to Use Deadly Force
What Front Sight teaches its students
A large (412 person
capacity) and thankfully air conditioned class room is used
for formal presentations on various topics including safety
and when to use lethal force.
Part of a series on the Front
Sight Firearms Training Institute; what it does, how it does
it, and its relevance for you. Please click the links
on the right hand side for other parts of the series.
If you ever have to
successfully use lethal force to save the lives of yourself or
loved ones, Front Sight teaches us that the negative
consequences to us can potentially be almost as grave and
harmful as they are to the adversary you just killed.
Even the most obviously
justified killing in self defense, even in your own home, may
bring criminal and civil charges. For these reasons, as
well as obvious moral and ethical reasons, we were exhorted to
avoid the need to resort to deadly force if at all possible.
When to Use Deadly Force
Talking now not so much
about the 99.9999% of the time you're seeking to be ultra-safe
with a weapon, but instead about the possible remaining 0.0001%
of the time when you're in an extreme situation and need to have
the ability to respond appropriately, of course Front Sight
gives you some of the skills and recreates some of the
situations you may hopefully never encounter where you need to
deploy such skills.
But - and this is a vitally
important but - Front Sight absolutely and utterly does not
glorify guns and their potential lethality. Front Sight
does not advocate ever resorting to a
firearm and deadly force unless and except you are in the
ultimate extreme situation where you have no choice but to
respond to an uncontrollably utterly threatening situation with
Front Sight devotes multiple
hours through several different lectures by different presenters
to the topic of when to use and when not to use deadly
force, and helps you understand the implications of what will
follow if you do use deadly force. Even if you are in the
most justifiable of situations, using deadly force opens you up
to all manner of criminal and civil risk, and in addition to the
liability you'll unavoidably be exposed to through the legal
system, you may risk social approbation, and in any and all
respects, it will be a life-changing event.
The economic imbalance of
One thing they told us was
instantly comprehensible. A civil suit by the person you
shot or (if he dies) his family can be mounted by an attorney
who charges them no money up front, but who will stand to get a
generous share of any winnings they might receive when the case is
settled. This encourages victims, their families and their
opportunistic attorneys to
bring actions, no matter how ill founded, against people who
have defended themselves.
But what about the attorney
you'll need to hire to defend yourself against these charges?
There will be no cash settlement in your favor if you succeed in
your defense. So your attorney will be charging you for
every minute of his time, whether you win or lose. You
could spend $100,000 - maybe even more - to defend yourself
against a ridiculous lawsuit brought in response to your
justifiable self defense. And that $100,000 cost assumes
you win! The cost of going to trial may be so high, and
the outcome so uncertain, that you'll probably be advised to
settle with the other side for some amount of money, no matter
how weak their case.
A similar imbalance with
It costs nothing for the
police and district attorney to press charges against you.
It is their job; indeed, the more they bring charges, by some
measures, the better they are doing their job.
If the circumstances of your
actions provoke moral outrage in the community - whether valid
or not - you may find yourself facing a murder charge.
Now here's a really unfair
situation : Sometimes the cases where you are most in the
right are the cases where you're most likely to suffer selective
community outrage. If you're a wealthy middle aged white
male and you kill a down and out black street person in a car
park, you just know that there will be a bunch of community
groups that will perform their ritualistic knee jerk protests.
One might lament the lack of community groups to leap to the
defense of wealthy middle aged white males. Why is it that
the so-called 'under-privileged' actually seem to have better
social advocacy for their 'bad' actions than the so-called
'privileged' have advocacy for their 'good' actions?
Make it an election year,
perhaps a close election race for the local DA (and/or the local
judge), and some sensitivity to 'gun violence' and 'law and
order' issues, and add in one or two other wild cards, and you
might find yourself swept up into an ugly situation that really
isn't about you and what happened to you, but instead is about broader
issues. You're merely a pawn in someone else's chess game.
All the other negative
consequences arising from using deadly force
Front Sight lists a
terrifying list of consequences to expect, ranging from
life-imprisonment at one extreme through to all manner of other
things; for example you may lose your job, your friends, you may
need to take your children out of school and even move to
another state and change your name.
The costs of defending
yourself from criminal and civil investigation and possible
lawsuits could run into tens of thousands of dollars, even
hundreds of thousands of dollars, and at the end of it all, you
still might be found guilty/liable.
Prevention is better than cure
The best thing to do in any
situation is to avoid the confrontation. If you hear an
intruder in your house, it is better to lock yourself in your
bedroom and call 911 and wait for the police - the only
exception to this would be if you have other family members in
other parts of
the house who could be at risk.
Even if your state has a
'make my day' law and 'castle doctrine' that allows considerable freedom of action if
you have an intruder break into your house, it is still better
for you to cower behind the bed - naturally with your pistol and
flashlight in your hands - hoping against hope that the intruder
doesn't come into your bedroom, and hoping that he will leave
the house, even if he leaves with all your precious silverware,
electronics, and everything else.
Here's an interesting thing.
If you tell the police on your 911 call 'I have a gun' that
generally encourages them to escalate their response and to come
as quickly as they can. They don't really want to have to
investigate a shooting, they'd much rather arrest a live burglar
than cart him away to the morgue and have to arrest the
homeowner for a rightful act of self defense.
Expect to be arrested
Here's another interesting
thing. Be prepared to be arrested, no matter what.
Some jurisdictions have a rigid policy that they arrest anyone
and everyone after a shooting, no matter how clear the
circumstances may be. If you're going to have a gun, and
if you're prepared to use it (the two must be synonymous, by the
way) then you should carry not only your concealed weapons
permit in your wallet, but also the name of a good criminal
Front Sight also gave some
very sensible advice on how to choose an attorney. You'll
have to attend their course to get this all first hand, but
suffice it to say, unless you're a big time celebrity, engaging
a big time celebrity attorney is probably the wrong thing to do.
If you roll the dice, be
prepared to lose
Remember also two other
There's no guarantee that any confrontation with
an intruder or assailant will result in you as the 'victor'.
And, as one of our instructors kept stressing, bad guys
seldom act alone. You might see one potential assailant,
one potential mugger, one actual intruder. But the chances
are overwhelming that there is another one or more people
somewhere nearby as well.
The odds are seldom in your
favor. For all reasons, avoid a confrontation if at all possible.
That's certainly the lesson I learned, and what I will do in any
such situation myself.
Color Coded Situational
Awareness to Avoid Conflict
We all know about the
travesty of the color coded alert levels the country places
itself at - we've been continually at an elevated level of
alertness ever since 9/11.
Front Sight teach a more
sensible concept of personal alert levels, with five levels of
mental alertness. Condition 'white' is a totally
disengaged and unaware state of being - a level of awareness
that many of us are at most of the time. For example,
you're in condition white when you walk past a friend in the
store or on the street without noticing them.
That's a matter for mild
embarrassment and even mild mirth, but think about this - if you
overlooked noticing a good friend, how likely are you to spot a
bad guy lurking in the shadows and a second bad guy crossing the
street from behind and speeding up behind you?
Condition 'yellow' is the
level we should aspire to be normally - generally aware of our
surroundings and their potential to project threats and danger.
When we encounter a specific
potential threat, we elevate to Condition 'orange' and urgently
seek ways to avoid a confrontation and/or to minimize our
personal risk if a confrontation develops.
Condition 'red' is when we
are confronted with a specific real threat, and involves you
taking specific measures to avoid the need to use deadly force,
either by - to put it inelegantly - bravely running away, or by
warning the assailant off.
Lastly, Condition 'black'
represents the failure we always hope to avoid, when we finally
find ourselves with no options left and become engaged in lethal
combat. At that point, you can't afford to take half
measures and you've exhausted your opportunities to evade and
avoid the confrontation. As our instructors also said -
better to be judged by twelve than to be carried by six.
The biggest benefit of this
five level structure is not that it helps you to more quickly
start shooting at people, but quite the opposite. Similar
to the saying 'a stitch in time saves nine' it was impressed
upon us that the best response to any unpleasant situation is to
avoid it entirely. And so, by being more aware of things
around us, we can respond in a less intensive manner earlier on
- for example, by simply crossing the road well before reaching
some dubious characters up ahead.
This also means, if a
conflict proceeds further, we understand the doctrine of
measured response, and know how to give an appropriate positive
warning in a last ditch attempt to prevent the need to protect
ourselves with deadly force.
This is hardly the attitude of crazed
gun nuts, but rather a very responsible and sensible way of
living - to seek ways to avoid conflict any way that may be
possible, rather than to allow bad situations to occur and then
act ineffectively so that they get worse to a point where we
have no choice but to use lethal force.
Important Summary about the Use
of Lethal Force
The bottom line? Avoid
confrontation at all costs. How many times have I said
this already on this page? It is worth repeating!
Insurance will recompense you
for whatever is broken or stolen. Your pride should focus
more on being wise and mature enough to have survived a
potentially lethal encounter unharmed - surely that is something
to be truly proud about. Who can ever be proud about
having killed someone, and who can ever be pleased at then being
arrested and having the full legal system thrown at you?
Yes, Front Sight teaches you
how to control your weapon for best effect in an unavoidable
confrontation. But it examines the assumption that some
people make about the need for a confrontation in the first
place, and encourages you to avoid that confrontation if at all
This is perhaps one of the most valuable lessons
Front Sight gives its attendees - true maturity comes from being
able to avoid lethal confrontations, rather than by seeking them
out and 'winning' them.
Part of a multi-part series
Please click the links at
the top right of this page to read through
other parts of this extensive series on Front Sight and the
training they offer.
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11 Sep 2010, last update
28 May 2011
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