THE DEFENSIVE DISPLAY OF A FIREARM AS A VIABLE TACTIC PT.1
One of the first articles I wrote for CCW Safe was titled “But All That I Had Was a Hammer.” Some concealed carriers armed with a handgun may believe that if they perceive their safety to be at risk then their only option is to draw their handgun. Sometimes that action is deemed unjustifiable by the media, the district attorney, the grand jury, or a jury of their peers. On the other hand, if the ambiguity of the situation is such that a concealed carrier waits too long or hesitates, he or she may be seriously injured or killed because they did not act quickly enough. Readers may have heard other concealed carriers say that they would not draw their handgun unless they intended to actually shoot it at another person in self-defense.
The problem lies in the fact that there are numerous instances in which concealed carriers did exactly that and were subsequently charged with and often convicted of felonies that ranged from manslaughter to first-degree murder. There are also numerous instances in which a concealed carrier who, in fear for his or her life, drew their handgun but did not shoot only to be charged with (and often convicted of) either a misdemeanor brandishing offense or an aggravated assault felony offense.
Don West and Shawn Vincent do podcasts in which they review recent incidents in which a concealed carrier or armed homeowner used deadly force against another and discuss what went right and what went wrong. Don West is a board-certified criminal trial specialist with close to 40 years of experience as a successful criminal defense trial attorney and National Trial Counsel for CCW Safe. Shawn Vincent is a jury consultant and author whose weekly articles for CCW Safe cover notable self-defense cases and the resulting legal findings.
Don West furnished me with a copy of an article from the National Review titled “A Michigan Court Case Shows that Right of Armed Self-Defense is Broader Than You Might Think.” The article discussed an incident in which Siwatu-Salama Ra pointed an unloaded handgun at a car driven by Channel Harvey and was later convicted of a felony. On August 20, 2019 the Michigan Court of Appeals threw out her conviction, reasoning that “a person can brandish a weapon to prevent the imminent use of force from escalating to a threat of imminent death” and that if a person brandishes a weapon without firing it they are not in fact using deadly force.
The legal standard for using non-deadly force is that the defendant must prove that it was necessary in order to defend him or herself from the imminent unlawful use of force by another person. Laws covering the defensive display of a firearm vary from state to state, and concealed carriers should proceed with extreme caution if the circumstances are such that it is necessary to bring a handgun into play for defensive purposes.
I personally believe that if the other party or parties are displaying the intent to cause serious bodily injury or death, possess both the ability and opportunity to cause serious bodily injury or death, and there are no other reasonable options available and that if there is sufficient time and distance for the concealed carrier to present the weapon without pointing it directly at the threat and issue strong verbal commands in order to stop an imminent deadly threat, then that is a valid response.
Part Two of this article will discuss the 2018 shooting of Markeis McGlockton by Michael Drejka in which a far more favorable outcome for both parties might have taken place had Drejka displayed his concealed handgun rather than using it to fire a fatal shot. Part Two will also contain some advice for concealed carriers who are always on the lookout for means other than the actual use of deadly force to deal with others whenever possible.
Steve Moses has been a defensive firearms trainer for over 26 years and is a licensed Texas Personal Protection Officer with 7 years of experience performing as shift lead on a church security detail for a D/FW area metro-church. Steve is a co-owner and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. Moses is a retired deputy constable and spent over 10 years on a multi-precinct Special Response Team. He owns multiple instructor certifications, including Rangemaster Advanced Handgun Instructor and Defensive Shotgun Instructor, Red Zone Knife Defense Instructor and Adaptive Striking Foundations Instructor, Modern Samurai Project Red Dot Sight Instructor, and State of Texas Personal Protection Officer Instructor. Steve holds a BJJ Brown Belt in Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He is a content contributor for CCW Safe and writes weekly articles on various subjects of interest to concealed carriers. Moses shoots competitively and holds an IDPA Expert rating. Steve is an annual presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference.