12 June 12
Deliberately shooting to “wound,” or ‘disable,” rather than “kill”
At a Defensive Pistol Class last weekend, one of my students, a lovely young wife, pregnant with her first child, asked about the idea of using her pistol to “wound” a home-invasion suspect, rather than shoot him in a way that would likely produce death. Like so many, she was struggling with the concept of “lethal force.”
Her struggle is surely understandable, and, while I sympathize with the inherent difficulty of confronting the concept of lethal force, as her teacher I have no option but to thoroughly acquaint her, and all students, with the stark truth!
The deliberate discharge of a firearm in the direction of a violent felon is considered by our criminal-justice system to be inherently “lethal,” regardless of “intent” of the shooter. Therefore, when you, by choice, discharge a firearm in someone’s direction, you are employing “lethal force,” even when you consciously miss (eg: fire a “warning shot”), or attempt to strike the person in an ostensibly non-critical portion of his body (eg: a “wounding shot”).
Firing a “warning” shot will engender terror and panic among members of the public who witness or hear it. Also, the act requires the shooter to momentarily take his eyes off a potentially homicidal offender, and it is difficult for anyone to predict exactly where warning shot(s), and ricochet(s), will ultimately impact, thus placing innocent bystanders in jeopardy. Moreover, warning shots may cause police, and/or legally-armed citizens, to mistakenly conclude that the shooter is deliberately firing at a violent felon, with good cause, or that the shooter, and the offender, are firing at officers, thus setting the stage for a tragic, mistaken police response.
In the same way “wounding” shots are contraindicated. Deliberately attempting to wound “non-fatally” a VCA who is threatening your life, via deliberately aiming for an ostensibly non-vital area of his body, such as an arm or leg, is difficult and dangerous. Such shots usually miss altogether, and, even when they do hit where intended, they are seldom effective in quickly stopping the offender’s life-threatening actions. Additionally, they require a degree of accuracy that is dubious for most gun-owners, even most police officers, in typical life-threatening situations. So, attempting to inflict ostensibly non-fatal wounds may actually make matters worse, by prolonging the fight, and exacerbating risk-exposure to you, other innocent parties, even the felon himself.
There is another serious issue with deliberately attempting to “wound,” but not kill, a violent offender, via gunfire. By indicating that you only intended to wound him, you may seriously compromise your subsequent claim of “self-defense.” One is legally justified in applying lethal force against a deadly threat only when the threat is ostensibly genuine and imminent. Thus, from the fact that you admittedly chose to apply less than the maximum force available to you, one might logically conclude that you were not in fear for your life and did not really believe lethal force was necessary in the first place.
To reiterate, any intentional discharge of a firearm in the direction of another person is considered an exercise in lethal force, regardless of your expressed intent, or ultimate result. When you are legally justified in employing lethal force against a threat, and have decided to do so, you are simultaneously justified in fatally wounding (killing) the person. When you are not justified in traumatically ending the offender’s life then and there, you are not justified in firing at all. Your sincerely articulated “intended outcome,” ceases to be relevant once you press the trigger.
“In for a penny; in for a pound!” It is not legally possible for you to “shoot him a little bit!”
None can accurately predict total damage a bullet (any kind of bullet, from any kind of gun, striking anywhere on the body) will ultimately produce. You may attempt a shot to an extremity, and you may even be successful, but your bullet may perforate an artery, and, as a direct result, the person may bleed to death, even when that outcome was not your “intention.” And, even when death does not result, some degree of permanent disablement/impairment/disfigurement surely will. No one ever “recovers completely” from a gunshot wound!
The maxim is:
Shot placement that will most likely stop violent, criminal behavior is also likely to generate wounds that prove fatal. The two outcomes are inseparably linked!
All my students must confront the inescapable fact that employing gunfire in self-defense, no matter your intent, is likely to result in traumatic death to the VCA(s) in question.
Within that prison of circumstance, you have no choice but to place you own safety, and the safety of your family, at the top of your list. Otherwise, there is no point in owning a gun!
No way around it!
“Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser!”
Las Vegas Maxim