By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
If there’s an idea that most people should embrace, at least in my opinion for whatever that’s worth and at that probably not much, it’s that you should make informed decisions.
Informed decisions are based on reality, on what’s observable or measurable and established rather than resting on logic and principle alone. Principles are fine, but if your principles are at odds with reality, you’re working with faulty principles.
When it comes to guns and concealed carry and self-defense and all that where does a person go to get informed?
Well, that depends on what you want to be informed about.
Getting news reports is fairly easy. You type in “defensive shooting” or “self-defense” or “self-defense shooting” into any search engine and start going through results.
If you’re using Google, I recommend using the “news” filter on a search, rather than searching in Google News. The ranking algorithm is different for actual searches filtered for news as opposed to searching in Google News, and you’ll see a lot more results.
With that said, take reports with a grain of salt; most are very brief (a paragraph or two) and few are comprehensive enough to be greatly educational.
Most will be from local news stations rather than national outlets, but that can be a benefit rather than a hindrance in some instances. Local reporters will sometimes flesh stories out a bit more than the wires (AP, UPI) do.
Police reports are a little harder to come by. Sometimes a news outlet will get a hold of one, and other times the only way to see one is through an FOIA request.
As far as court proceedings, there are a few places to look up court cases.
Lawyers access databases like LexisNexis. The hitch there is that they’re subscription-based, so unless you want to pay that’s out.
There are, however, a few databases that you can search for court decisions, but they come with some caveats.
Justia is a decent free database, but it isn’t the most complete and you definitely have to know what you’re doing in terms of using the search function. The more specific your search, the better.
Be aware, however, that most of what you’ll find are the actual decisions, so things like testimony, evidence and so on aren’t always going to be available or at least will only be hinted at.
Why this happens to be valuable is that you get an idea of how the legal system deals with claims of self-defense, which can be a bit of an eye-opener.
Find a few cases and you should get a good idea of how easily a shooting that the comments section is perfectly legal/not objectionable can actually send the shooter to prison.
Some self-defense shootings are what you might call “white” in that there isn’t a reasonable objection to what the shooter did. Maniac breaks into the house with a machete, the homeowner/resident blasts them then calls the police.
Nobody is going to have anything to say in an instance like that; it couldn’t be clearer in that hypothetical (though incidents like it happen) that it was totally a self-defense shooting.
However, a lot of defensive gun uses occur in a gray area. That’s where things get interesting, and reading a few of the gray area cases that went either way (conviction/acquittal) is a great way to learn for yourself how thin the margins can be.
You can think what you want about what’s a “good shoot” or not, but your opinion counts for a heck of a lot less than prosecutorial discretion does.
For instance, there are a number of cases where a fleeing home invader was shot in the back. In some cases, the shooter is acquitted because it was a home invasion. In other instances, they go to prison.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to read the actual court documents to get an appreciation for how these things play out legally.
And then we come to personal experiences. People who have had to use a gun in self-defense, what conditions and contexts it occurred in, what the results were and what, if any, consequences there might have been.
One of the deepest mines for that information is Reddit, and specifically the Reddit CCW community. One of their categories is “Member DGUs” which is where members of that sub (a Reddit community is called a subReddit or “sub” for short if you aren’t aware) describe incidents they were involved in and what happened, or at least to the extent they can.
Not that there isn’t other content worth exploring on that sub – though some of it really just isn’t but that’s the Internet for you – but that is one place you can go to read more of a first-hand account.
If you spend a little time there, there are a few things that become very obvious.
For one, few people actually shoot in self-defense. Most people just draw the gun, which causes the person or persons threatening (in the case of being threatened by a group) to wisely chicken out and light out for other territories.
When shooting does occur, it is far more common for a person to actually shoot a dog than a person, and usually dog shootings involve shooting a dog that’s attacking the shooter’s dog. Occasionally, yes, it’s a pit bull.
What seems to be common is that aggressive dogs tend to wind up shot because the owner is lackadaisical about the dog’s living arrangements. It’s been said that there aren’t any bad breeds, just bad owners, and maybe there’s something to that.
The people who seem to get into any legal hot water tend to not call police after whatever it is that happens takes place. They pointed a gun at the bad guy and they thought it was the end of it – but surprise! The cops are here! And they are taking your guns.
Most incidents that involve defensive gun use tend to be road rage incidents or home invasions, with the odd dog incident.
You can also find other message boards and forums where people talk about things that happened to them and so on, but Reddit is just one source.
You also have to take it on faith that these people are telling the truth, rather than making up fiction and – not to stir up controversy – but a lot of people in the gun community seem to have what could be called “murder fantasies” of situations where they might get to shoot someone. So you never really know for sure.
On a related note, the Reddit/r/DGU sub is a blotter for defensive shootings as well, and worth following.
YouTube is another fantastic resource as you can find video footage of defensive shootings.
One of the best sources, of course, is the Active Self Protection channel.
Active Self Protection and host Jon Correia do an excellent job showing takeaways from real-world incidents, including armed and unarmed civilians as well as law enforcement. Maybe he isn’t your cup of tea, but the channel is a great source of information.
So, you have news reports, court documents, video footage and first-hand accounts as far as where to get information about actual self-defense shootings.
Notice that none of these things are the comments section or social media, or compendiums of platitudes. If you want fresh water, so to speak, go to the head of the stream. Those are the heads of the streams.
Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.