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Avoidance is the Basis for Lawful Self-Defense
Avoidance is more than just 'No Duty to Retreat' and 'Stand Your Ground' Law.
The main objective of this Florida Gun & Self-Defense article is to educate gun owners about gun law and self-defense law. Ignorance of the state and federal laws is not an excuse for unintentionally breaking those laws. It is gun owners’ responsibility to learn and abide by the law and practice safe gun handling accordingly. I am not a lawyer; if you need legal counsel secure a lawyer in your relevant jurisdiction. The following content is my opinion and interpretation derived from twelve years of education in Florida Self-Defense Law and Gun Law.
Memorize the Four Rules for Safe Firearms Handling. Mistakes will not occur by doing so. One, treat all guns as if they are always loaded with a round in the chamber, even when the gun is empty. Two, never point the muzzle at anything you ‘don’t’ want to destroy. Three, keep your finger off the trigger until your gun sights are on the intended target. Four, always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
In addition, when you pull the trigger, think of all bullets as having a prosecutor and a very expensive lawyer attached to them. If you are unsure of any situations regarding gun usage or handling or what is lawful or unlawful, please refrain from conceal carrying of your firearm until you have proper training. Contact me, and I’ll point you in the right direction to give you the confidence to safely and legally operate your firearm.
Today’s firearms focus will be on the mental discipline of Avoidance, which is the foundational basis for the ‘Legal Duty to Retreat’ and ‘Stand Your Ground’ in Florida law. I want to address all gun owners and more specifically, conceal carry gun owners who daily carry a gun for legal self-defense.
Note that Florida law imposes no duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense, but if it is proven that the attack was not imminent and a reasonable person would have chosen ‘to avoid’ using deadly force, then your Stand Your Ground claim in self-defense will be disallowed, which means you have no claim to a legal defense of self-defense in court. A felony charge will result.
When we as Floridians, legally bring a gun for personal self-defense into the public domain, we are taking upon ourselves a responsibility to function as a law-abiding armed person, who must be prepared to exercise a higher level of patience and reasoning when the unjust situations of life, inflict themselves upon us, in other words.
When we begin to carry a gun, whether concealed or not, the natural feeling is that we don’t have to take injustice from anyone anymore, but that feeling is a lie, and you should never believe it.
The opposite situation is true in the reality of the gun carrying individual. The natural laws of risk, both physically and legally, increase when a gun is available as an option. Anytime we go to the gun we have just incurred a greater than zero risk of death or life in prison which was not there before we brought a gun to bear on the situation. Rational thought and knowledge of the law both serve to reduce these two elements of risk to a much lower rate. However, the risk is never zero no matter how lawfully you act in self-defense or successfully run a gun to win the physical battle.
Leaving the letter of Florida Law on this subject aside for the time being, let us examine the discipline of Personal Avoidance. The last thing a lawful gun carrying owner wants to do is to go to the gun. Just as the last thing a lawful homeowner wants when they buy a fire extinguisher is to have to use it. In both cases the tools are there for extreme cases where life threatening elements are bringing destruction of life upon us.
So therefore, rational preparations can lower the risk of the need to use these defensive tools. In the case of the gun tool, knowing how to determine threats and risks is essential. The following content is provided to produce a more competent mindset and to stimulate an investigative ambition to enable a greater ability in identifying risks and then threats.
Answer the following questions and act accordingly when you carry a gun.
Where does the most risk occur in society? What times of day does risk occur at greater rates? What actions that are commonplace to you, have the highest risk. What characteristics do you have that are risky. What associates create a higher risk? How does the gun change how you feel, and or think, about those personal risk elements in your life?
Not all risks translate into threats, but some risks always lead to threats if given enough time. You should consider every threat, direct or possible, and how a gun affects those situations. Some people, for instance by their very nature, are a threat to themselves even before they legally carry a gun. For instance, if you are prone to engaging in Road Rage conflicts, and you feel a gun enhances that ‘engagement’, you’ll most likely die or spend life behind bars, and be financially broke. And if a gun makes you believe you are now able to enter confrontations which you would not have done before you had a gun, you’ll most likely end up the same way as the road rage person.
Avoidance in our personal armed lives means not going to the place where a gun is needed to survive. Ninety-nine percent of the time there are other options which reduce the level of risk and threats, and therefore greatly reduce the need to go to the gun. However, there are times where you have no say as to the risk and threat you are faced with. But there are preventative steps to negate these uncontrollable experiences.
Knowing in advance, as much as is possible, when a potential threat is likely depends on your mental discipline to recognize the unexpected, unpredictable, threat that could enter your life just because you took the risk of getting out of bed today.
Practice this mental discipline in a safer environment, so as you travel through the low risk, low threat, situations of your life, keep your attention on everything surrounding you. Don’t use your phone until you are sure it is impossible to become a victim of potential risk and threat. If you use your phone, make it as short as possible and always keep your eyes on any potential element of vulnerability. Wait until you are completely safe before absorbing yourself into personal things.
Always keep your head up, be alert, scan the people around you. Note anyone observing you. You should be rating each person as to what you believe their ability is to bring a real physical threat to you. And this might sound exceptionally paranoid, but you should consider everyone a threat until they are proven not to be. In time, after practicing this mental exercise, it will become normal and natural. And the criminal mind will notice that you are not an easy target because you ‘look ready for anything’.
Trust no one unfamiliar to you. To do this correctly with the proper mindset, you should have already planned any possible scenario presented to you, so that you know exactly what you will do to break contact and put distance between you and the threat. By accomplishing this plan of action, you give yourself the time required to bring the correct legal defensive action proportionately, to counter the threat brought against you with equal defensive force.
Use loud voice commands as a tool of determination. The level of volume used on the first command depends on what you perceive the level of the threat to be. The higher the level of threat the higher the volume should be. Demand the right to break contact in an effective way for the situation at hand. The response from the perceived threat will give you the indications needed to judge the situation correctly.
The worst response is no response, especially if the person moves towards you. It’s best to begin commands at twenty to thirty feet. And if possible, always give a very loud final warning that you’ll protect yourself while placing your hand on your concealed gun. But be sure the threat is deadly and is actually taking place before you pull the gun from concealment. Practicing the ‘drawing from concealment movement’ hundreds of times, regularly, will provide you with the level-headed reasoning under duress that is required to be lawful. Knowing your ability under duress provides reasonable evaluations of the time required to effectively and lawfully bring the gun to bear.
In Florida it is legal to announce that you are armed without showing your gun, but I would add a statement that I don’t want to use my gun. And it is also legal to briefly reveal a holstered gun and to announce you’ll use the gun if there is no compliance with your voice commands. Again, the revealing of the gun must be calm, non-threatening, and brief, and I would add that it should be done while backing up to clearly demonstrate you are breaking contact even more so from the initial twenty to thirty-foot engagement area. Do NOT bring the weapon from the holster or from concealment until you are sure there will be a deadly threat. You can NOT get this part wrong.
To restate the goal of Avoidance. A gun owner should never desire to use their gun. Therefore, learn to keep risk as low as possible. Learn what a real deadly threat actually is. There is no room for mistakes. You cannot be the aggressor or the instigator. It’s better to err on the side of paranoia and caution, so start your verbal interaction as soon as you believe the threat has a very high degree of probability. And yes, it’s your belief that matters, but keep in mind a jury will decide if your belief was what they would have believed it to be, from a chair in a courtroom.
Now there could be a time when you don’t have time to do any of the preliminary strategies I’ve presented here. If you conceal carry a gun, you need to perfect a two second draw from concealment and put accurate rounds on a moving target inside of about twenty feet---this distance and time is an average. Obviously if there is a great disparity of physical ability between you and the threat these variables will vary. Since I draw from concealment many hundreds of times per week, I know I can handle a much shorter distance and time than the average conceal-carry individual. Do you know your draw time in various situations and conditions?
Getting training is the only way to really know how well you can do under duress. Funny thing about armed criminal felons, they don’t stand still when they see your gun. And they shoot back as they move……which in most cases is very fast. Therefore, I suggest you train to establish a method of self-defense, close-quarter gun combat, that increases the odds that you’ll survive a deadly force threat.
Again, never go to the fight. Instead break contact and let the other guy believe he won. The best conflict is the one you are able to safely walk away from without having it. Attempt to achieve that result through avoidance method proficiency. And remember the best ego is the one that doesn’t have to go to court, nor go to prison, and isn’t dead.
One more thing I want to restate. A moral gun owner never wants to kill another person even if they are attempting to kill you. Lawful gun owners shoot to save their life from imminent death or serious bodily harm. My hope is that none of us ever need to draw our sidearm to save our lives. I encourage you to know the law and to learn to shoot, thereby giving you the ability to “Accurately Aim to Win the Physical and Legal Battles”.
Article Information Sources: Rory Miller’s publication, Logic of Violence, Facing Violence, and Scaling Force. Andrew Branca’s Law of Self Defense.
This article’s purpose is to incentivize the reader to learn the laws required for lawful gun usage. My hope is that all conceal-carry gun owners will become legally proficient and physically capable to “Aim to Win the Physical and Legal Battles” should a self-defense situation occur. Therefore” Know the Law, Learn to Shoot.”
Today’s article published online at FloridaGunSelfDefense.com
Florida Gun & Self-Defense offers firearms and self-defense training and education. Single or group classes or customized training is available. Visit FloridaGunSelfDefense.com for more information. Or call Dave Douglass at 863-381-8474
Dave has been a firearms instructor and trainer since 2012. He is skilled in advanced tactical gun and self-defense gun operation, in accordance with Florida gun law and use-of-force self-defense law. He is not a lawyer but has studied Florida Use-of-Force Law and Gun Law for over the last twelve years. Dave’s articles are his interpretation and opinion and do not constitute legal advice for you. If you need legal advice, secure legal counsel in your relevant jurisdiction. Dave is an adamant supporter of an original historical literal interpretation of the Second Amendment. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org