From the moment you employ your firearm in what you believe to be self-defense, you will face some critical decisions. Many of them will depend on what level of force you use.
The initial dividing line is between simply threatening your assailant and actually discharging your firearm. And if shots are fired, the line moves based on if anyone is harmed.
No Shots, No Problem. Right?
Wrong. It surprises a lot of people to learn that most prosecutions of legally armed citizens are for incidents in which no shots are fired. If you are accosted in a parking lot by a mugger who immediately runs off when you draw your gun, you may think you don’t even need to call 911.
But you’d be wrong. ANY time you employ your firearm in any way, you must call 911. Remember that there is a good chance that your attacker will also call 911, claiming you threatened him or her with a gun. He or she may add that you used racist or bigoted language. (Side note: While it is true that in domestic disturbance calls, the police tend to give the most credence to the person who calls first, it is not necessarily the case in most other situations.)
However, if the bad guy calls right away and you don’t call until an hour or two later, it may cause police to question your story. Were you really attacked, or did you only call when you realized you’d made a mistake?
So whether or not shots are fired, call 911 right away. Tell them only your name, your physical location and that you need a police car. Then, hang up and immediately call your lawyer. You do have the number of an attorney in your phone, don’t you? You should.
In a no-shots-fired incident, your attorney may tell you it’s OK to talk. But if your attorney has told you to remain silent until he or she gets there, then do so.
Shots Fired – End of Conversation
When you call 911 for a shots-fired incident, tell the dispatcher your name, your location and that you need a police car and an ambulance (even if suspects have fled). Again, hang up and call your attorney.
Obviously, your attorney is going to tell you to avoid any conversation with law enforcement. However, simply standing there saying nothing can be used against you in court.
Recent court cases have said that you must “immediately, clearly and unambiguously state your desire to remain silent and to wait for your attorney.”
As soon as police arrive, tell them only, “Officer, (he/she/they) tried to kill me. I don’t want to say anything more until my attorney is with me.” Then shut your mouth.
Games (Law Enforcement) People Play
Once you’ve “lawyered up,” police can no longer question you. However, you’re not done. Especially in a case where shots were fired, police can (and will) use a variety of clever techniques to get you to talk (and thus unwittingly rescind your desire to remain silent).
Some of these involve veiled threats. Others are attempts to convince you that they are on your side or that they are only trying to help you. But no matter how sincere they sound, you must continue to say nothing other than, “Officer, I’ll be happy to cooperate as soon as my attorney is here.”
Remember, it may be hours before your attorney arrives.
Meanwhile, stay strong … and stay quiet.
About John Caile
NRA Certified Instructor John Caile has more than 35 years of experience in the firearms industry, including training others in concealed carry and practical handgun shooting skills. As the communications director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, he was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and is a contributing writer for Concealed Carry Magazine. He continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida.