Meditations on honour


A slippery word, it is one of the many whose meaning changes depending upon whom is speaking it.

Tonight, I’d like to riff upon a certain group of people who should hold honour most dear, yet among whom are those who treat honour as if it were merely kleenex. Or worse.

I speak of instructors.

Most students believe that they are seeking skills when they go to a school or an instructor.

This is, indeed, the case. However, the skills the instructors imparts to you must — must — be backed in full by his honour.

In the aftermath of any use of deadly force, there are two legal processes that immediately come into play: 1) Criminal; and 2) Civil.

The criminal aspect is immediate and is represented by the attentions of the Grand Jury — and should you fall afoul of the Grand Jury, at your criminal trial.

The Civil aspect is when someone — the critter, kith and/or kin of the critter, Justice Department, whoever — sues you.

In your criminal case, the Court must see you as Innocent Until Proven Guilty. And you must be found guilty “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”, the State has the burden of proving your guilt, and your guilt must be agreed to by all twelve “Good Men and True” of your jury.

In your civil case(s), on the other paw, the plaintiff suing you has to convince a majority of the jury that a “Preponderance of Evidence” shows that the plaintiff is entitled to what he/she is asking for. Usually everything you own, owned, or plan on owning in the future.

To my mind, far too many instructors choose to ignore the civil aspect of their instruction — and worse, in the name of “cutting edge tacticality” many instructors actively pursue avenues of instruction which are not only civilly damaging, but are criminally shaky also.

Folks, if you take nothing else from my blog, take this to heart: the honour of your instructor may — may, I say — not be a factor in the criminal aftermath of your incident.

The honour of your instructor WILL be a factor in the civil aftermath. Period.

Too many folks think only of surviving the criminal part — everybody hopes to be no-billed by the Grand Jury. Too few folks are taking steps to ensure that they survive the inevitable lawsuit that will follow. There seems to be this conception that as long as you get no-billed, everything else is gravy.

Nobody ever seems to ponder what it would be like to survive the Grand Jury, only to sell every gun you own — to sell every possession you own — in order to hand a cash judgement to the scumbag family of the scumbag critter you were forced to lay in a dirt bed.

And it is your civil trial where your tax refunds, the college funds of your children, your retirement, everything … rests on the reputation — on the honour — of your instructor.

This goes double if the people suing you manage to attract the attention and aid of a civil rights organization, such as the Southern Poverty Law Centre, the ACLU, or the like.

In seeking instructors, first you must Trust, But Verify. If your instructor makes claims — verify them. Somedays it seems like every new instructor I see advertisements for has a personal cemetery larger than the whole of Arlington.

And the number of firefights — Sweet Shivering Shiva! I didn’t realize that half of the cities and towns in the U.S. of A. were actually worse than Beirut or Belfast in the Bad Olde Days.


If your potential instructor likes to talk about the firefights he’s survived — verify. Shoot-outs get investigated — especially if a peace officer was involved. Such investigation is a matter of public record, and the Freedom Of Information Act is your friend.

This goes double for killings. Self-defense shootings go before a Grand Jury. Grand Jury findings are — again — a matter of public record.

Trust me. You do not want the jury to hear all about the dozens of deadly shoot-outs your instructor was in, just before a civil rights lawyer dramatically proves that he’s a liar.

To the jury, you just turned into a Rambo wannabe — and only a majority of them have to feel this way.

In the same vein, talk to other folks who have taken this instructors classes. Search the various Internet gun forums for your prospective instructors name. If the instructor teaches tactics that you find morally or legally questionable — find someone else.

My paw to Odin, I have had firearms instructors tell me — recently — that old bushwa about “If’n you shoot someone in your front yard, be sure to drag ’em into the house ‘fore you call the cops.”

Another shining example of the breed solemnly intoned, “After the shootin’ stops, check the bad guy. If’n he’s still breathing, shoot him in the head. Dead critters can’t sue you none.”

No, you profligate moron, but his relatives can.

Do you think anyone who’s just gone through a self-defense shooting wants either of these two idiots on the witness stand in front of a tax-payer-funded ACLU lawyer with all that you own hanging in the balance?

You think I jest, but large law firms and civil rights groups have battalions of investigators with nothing better to do than dig up everything they can find on you.

Like it or not, the choice of instructor — his reputation, his standing, his honour — can have a major impact both civilly and criminally should you be unfortunate enough to wind up using his skills in a deadly force encounter.

Choose your instructors carefully. Choose deliberately. Choose wisely.


At last, someone listened to me!

22 thoughts on “Meditations on honour”

  1. Damn good advice.

    I’ve been in two situations where I would have probably been justified to shoot but thanks to a good instructor and some common sense I was able to de-escalate and find another way to resolve the situation.

  2. Thanks, LawDog. Your blogging of this is timely, especially with respect to all the “bloodlust” chest-thumping that went on at THR. Many of those Keyboard Kommandos forget that after the criminal case is no-billed, the surviving family of the ventilated and/or deceased have another legal avenue to bleed the shooter dry, and it won’t take a unanimous jury decision to make it happen. 🙁

  3. For those of you who missed it, the NRA recently blackballed longtime outdoorsman and gun enthusiast Jim Zumbo because he dared to say that there is absolutely no reason for people to use military-style assault weapons to go hunting. This seemed like a no-brainer to me (for instance, why would hunters even want to use an AK-47 to go after deer and squirrels? Isn’t that like playing tennis with a racket the size of a garbage can lid, or playing baseball with a beach ball you couldn’t miss? An assault weapon would blow poor Bambi to bits. Where’s the sportsmanship in that Mr. Hunter guy?)

    um dog I pulled this from some moonbat blog that was linked in the high road.

    looks like we didnt act fast enough. well um.

    Well I think that the civil side needs to be changed to where if you are not criminaly liable you should have a limit on the amount they can go after.


  4. I think if you aren’t criminally liable, you should not be civilly liable either. Smacks of double jepardy. and those asinine Fed civil suits really piss me off.

  5. Excellent post, as always. I’ve had instructors lecture at great length about what they refer to as “problems 2 and 3 (criminal and civil liability)” (problem 1 being winning the fight). Some advice I’ve taken to heart is; if you have to think about shooting or not, you probably should not be shooting (i.e. have your own internal “triggers” set well before a deadly force encounter).

    Also, errors of ommission are often much less than errors of commission.

  6. Good advice Dog,
    A first thought. If the instructor has such bad judgement that he or she has been in “many shootouts”, do you really want to learn from them?
    A second thought. If you constantly find yourself in a place where you want a gun, think about where you are hanging out.

    A third thought. If you constantly find your self in the company of people who make you want a gun, think about who you are hanging out with.

    I can’t rember all the times I have cautioned a CCH class with those words, and seen a face where the light just came on. You can bet I tell them all, the law, tell the truth, be in the right, run if you can, shoot if you must.

    I will be adding more detail about civil suits.

  7. The last instruction given in the last class I took (defensive pistol) was to write the instructor’s name and telephone number on the cover of the manual we were given. This was expressly done so that in the event of a shooting we could easily contact him as a witness. Good training, right attitude.

  8. “After the shootin’ stops, check the bad guy. If’n he’s still breathing, shoot him in the head. Dead critters can’t sue you none.”

    This is very, very bad advice in Minnesota. If the goblin is alive, the chance of being successfully sued is gone. By law, he’s not allowed to profit from his crime.

    If he dies, his family can hit you with a wrongful death suit.

  9. A small point- ACLU is not funded by tax dollars.

    Considering the organization was established to fight the federal government’s actions in the Palmer raids, and has generally taken a position opposing government and large business interests, how likely does it seem that it WOULD be funded by the government?

    Read that web petition carefully, and do some research if you don’t believe this.

  10. Anonymous, since the idea of Double Jeopardy only applies to criminal prosecution, a civil case can not be construed as jeopardy in the legal sense. As always Lawdog a timely and well written post. Thank you,

  11. One small point. In many states, “Castle Doctrine” laws have been passed in which citizens in places where they have a legal right to be (the specifics vary by state, some include your car or a public sidewalk, others don’t) are not required to retreat if they are faced with a threat. Most (but not all) also impart some level of immunity from civil prosecution as well. Texas has such a law wending it’s way through the legislature as I type and it is expected to pass. It would remove the legal necessity of retreat from a threat, and it would prevent civil prosecution if the shooting is ruled self-defense.

  12. Great post Lawdog, very informative. I have been thinking about being a concealed carry holder for a while now, but the responsibilities of this seem far greater than I had previously imagined. That and the fact that I live in may-issue New York does not help. Any New Yorkers here that can tell me my chances of getting a permit?


  13. that old bushwa about “If’n you shoot someone in your front yard, be sure to drag ’em into the house ‘fore you call the cops.”

    I know a retired Detroit police officer that detected something pretty much like this. Shopowner got tired of opening up in the morning only to find his shop had already been opened – with a crowbar. So he slept in the shop one night with a shotgun. He told a pretty good story about how he was woke up by the sound of the back door breaking and had to shoot two thugs in self-defense as they came in through it, leaving both bodies laying just inside the door.

    The physical evidence inside the shop supported this well enough. Anyhow, with the records these guys had, the cops weren’t about to quibble over self-defense, or even worry too much about why one guy took his hit in the back. But then my buddy took a walk down the alley behind the store and found bloodstains and drag marks. The final conclusion was that the first one was a good shooting, but they had to prosecute the shopowner for chasing the second one down the alley, shooting him, and dragging his body back.

    If you think of Detroit as a town dominated by people just like the one’s Lawdog called Big Momma, Opal, and their kinfolk, you’ll understand why my buddy was right sorry about finding this evidence, but a cop’s still got to enforce the law…

    So the first moral is, if the first shot don’t get him, don’t chase after him and drag him back. And the second moral is, if you forget the first one, you’d better be real good at cleanup.

  14. “Texas has such a law wending it’s way through the legislature as I type and it is expected to pass. It would remove the legal necessity of retreat from a threat, and it would prevent civil prosecution if the shooting is ruled self-defense.”

    I have to agree in principle if not legally. I can’t legally because, many things depend on what county you are in.

    But in principle, retreat removed from being the law, you still have to prove that you were in danger or the threat was such that you believed you were in serious danger(or harm to your family) at the moment you decided to pull the trigger.

    That proof is a strange and hard thing to prove to 12 people who don’t know you.

    I still hope the bill passes, as it will be of some help to many.

    But, remember, you are allowed by law to carry a pistol (not in plain sight) in your car and not have to have the old excuse of “traveling”. But many counties still will arrest you, take your gun even if you are not a felon and have broken no law (except maybe a traffic law, since you were stopped.)

    So don’t depend on all law enforcement in Texas to follow or enforce the Texas state laws the same.

    Papa Ray
    West Texas

  15. My parents (living in San Angelo, TX) had an ACTUAL COP tell them that if they ever shoot someone in their house and he gets out, drag him back in. He said if they find a dead intruder inside a house, that’s the end of the investigation. Luckily, my parents are not stupid enough to follow that advice, but I still can’t believe that a cop told them that! Wonder if it was actually true in San Angelo at that time, or was he just an idiot shooting off his mouth…..?

  16. The bill is HB 284 and the Senate companion bill is SB 378. You can follow the link here:

    Findlaw, as a appendage of the Brady campaign, in typical liberal fashion says it will protect criminals. And that there has never been such a thing as malicious prosecution of a person acting in self defense… uhhuh, right….

    Both bills are out of committee and are set for the full houses to vote on.

  17. The money quote from the bill:

    SECTIONA2. Section 9.31, Penal Code, is amended by amending
    Subsection (a) and adding Subsections (e) and (f) to read as
    (a)Except as provided in Subsection (b), a person is
    justified in using force against another when and to the degree the
    actor [he] reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary
    to protect the actor [himself] against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force. The actor’s belief that the force was immediately necessary as described by this subsection is presumed to be reasonable if the actor knew or had reason to believe that the person against whom the force was used:
    (1) unlawfully entered, or was attempting to enter
    unlawfully, the actor’s habitation, vehicle, or place of business
    or employment;
    (2) unlawfully removed, or was attempting to remove unlawfully, the actor from the actor’s habitation, vehicle, or
    place of business or employment; or
    (3) was committing or attempting to commit aggravated
    kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault,
    robbery, or aggravated robbery.
    (e) person who has a right to be present at the location
    where the force is used, who has not provoked the person against
    whom the force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity
    at the time the force is used is not required to retreat before
    using force as described by this section.
    (f) For purposes of Subsection (a), in determining whether
    an actor described by Subsection (e) reasonably believed that the
    use of force was necessary, a finder of fact may not consider
    whether the actor failed to retreat.

  18. LawDog and all:

    Here’s a timely story that just happened today:

    Basically, couple of guys broke into a steel fabricating shop to steel some stainless steel sheets. The owner, who has been sleeping on the premises was waken up by the alarm, went outside where the material was stored and confronted the two. Police say he fired 8 shots at the FLEEING truck, hitting it at least 4 times, killing one man on the spot. The other managed to run away.

    Without knowing actual details, it appears that the suspects were not threatening him. I don’t know if they already had stolen material in the truck (protecting his property). Was he justified?

    I know many will say “the next sommbitch that breaks in gonna eat lead”, BUT this is exactly the kind of case that the gun grabbers like to point out as a reason people shouldn’t be allowed to own guns…

    Your thoughts?

  19. The sermon you give is the reason we need good “stand your ground” or Castle Doctrine” laws.

    It would give a person who used deadly force civil protections,but only if found justified from a DA or Grand Jury.

    This way a crimimal, if wounded or killed, family wouldn’t be able to profit from the crimial activity and ruin a law abiding and produtive citizes life

    But, I do agree that one shouldn’t get your legal advice from a weapons trainer, but from a lawyer.

  20. Good post, something too few people consider.

    My own resolution of this issue so far is:

    I assume that every time I shoot in self defense, the civil suit will bankrupt me. Therefore, I’ll only shoot if I’m sure enough that I have no other way to save a life that’s worth trading all my goods for.

    On the few occasions I’ve taught CCW classes, I’ve been amazed at the eagerness of some people to get into a shooting. Combat seems to have an odd attraction to some people who have not experienced it.

    Even the most justified use of self defense is no picnic and should be avoided at all costs but the cost of surrender. Run if you can is good advice.

  21. This seemed like a no-brainer to me (for instance, why would hunters even want to use an AK-47 to go after deer and squirrels? Isn’t that like playing tennis with a racket the size of a garbage can lid, or playing baseball with a beach ball you couldn’t miss? An assault weapon would blow poor Bambi to bits. Where’s the sportsmanship in that Mr. Hunter guy?)

    The 7.62 x 39mm cartridge fired by the AK and SKS type rifles is no more powerful than the common .30-30 deer cartridge, and is no more accurate or likely to “blow poor Bambi to bits.”

    You are being a “useful idiot” to the anti-2A socialists.

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