“Justice In The Courtroom”

I think it is fair to say most of us would like to believe justice will prevail in a criminal courtroom procedure.  And yet, many if not most of us have our doubts about the verdicts of certain high profile cases.  As history has shown us, there are “technicalities” and “loopholes” which may result in an unexpected verdict.  There is the concept that the jury will never really know what happened at the scene of the crime.  They will only know what two skillful attorneys who are presenting opposing arguments tell them.  They will only hear and see evidence and testimonies the judge deems admissible in the courtroom.  This may or may not exclude  actual events leading up to the incident, it may exclude the testimony of witnesses who saw or heard something relevant.  Without a video and audio recording of the entire incident, the jury will make their decision based on what they are told and who they consider believable.  “Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” is left to be determined in the minds of 12 jurors, who will likely come from different cultures, differing educational levels, different values and political and spiritual views.  Therefore, it can be very difficult to predict what a jury will decide as the verdict.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme court from 1902 to 1932.  He once remarked:  “Courts are courts of law and not courts of justice.  My interpretation of that remark is that we can expect to receive a decision based on what the law allows, but it may or may not be a decision founded on justice.

Those of us who carry a firearm for defense of self and family assume an enormous amount of responsibility.  Getting a conceal and carry license or carrying based on the constitution is not an end to your potential worries.  In worst case scenarios, it could be just the beginning of severe legal, emotional and financial problems for you and your family.  (Do you expect justice?)  My recommendation to every member of my classes is to make every effort to avoid a violent incident and the use of their firearm whenever possible.  This begins with knowing what is going on around you, and being aware of what people are doing in your immediate area.  Take a look around and notice who is watching you.  Never go someplace with your gun, that you would not go without it.  In today’s society, road rage seems to be all too common.  Do not let some reckless, angry nut draw you into an unnecessary conflict.  Prosecutors can be experts at convincing juries you were now the aggressor if you chase your attacker who is trying to run away, it gets worse if you shoot at the attacker.

Remember, you are carrying that firearm to defend the lives of people, not to shoot some thug who is stealing your hard earned property.  Human life is more valuable than mere property, and the jury will be persuaded of that.  If you find yourself in the terrible situation of trying to defend the life of a stranger involved in a “critical incident,” be sure you know who the good guy is, and the circumstances surrounding the incident.  The last thing you want is to interfere with “deadly force” on behalf of the wrong person.  Call 911 and be a good witness for the police.

 I would feel justified in using my gun only when I knew I was facing a genuine, immediate threat to my life or that of my family which I could not escape, and the use of my gun was the only means of stopping the threat.  Finally, I would have the phone number of competent legal defense attorney on speed dial on my phone.  This is by no means everything you need to know if you carry, but it is a step in the right direction.

Be safe, be prepared, be well represented.

Gun Laws And The People

According to the Crime Prevention Research Center approximately 17,250,000 citizens possess a conceal and carry permit.  That basically means those people probably had to pass 2 background checks before they could purchase a gun and obtain a permit to carry.  Those background checks are conducted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is located at the FBI Information Service Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia.  Just for the sake of conversation, let’s say the average gun owner possesses 3 guns.  That would be 51 million 750 thousand guns.  Let’s further assume each gun owner has 2 boxes (50 rounds each) of ammunition for each gun.  That would be 310 million, 500 thousand rounds of ammunition.  I suggest these numbers are quite understated.  

If legal gun owners were a problem in the United States, I believe we would surely have known long before now.  Stricter gun laws are constantly being argued by those who are not pro-gun supporters, and those who are.  My opinion is it depends on what the new law requires before we can determine if it will deter crime, or simply make things more difficult for law abiding citizens who own or purchase a firearm.  I suspect most of the criminals who possess guns did not buy them legally at any retail store.  What reasonable law will be passed that stops the criminal element from buying guns in streets and alley-ways?  How much better will we enforce the law that already prohibits the theft of firearms?

  One of the ideas being argued is making background checks more strenuous, closing loopholes, etc.  I do not oppose any reasonable, vigorous background check when buying a firearm, or applying for a permit to carry.  My belief is the responsible, law abiding American citizen would pass such a check.  If we initiate new stricter background checks, let’s likewise when it comes to immigration, voter identification, and candidates running for political office.  In my opinion these are also serious problems in our society.  Currently, politicians are not submitted to background screening, this includes, members of congress (both houses) and candidates for President.  It would seem to me that candidates for federal political offices should be required to hold the same ideology that founded this country and has kept it free for 243 years, and have a crime free background.  Perhaps, they should be scrutinized much more strenuously before being given law making power and secret security clearances.  Just food for thought.

Never let bad situations bring out the worst in you.  You are better than that.

Self Defense or Murder?

The following is based off reports of an actual event (true story).  The names and location have been changed to keep my young self out of court and jail.

It was a typical hot, humid evening in Chelsea, Oklahoma.   Andrew Tolson a prominent attorney in town pulled into the post office parking lot.  At 8 p.m. there was minimal traffic so he took a “handicapped” parking space while he quickly checked his legal firm’s mail.  He did not have a handicap nor the required placard to hang from his rear view mirror.

Charlie Gillman, a 69 year old retiree who did have a “handicapped” permit parked his beat-up pick-up in the space next to Tolson’s car.  Charlie was apparently perturbed that Mr. Tolson took a handicapped parking space without the required permit.  Charlie confronted the lawyer and told him he couldn’t park there.  As they often do, the exchange became heated and eventually culminated with the two men exchanging punches.  It seems Andrew Tolson landed a fist in Charlie’s face, then squared off prepared to continue but did not advance further.  Charlie attempted to strike back but was unsuccessful.  He does have a health condition and felt he could not defend himself and claimed he was in fear for his life.  Charlie then pulled his 380 caliber handgun and shot Andrew Tolson who later expired from complications from the wound.  Charlie was legally carrying his pistol and possessed a conceal and carry permit.

There were no witnesses to the incident, and post office security cameras were not positioned adequately to record what happened.  So, it was Charlie’s word against a man who could not tell the other side of the story.  Initially Charlie was released with no charges filed.  But eventually, a grand jury indicted Charlie and he has been charged with murder, and faces a potential prison sentence that could last the rest of his life.

The most unpredictable thing about self-defense law is that it varies radically based on the interpretations of the investigating officer, the prosecutor who presents the case, the grand jury who determines if there is enough evidence to indicate a crime was committed, and finally the jury that hears the case to arrive at a verdict of innocent or guilty.

The law allows a citizen to defend himself or herself, as long as they can reasonably believe that they were in immediate danger of death or grave bodily harm and the use of their gun was the only way to stop the threat.  The test is:  Was the shooter’s behavior reasonable at the time of the shooting, not evaluated in hindsight.  Additionally, the shooter’s response must be substantiated as “necessary.”  If in the opinion of the jury, it was not necessary to shoot the opponent, it cannot be used as “self-defense.”

In every Oklahoma Self Defense Act class I teach I advise students in this way. “The best violent incident is not the one in which you emerge victorious, wounded or not.  The best violent incident is the one in which you are not even involved.”  If you can turn and walk away from a verbal confrontation that has the potential to escalate to violence, perhaps walking away is the wisest choice.

 If you are involved in a shooting, be sure you have competent legal representation immediately available.

 Be informed, well trained, and be safe.

Constitutional Carry

Anyone with an interest in guns in the state of Oklahoma knows by now there is a new law in town.  On February 27th, 2019 Governor Stitt signed into law house bill 2597.  This new law allows citizens who are 21 years of age or older to carry a handgun concealed or on open display.  However don’t start carrying a gun without a permit just yet.  The new law does not go into effect until November 1st, 2019.  Till that time, the current laws in effect today will remain the law with which we must abide till November.  If you already have your conceal and carry permit, keep it with you even after November 1st.  Some states you travel to may not recognize our constitutional carry law.

Oklahoma becomes the 15th state to enact such a law.  Other “Constitutional Carry” states include, Alaska,  Arizona,  Arkansas,   Idaho,  Kansas,  Maine,  Mississippi,  Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota,  South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Active duty and reserve military personnel aged 18 years and over will be allowed to carry without a permit under the bill.  Veterans under age 21 who have received an honorable discharge will also be eligible.

The new law does not allow any county, town or city government to enact laws contrary to the states age requirements.  However, business owners, private property owners and houses of worship may prohibit the carrying of handguns on their property.  Institutions of higher learning and technical schools may also set their own policies regarding the possession of handguns on campus.

Persons who have been convicted of assault and battery or stalking will not be allowed to have a gun in public.  There are also limitations on where you may carry your pistol.  For example, court houses, the capitol, and other public buildings such as sporting arenas will prohibit firearms on their premises.

There are two other striking differences contained in the new law.  The previous requirement for training and proof of proficiency in operating the handgun have been eliminated.  After teaching almost 600 students, I can honestly say the thought of some people carrying a gun with zero training concerns me.  Secondly, when encountering a law enforcement officer in the performance of their duties, such as a routine traffic stop;  “No person shall be required to identify themselves  as a handgun licensee or as lawfully in possession of any other firearm if the law enforcement officer does not demand the information.”

Only time will tell if this new law works to the benefit or detriment to the safety of  Oklahomans.

It takes only a cursory search in the computer to find vehement arguments on both sides of the political fence, each quoting statistics and anecdotes to support their positions. 

Constitutional (permitless) Carry is our right as guaranteed by the 2nd amendment.  With rights come responsibilities.  We are responsible to know how to safely transport, carry and operate a firearm.  It is our responsibility to know and obey the laws (and there are many) that govern the ownership and use of a firearm.  Employing the use of force or deadly force is an awesome responsibility.  Let’s not give the “anti-gunners” any opportunity to criticize our rights, they already do so enough.  Investing a few hours in training in someone’s Self Defense Act class would be a wise decision.

Be informed, be trained, be safe and be well.

The Fourth Man

Wyatt Jacobson strode out of the bookstore just before sunset.  At six feet six inches tall and 220 pounds he was an imposing figure.  His tanned face was jagged with crevices from too much sun, time, and some degree of long standing stress.  He donned his narrow brimmed Stetson and stepped of the curb bound for his Ford pick-up.  With the sun directly behind them, 3 strangers closed off Wyatt’s path, and made no attempt to allow his passage.  With a heavy accent, one of the trio demanded his wallet, wrist watch and rings.   He could see the other two had pistols pointed at him. Then from behind him, he heard another voice “Looks like yo got yo’self some trouble mista’ cowboy.”  Wyatt began slowly removing his watch, discreetly repositioning himself laterally between the four strangers.  Now with direct and peripheral vision he could see all four of his would be assailants.  His calm eyes and easy grin agitated one of the trio’s members who now stepped closer aiming directly at Wyatt’s head.  “Hurry it up jack.”  Those were the last words he would ever utter.  In what seemed a fraction of a second Wyatt withdrew his legally carried FN 9 millimeter.  The streets of Claremore lit up with flashes and white smoke. The closest threat was downed with two shots at center mass.  Shock appeared on Wyatt’s face when he saw the muzzle flash from the second man in the trio. Obviously those shots were intended for him.  But the surprise was the man behind him dropped the shooter with three well placed 45’s.  The third assailant didn’t like his odds and quickly retreated on foot, still at large.  Wyatt walked over to the 4th man and extended his hand in gratitude.  “My name is Wyatt Jacobson, thanks for having my back.”  “I’m Ezra Washington” came the reply.  They both retrieved their carry permits and I.D.’s and laid their guns on the ground in front of them as the black and white screeched to a stop.  Fortunately, Ezra knew the law allowed him to come to the defense of another innocent person.  Later that night after a visit to the police station, Wyatt and Ezra went to their homes.  As he entered his house, Mrs. Washington turned to Ezra and said, “Honey did you hear what happened in town tonight?”

If you positively know the circumstances and know who is the assailant and who is the victim, the law allows you to intervene and defend the victim.  If you do not know the facts, take cover, call 9-1-1 and be a good witness for the police.  Never forget the best critical incident is the one you are not involved in.

The Sandwich Shop

We do not know when danger will intrude into our lives, nor do we know where it will appear or what type of threat we may face. Common sense tells us certain areas of town should be avoided. Even places normally safe and peaceful during the day can be dangerous at night. Consider the following scenario: You’re sitting in your favorite sandwich shop waiting on the best meatloaf sandwich you have ever eaten, and a bowl of delicious corn chowder soup. It’s not very busy in the shop with only 2 other patrons at present. A typical day in Claremore, USA.

Suddenly the entry door swings wide open and wild-eyed 30 year old man with a pump shotgun rushes to the counter and screams for the cash. Everyone seems paralyzed by the violent invasion. The man behind the counter moves slowly and apparently exchanges words with the intruder. Perhaps he was on drugs, or one of the many mentally unhinged. Whatever his mentality or motivation, he was attempting a robbery and endangering lives. He fired one shot in the direction of the employee and missed. As he ejected the spent shell and chambered another cartridge, I noticed another man in the shop stand and draw a concealed handgun. The invader saw this as well and turned his shotgun on the armed customer. The customer re-positioned himself to establish a safe backstop and without hesitation he fired three shots. Two struck the robber in the chest, one in the head. Obviously this guy had been well trained. The ill-prepared robber hit the floor like a five pound sack of potatoes, he did not move again.

What is the take away from this? One, we have to believe there are people in our midst who will perpetrate acts of evil. We cannot think these things just happen to other people in other places. It can happen to you, and recent news shows it can happen anyplace. Two, you have to be physically and mentally prepared to defend yourself and other innocent people. You need to be in good physical condition, and you have to have the mental strength to act when it is demanded. Like this scenario, it can be quite unpleasant, but then, you did not start it did you? It’s a nasty business someone has forced you into. Three, obtain the proper training and then practice. Know how to stop the threat as quickly as possible. The customer used a technique that put maximum shock on the assailant immediately. Two shots to the chest and one to the head delivers that shock, it’s a drill that should be practiced at the range frequently. Finally, have access to competent criminal attorney representation. Even when you have done the right thing, things can go sideways and you may need a good lawyer. Be trained, be capable, be prepared, have competent legal resources.

My Own Self Defense

I cannot say when the idea of self-defense originally took root in my conscience.   It probably started well before my time in the Marine Corps.  But certainly my Drill Instructors and Platoon Sergeants in Quantico imbued me with the precept of being responsible for my own defense and more importantly, the defense of others.  I will always be grateful to those NCO’s for their lasting impressions on me.  They tore me down, rebuilt me, and made me a better man in the process.  But; that’s another story.

 

There is a lot of emotional rhetoric in the media today about violence and “gun control.”  Undeniably, there is an evil “force” at work in our country and its face all too often takes the form of mass shootings.  Such abominations as occurred in Aurora, Colorado–Thousand Oaks, California– Santa Fe, Texas–Las Vega Nevada– Parkland, Florida– Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and far too many others leave a haunting scar upon our collective consciences.  Impassioned pleas for stricter gun control clash with vehement objections coming from the pro-gun crowd (of which I am one).  Somewhere between the two, there must be an equitable and workable resolution which works to protect the lives and rights of all citizens.

 

It seems to me, before we can end these atrocities, we must identify their source.  Is it as simple as extracting the cactus needle in your hand?  Or is it more like a cancerous growth with a potentially unknown myriad of contaminants yet to be discovered?  I expect the source of these horrendous acts, and their eventual reduction/cessation is multifaceted.  Indisputably, (at least to me) a shift in our culture contributes largely to this dilemma.  Contributors such as the ease with which a gun can be illegally obtained, the number of gangs operating in the U.S. (upwards of 30,000), the rise in mental health problems, (approximately 11 million seriously ill people), undereducated–untrained, therefore unemployable people, the drug epidemic (prescription and street drugs) the dilution of family values and morality, hate crimes and likely a plethora of other demons give birth to this evil phenomena.

 

One man’s opinion is that disarming law abiding citizens, or limiting their ability to defend themselves and others is absolutely a step in the wrong direction.  Until the powers that be can undoubtedly guarantee me they can defend me and those I love, I will maintain my Marine attitude;  and be my own  first line of defense.   Therefore, the onus is upon me and those who agree,  to be trained, prepared and responsible in our conduct and the possession of our defensive tools.

 

Hollywood’s One Shot Baloney

If you have to defend yourself or your family, remember your training:  Shoot till the threat stops, and then stop shooting and call 9-1-1 for police and an ambulance.  We don’t train to kill, and we don’t train to wound.  We train to create enough dysfunction in our attacker to stop the threat.  Forget about the one shot stop.  Shoot with combat accuracy at center mass of the target, if he stops his attack stop shooting.  If he turns and runs away, DO NOT pursue him.  Immediately call 9-1-1 and be the first to do so.

 

It was 3:00 a.m. in Harlem, and there was a block party going on.  Sadly, this true to life party came to a tragic end.  Angel Alvarez and Luis Soto got into a war of words that eventually lead to hailstorm of bullets.  Angel shot Luis Soto, and then turned his gun on the police rolling up on the scene.  You might think that would be a fatal mistake, and it very easily could have been Angel’s last move.  However unlike Hollywood movies, or television’s multiple police and military adventures, one shot was not enough for Angel Alvarez.  In fact, Alvarez was shot 21 times and survived.  Luis Soto was shot six times and expired.

 

In 2007, Navy Seals had engaged al-Qaeda combatants in a village in Iraq.  Mike Day was clearing a house when a grenade knocked him unconscious.  Fortunately, Mike was out very briefly and as he recovered his battlefield skills, he killed two of the three insurgents that had attacked him.  This young hero was shot 27 times, but still fought his way through on his hands and knees till he reached a med-evac helicopter.  After his recuperation, Mike participated in an Ironman competition which included a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13 mile run to raise money for fellow veterans.  Maybe in Hollywood or on TV, Mike would have gone down on the first shot.  But, he took 27 shots and boarded the chopper to leave that party behind.

 

The point friends is quite simple.   One shot will rarely be enough to stop a determined attacker.  Be prepared to and capable of making follow-up shots until the threat has ended.  Practice, physically and prepare mentally and pray you never have to employ your expertise.  One shot?  Baloney.

Carjacking? Not Tonight!

January 2nd, 2018, 10:50 p.m.  It was a very cold dark night in Tulsa.  A convenience store employee was headed home for the night.  A stranger approached the car and violently pulled on the car door, so forcibly, he ripped the handle off the door.  The victim noticed the stranger had a pistol in his hand.   Obviously, a nightmare about to happen.

I don’t know exactly what that would feel like.  Panic, outrage, “what do I do?”  Oklahoma law had the victim protected under the “Castle Doctrine.”  As a concealed and carry permit holder, I would have been justified in using my firearm to defend myself.  My response in using my gun for defense has to be perceived as  reasonable and necessary in order to be justified. The attacker was definitely using force, and unlawfully trying to enter the car, plus he was armed with a handgun.  I believe those factors would have made my armed response justifiable.  The Castle Doctrine says “No man or woman is required to retreat before using force, even deadly force against an intruder into their home.”  That protection includes your dwelling, residence, place of business and your occupied vehicle.  Even under those conditions, shooting the attacker may not have been the best response.  Perhaps I could shoot, but should I shoot?  I believe avoiding an armed conflict is the prudent action when it is possible.  That way I avoid emotional self-condemnation for killing another human being.  I also avoid the potential of lawsuits from the attacker’s family.  They may have alleged the shooting was not reasonable or necessary.  Fortunately, in this case, the victim had the presence of mind, and the room to move his car in reverse.  That put the assailant on the run.  He was eventually found by a canine officer and arrested.  Speaking just for myself, I believe avoiding the armed conflict is a smart move.  But when the conflict cannot be avoided, the legally armed citizen must be prepared.  That preparation means knowing the law, having the training and possessing the proper mindset to use the gun when forced to do so.

 

 

Fitch Firearms Training For Self Defense

www.fitchfirearms.com

(918) 798-9072

1/09/2018

 

It All Depends

I have selected this title for my blog simply because it seemed appropriate.  People often ask me questions pertaining to Oklahoma’s Self-Defense Act, or they pose a hypothetical question,  (a what if), or  perhaps they ask an open-ended question about guns and equipment.  Typically they are looking for a clear cut, hard and fast finite answer.  However, my answer often begins with:  “It all depends”.  Like life itself, there is hardly anything etched in stone, particularly when it comes to firearms, their accessories and especially the circumstances under which you employ those tools.  Whether you are a newcomer to the practice of self-defense or seasoned veteran, there are many things we all need to know and remember.  Some are obvious, some are more subtle.  Here is a small sample, of the huge and changing body of common sense values, practices and rules we either must or should adhere to.

  1. Having your conceal and carry license does not give you the right to use your gun in any situation you choose.  It simply authorizes you to carry a firearm in certain places.
  2. If you can avoid a violent incident, do so. Just walk away if possible.  Even if you are justified         in using your gun, you will run the risk of significant emotional, legal and financial ramifications.
  3. Don’t stop training after you finish your conceal and carry class. That is simply the first step.      There is a plethora of subsequent training that makes sense to take.  Low- light and night-time          shooting, home defense, active shooter response are just a few.  From those classes you should also take away ancillary knowledge that could help defend you in court.  Don’t win the fight in the field only to lose it in the courtroom.
  4. If you are going to carry, carry all the time. You cannot pick the time or place when some psycho        or fanatic is going to require you to defend yourself or other innocent people.
  5. Buy the most expensive gun you can afford and which you can consistently shoot accurately.          Don’t bet your life on a $239.00 gun.  Make sure it is comfortable in your hand.  Not too large and not to small.  Don’t make your gun hard to get to when you have 1.5 seconds to respond.  A good holster or conceal and carry purse is a wise investment.
  6. Don’t look so tactical that you attract attention as an armed citizen. Dress appropriately with your typical style.
  7. Know and obey the laws in any jurisdiction to which you travel.
  8. Have the proper mindset.  Be positive you are willing to use deadly force against another human being if that is the only option to stop the threat against you or other innocent people.  Be prepared for the emotional roller coaster you will experience following a critical incident.
  9. Constantly be aware of your surroundings.  Notice anyone within 21 feet of you.  Especially notice who is noticing you.  Have a bright flashlight if you are out at night.
  10. Keep your finger off the trigger until you have made the decision to shoot.

Be alert, be safe and be well.

Michael