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Lethal force means killing

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Cosmoline, Jul 17, 2003.

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  1. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    I've seen this error repeated many times on many gun boards, and even in magazines. The contention is that one should avoid using firearms that are "too" lethal for personal defense. This might include shotguns, rifles, big handguns and the like. The reasoning is that in a trial, you would be grilled for trying to kill someone with your firearm rather than "stop" them.

    THIS IS BUNK. Make no mistake, if you take up lethal force and use it to defend yourself, you had better not be surprised if you kill the person. Lethal means lethal. A .22 handgun is lethal force, as is a .500 Nitro Express.

    The business about "shoot to stop, not to kill" seems to have emerged from certain gun writers with no legal training. They were probably confusing the lethality of force with the proper use of lethal force. You must cease using lethal force the moment there is no longer an imminent deadly threat. So in this sense, you must "shoot to stop," or rather you must stop shooting the second you no longer need to kill or be killed.

    For example, if you start shooting a BG who has a knife, and he tosses the knife, you must stop shooting. Ditto with the BG who drops his gun, or even the one who turns to run away.

    The bottom line--there is NOTHING wrong with picking a tool for defense with the best chance of killing in one shot. If you dont' think you really need to kill, DO NOT USE DEADLY FORCE. Don't try to avoid the issue by using force you wrongfully feel to be "not quite as deadly."
     
  2. Hkmp5sd

    Hkmp5sd Member

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    Lethal Force is that amount of force that can kill, but doesn't actually have to. There is nothing wrong with the concept of "shoot to stop". The logic being, you shoot until there is no longer a threat. If the BG happens to die as a result, too bad. If he doesn't die, then he's very lucky.

    "Shoot to Stop" is essentially the politically correct form of "Shoot to Kill".

    No matter what you call it, if you were not justified in the use of deadly force, you are in deep poopoo.
     
  3. PATH

    PATH Member

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    Necessary Force is the issue I believe. Deadly Physical Force may be responded to in kind. The use thereof varies from state to state. If someone throws a punch at you it would be inappropriate to respond with a head shot.

    Deadly force may be used against others using such force against you or others. Some states allow its use in defense of property. Always check the law in your locale. The bottom line is that your life comes first! Always!
     
  4. El Tejon

    El Tejon Member

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    No, lethal force does not mean "killing."
     
  5. spacemanspiff

    spacemanspiff Senior Member

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    theres a different mindset that responsible gun-owners have, one that insists our efforts are solely to ensure the safety of ourselves or other innocents.
    it is not about killing a BG, or even being a hero. it is about being human, and doing what it takes to survive. the 'shoot to kill' mentality is most often associated with anti's who are ignorant of a guns designs, and will hastily make remarks like "if i carried a gun, i'd shoot anyone who got in my way, therefore everyone will act the same way so thats justification for why all guns should be banned".
    our 'shoot to live' mentality is because none of us have a desire to take another persons life. thats why we refer to our firearms as 'our last line of defense', that occassionally have to be used as the first means, depending upon the circumstances.
     
  6. El Tejon

    El Tejon Member

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    space, projection is a problem of the antis but can also be problem in the gun culture.

    Ours is the culture of life; theirs is the culture of death. We must take care to ensure this distinction.:)
     
  7. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

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    "Shoot to live" says it very well!
     
  8. sanchezero

    sanchezero Member

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    I think about this topic alot, both in respect to firearms and HTH.

    I believe there is often a semantic problem that can carry over into a performance problem. Typically, when people speak of HTH training they call it self-defense training. While this is all well and good, I noticed in my own training that this defensive mindset was a contributing factor in my lack of ability to close the gap and to hit hard.

    It took a good deal of concentrated effort on my part to retrain myself to be aggressive in the fight.

    Self-defense is the action you take before the fight - being aware, leaving iffy situations, absorbing verbal abuse and the like. But once the fight is on, it's just fighting, pure and simple and it needs to be handled with as much brutality, power and aggression as you can muster.

    I feel the same way about shooting.

    Now, before you take umbrage, understand that the decision to take violent action must be the absolute last resort for this very reason. Stopping a fight for one's life will often necessitate the taking of another's or at least the bringing of one right to the threshhold of death's door. It is for this reason that I've never understood those people that go out looking for a brawl.
     
  9. Navy joe

    Navy joe Member

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    Shoot to kill when neccesary I guess is my take. I still think that a lot of the shoot to stop the threat advocates are avoiding thinking about killing another in some way. My psyche doesn't need to be spoon fed.

    Lethal force. Force which the user knows or should know will cause death or serious bodily harm if employed.

    I kinda figure that means killing.

    I see no problem with your original idea of selecting enough gun for the task. There really isn't such a thing as too lethal. I'm sure if the situation involved a legal self defense shooting you would be no more in the wrong for using a .300Win mag than you would a .38Spl. Where the problem starts is if you can be portrayed somehow as malicious, like say keeping a SPAS-12 behind the door loaded with flechette. If an attorney can portray you as bloodthirsty he will. The difference is between wanting to kill and being willing to kill. I surely don't want to, hope I never do, but I'm perfectly willing. That would be my story to the jury too. If I get penalized for honesty, so be it.
     
  10. SRYnidan

    SRYnidan Member

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    Shoot to stop is not the same as shoot to kill, ask Gernhart Geotz(sp). The concept of shooting to stop means we will shoot in the most effective manner possible until our adversary stops doing what it was that required us to shoot in the first place. If they die as a result of this we must realize that they chose to start the engagement.

    Shooting to kill prepares one mentally to keep shooting until we know or believe that our adversary is dead. This frequently results in shoots being fired when both moral and legal necessity have been exceeded.
     
  11. NapAttack

    NapAttack Member

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    I believe the distinction here falls into the same category as when I was taking and teaching Yoshukai. Yoshukai is a full-contact traditional Japanese hard-style of karate. It is extremely aggressive. However, we still considered it a defensive art. We described it as the defense of breaking the other person's bones before they break yours. We were taught to strike hard, fast and with as much force as possible, the idea being to stop the fight, if at all possible, with that first strike. If the fight continued beyond that first strike then there was the possibility you could get injured.

    Shoot to kill leaves some interpretation as to who started the aggression. Shoot to stop makes it plain and clear that your attacker started the fight. No possibility that you did.

    Were it necessary to explain this to a jury I would use the same explanation, I used a weapon sufficient to be sure that I could stop the aggression with one shot if at all possible. If there were a nonlethal force that could do this as effectively as a firearm I would use it. But it's been proven that nonlethal methods are not as effective as a firearm. I have no interest, no desire to kill but I must stop the aggressive actions and a firearm of sufficient power is the most effective way to do so.
     
  12. MeekandMild

    MeekandMild Member

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    I recall some years ago I was on a murder jury in Alabama. The DA brought forth the legal precidents then in effect which said that if a person used a gun OR KNIFE against another to kill them without being in fear of their life and without having retreated yada yada yada they were guilty of murder.

    I am not at all a fan of the false concept of 'duty to retreat', but I was impressed by the idea that in Alabama a knife was considered as 'bad' as a gun.
     
  13. Blackhawk

    Blackhawk Member In Memoriam

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    Minor quibble with your examples, Cosmoline:
    They suggest mandatory equivalence of force. BG dropping his gun doesn't mean he's no longer a lethal threat to you. Maybe it jammed and he's going to take yours away from you to use on you. Maybe he dropped his knife to get his gun.

    The test is whether or not you're STILL in fear for your life after the BG takes some action. Your justification for shooting in the first place isn't whether the BG has a gun or a chunk of soap carved to look like a gun with black shoe polish on it. It's that you were in fear for your life based on a reasonable assessment of the instantaneous situation you perceived.

    A guy turning around and walking away with his hands out of sight could be a much greater threat than you realize because you might tend to relax just a hair. Don't shoot, but keep him covered in case he tries to do a wheel and fire on you.
     
  14. brownie0486

    brownie0486 Member

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    "Shoot to kill"= premeditation, predisposition to kill mindset

    "Shoot to stop"=defensive reaction to a perceived lethal threat.


    One is against the law, the other is not.

    Brownie
     
  15. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    So for those of you who favor using lethal force to "stop" rather than to kill, why don't you advocate shooting for the legs or arms? You see my point, if you are going to use lethal force, it should ONLY be if your life or the life of another is ABOUT TO BE ENDED (from your reasonable perception, typically). Thus, you had better use a firearm with enough power to guarantee the person who is about to kill will not be able to. This means killing them, unless you've built a Star Trek stun phaser or something. So you had better shoot them in the heart/lungs area or the head. If you don't need to kill in order to save your life or the life of another, they you have no business using lethal force. See my point? The question is court is not going to be your "mindset," but rather whether the killing was justified. This turns on whether you or another were faced with imminent deadly harm. In other words, did you have to kill in order to avoid being killed or to save another?

    The danger is, a lot of guys who train people for concealed carry and self defense emphasize that it's taboo to think about how to kill your foe. This is BRAVO SIERRA. When the body is lying there cold, it really makes no difference what your mindset was. The only thing that matters is whether or not your life or the life of another was about to be ended by the now dead fellow. In fact, if you think you may need to kill or be killed, you had better pay attention to how to kill, and you had better be prepared to do it.

    I mean, the natural conclusion of the confused "shoot to stop" notion is either aiming for legs or shooting wildly so you can say you really didn't mean to hit them. This makes no sense at all.
     
  16. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    No, Brownie. You are allowed to aim at the heart, fire, and kill. It's called self defense. You are even allowed to train for years to prepare to do it. The only question is whether or not you had to do it to save your life or another's. THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT OF USING LETHAL FORCE IN SELF DEFENSE! If you are not prepared to kill, then get some pepper spray.

    Thus, if some buck naked loon is approaching you and you want to "stop" him, you better think twice and three times before you plug him full of holes. It's like the old saying. DO NOT FIRE UNLESS YOU PLAN ON DESTROYING THE THING YOU'RE AIMING AT. Bullets don't "stop" they KILL.
     
  17. grampster
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    grampster Member

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    Brownie is wrong! Cosmoline is right! IF you shoot, it should be to kill. If they are dead, they are stopped. If they stop and are not dead, then lethal force must also stop. The point is that you DON"T shoot unless it is absolutely necessary. Trying to "stop" an aggressor may actually be successful because HE killed YOU. The assault stopped when YOU died.

    grampster
     
  18. CZ-100

    CZ-100 Member

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    So I guess when I grab my Trusty Axe for home defense... I should only Gently tap the BG in the forehead, instead of Driving it Home...

    NOPE
    IM Swinging for the bleachers! :what:
     
  19. Oleg Volk

    Oleg Volk Moderator Emeritus

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    Police textbooks use the term "incapacitation". As in "the attack will stop when the attacker can't function".

    Stopping effectively is coincidental with killing in some cases. A perp hit with a 12ga might live but probably won't keep on attacking.

    Killing is sometimes coincidental with stopping...but a poisoned bullet would kill over time without stopping the threat fast enough.

    "Shoot to kill" has a bad reputation as it sounds like delivering finishing shots out of malice. In some instances (suicide bombers not using dead-man switches), finishing shots are necessary as the threat doesn't stop with partial physical incapacitation. It all depends on the specific circumstances.
     
  20. pax

    pax Member

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    You folks are all making really good points, arguing against a straw man.

    Yes, it is absolutely true that you should aim Center Of Mass (COM), and if that doesn't work, the brain case. It is also absolutely true that the expected outcome, when you use deadly force, is that someone becomes dead. It is also true that if you are not prepared to actively and actually kill another human being, you have no business carrying a gun or drawing it.

    That said.

    "Shoot to stop" is not addressing point-of-aim. It is addressing the moral, ethical, and legal obligation of a civilized human who is attacked. It answers the questions
    • Why may I shoot?
    • When may I shoot?
    • When must I stop shooting?

    If you are shooting to kill, you
    • are shooting for the sole purpose of killing another human being,
    • you begin shooting when you are provoked enough to kill them, and
    • you stop shooting when the other person is dead.

    If you are shooting to stop, your point of aim is exactly the same as if you are shooting to kill. You have admitted to yourself that the person dying is a very likely (even desirable) outcome. But
    • you are shooting for the sole purpose of stopping a deadly force attack,
    • you begin shooting when there is an immediate, otherwise unavoidable risk of death or grave bodily harm to the innocent (OR, in other words, when the elements of Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy are all present), and
    • you stop shooting immediately when those elements are no longer present even if the perpetrator is still alive.

    You may be tempted to believe that this is all a matter of semantics, word games, legal mumbo-jumbo. Believe that if you wish. But if you kill a man who is not (or who is no longer) a deadly threat to you, expect to pay the legal, emotional, and moral consequences of your folly.

    pax

    How many a dispute could have been deflated into a single paragraph if the disputants had dared to define their terms? -- Aristotle
     
  21. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Subjective intent or purpose is irrelevant when the question is self defense. Here's a good way to understand the issue.

    Hypo one: The BG comes into Bob's house late at night by kicking down the door. BG has a shotgun and sees Bob on the stairs. BG starts to raise shotgun to shoulder, and Bob shoots him in the head with his levergun. In this case, Bob was intending only to stop the aggression.

    Hypo two: Same facts as above, but Bob was intending that his .30-30 bullet blow the BG's face through the back of his head.

    Same legal results in either case.
     
  22. David Park

    David Park Member

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    Also, remember that something like 80% of people shot with a handgun survive. Does that mean that handguns are not powerful enough for self-defense, because they are not a reliable "killer"? No, it just means that killing is not necessarily coincidental with stopping the threat, as Oleg said.

    When faced with an attacker armed with a knife, a pelvis shot is a great stopper, because there's a good chance of hitting and breaking bones which will greatly limit the attacker's mobility. However, it's probably not lethal unless you happen to hit a major artery. On the other hand, a shot to the heart, while probably lethal, still gives the attacker a few seconds (or minutes) of mobility during which he can still run over and stab you.

    When I say "shoot to stop" instead of "shoot to kill," it does not imply that I don't want the attacker to die, or that I won't use the most effective (most lethal) tool available. It simply means that I don't care whether the attacker dies or not, as long as he stops being a threat to me and other innocents.
     
  23. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Pax,

    As I said in the initial post, of COURSE you must stop shooting when there is no longer justification to use deadly force. What I object to is the MISUSE of this concept to claim that it's dangerous to intend to kill when you pull the trigger. Indeed, the law will presume you intended to kill if you shoot and kill somebody. The only question is whether or not the killing was justified.
     
  24. pax

    pax Member

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    Sure, Cosmo, sometimes it won't make any difference at all. But sometimes it will.

    Hypo number one: The BG comes into Bob's house late at night by kicking down the door. BG has a shotgun and sees Bob on the stairs. BG starts to raise shotgun to shoulder, and sees that Bob also has a gun. BG drops his weapon, yells "Don't shoot!" while raising his hands in the air. Bob keeps the gun aimed right at him while directing him to turn around, lower himself to the ground, and prone out while waiting the arrival of the police.

    Hypo two: Same facts as above, but Bob blew the BG away when the BG surrendered, because Bob's intent in getting out his own weapon was to kill the intruder rather than to simply stop him.

    Slight difference.

    pax
     
  25. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Park--You're a much better shot than I am! I've heard of shooting a brown bear's shoulder with a shotgun slug to break it. But I've never heard anyone say you should use a bullet to break the pelvis of someone coming at you with a knife! If all you want to do is break a bone, use one of those heavy Irish fighting sticks.

    In fact, it seems to me that a bullet is far from an ideal tool for non-lethal breaking of bones. Indeed, shooting someone where deadly force isn't quite justified because you subjectively thought that it would only break a bone is probably going to land you in prison. If deadly force is needed, but you don't think your life is in grave enough danger for a heart or head shot, I would suggest that deadly force may not actually be needed and what's really justified is non-lethal force or keeping them covered and waiting.
     
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