A few weeks ago, we published a blog post about “sticker shock,” sharing that strong political messages or other statements on bumper stickers could cause potential issues since bumper stickers often indicate that the owner is more dedicated to that particular cause or expression than is 85 percent of the population.
Having read the post, Larry V. reached out to me via email to ask a very valid question — one that I’ve thrown around in many conversations over the years. He wrote: “Your bumper sticker article struck a chord with me. Yesterday, I saw a pickup with the USCCA bumper sticker. Can the same twisted logic you discuss about ‘those’ kind of bumper stickers be applied to the USCCA sticker? Can a prosecutor or claimant’s lawyer say that because someone is a USCCA member, [he or she feels] empowered to use a gun when [he or she] should have just run away?”
Since I am not a lawyer (and have never played one on TV), I used this opportunity to reach out — again — to my friend Greg Hopkins, an attorney and instructor with Alabama Legal Defense Academy. He kindly replied with some thoughts.
“Good question,” he began. “We need to be aware of the difference between a political statement supporting a position and an implied threat or attitude that can easily be interpreted that you’re eager for a chance to hurt someone. All crimes of violence are intentional. And lawyers are always allowed to probe for evidence of intent and motive. A T-shirt with ‘Kill ‘em all! Let God sort ‘em out!’ WILL be construed to the jury as indifference to human life, law and even basic safety.
“Here’s just a taste of what opposing counsel will do to you:
‘So, Mr. Smith, you’ll spray and pray in a crowded theater? You don’t care how many innocent people you hit, just as long as you shoot the bad guy? [I see you have] a bumper sticker that reads ‘I don’t call 911, I call .357!’ So … you don’t believe in calling police, Mr. Smith? You’ll pull a gun just because a guy cuts you off in traffic? You’ll shoot someone walking off with your lawnmower or trespassing on your property? Are you aware that the law forbids deadly force in those situations? Or do you just not care?’
“If you protest that you DO follow the law, [the prosecutor may] reply with:
‘But you tell the whole world by your signs that you DON’T intend to follow the law! Don’t you?’
“[On the other hand, a bumper sticker that reads] ‘I support the USCCA’ or ‘I’m the NRA, and I vote’ can be easily defended as support for organizations that:
- 1. Uphold the law and teach others to follow it.
- 2. Teach and train hundreds of thousands of people (including police) about gun safety.
- 3. Provide people with information on safety on the street, in the home, at church and in school.
- 4. Have a record of reducing gun accidents by helping citizens know when NOT to use force and how to handle problems legally.
So, while political statements are easily defensible, something like, ‘Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again!’ is a recipe for legal disaster.”
I hope Greg’s explanation helps with the question of whether or not a USCCA decal is one of “those” stickers. It’s definitely a question many people have tried to sort through. Undoubtedly, we each have to make decisions about what messages we share, whether through our spoken words, our comments and posts on social media, or the items plastered on our vehicles. Hopefully those decisions are always well-intended and well-thought-out.
“Frankly, I’m glad I belong to USCCA,” Larry V. asserted, “and from my perspective, I have become more conscientious toward being vigilant and prepared so I can avoid trouble whenever possible. Thank you for your organization and support!”
And thank you, Larry … and all of our USCCA supporters. Go ahead and use that USCCA decal with pride, knowing that whatever you stick that on, we’re sticking by you.