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How your gun looks - in court

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Roadwild17, Jun 10, 2006.

  1. Roadwild17

    Roadwild17 Well-Known Member

    It has often been said that when you add tactical do-dags and all to a gun, and then have to use it to defend yourself/another, the tactical do-dags will actually play against you in court. The way the story goes, your in court for ***** (inset wrongful self-defense charge here) and if you have a gun that "Looks more dangerous" to the probably anti-gun or gun-dumb jury, it make you did something wrong or were maby looking for trouble. Ex. if you have grandpa's old pump shotgun, you or it is not as "dangerous" as a short HD shotgun with mag extension, heat shield, laser, ghost rings, weapon light, ninja-mutant targeting device, pistol-grips or whatever. I'm sure this does have some truth to it, but are there any documented cases in which this has been proven, or does anyone else have any more information on the subject?
  2. longeyes

    longeyes member

    I think to someone with a gunphobia even "grandpa's old pump shotgun" looks like Satan's toothpick.
  3. Mannlicher

    Mannlicher Well-Known Member

    so roadwild, show us a verifiable incident where what a gun looked like made any difference at all in court.
  4. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Well-Known Member

    Can anyone point to even one case where the shooter in an otherwise "clean" shoot ended up with extra legal grief because of some characteristic of his weapon?
  5. Richard.Howe

    Richard.Howe Well-Known Member

    I would be interested in hearing the evidence as well -- my personal decision has been not to use my Colt 6920 as the primary home-defense firearm for precisely the reasons discussed above, even though it would be the most ideal alternative for my home/neighborhood/family.

  6. armoredman

    armoredman Well-Known Member

    Interesting idea. I, too, wait for some legal light, although the extent of modifications to my HD gun is a set of Hakan grips, and brass grip screws...
  7. longeyes

    longeyes member

    Maybe it's me but I don't see any gun as having anything warm and fuzzy about it--and I don't want it to. To those of us who are into guns the gun is a dangerous but comforting tool, and it makes us feel not afraid but more secure. To those who are not into guns any gun spells trouble and inspires loose bowels and lightheadedness.
  8. C96

    C96 Well-Known Member

    IANAL or LEO, just a retired engineer. But in the past 45 years I have been in court,
    civil, criminal and military, as plaintif, defendant and juror. I can tell you that the
    lawyers will bring up anything and everything they can think of that might sway
    a jury. It won't be nice, it won't be pretty and it won't, most likely, look like
    anything on Law&Order.

    I will have on my firearms anything that might make them better able to do their
    task, but nothing more.

    There is no reason to bring extra baggage into the courtroom.

  9. Bartholomew Roberts

    Bartholomew Roberts Moderator Emeritus

    I'd say that such stories are mostly speculation. First, semi-automatic longguns are involved in only about 3.2% shootings. To give one example, in three years worth of homicides, the state of Florida found semi-automatic longguns used in only 17 out of 7,500.

    Now take that tiny number and only count the ones that were a justifiable self-defense. At this point we are starting to talk a really small number of cases; but we aren't done yet. We now have to take THAT miniscule number and reduce it to the number of cases where it was ruled a justifiable homicide on the criminal side, didn't involve law enforcement, AND resulted in a civil suit.

    At this point, we are already at a level where there are probably so few cases that it would be very difficult to extrapolate any larger trends from them. By the time we start worrying about "tactical" accessories on the actual weapon, we are pretty much into the realm of "nobody knows."

    In any criminal prosecution or civil suit, is someone going to point to whatever firearm you used in self-defense and try to make it look as evil as humanly possible? Absolutely. That is what lawyers get paid to do. Will it make a difference in the case? IANAL; but I would be surprised that it would have any significant effect unless the facts surrounding the shooting were already pretty bad for you.
  10. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

    The only case I'm aware of that the type of gun resulted in a conviction for an otherwise justifiable shooting, was the case in which the registered owner of a Title 2/Class III Ruger AC556 (think full-auto mini-14) was pursued and attacked, and happened to have his AC556 in his truck. The details are in a thread here on THR somewhere.

    In a nutshell, he dropped the attacker with a full-auto burst, it should have been a clear case of self-defense, but he apparently had a poor defense lawyer and the prosecution made a HUGE deal about his shooting the guy with a machinegun. I think he got jail time for manslaughter or somesuch, and lost his RKBA for the rest of his life. But even in that case, it SHOULD have gone the other way.

    Personally, I think that if you have thought through the issue ahead of time, and can elucidate why the gun/features were a rational choice, choice of firearm shouldn't matter at all.

    FWIW, the last time we had a major "bump in the night" type episode (my car alarm went off in the garage one night, and then there was a commotion like something fell or got knocked over), I checked it out with the mini-14, which wears a Butler Creek folder. I very deliberately chose that gun and its ammunition (40-grain VMAX) to limit wallboard penetration, could elucidate that to a grand jury should it ever be necessary to do so, and can document competence with that gun. My wife backed me up with a Glock 26 and a 15-round mag, a combo that she also came to after much thought, and which she can rationally justify.
  11. marklbucla

    marklbucla Well-Known Member

    A cop in Pell City, AL told me that he wouldn't even use the Mossberg 500A Persuader because of the scary name. Being a cop, he said that he does know for a fact that stuff like this can hurt you. Will it make a difference in the end? Maybe not.

    A Swat cop in Huntington Beach also told me that "all kinds of crazy verdicts can come back in Los Angeles."

    I don't know if either opinions are based on actual cases or if it's just speculation. It does appear to be sound advice and in my hands, any gains to be had by using a "scary" gun are likely to be minimal and will probably be outweighed by the negative appearance in court.

    My personal choices for HD are an 870 and Taurus 905 Revolver.
  12. Soybomb

    Soybomb Well-Known Member

    I think people like to find things to worry about. If someone wants to bring up how evil your gun looks they're going to talk about how you chose cop killing hollow point bullets to maximize the amount of suffering of your poor victim, how you spent hours and thousands of dollars in training to learn to be a more efficient killer and wield a gun like only elite military units do, how every time you go to the range you shoot a silhouette target to satisfy your bloodlust, how you paid hundreds of dollars for a belt and holster meant to conceal your leathal weapon most effectively and yet draw it quickly so your poor misguided victim would never even see it coming, how you have thousands of rounds of live ammunition stockpiled at home, how you chose a 17 round magazine for your gun so you could shoot your victim the most times before reloading when 10 round magazines were available, how you spent hours reading about wounding and ammunition tests to pick the most lethal.

    See my point? You can worry about everything, but if you shot someone theres always going to be plenty of stuff like that someone could try. Your lawyers job is to defend you against crap like that. Do whatever you think will give you the greatest chance of survival and don't worry about what-ifs.
  13. atlctyslkr

    atlctyslkr Well-Known Member

    I don't care how it looks. I hope whatever gun I use if a life or death defensive situation arises does the job. Since when do the police have to justify the tools of the trade, why should I? I think if a couple of these snotty 20 something associate DA's got mugged in the parking garage on the way to their BMW that their daddy bought for them their tune would change.
  14. Telperion

    Telperion Well-Known Member

    Ben, your information is incorrect. Gary Fadden was acquitted on all charges.

  15. SteveS

    SteveS Well-Known Member

    I am sure that if it ever reaches the trial stage that whatever gun you used will be brought out for the jury to see. As will the ammo, etc. If the opposing lawyer decided to make a big deal about the gun, hopefully you will have a lawyer that has some knowledge of guns and they can bring in an expert witness to shoe how your "tactical" gun that has an attached light, special sights, etc. was chosen because you were concerned that if you ever had to use a gun you wanted to make sure it didn't injure any innocent bystander (because of cheap sights) and that you wanted to make sure that the intruder was really represented a significant danger and was not someone that you knew (attached light).
  16. Prof. A. Wickwire

    Prof. A. Wickwire Well-Known Member

    If this is a concern, a possible solution would be to find out what your local juristiction issues to it's police force. If you have the self same firearm and ammunition (or as close as a civilian can), then many of these tactics would be removed from the prosecuting attorney's arsenal.

    Just my $0.02.


    Prof. A. Wickwire
  17. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    I'm not willing to live in fear of criminals, my own government, or lawyers. Sorry if that's a bit repetitive.
  18. Soybomb

    Soybomb Well-Known Member

    Nah then you're just trying to be play cop, you were so obsessed with your cop fantasy you went out and bought the same guns and ammo as the police use and couldn't wait to use it. :neener:
  19. Thin Black Line

    Thin Black Line Well-Known Member

    But the guy still went through court which would be emotionally and
    financially difficult. Major suckage even for an acquittal.

    My m-4gery with all the bells and whistles would be my primary choice
    for protection on my acrage outside my rural home. The light is for positive
    id, the laser for psychological deterrence, and the foregrip.....well that's to
    keep things comfortable for me until back-up arrives. I think I have more
    rail room for a cup-holder now that I think about it......:cool:
  20. Diamondback6

    Diamondback6 Well-Known Member

    So, how would WWII milspecs (or clones thereof; in pistol, rifle or shotgun, my preferred weapons) appear?

    PMP: "These MILITARY weapons..."

    Me: "These weapon, which thousands of men like my grandfather entrusted the defense of their country and their own lives to..."

    I know, some call this an "Ayoobian Myth", but when you're talking life and death (sometimes former worse than latter), it is only prudent to be conservative. Besides, if you know people are going to bet their lives on YOUR advice, wouldn't you be a little overcautious too?

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