As part of my job with the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, I’ve had the chance to talk with responsibly armed Americans from across the country through our social media pages and online Community. We’ve had numerous conversations about protecting yourself and your loved ones — and not just physically. Protecting your reputation and private information are also important to your safety.
This starts with how to express yourself on social media platforms. I’ve seen a lot of scary comments posted online, such as:
- “I’m gonna keep shooting until the a**hole is dead — then he can’t sue.”
- “I shoot to kill. Better to be judged by 12 than carried by six.”
- “If they break into my house, they’re dead.”
- “[BLANK] is a **** and I hope I’m there to see it when he gets what’s coming to him.”
YIKES! These types of statements don’t paint you as a responsibly armed American and won’t help you in the aftermath of a self-defense incident.
Making Your Lawyer’s Job More Challenging
If you’ve taken a concealed carry class through a USCCA Certified Instructor, you’ve probably seen a video of Michael Martin describing how a prosecuting attorney will investigate your online activity after a self-defense incident. He or she will ask the following types of questions:
- Did you have prior issues with the person who you claim to have defended yourself against? Was there any sort of nasty confrontation online between you two?
- Did you make disparaging, sweeping generalizations online against any group? Was the person you claimed self-defense against part of a group you’ve bad-mouthed?
- Do you come across as a hothead who is willing to argue and have a confrontation about any topic with someone with whom you don’t see eye to eye? Did you use facts to back up your argument or did you choose to make personal attacks?
Your prior public comments may call your claim of self-defense into question. If there are enough questions, it might result in having to go to trial to defend your actions.
A good attorney specializing in self-defense may be able to minimize the effect these types of comments have with a jury, but that takes time. And time in court means more legal expenses, more people questioning your actions and more stress.
Correcting Your Past Mistakes
If you think you’ll have time to “sanitize” your social media comments, PMs/DMs or text messages before a prosecuting attorney can see them, think again. Once something is published, it’s always there — even if you delete it.
If you’ve made these types of comments or have liked or shared posts and memes that might make you appear irresponsible or hot-headed, what do you do now? Make it a point to demonstrate that you’re a responsibly armed American in your posts going forward. While you might have had some public missteps online, showing you’ve learned and have changed how you would handle a situation could be helpful in your legal defense.
This doesn’t mean you can’t share a funny meme, but add a clarifying comment about why it’s funny or indicate that you don’t agree with it and wouldn’t do what it suggests is recommended.
Avoid name-calling and hot-headed comments during passionate online discussions. Stick to discussing facts respectfully.
A Few More Words of Advice
A few other things to keep in mind when you’re posting on any sort of social media platform: If you post pictures of your guns, be sure your photos do not include the serial numbers of the firearms. Lock down your accounts so that only your friends can see what you’re posting. (A quick Google search will show you how to do that on different platforms.)
Never post your contact information (phone number, email address or street address) — even when you’re selling something online. That information can be shared through a private conversation.
Wait until you’re home from vacation to post anything about being away. You don’t want to advertise that your home is empty and an open target for burglars. (I know people who have found this one out the hard way.)
If you are ever in a self-defense incident, DO NOT post about it! Once the legal aftermath is completely over, talk to your attorney about what you can and should not post.
Be a Respectful Gun Owner
Another thing I’ve heard online is, “An armed society is a polite society.” That goes for the online community as well. Everyone online is armed with screen-capture capabilities; therefore, post accordingly.
How else do you keep yourself safe online? Share it with others in the Community by replying below.
About Dawn Albrecht
Dawn Albrecht is the community manager for the USCCA Online Community and a USCCA Certified Instructor. When not chatting with responsibly armed Americans online, she teaches concealed carry classes, women’s handgun fundamentals classes and private lessons at the local range. She’s passionate about helping people learn how to best protect themselves and their loved ones.