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Using Excessive Lethal Force in Personal Defense

Notes by Donald K. Burleson

January 2011

The insanity of justifying each use of lethal force

The news reports are full of stories about how criminals have won civil awards when the good guys get sued for using “excessive” force to stop a crook.

You can be sued for beating-up a robber as they attempt to flee from a bank robbery, and the “nanny states” have legislation that permits burglars to sue their victims whenever they get injured while breaking into their homes!

The height of this insanity is the legal concept of “excessive lethal force”, a case where a person is justified in shooting somebody who is threatening to kill them, but they can go to jail for homicide if they “double tap” a killer to protect themselves.

When I was 17 years old I got a part-time job as a "mall cop", working as a security guard and night watchman.  Even though I was a minor child, they issued me a crappy Brazilian six shooter and made me watch a 30 minute movie to train me on when it was “OK” to use the gun to kill somebody!  

 I remember that they required me to use the “double tap” technique. 

Using the double tap, whenever an attacker was menacing somebody using lethal force, as soon as the attacker got closer than 21 feet to the victim, I was supposed to draw my weapon and shoot them twice in the chest, then cease-fire and re-access the situation.  Only of the attacker continued shooting was I authorized to shoot them again!

Using the double-tap can lead to murder charges!

I was shocked to discover that my intensive 30 minutes of handgun training was wrong, and that multiple shots against somebody who is trying to kill you can be considered murder!

I have recently read “The Essential Guide to Handguns” and it says that in some “Nanny” States, a victim who defends themselves against a lethal attack must justify each and every bullet that they shoot into somebody who is trying to kill them!

“If an overzealous anti-self defense prosecutor had decided to press charges (the DA didn’t), she would have been forced to justify each and every shot that she fired”.

Using Excessive Lethal Force in Personal Defense

The concept of "excessive lethal force" is a new legal concept, designed specifically to protect murderers and rapists from being "wrongfully" killed" while they commit their felonies:

“Kay” wa a 55 year old retired executive who awoke to find a burglar in her bedroom.  He dragged Kay from the bed, pointed a gun at her head and said that he was going to rape her, ordering her to strip. Kay was able to distract the rapist long enough to grab her handgun and she "double-tapped" the rapist, sending him to the floor in a pool of blood. 

She carefully kept her gun trained on him and called 911 where the police found her attacker laying dead at her bedside.

Kay had barely saved her own life, but her troubles were only beginning. 

She had killed her rapist, and the Medical Examiner determined that her first shot was non-fatal and severed his spine, effectively neutralizing his threat against Kay.  The second shot, fired within a half second of the first shot, killed the rapist as he fell to the floor.

Because Kay’s second shot was unnecessary to neutralize the lethal threat against her, the District Attorney charged Kay with homicide!

It was no surprise that Kay’s attacker was a violent felon and a registered sex offender, but because his prior bad acts were “prejudicial”, the jury never learned about the bad character of Kay's attacker.

The jury had no choice bit to agree that Kay's second shot was unnecessary and fatal, and she was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to several years in the State Penitentiary. 

To add insult to injury, the dead rapists son (who was also a convicted sex offender) successfully sued Kay for her use of excessive force (*1).

Protecting the rights of violent felons

This legal concept is valid because the victim of a lethal attack only has the right to neutralize the attacker, and the threat of death it does not give their victim the right to murder them at their convenience. 

Unfortunately, this legal principle of “only shoot-once and re-access the threat” goes against every aspect of human nature.  In a real life-threatening situation, the adrenaline cocktail kicks-in, and human self preservation instinct usually results in the victim emptying their magazine into the bad guy.

As we have already seen, your natural self-preservation instinct can lead to murder charges!

Use the most lethal weapon you can handle

Since the law only allows you to take one shot to neutralize a lethal threat, you need to make it count.

It’s also important to understand that the human body in incredibly resilient, and there have been cases where the police have failed to stop a crazed attacker even with nine shots!  The small “mouse guns” are often a bad idea because they may only server to further anger an attacker, and they do not have enough "whallop" to neutralize a determined attacker.

Warning:  A .308 "mouse" gun may not stop a lethal threat

As evidence, you may remember this  incident where a disgruntled client shoots his lawyer while the lawyer tries to hide behind a tree.

This video went viral because at one time or another, almost everybody has wanted to shoot a lawyer.  However, it’s not clear from the video, but the lawyer was hit several times, yet the small caliber of the gun did not do enough damage to incapacitate him.
The take-away from this insane law on the excessive use of lethal force is that a citizen should use the most lethal gun that they can manage.  Some experts say that any home defense caliber is OK so long as it begins with a “4” (e.g. the .45 ACP, .44 Magnum), while others advocate using a 12 gauge shotgun for the best personal defense weapon.

Not all high caliber guns are unwieldy, and some, like the Kimber 45 caliber guns, are designed for reduced recoil so that even a 98 pound weakling can fire them:

Ultra Crimson Carry II™

The Kimber Ultra Crimson Carry II
.45 caliber, Six +1 shots, MSRP = $1,165

Some women prefer to sacrifice the heavier bullets of the 44 and 45 bullets for the greater impact velocity (and greater cavation) of the .357 magnum with hollow-point loads.

Remember, all bets are off in a gunfight, and it’s surprising how even a trained expert can miss a bad guy, even at close distances
In this video we see that even a well trained marksman will frequently miss, and the whole idea of "shoot one at re-access" is ridiculous:

In sum, the idea that we have laws that protect rapists and attempted murderers is ludicrous.  I believe that anybody who attacks another person with a gun or a knife relinquished all of their legal rights and the victim should have the right to empty their entire magazine into the creep.

(1) Kay is an amalgam of real cases from "Hippie States" that protect the rights of violent felons and require a private citizen to justify each and every time that they invoke lethal force while being raped or murdered.  For real court cases, see the Lexis Free Case Law search.



Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

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Copyright � 1996 -  2010 by Donald K Burleson. All rights reserved.