Gun World - - Cleared Hot - Brian Berry is a re­tired Army Spe­cial Forces Com­mand sergeant ma­jor. He is a for­mer Spe­cial Forces weapons sergeant and has mul­ti­ple com­bat tours un­der his belt. Brian is the co-founder of Spar­tan De­fen­sive Con­cepts, at which he teaches con­cealed carry an

There seems to be a great amount of na­tional de­bate these days about whether guns save lives or only take them. There also seems to be a great deal of mis­in­for­ma­tion on both sides of the coin. When I am pre­sent­ing a con­cealed-carry class, I am of­ten sur­prised by the amount of laws and le­gal use of firearms that even gun own­ers don’t com­pletely un­der­stand. On the other side, I am not sur­prised by the amount of false rep­re­sen­ta­tion that the anti-gun crowd puts out as the truth.

Be­fore we get too far, I am not a lawyer. I present this as food for thought based on years as a firearms in­struc­tor. You should un­der­stand the laws in your lo­cale be­fore at­tempt­ing any ac­tion in­volv­ing us­ing your firearm for de­fense.


One of the big­gest mis­un­der­stand­ings is about the use of deadly force, when it can be used and what it ac­tu­ally means.

For starters, deadly force is de­scribed “as any force in­flicted on an­other that would cause se­ri­ous bod­ily in­jury, or death.” That means that “im­mi­nent death” isn’t nec­es­sary for a sce­nario to fall un­der the cri­te­ria for use of deadly force. It also means that us­ing any weapon, whether it’s a gun, a bladed weapon, blunt ob­ject (base­ball bat), or even your hands or feet against an­other could be con­sid­ered the use of deadly force.

It also has to do with the amount of force. Push­ing some­one to the ground might not fall into the cri­te­ria, but push­ing them off a cliff or in front of a mov­ing car might.

In any case, the use of deadly force should be the last re­sort. When all else has failed to re­move your­self from a bad sit­u­a­tion, deadly force may be used. Even then, it will be ques­tioned and scru­ti­nized in court. Every le­gal gun owner should be aware of that.


There also is an old say­ing that it is bet­ter to be judged by 12 than be car­ried by six. If you have ever sat in jury se­lec­tion, you might want to re­think that one. Most court cases are de­cided by the skill of a de­fense lawyer or a pros­e­cu­tor. Your story must be be­liev­able, and your lawyer must make it be­liev­able.


So, bear­ing this in mind, it should also be noted that the use of deadly force may be used in de­fense of oth­ers. This means that the threat to that other per­son needs to fall un­der the same cri­te­ria as if the threat were to you. If there is no fear of death or se­ri­ous bod­ily harm, you can­not use deadly force to de­fend

an­other per­son. In this case, if you stum­ble upon a sit­u­a­tion go­ing down, you had bet­ter know the whole story and not just a snip­pet in time that you have seen.

Let’s look at a sce­nario al­ready in progress: You come around a cor­ner and see a rather large man on top of a much smaller one. The larger man is us­ing what is com­monly called “ground and pound” in mixed mar­tial arts cir­cles. Both men are in civil­ian clothes, and the bot­tom man is se­verely blood­ied. What do you do?

At the out­set, this looks like a cut-and-dry case of de­fend­ing the smaller man from a bru­tal beat­ing likely to cause his death. How­ever, in re­al­ity, it could be a good sa­mar­i­tan sub­du­ing a man

he sur­prised who was in the midst of rap­ing a young woman in an al­ley sev­eral blocks away. He has chased the as­sailant to this point and is at­tempt­ing to ar­rest him.

Not know­ing the whole story could prove dis­as­trous—for you and the sa­mar­i­tan. This could have also been a case of the smaller or larger man be­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer. It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand all the facts, as much as pos­si­ble, be­fore tak­ing any ac­tion.


An­other of the is­sues that seems to come up of­ten is the pro­tec­tion of prop­erty. The use of deadly force is not ap­pro­pri­ate to pro­tect prop­erty. Catch­ing some­one in your drive­way steal­ing your tires or in your back­yard help­ing them­selves to your prop­erty is not a rea­son to use deadly force on them. Un­less your life is threat­ened, this is best left to the po­lice and your in­sur­ance com­pany.


Sev­eral re­cent cases have caused great prob­lems for gun own­ers who thought they were do­ing the right thing when, in fact, they were break­ing the law. There was a case in which a home im­prove­ment store was be­ing robbed and a con­cerned cit­i­zen fol­lowed the rob­ber to the park­ing lot. She fired upon the de­part­ing ve­hi­cle, which landed her in jail and later caused her con­cealed­carry priv­i­leges to be re­voked. In a sep­a­rate in­ci­dent, a man who had been robbed on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions left his garage door open and killed a would-be rob­ber as he en­tered. The home­owner was later charged and con­victed of mur­der.

It should go with­out say­ing that gun own­ers have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to un­der­stand the laws re­gard­ing the le­gal use of firearms in gen­eral. Per­haps more im­por­tantly, they should un­der­stand the le­gal use of firearms used for de­fen­sive pur­poses.

Ir­re­spon­si­ble gun own­ers give fuel to those who at­tempt to take away our Se­cond Amend­ment rights. It should also be noted that this is a very small mi­nor­ity of le­gal gun own­ers. As a de­mo­graphic, con­cealed-carry hold­ers across the coun­try com­prise one of the most law-abid­ing groups—more law abid­ing than even those who en­force the laws.

Do your part and know the gun laws in your state, as well as those in any state to which you travel with your gun un­der rec­i­proc­ity laws. GW

Not every en­counter you come across will be as easy to read as this one. Make sure you un­der­stand the whole sit­u­a­tion be­fore you com­mit to it. In all sit­u­a­tions such as this, if pos­si­ble, call 911 first and stay on the line. (Photo: Juan Monino, Getty Im­ages)

Un­less your life is threat­ened, this is likely not a sit­u­a­tion for which the use of deadly force will be jus­ti­fi­able. Make sure you un­der­stand the le­gal cri­te­ria in your state be­fore you en­gage. (Photo: Wes­tend61, Getty Im­ages)

A thief mak­ing his get­away with your be­long­ings does not fall un­der the cri­te­ria for deadly force. Call the po­lice and your in­sur­ance com­pany. Avoid a need­less court date. (Photo: Claylib, Getty Im­ages)

With­out more in­for­ma­tion, there is no way of know­ing

what is go­ing on here. Call 911; in­ject your­self as a last re­sort—and only to pre­vent death or serous bod­ily harm. (Photo: Dan­ishkhan,

Getty Im­ages)

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