In Self Defense - Episode 98: Tom Givens PT. 1 - CCW Safe National | CCW Safe Weapon Liability | CCW Safe Defense Attorneys
In Self Defense - Episode 98: Tom Givens PT. 1

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In Self Defense - Episode 98: Tom Givens PT.1

Nationally renowned firearms instructor Tom Givens joins Don West, Steve Moses, and Shawn Vincent to discuss “preclusion” versus duty-to-retreat, disparity of force, and assessing the physical abilities of “unarmed” attackers.

The CCW Safe team believes that continuing education is an important component of being a responsible firearms owner/carrier. We offer our free content as food for thought. We try to take a neutral position and encourage the reader to evaluate how they would handle a similar situation. If the content provokes thought we have succeeded in our mission. The opinion of the content provider may not reflect the overall opinion of the company and staff members.


TRANSCRIPT: 

Shawn Vincent: 

Everybody it's Shawn Vincent. Thanks for listening in to the podcast today. Today, I'm excited to introduce to you, if you haven't heard about him already, the illustrious Tom Givens. Tom is one of the most well-respected firearms instructors in the country. You're going to hear more about why he is so, in just a minute. Our friend Steve Moses is also a respected firearms instructor, who has been gracious enough to introduce Don West and I to a lot of his colleagues and friends, people that he's studied with for years, and he's really excited to bring Tom to the podcast today.

We're lucky to have him. We're going to talk about a lot of things in a two-parter episode because we had a nice long conversation with Tom today. We're going to get involved with the idea between the software skills and the hardware involved in a self-defense discipline. We're going to talk about a new term that I want you guys to know: “preclusion.” It's a great way to talk about avoidance and de-escalation without entertaining the negative connotations that go along with the idea of “duty to retreat.” We talk a little about disparity of force. We're going to talk about assessing your attacker's ability, especially when you’re faced a potentially unarmed attacker who may, no doubt, still pose a serious threat to you.


And one thing that we talk about a lot is that self-defense – use of force is – justified when you're facing an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury. We often get a lot of questions about what actually constitutes “great bodily injury.” Tom's got a great answer for us. So I'm going to get right into it. Here is our conversation. It's Don west, Steve Moses, me, and our new friend, Tom Givens. Thanks for listening. And by the way, if you want to find out more about Tom Givens, go check out his website rangemaster.com. That's rangemaster.com. 


Shawn Vincent:

Listen, before we get going, I wanted to let our listeners, if they're not already familiar with you and your Range Master program, a little bit about your background. So I learned that you're a veteran of law enforcement. You served as a patrolman and as an investigator?


Tom Givens:

Yeah. I did some deputy sheriff thing back in the seventies and eighties. Long time ago.


Shawn Vincent:

And then you got eight years of service into the Army National Guard?


Tom Givens:

Right.


Shawn Vincent:

And I hear you're a graduate of the FBI Police Firearms Instructor School, the NRA Law Enforcement Instructor School. And then I think most relevant to our conversation today, for 18 years you had the facility, the range in Memphis, Tennessee, where you instructed 45,000 folks on how to shoot better. And a lot of those were folks who are applying for their concealed carry permit. Is that right?


Tom Givens:

Right. In 1996, the state of Tennessee changed the carry permit system, took it out of the hands of local sheriffs and put it under the Department of Safety. And that moved the training from the Sheriff's office to private trainers. So I saw that coming, built a training facility there and about 10% of the population in Memphis got a carry permit over the next 15, 18 years and we trained a pretty good percentage of them.


Shawn Vincent:

And then a few years ago, you shut down the bricks and mortar facility and you took the show on your road. So you and your wife now get to travel around the country. And most weekends you're teaching armed defenders on how to be more responsible gun owners and better shots. I think you're the only person I've ever seen who's self-described as “itinerant,” Tom.


Tom Givens:

Yeah. That's the term I've been using for years. I started teaching on a part-time basis in 1975 and I did just a handful of road classes a year as my work schedule would allow. When we opened the range in Memphis in 1996, that kept me tied down a lot. So I didn't teach a lot on the road then, either eight or nine classes a year. But when we closed it in 2014 and went on the road full time. So been a full-time trainer since 1996, but on the road full-time since 2014. So now we do about 35 classes a year, literally all over the country.

Shawn Vincent:

Yeah. That's fascinating. One thing that we're going to talk a lot about today is during the time that you had the facility in Memphis, like you said, you trained about 45,000 folks. But if anyone of those concealed carriers were involved in the use of force incident, you got a notification of that. Is that right?


Tom Givens:

Not all of them. Some people are really reluctant to talk about sort of thing that they don't want people at work or their church or whatever to find out. So they try to keep it low profile, but fair number came back and reported into the school. Had a few reported to me through law enforcement channels through people I know. They'd call me and say, "So and so one of yours?" And look up the records say, "Yeah, he is." And then they'd tell me what he's involved in. So for the 18-year-period we had the range there in Memphis, we averaged about four, five people a year involved in something involving self-defense.


Shawn Vincent:

And so what I saw is that when you wrote your book, you had 65 shootings that you heard about, and your stats are that 62 of those were wins, zero losses, and three forfeits. And one of the big things I learned from reading what you have written, tell me if I'm on track here, is that you win every gunfight that you can avoid, but you lose every gunfight that you don't show up to with a gun.


Tom Givens:

That's pretty much it. The current record is 68, zero, and three.

Shawn Vincent:

Yeah.


Tom Givens:

The only people that I know of, there may have been some I don't know of, but the only ones I know of that went through some training with us and were subsequently murdered were those three that were killed in separate street robberies. And they were the three that didn't have a gun. The last one's a perfect example. Guy was a house flipper. He would buy a home, rehab it, sell to get profit. So he had subcontractors work for him. He went to a job site to meet a couple of subcontractors. Said to himself that morning, "I'm just going to meet a couple of contractors in broad daylight. No need to wear a gun." While he was standing there in the driveway talking to him, three young thugs drove by and saw him standing there, got out, robbed him in the driveway.


Eyewitnesses said the guy had handed over his watch, his wallet, and his cell phone. Was standing there with hands in the air when the guy executed him. So, that's typical when you don't wear your gun. If you don't bring your gun with you, I don't care how many you own, I don't care how skillful you are with them. If you don't have it with you, it's not going to be much good. Problem is, this guy thought he could predict what day he was going to need his gun and what day he wasn't and that's not something you could predict very well.


Shawn Vincent:

In your book, you distinguish between software skills and hardware skills.

Tom Givens:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Shawn Vincent:

A lot of folks tend to focus on the hardware, their equipment. One thing, our podcast, Don and I started this a long time ago and brought Steve in to round out our conversations. A lot of people come to your range. A lot of people decided to be concealed carriers because they're concerned about winning the fight that you talk about. If they're encountering a violent criminal, they want to survive that. We're focused on helping those folks survive the next fight. Right, Don?


The legal fight that comes afterward … and we don't want good well-intentioned people to make any mistakes that are going to cause them and otherwise justifiable self-defense shooting to end up in a... We don't want it to end up in legal charges to begin with. We don't want it to end up in a conviction for sure.


Don West:

Yeah. That's exactly right Shawn. And of course, we want everyone to survive the first fight, which requires the knowledge and skill that's necessary to safely and responsibly be prepared to use the gun if you have to. But then of course you cannot control what happens next. You can do some things that put you in a better position, I think to manage the aftermath of a shooting. And I appreciate the comments that you made in your book, Tom, about that. But nonetheless, you can't control perfectly whether you get arrested or prosecuted. And finally, whether you actually face very serious charges in trial.


But we think with some training, some education, some reflection as you engage in this – the awesome responsibility of carrying a concealed firearm –  that you can prepare yourself better for what may come. And I think we believe that's absolutely an important part of the overall training process. And I'm intrigued by your comments on that, Tom. I know that when you are teaching licensing-type classes, there has to be a self-defense component to it from a legal perspective. On the other hand, I wonder, is there some way for you to calculate what is the least amount of training necessary to become a responsible concealed carrier? That's flipping it on its head but...


Tom Givens:

Yeah. That would be a really hard thing to quantify. It depends on how much time somebody has spent reading, researching. There's an awful lot of good information available out there in various books and other forms and on the internet. As you're aware, there's an awful lot of bullshit on the internet as well. But there's the good information there if you're careful about your sources. And depends on their athletic ability, some people can learn physical skills a lot quicker and more easily than others. So it's really hard to put a finger on that. If you got somebody who's actually intelligent, they committed to learning about it. They take the time to read, do some research, they do the things you tell them to do in class.


So they drive to work afterward and whatnot. This is not as complex as a lot of people try to make it out to be, especially the physical side of it, but it does require some effort. It's a lot easier to learn if you're properly guided. Can you teach yourself to play piano? Probably. Is that the best way to do it? No. Can you teach yourself to use it? Yeah. But is that the best way to do it? No. But it's hard to put a number on that. Various states mandate eight hours or 12 hours or 14 hours of training, but they frankly just pull those numbers out of the air.


Don West:

I got the sense that the training class that you get, the amount of training that you get to make yourself eligible for a concealed carry permit isn't the end of the process. It's just the absolute, very beginning. An introduction to some of the things that you really need to work on probably for the rest of your life.


Tom Givens:

Yeah. The carry permit's like a learner's permit for driver. It gives them the opportunity to drive a little bit and start learning how to drive. And same thing with the carry permit. It really doesn't signify much at all. Hell, half the states not only require one to carry. So it's an individual thing. In every class, I ask people to think to introspect a little bit about that ID card the state-issued them, whether it's a law enforcement commission or a carry permit makes no difference whatsoever. It's a little plastic card. When they handed that person that card, what they actually handed them was the power of life and death over everybody that comes in contact with as they go through their daily routine.

They can pick people out and make them die on the spot, no appeal. No recourse, no way to fix it. If they're wrong, they're dead, stay that way. If you'll think about it, the President of the United States can't do that. The Queen of England can't do that. The Pope can't do that, but your typical Joe Blow with a carry permit can do that. It's one of the really hot dichotomies in this business. And I asked them, with that kind of power goes what? And they always say, "Responsibility." And I correct him, "No. It's not the right word. The word is accountability." You can be a hundred percent responsible, not be held accountable, but you're going to be held accountable, both civilly and criminally.

So you better know what the hell you're doing. If you'll think about it. If you look into mythology at all, you can look at, from opposite ends of the worlds of Norse mythology, ancient Egyptian, everybody between Roman Greek and everybody in between. One of the attributes of the gods was the ability to point their fist at an enemy and strike them in a distance. Which is exactly what a concealed carrier could do. So essentially somebody carrying a pistol has the power of the ancient gods. And where that goes, the responsibility to train, to learn what you're doing, learn what the law is, become proficient with the firearm, and be sane and sober about what you do and don't do with it.

I find most of the problems that people get into, and there are exceptions obviously, and you've seen some – but most of the time, people get into it because of a complete and utter lack of knowledge about what is, and is not legal. And interject themselves into situations they shouldn't even be in the first place and then need you to extricate them.


Shawn Vincent:

You'd wrote in your book, Tom, that the people who take the time to get their permit so that they can carry their weapon legally, and they take the time to get the training and invest any time at all into envisioning what a self-defense scenario would be or getting in the right mindset – those folks very rarely have shootings that result in a lot of legal scrutiny. You quoted one state that over the course of three years, only eight concealed carriers were involved in shootings and all of them were exonerated.


Tom Givens:

Yeah. If you use the gun for what it's actually for, you'll have a lot less problems. And the experience with my students, the vast majority of them they've been involved in some gunplay, it has been a result of some form of armed robbery. If you'll think about it, somebody robbing you in the parking lot, somebody sticking up your little business, somebody car-jacking you at gunpoint, somebody kicking your door down three in the morning with a gun in hand, those are all just variations of armed robbery. Armed robbery seems to be the single most likely thing. There are exceptions. There are targeted individuals. Like I had one student whose wife talked to her daughter into getting a protective order against her abusive boyfriend. Boyfriend figured that out, came to Mom's house, Dad wound up having to shoot him. That's a targeted crime, but those are actually somewhat rare among, or at least among ours. Most of ours have been a result of some form of armed robbery, as I just said and armed robbery's pretty clear-cut. And it's not hard for the cops to prosecute anybody else, to figure out who the bad guy is when somebody produces a gun, threatens your life and you shoot them.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah.


Tom Givens:

Pretty easy to see who's who there.


Shawn Vincent:

Don and I met working on a self-defense case and my introduction to the whole conversation on self-defense, beyond just having a gun, but thinking about it seriously was from the legal perspective. So Don and I worked on a case. We had challenges. We've worked on a couple cases since, and we've talked out many, many cases and the conclusion that we've come up with, and Don tell me if I'm off base here, is that we see a lot of these cases could have been completely avoided – even the justifiable ones – if the armed defender had made just a couple of different decisions in the moments leading up to this shooting before it was too late and they had to make that life or death decision.


Tom Givens:

Absolutely.


Shawn Vincent:

You talk a lot about de-escalation and a word that I'm going to integrate into my vocabulary. You said that 95% of writing about self-defense is plagiarism, Tom.


Tom Givens:

Yeah.


Shawn Vincent:

I'm going to plagiarize you now with your word “preclusion.” And I'm delighted that once Steve started working with us on this podcast and brought his training experience and his technical experience to us plus the incredible network of experienced trainers like Tom that he's brought to the table. Steve, wouldn't you find that the conclusions that Don and I reached from a legal standpoint, how to protect the defender after the shooting in the legal system, are a lot of the same good advice that you've been given and that other trainers have been giving to people for years? About how to avoid and properly use a firearm in a self-defense situation?


Steve Moses:

Absolutely. I think the big part of self-defense starts with that whole commitment to, first, avoidance and then deterrence and then disengagement or de-escalation, and then that. And only if there are just no other options and you cannot escape that situation or you just have to protect someone else, then that's when you defend yourself. And if you defend yourself, you need to do it properly and in such a manner that hopefully you will not be charged after the incident. And if you are, then people like Don West and CCW Safe and others can take care of you at the trial and you don't spend the rest of your life in prison.


Shawn Vincent:

Don, did you experience that as well? Like once, we started talking more with the hands-on guys, the tactical folks, were you surprised that their advice and our advice ended up being so well aligned?


Don West:

Yes. I hadn't thought it through before like that. And our conversations prompted us to include people like Steve on our podcast. And Tom, I've known of you for a long time. It's certainly a pleasure to talk with you in person today. And what impressed me for example, of the things that we're talking about right now is your discussion in your book about the levels of alertness, the color codes Jeff Cooper had developed over the years. And so much of avoidance or this notion of preclusion seems to be that if you're just smart enough and aware enough of what's going on around you, you'll avoid a lot of trouble, and not find yourself in a position where someone has actually pointed that gun to your face.


Tom Givens:

Yeah. I give people a double-your-money-back guarantee, you're going to survive every single violent confrontation you don't get in. So I think every now and then I catch a lot of grief from an attorney for the use of terms like “preclusion.” I say there's nothing in Florida. For instance, there's nothing in Florida law about that. That's not the point. The point is trying to not have Florida law applied to me in any way. Same way with the levels of force.


I teach an escalating series of force options, and I've been taken to task about that. In Florida, there's no deadly force and non-deadly force and that's all in the law. That may well be but that over-simplistic approach may create problems down the road. So I think it's a real error for firearms trainers to teach people how to mechanically operate the gun and not teach them when to and when not to. And so we get fairly deeply into that.


Shawn Vincent:

I want to nerd out from a legal perspective here for a minute, Tom, because you talked about preclusion, which is you get push back sometimes. Whenever we use the word “retreat” in any context that we're going to hear about it from somebody that, “Why do I have to run away from a fight?” And you talk in your book specifically about how “retreat” doesn't mean to run away. Like when you're confronted with that imminent, deadly threat, you don't have to try to run away from it. At that point, it's too late, but precluding an event means that you tried to avoid it when you had the opportunity to do so. And you say Florida law doesn't say “preclude.”


You're right. Florida is specifically a stand-your-ground state. There are other states that have the duty to retreat built-in into the law. It actually says, "Duty to retreat." There are a lot of common law interpretations of self-defense in states that haven't defined it where there's an implied duty to retreat, but Don, you and I were talking about this just the other day offline. I think they are two sides of the same coin. Right? Duty to retreat just really implies that if you have the opportunity to avoid the deadly confrontation you were going to take it. And then once it's that imminent threat of somebody who means do you harm and can do it, then it's completely justified.


On the other hand, waving that duty to retreat, the nuts and bolts of the language, you're still not justified in using deadly force until there's that imminent threat of the deadly force. Which imminent, Don you've always said, means “right now.”


Don West:

Yes, Shawn.


Shawn Vincent:

Once imminent, there really is no chance to retreat even if you could. The stand-your-ground gives us legally... Don, would you say that if you have a duty to retreat in a law, it's almost as if the burden's been shifted on the armed offender that now you have to prove that you didn't have the opportunity to retreat or that you did try. It was a like a …


Don West:

There's another element in a sense in the trial and the jury could decide that you in fact faced an imminent threat of great bodily harm or death. That you were justified in using deadly force. And if that's where the inquiry ended, you would be acquitted right then based on that. However, where there is a legal duty to retreat... Excuse me. If the jury also concludes whether it's right or wrong, based upon insufficient evidence or a gut feeling, however it is, they decide that you did have an opportunity to retreat, but chose not to, and instead use deadly force, you're guilty. That's the one thing the prosecutor has just proven beyond a reasonable doubt in their mind that it wasn't self-defense under the state law. And they find you guilty.


They may hate doing it. They may think you were right in many ways, but you didn't act in lawful self-defense in that jurisdiction. As you put those two together in my mind, whether there's a legal duty to retreat or the right to stand your ground with no legal duty to retreat, it's not so much a legal issue. I think in application though, as it is a... Well, it's a legal issue, not a tactical one. I'm interested in, Tom, I think Steve, you agree as well that if there is an opportunity to retreat, meaning avoid not runaway because you're scared as much as avoid the confrontation, that it makes good sense to use that regardless of whether you have a legal obligation to do so.


Tom Givens:

That's the thing. And no. Even in states that have a duty to retreat in the statute, one of the things that so many people miss is it says, if you can retreat in safety, you're not required to back away from somebody that's shooting at you. That you're required to retreat if you can do so safely. And the other thing is you said retreat doesn't necessarily mean running away, it means breaking contact and disengaging from what is becoming a dangerous situation. The example I give people all the time, you're sitting in your car at a stop sign, motor's running, it's in gear.


You look over, you see a guy step off the curb and reach for a pistol under a sweatshirt. The correct answer is not, "How do I engage from inside the car?" The correct answer's, "Stop skinny pedaling. Ride the hell out of there." That's an obvious option that you have to avoid danger rather than use the gun. When you have an obvious option that would work, then that's what the law requires you to use. The problem is when people have that obvious option and don't take it and then they've got a legal problem.


Shawn Vincent:

Well, and even I'll contend in stand-your-ground states like Florida, the prosecutor might not be allowed to make the case that by refusing to avoid the confrontation that you've scuttled your self-defense choice. But I think the jury, if they decide that your refusal to take an obvious pathway out of the confrontation, they will speak against your reasonableness in your decision to use deadly force.


Tom Givens:

You're turning it into mutual combat rather than self-defense.


Shawn Vincent:

And so we're not going to use the word “duty-to-retreat,” but am I right in reading what you've done, Tom, that you're encouraging armed defenders to take every opportunity that they can to safely avoid or de-escalate or preclude a gunfight that they should do it?


Tom Givens:

Absolutely. We use the term “reluctant willingness.” We are willing to use that gun, but we're very reluctant to do so. It's got to be a last resort.


Shawn Vincent:

Then I'm right that once that threshold's crossed and it's “go time,” you need to be fully committed to your actions. 


Tom Givens:

Absolutely. Leave the gun alone. Unless somebody's life is in extreme, immediate danger. If that's the case, get to work, if not do something else.


Shawn Vincent:

I want to talk to you about a couple of places where we see … in the cases that we've studied and actual folks who've called and talked to Don, where people get in trouble is... Here's one big situation where good people get in trouble because there's a lot of gray area. And that's when an armed defender encounters an attacker who is perhaps not armed with a firearm – or not obviously armed with the firearm or not armed with anything that's obviously a deadly weapon.

We know … you write very well that a screwdriver is a very popular weapon, but it's not a weapon unless it's used that way. Right? And so negotiating that those threat levels that Don was quoting about moving up that ladder when you're face to face with somebody that you believe means you harm, but they don't have a firearm, at least one that's not apparent. What kind of conversations do you have with your clients and students about negotiating that?


Tom Givens:

Well, we try to get people to understand we live in a gizmo-oriented culture. So we always focus on the thing. People ask, "Well, if he has this, if he has that, if he has..." I don't care what he has. What we're concerned with is “degree of damage.” If someone sticks a screwdriver between two of your ribs and wiggles it around, you're dead. Is a screwdriver a weapon? No. Screwdriver’s a hand tool, unless might I stick it in your chest. If somebody hits you in the head with a ball pein hammer and gives you a depressed skull fracture, you'll be dead. It's not a weapon per se. It's a ball pein hammer. It's made to peen metal, but if they try to hit you in the skull with it, that's a deadly act.

So I really wish people would quit focusing on the gizmo. Don't really care how somebody kills you. You'll be the same dead. There are no degrees of death. So get away from, "Does he have this? Does he have that? Does he have something else? What can this guy do to me under these circumstances?" 


If a guy's got a screwdriver, but he can't get to you physically with it, then that's a different equation. Guy's got a gun, but he is on the other side of the barbed wire fence. So you're still in danger because he can airmail the violence to you. He doesn't have to hand-deliver it. So it depends on what can this guy do to me from where he is – not what does he have particularly? I arrested a guy one time for beating another man to death with a two by four. So a pretty darn low tech weapon, but dude's dead. My clue was say, "Well, here's the guy covered with blood for me to tell, maybe I will talk to him."


Shawn Vincent:

The people that get in big trouble are the folks … we just got the Curtis Reeves case. Did you watch that or see anything about that in Chapel Hill? The retired SWAT guy, and he was acquitted. And I think Don, Steve, and I are actually a little surprised. We haven't talked in depth about this yet, but we traded some texts that he was acquitted. And there's a man who used a firearm against someone who didn't have a firearm, but you've written in your book that a pair of fists can be a deadly weapon. I'm looking for more insight into how we navigate those circumstances.


Tom Givens:

And I'm not saying his acquittal was right or wrong. I'm just saying that the guy was a little over half his age, had a reach advantage on. He was in much better physical condition. Those are all things you have to factor in. I'm frankly, a little surprised that he was acquitted completely. I figured a manslaughter charge. But for one thing, and you really can't count on this, but juries are kind of fed up with young, aggressive assholes pushing other people around. A sympathy vote from the jury more than following the law in that particular case. But there are a lot of misrepresentations in the press about the FBI. Say he shot the guy because he threw popcorn. No. That's not why.


Shawn Vincent:

Right. That's the pop culture version of that. Well, that brings up an interesting thing. We're talking about disparity of force. I bet you get a lot of questions about that with the folks that you train, because what you're suggesting there is …  that you have an old guy who looks like he's about to get into a fistfight with a young fit guy who seems pretty keen to go. And Don, that goes into the legal calculus. Doesn't it? When physically one person's not able to... They can't match them through the continuum of force. Right? A fist fight's not going to be an option for them.


Don West:

Yeah. There's clearly a jury instruction in Florida specifically to that where if the alleged victim of the shooting is unarmed, that in no way means that the defender couldn't lawfully use deadly force against him. There's no requirement that the other person have a deadly weapon of any sort, including an object like the screwdriver that could be used as a deadly weapon. The question is really whether they posed that threat of serious bodily injury or death. And there's a specific instruction that talks about ability, size, capacity, age, infirmity, those kinds of things that the jury is very well should be focused on by the lawyers. That's the job of the lawyers I think, to be sure that the jury understands what that legal standard is.


That it doesn't require the defender to be hurt first. Doesn't require the other person to have a so-called deadly weapon. It's just that analysis, regardless of there's a disparate ability and force. While there has to be a proportionality of force, you can't meet non-deadly force with deadly force. Even an unarmed attacker as Tom well pointed out is more than capable of using deadly force with just hands and feet and other things that might be readily available.


The cell phone could have entered into that. That's a hard object that if used aggressively and forcefully can cause serious injury. Of course. So, yeah. That's a very important consideration and in no way precludes a lawful finding of self-defense, just because the other person doesn't have a specific deadly weapon.


Tom Givens:

Goes back to what I said a little while ago about getting away from what does he have and think in terms of what can he do. What is the degree of damage? It at stake here, not what specific item does this guy have? Whether it's a cell phone or … it's still something to be used as an impact weapon. And you're going to find this as nt fine one thing and check the box and say, "Okay, I've got a disparity, forced defense." So it's a number of things. If you got a much older gentleman in this case, by a much stronger, much younger offender, you have one guy against three people, three people get him down the ground, start kicking and stomping on him.


What's predictable outcome, a serious injury or death? Small female, big male, males going to have an upper body strength issue and a reach advantage over a typical female. All of these things go into it. Somebody in a wheelchair fighting. It's not a one thing. It's one of the circumstances here that they show that this person was in real risk of death or serious bodily injury. Regardless of the gizmo or lack of gizmo. Hell, more people are murdered with boots every year than with rifles every year. Couple of toe kicks to the side of the head and you're dead. So that's a pretty common issue.


Shawn Vincent:

Well, there's the intent factor that you talk about there. Well, while we're talking about this, Tom, a lot of what you're describing, the laws say that you can defend yourself with deadly force to prevent death, but also great bodily harm. And I think a lot of folks who get into trouble in these situations where maybe they're not facing a firearm from the attacker, is what that definition of great bodily harm is. It's not necessarily a punch to the face. There's a lot of nuance with this. So how do you navigate that with your clients and your students on how to describe what great bodily harm is?


Tom Givens:

Yeah, we are not talking about broken fingernails, bloody noses, split lips, black eyes, or they're not talking about that sort of ... That's bodily injury and not serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injuries, in our view, are things like protracted unconsciousness. What's the first step in dying? Protracted unconsciousness. Large painful bleeding wounds. I know a guy that a biker stuck a buck knife in right above belt level on one side and pulled it hard up to the other side. And literally eviscerated him, dropped everything in his lower torso, out onto a parking lot, but he survived, but that's a serious injury. He was in the hospital for quite a while. He was a little sick for a while. As we say he meant it. Let's say he meant that but that's still deadly force.


If something puts out an eye, tears off an arm, you're not going to die from that. Modern trauma care is such that nearly nobody dies. The murders in this country are the very tip of the iceberg. When we left Memphis in 2014, so I haven't bothered to check since then, but I got figures for 2013. There are 20 hospitals in the Memphis metropolitan area, but one of them is the class one trauma center. It's one of the best in the country because they get a lot of practice. In 2013, they treated 3,100 people for gunshots, 3,100. Less than a hundred of them that were presented, a lot died from those injuries. They saved the rest of them. There were 154 actual murders that year in Memphis, but there were over 9,000 aggravated assaults.

50, 60 years ago, and a very large number of those would've been fatalities, but with modern trauma care, there are not. So the fact that something doesn't kill you doesn't mean somebody wasn't trying to kill you. It means the modern trauma care intervened, and you survived, but you might be screwed up for life as a result of that. I know one guy who went from being an athletic, active, well-involved father to being somebody who's pretty much stuck on the couch because of the bullet through his heart.


He survived, but his cardiac capacity's just nothing now. I know another of the young woman who was fully able till she was shot with a shotgun. Now she's blind in both eyes and lost use of her right arm. She's right-handed. And so now she's going to go through the rest of her life blind and with only her non-dominant arm to function with. And neither of them died, but those are both deadly force. So those are serious bodily injuries.


Shawn Vincent:

There's another instance where we see good people get into trouble in a self-defense scenario, nd that's the application of force after there's been a break in contact or after the attacker has retreated or deescalated or removed the imminent threat. Talk to me a little bit about that in your experience.


Tom Givens:

Well that's retaliation or revenge. That's not defense. Now the law allows you to stop aggressive behavior against you. When the aggressive behavior stopped what hell are you defending against? It's no longer self-defense at that point. Have you guys interviewed Claude Werner?


Shawn Vincent:

We have.


Tom Givens:

Well, Claude does a lot of work on what he calls negative outcomes. Comes through news reports every day and every day finds some. And though his most common negative outcomes are people that hear somebody outside rummaging through their car, in the driveway, in the middle of the night and go outside. He jumps out of the car and runs off, an idiot throws a shot at him. And then they're just baffled when the police show up and arrest him charge them with aggravated assault. They're just baffled, "But it's my stuff." "Yeah, but it's stuff. You can shoot people over his stuff and the guy wasn't even stealing your stuff anymore. He was running away." So, that kind of knee-jerk reaction with a gun is what gets an awful lot of people into trouble.


If you have something in your car worth somebody's life, take it out of the damn car, put it in the house. Now, if there's nothing in your car worth somebody's life, where are you going outside with a gun to confront a guy? Now, when you go out with a gun, you've already escalated the situation to almost the inevitability of using force. Stay in the house call the police.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah. That “negative outcomes,” that's one of the attributed plagiarism I use all the time. I love that term because what we're trying to avoid both from a physical standpoint and from a legal standpoint. So, how do you handle folks? Because I think one of the things that leads people into trouble, and this is a mindset thing, this is one of those software things is, we did one case of the guy up in Minnesota who allowed two teenagers to break into his house. And he used that as an opportunity to essentially execute them in his basement. Right? That's the extreme version of it.


But we seen other cases where there was just one shot fired out of eight after the person had fallen to the ground, and the first seven might have been justified, but they get convicted for that eighth shot. Right. Or this idea that someone just robbed you and now it's over and they're running away and you finally get your gun out or you're chasing after the burglar, outside the front door of your house. And now you're in a position to shoot them in the back or to chase them out into the street and have a fight out there. This is where people get into trouble. It's understandable that when that adrenaline starts pumping. Right. Maybe it might be hard to take that fear, separate it from the anger and know when that moment stops.


Tom Givens:

I think, proper prior training can help a lot with that. We have to remodel the way people think about these issues. And that's a training issue. Yeah. One of the things we use is the problem of necessity or the “doctrine of necessity.” Was it necessary to shoot this guy? I tell people all the time, if you can honestly say to yourself, honestly, "If I don't shoot this clown right now, I'm going to be killed or crippled." And you go right ahead and shoot this guy. But if you can't honestly say that, then leave your gun alone.


Shawn Vincent:

Steve, you've had the good fortune to study with Tom before haven't you?.


Steve Moses:

Oh, I've probably taken somewhere between 15 and 20 classes from him. Including I took a class last year, master firearms instructor class, and I'm actually going to take a revolver class from him next year. And I wouldn't be surprised if I don't end up taking another class from him in 2022. I just can't stay away from Tom.


Shawn Vincent:

Well, I consider you, Steve, like a trainer's trainer at this point, right? You train people who train other people, and you're just such a long term student of this. One thing I love about you is that no matter how much you know, you still think of yourself as a student, you're always learning. And tell me some of the things that you've learned or had reinforced or really admired about how Tom approaches firearms instruction.


Steve Moses:

Well, I first took a class from Tom, I believe it was in 1999. And since then I've done my best to take a class from him literally every year or at least attend a block of instruction that he teaches at the Tac-Con conference, which he is range master. That's actually his conference. And the thing that really helps me out is basically I get to experience a lot of scenarios, situations, and benefit from what I refer to as indirect experience. That's experience that he has gleaned over the years so that when I approach a situation now, even though I may have never physically been involved in something like that, I already have kind of an idea of what the scenario might look like and what might be the appropriate action.

And I made reference earlier to, I think it's in the best interest of concealed carriers to avoid conflict, comport themselves in such a matter that they're not chosen as victims. If indeed, they think perhaps they might have been targeted to disengage immediately, if not deescalate and then last defend but defend very appropriately using all, and I'll just go ahead and use this term that some people may frown on it, but surprise, speed and violence of action and then know when to turn that off. I think that's critical. And that is something that Tom teaches better than almost any other instructor that I've taken courses from.

And when I say that, that's with due respect to a lot of really outstanding instructors. But Tom has just codified that in such a way that he provided me with so much material at the very get go. And the other thing about Tom is, Tom is not stuck in the past. He is constantly updating his program. He makes changes. He makes revisions based upon new knowledge and experiences that he has. And so it's why so many of my articles that I've written, I've made reference to Tom Givens or what Tom Givens has said, what Tom Givens teaches. And that's one of the reasons that I was throwing Tom's name out, is I thought he's just a perfect guest for an upcoming podcast.


Tom Givens:

Thanks, Steve. Appreciate it. I first met Steve 20 years ago. More than that actually. For several years, I was on the staff of SWAT magazine for several years. And my job, every issue was to go to a different school and write him up for the magazine. That's a dream job for a trainer because I got to travel around and still audit how other schools do things.


And I went and observed Steve and his partners teach a class and was impressed with him and wrote him up for the magazine. Next, started our collaboration over two decades ago. And as you said, Steve's a consummate, professionally, still takes training at this level, which a lot of people stop training. It's like I already said, I know everything. None of us have all the pieces of the puzzle. It's important to keep collecting. That's what you want.


Shawn Vincent:

All right, everybody. That's the podcast for today. Thanks for listening through to the end. Join us next time where we're going to have part two of our conversation with Tom Givens. We're going to talk about defensive display, warning shots. We're going to get a little bit more into the hardware aspects of self-defense and about the value of visualization. Until then be smart, stay safe. Take care.



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