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Know what to do after the attack.

A lot of our people are in search of the trendiest personal-defense firearm, the cutting-edge of self-defense ammunition and the newest wrinkle on the concealed-carry holster. They’re going to shooting camps with one or another world-famous instructor. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s too bad we don’t address the issue of post-shooting procedures the way we address gear and shooting techniques. The Guru, Jeff Cooper, identified a couple of problems: Problem A was staying alive; problem B was explaining our actions to the triers of the fact. While addressing problem A is critical, failure to be successful makes problem B irrelevant—the lesson for those who win the fight is that preparation is essential. The time to consider problem B is before problem A rears its ugly head—now. The cost of attorneys and the like is prohibitive even if you have a high station in life. Criminal prosecutions can be designed to drain your resources while your opponent, the government, simply prints more money.

After The Gunfight
If you’ve experienced a shooting event and you’re not the instigator of the fight, it’s safe to say that you won’t know what to do unless you’ve practiced a plan. I know that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy,” regardless of what or who that enemy is, but entering into any serious situation without some preparation is not a way to win. Massad Ayoob, in reference to a self-defense shooting and to Bill Jordan’s book No Second Place Winner, said, “There is no first place winner; there is no second place winner. There’s just another kind of loser.” He’s right. When I attended Deadly Force Instructor at Marty and Gila Hayes’ Firearms Academy of Seattle, the course was set up to teach people to win at problem A and problem B. Interactive role-play, something currently known as “sims” (taken from the company Simunitions, which makes, among other things, marking cartridges to fit modified firearms for force-on-force training), was a big part of the program. Experiences in a Firearms Training Simulator (FATS), a shoot-house analog and a post-shooting role-play were all rendered to video. A local police detective did interviews with the non-sworn class members while the law enforcement contingent was interviewed by senior staff. After their simulations, the cops wrote their reports. From the tapes, reports and interviews, the senior staff evaluated which “cases” would be presented to the “grand jury” (the class as a whole) to be “no billed” or to render “indictments.” Knowing how the process plays out lets you form a plan.

Physiological effects of a near-death encounter don’t make for the most accurate reportage. For that reason, the person preparing for lawful self-defense has to consider what happens after the event. If the situation is come upon by a peace officer, whether called to the scene or nearby when the incident unfolds, disaster may result. You may hear a loud voice behind you and be unable to make out the words “Police! Don’t move!” The loud exclamation can cause you to turn suddenly, gun in hand—not a good move. A good post-shooting procedure calls for positioning to prevent that from happening. The first rule is don’t get shot by responding police. Comply with their instructions because they can’t see the “halo” you wear as a licensed good guy; no one can. There are two roles in this little drama: victim and perpetrator. If your attacker is laying on the ground injured or dead, what role do you think you’ll be assigned?

Another tendency is rapid speaking, trying to get the whole story out at once. Here’s the problem: If someone just tried to extinguish your life, your ability to tell a clear, accurate narrative of the events are hampered by the body alarm reaction. Your ability to hear can be diminished in some ways, enhanced in others. The same goes for vision. You may see the noses of the projectiles in a revolver’s cylinder but be unable to describe your attacker’s facial features or to accurately judge distance. What can you say? The truth within the limits of your ability to perceive. Here’s an example: “Officer, I have a permit to carry a firearm. This guy here was trying to shoot me.” Give a précis of the situation: “I was standing there, by the light pole. He was standing near that oil spot on the road. He said he was going to shoot me full of holes. I want him to be prosecuted.” Obviously, fill in the blanks with the relevant information to your case. As to why the person wanted to kill you, don’t speculate. If he said, “Give me the money, or I’ll shoot,” relay that info. If you don’t know why the attack happened, don’t guess. Know why you pulled the trigger.

Also, understand that in a police interview room and in the back of a police car you have no expectation of privacy. The only person you can really open up to is your attorney—that conversation is protected. And, yes, before you submit to further questioning, ask for your attorney. All this takes training and education. Can’t make it to training like that? There is another way to help plan for the worst time in your life.

Don’t Go It Alone
To put a roadblock in the way of malicious prosecutions and frivolous lawsuits, it’s helpful to join with other like-minded individuals. Enter the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network. An organization of more than 7,300 members, the Network has over 320 affiliated attorneys and 478 instructors. The cost of $125 per year (less than annual memberships to some shooting ranges) provides you considerable leverage to move problem B. The Network has layers of protection to address the legal pitfalls of armed self-defense. Educational DVDs are issued with each new membership, such as Recognizing and Responding to Pre-Attack Indicators, Use of Deadly Force in Self-Defense, Defending a Self-Defense Shooting and Handling the Immediate Aftermath of a Self-Defense Shooting. A new DVD ships out each year to renewing members. The DVD series is composed of information delivered by recognized subject matter experts.

The Network pays a fee deposit to the attorney representing a network member who has been involved in a self-defense incident. This allows the legal defense to start immediately, including representation during questioning. An independent investigation of the situation is arranged. If a member faces unmeritorious prosecution, civil or criminal, a grant for financial assistance may be awarded. The Network’s board of advisors is composed of subject-matter experts, attorneys, trainers and members of the shooting industry, who make the Network the obvious choice to teach continuing education classes for attorneys, judges, law enforcement, investigators and firearms instructors. And the Network consists of attorneys and experts who can be used in a response to the shooting aftermath. So, is it worth it?

Members’ Journal
The Network offers a monthly journal to members. With legal updates, interviews and substantive articles, the Journal alone is worth the price of the membership. Aside from incisive interviews with the best in the business—Ken Hackathorn, Claude Werner, Dennis Tueller, Michael Bane, Dave Spaulding—there’s the Attorney Question of the Month column, book and video reviews, learning from actual cases, and Networking column discussing network news. In the interests of full disclosure, Gila Hayes of the Network interviewed me along with three other former cops for a piece on “Interacting with Law Enforcement” in the December 2011 issue of the Journal. For more information, visit armedcitizensnetwork.org or call 360-978-5200.

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