A concerned reader recently sent us a note about when you should or should not draw your firearm. I’ll paraphrase it here: Many articles by attorneys and others say never draw unless to fire or you would be charged with brandishing. Then the True Stories Column always gives examples where it (drawing) prevented or stopped a crime and no charges were filed. This is really confusing to me.
Well, here is the deal: You don’t have to fire your pistol every time you draw it. In my tactical pistol shooting classes I actually teach people NOT to fire every time they draw their pistol because that could instill the habit of firing even if the situation doesn’t call for it. What if the bad guy suddenly gave up and thrust his hands high into the air and you, using your verbal skills to turn bystanders into witnesses, now have witnesses watching you shoot a man with his hands in the air? What if the bad guy turned tail and ran at the first sight of your gun?
In both situations, the imminent threat has disappeared and you no longer have the right to shoot. But in both situations the imminent threat could reappear very quickly, so you had better have your gun out and be ready.
The difference between brandishing and drawing your weapon in the face of the threat is your ability to articulate that threat you saw was real. If there was no threat and you pull your gun, well, that is brandishing. If there was a threat and you pulled your gun and the threat instantly disappeared, then you have no right to open fire. But you did have the right to pull your weapon.
This is another reason why you need to be the first person to dial 911 after you pull out your gun. If the bad guy runs around the corner and dials 911 and says, “Some guy just pulled a gun on me!” and gives your description, who do you think the police are going to be looking for? What attitude do you think the police will have when they find you?
On the other hand, what if you are the complaining witness and you tell police, “I was threatened by a man in a white shirt and blue jeans. He ran away when I drew my pistol.” That looks much better for you, doesn’t it?
When police get there, you had better be able to clearly tell them what prompted you to pull your gun. If you cannot, you may be cited for brandishing.