:18 PM   #9
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I'll agree we get conflicting information.I'll also agree you never know what argument a prosecutor or plaintiff's attorney may present.

And I'm not any kind of lawyer or legal expert.

Lets take this a bit farther. (It IS called "The use of Deadly Force",BTW)

Suppose you shoot him in the knee,or even better,just clip his ear with a "warning shot" .How will that go?

I think we get in big trouble if we just shoot a bad guy "a little bit" to gain compliance. It undermines the idea of "gravest extreme"

I'm assuming your bad guy has placed you in an urgent situation,without a lot of time to analyze and overthink.
If you hit him two or three times COM and you still perceive a threat...is it time for "Excuse me,Sir,might you be wearing Kevlar? Or shall I shoot you COM again??

MAYBE 2 hits COM gives you time to get a good sight picture. How many more bullets do you want to be responsible for?
Handgun COM shots often DO NOT prevent the bad guy from shooting or stabbing you. He might have 15 seconds to mag dump in your direction.
A solid CNS hit is a stop.

I'm thinking our "Hostage shot" is pretty rare for a civilian,but if it DOES come up,consider if you do not bust the brain or equiv CNS,your hostage will likely be killed by the bad guy. That's how the hostage thing works.

Some would say "2+1" MIGHT be a reasonable idea with a 7+1 1911.But counting and looking to see "Did you fall down yet?
Some might say 5 to the chest and two to the head ,or whatever mag cap allows till the threat is over.

I've never been in a gunfight,but I think its not like watching your feet trying to learn to dance.

Last edited by HiBC; December 28, 2017 at 06:37 PM.
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Old December 28, 2017, 06:49 PM   #10
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I'm thinking our "Hostage shot" is pretty rare for a civilian,but if it DOES come up,consider if you do not bust the brain or equiv CNS,your hostage will likely be killed by the bad guy. That's how the hostage thing works.
Well, the reason you are shooting is because you feel you have no other choice in the matter, that the hostage will likely be shot if you don't pull the trigger. That there is the potential for multiple outcomes is a reality, but would you rather the hostage taker kill your friend or loved one without you trying to do anything?

I think "will likely be killed" should be "might still be shot." Not all hostage takers actually plan on shooting anybody. Not all have real or loaded guns. Not all actually have the ability to kill another person despite threatening to do so. While "busting the brain" is the goal (aka significant disruption to the CNS resulting in incapacitation), shots to the head that connect solidly with bone often still have a dramatic impact on the person who is who. Not a lot of people have the wherewithal to continue with their current courses of action. Shooting out an eye, blowing out the sinuses, bouncing a bullet off the frontal bone, breaking out a goodly portion of the jaw or dental arcade is very disruptive.

There is also the possibility that if the spinal cord isn't severed despite "busting the brain," that there still may be a brain initiated muscle spasm causing the trigger to be pulled. I don't know that this has ever been documented, however.

If the bad guy is not totally incapacitated by the shot, the hostage might still be shot, but then again it may still be enough to buy time for the hostage to break lose or for a follow-up shot. That is the way reality thing works.

You do what you gotta do.
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Old December 28, 2017, 09:07 PM   #11
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DNS....I doubt we have an argument,but I'm not sure I get your point.
The OP was asking about head shots being a problem in court.
I was saying the head shot is justified with a hostage.
Pardon me for not being so surgically precise with my words (bust the brain) that no one could find fault.
I did say "disrupt the equivalent CNS"
Might a near miss,still striking head bone structure work? Sometimes.Sometimes not.
Might a hostage get shot or stabbed and live? Sometimes.
Might a hostage shot fail? Sometimes.

But those were not about the OP's question. I only gave it a sentence or two.
Thank you for clearing that all up,I guess.

Last edited by HiBC; December 28, 2017 at 09:12 PM.
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Old December 28, 2017, 09:14 PM   #12
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Quote:
being labeled a sadistic fiend out to do harm instead of engaging in self defense.
It would be more sadistic to gut shoot someone.
A head shot is actually more merciful.
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Old December 28, 2017, 10:56 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruga Booga View Post
Seems like location of shots is somewhat of a priority. You cant stop the threat with misplaced shots
If you stop the threat, then it doesn’t matter if you “hit the apricot “, shot his weapon disabling it with the ricochet into his knee putting him on the ground, vaporized him with a photon torpedo or used a .50 cal to disconnect his neck from his body. The threat was neutralized.
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Old December 29, 2017, 03:55 AM   #14
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Legally, using a firearm is deadly force - force that is llkely to cause death or serious bodily injury. This is why there are so many restrictions on its use. So, in theory at least, shooting someone in the head is just as justifiable as shooting them in the foot.

In practice, if you are involved in a Trayvon Martin style use of force, expect the prosecutor to use anything they can argue to secure a conviction - right down to the color of your shirt.

A key way to avoid being in that situation is to not treat firearms as magical problem solvers. If shooting someone in the head seems like an extreme solution to your problem, there is a good chance a firearm is the wrong tool to be using.
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Old December 29, 2017, 09:52 AM   #15
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The legal system goes to great lengths to prove intent and they do so by establishing what you did and what you said. So, if you shoot with the intent to kill, you're a murderer. If you shoot with the intent to stop the threat, it's a justifiable homicide if the BG inadvertently dies.

It's a key reason why we have to guard our words right after a shooting, during our conversations with other people, our posts on public forums. That will protect us from a prosecutor establishing your intent as being to stop the threat.

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Old December 29, 2017, 10:02 AM   #16
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In LE we're taught to shoot center of mass until the threat is eliminated.......be that the thorasic cavity....or an exposed head if no other mass is visable or is armored.....death is just an inadvertant by-product of the force employed to eliminate the threat.
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Old December 29, 2017, 10:18 AM   #17
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Ending the threat MAY end the person who is the threat. It really is that simple.
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Old December 29, 2017, 11:00 AM   #18
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NOT A LAWYER

We have allowed ourselves to fall prey to some sort of logical fallacy here.

We have stated, over and over again, that we are shooting to stop the threat and the consequences of that shot are a secondary concern. I do not want to kill anyone but if you are attacking me or my family in a manner that I must respond with deadly force I am going to shoot to stop the threat. If such action results in fatal wounds to the attacker it is regrettable but is still acceptable.

Now we are wondering if aiming for an area other than "normal" center of mass presents more likelihood of prosecution because of where we aimed.

Firing a gun at someone carries the same level of legal risk regardless of the outcome. In MI in particular there is no such thing as a warning shot. If I fire a gun in self defense I better have justification for firing that shot or shots. If I miss it carries the same legal risk of prosecution as if I hit the attacker in the head and he or she dies instantly. Now of course there is a question about political vs legal prosecution but I doubt it really matters for this discussion.

Personally I believe one should concentrate on the most likely scenarios that we have a reasonable chance of surviving and most likely methods and train for those. Chances are our training is limited by time and we will never max out our abilities. Exactly what this is is going to vary from person to person. For me this means engaging three attackers, firing two shots center of mass, reassessing and re-engaging as needed with at least some hardware failures accounted for (misfires through snap caps). For others this means something else entirely. If you feel head shots should be part of your training I would not worry about the legal aftermath - if you were justified to fire the shot you were justified to fire the shot.
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Old December 29, 2017, 11:27 AM   #19
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Quote:
I believe they are 100% ethical to alleviate undue pain and suffering so long as you were in a position to fire your gun in self defense.
I'm not sure that line of thought is legal. That comment leads me to believe you are shooting to kill.
If you have trained well AND you keep calm, the target is very likely to die if truly applying deadly force. The ~15% hit in shootout statistics are interesting, but looking further into them more so. In most of the limited data I have seen it is about 15% of shooters hit about 100% of the time and the other 85% of shooters almost never hit.
Much of that is obviously shooting off target consciously or unconsciously.
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Old December 29, 2017, 12:30 PM   #20
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Unsure where to find it now, but there was a Clint Smith clip out there where Clint relates a hypothetical lawyer saying something like, "You shot my client 8 times!" and Clint says, "Your client was advancing on me in my own home with a butcher knife. I shot at him until he stopped doing that." Lawyer, "You shot him in face after he fell down!" Clint, "He didn't stay down. I shot what was available."

That's pretty much the way I feel about it...... I'm no firearms expert ..... "I did what I thought was necessary to stop the threat. End of Story."
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Old December 29, 2017, 04:07 PM   #21
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Shooting a person in the head when he is down after shooting him twice in the center mass shows that you are not only skilled enough to stop an assailant in self defense, but that you are so skilled that you put an unnecessary shot to the head to finish the assailant off. Show me a jury who won't see that when the prosecution team tells them this.

You have already managed to put the guy at a serious disadvantage and continuing the attack in that same manner will obviously cause even greater damage. But through deliberate choice and great effort you wasted the guy in what could be seen as cold blooded murder of a helpless individual who may or may not have needed that degree of force.

The word of law can only go so far. there is civil liability. Will you lose in the law suit to follow? will prosecution decide that your self defense was nothing but a lame excuse to kill someone who posed a threat of some sort.

that is My sincere belief, based on the idea that chaos rules the entire world, that the worst that can possibly happen sometimes does, that no matter who you are and what you do, things go absolutely to hell more times than we believe.

Your actions are yours to own. Shoot the bad guys in the head, kill the bejeesus out of them, There may be serious, painful repercussions if you do, and they will happen because of your own actions. Unless you are a high level LEO, swat, commando, putting a bullet into the head of a "bad guy" will not be the great idea that armchair commandos and mall ninjas say it is. You are a civilian, for the love of god, not a navy seal, and the guy you shoot isn't a crazed zombie.
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Old December 29, 2017, 04:57 PM   #22
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The "two in the belly and one in the head" is a shooting game adage that has nothing to do with reality. And it's two in the chest.
Depends upon who you ask. ..... Clint Smith recommends putting multiple bullets in the first part of your assailant that is available- that's usually the crotch, if one is drawing from your waistband or coming up from low ready. It also is not likely to have body armor over it.
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Old December 29, 2017, 05:07 PM   #23
HiBC
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Once again,I've never been in a gunfight. I hope it stays that way.I never want to shoot anybody.
If I am forced to shoot to defend myself,if the bad guy drops and appears to no longer be a threat quickly enough at the first shot,good enough.No need to expend more ammo...in theory. But in practice,at least two or three rounds might be sent before the bad guy has a chance to drop,and the trigger will be pressed till he is down.

Quote:
Shooting a person in the head when he is down
Where did that come from? Seems editorialized just a bit.Who said anything about a head shot after the bad guy is down??? A coup d grace would most likely be murder,if it is after the threat is over.
But it would be a correct response if the down bad guy raised a weapon.

Remember "Fist Full of Dollars"? Blondie says "Shoot for the heart"? The steel plate?
Body armor happens.
If,for example,you trained with Jeff Cooper and if he trained 2+1 and if that is something you just DO in just over one second,as in "One thousand one"
"Bam,bam...Bam" there is not some insidious thought process involved.There is no time.
It is an effective technique to use a marginally effective tool(handgun) in a way some truly experienced experts believe delivers the most "threat stop" in the least amount of time,with fewest rounds expended,with the highest degree of survival.

That is why it is a "Drill"

The three shots are one dose of response,without hestitation,to one threat,as one motion.
A really key factor to keep in mind for the idealistic,politically correct dissection:

We reluctantly decided to use deadly force because our bad guy had the means,the will,and had made the choice to kill us

Last edited by HiBC; December 29, 2017 at 05:19 PM.
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Old December 29, 2017, 06:00 PM   #24
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DNS....I doubt we have an argument,but I'm not sure I get your point.
My point was that you made an unsupported assumption that if you shoot the hostage taker in the head and it doesn't "bust the brain" that the hostage likely will die and simply put, you have no information to corroborate that statement. I just went ahead and explained numerous reasons why the hostage might not die.
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Old December 29, 2017, 06:12 PM   #25
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Right,DNS.

That "brain bust" comment was not the point of the post. Its a brevity thing. A snapshot.
You want me to write a footnoted thesis on it. Fine. You took care of that for me. Thanks.

I hope you write as well as you expect me to.

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