Following a defensive gun use, your ability to prove what training you’ve had could make the difference should you find yourself in the crosshairs of the law.
If you ever wind up in front of a judge or jury in the unenviable position of having to justify an act of self-defense, you will need to prove that your actions were reasonable under the circumstances. Informing the triers of fact about the training you’ve had is the key.
Under the rules of evidence, you have the right to introduce evidence that will help court officials understand your mindset leading to your decision to shoot in self-defense. This evidence may include an instructor explaining what he or she trained you to do under those circumstances.
You can explain the nature and extent of your training and knowledge to the judge or jury, but only if you can document that you possessed that knowledge before the self-defense incident occurred.
For example, let’s say that you shot an individual who was threatening to cut your throat while that person was five steps away from you. If you’d had the right training, you knew before this ever happened that a person five steps away possesses both the ability and the opportunity to use that knife against you. The jury should understand your prior knowledge, so they can decide if a reasonable person would have pulled the trigger when you did, knowing that someone threatening with a knife is a deadly danger to you, even five steps away.
Your ability to introduce properly documented training will greatly aid the court in understanding that your actions were indeed reasonable—and hence justifiable.
You need to document classes you’ve attended, books you’ve read and DVD lectures you’ve viewed so there is no question of what you knew ahead of time. This documentation can be done in several ways. At the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc. we provide members with eight lectures on DVD. On the DVD labels, we print lines for members to initial and date each time they view one of the lectures. You can and should do the same with educational and training DVDs.
Each time you watch an educational DVD, document the viewing with an indelible marker on the disk label and take notes on the material taught. Once you’ve developed a good set of notes, mail the notes to yourself by U.S. Mail, return receipt requested. When the notes come back to you, file the unopened, postmarked envelope in a safe deposit box.
If you ever get a judge who doesn’t believe you knew what the lectures taught, introducing a signed, sealed and delivered copy of notes made while watching the lectures on DVD should do the trick. The same strategy will work for professionally taught classes and books.
Another tactic is to give your notes to an attorney other than your defense attorney and have them filed with your records at the law firm’s office. There may be a small fee for this, but it is worth it. Again, do not secure the notes with your defense attorney, but with someone else so the lawyer holding your notes can testify as an officer of the court that you gave them the documents, something the attorney defending you cannot do. Next, you testify about how you took these notes. Let’s say that perhaps you watched the video three times as your notes would show.
Another way to document material learned by lectures on DVD would be to view training DVDs in a group setting, for example at your gun club. Make a list of all who were present and also saw the video, and then you could call one or more of these people as eye witnesses to having viewed the video.
Get good training, read books by knowledgeable authors and use DVD lectures to increase your understanding of self-defense issues, but do not fool yourself into thinking that is enough. Take good notes and preserve the integrity of those notes with the understanding that they may be the factor that ultimately proves the reasonableness of your self-defense actions.
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