Last year I had a chance to sit in on a lecture by Marty Hayes, JD. of The Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network. The topic of the lecture was “Court Proofing Self-Defense” (if my notes on the title are accurate). What is that you may be wondering? Marty went into great detail about how things that you do and say and they way you act may very well one day follow you into a court room if you are ever there for the purpose of defending yourself for a self-defense related incident. This was an amazing lecture, but I may still owe him a PowerPoint presentation on the topic. Maybe he forgot about that part.
Marty talked about things such making modifications to your self-defense guns, making them “pretty” (adding personalized touches to them) and having a “cavalier” attitude towards self-defense in general. “Cavalier” is my word, not his. More on this in a minute. Right now I want to talk about gun modifications. This is not a new concept and lots of people do it. You have all probably heard that “a jury will convict you if you lighten your trigger pull because you have modified your gun to more easily kill”. This one is actually a valid point. It is strongly recommended that you not lighten the trigger pull on a gun that you carry for self-defense. The manufacturer sets the weight of the trigger pull to conform to a standard of care and trying to explain to a jury if you ever have to, why you thought you knew better than a gun manufacturer when it comes to the weight of a trigger pull is not something that would be high of my list of funsies. There is also the impression of people who have their guns painted or have things written on them are “just looking for trouble”. I have heard instances of prosecutors who say that making your gun “pretty” shows some kind of attachment to the object making you more likely to use it than not. I have been told that if you are going to make modifications to your gun that they should be to increase your chances of hitting your target.
It seems that there may actually be something to this. If you fall into the ‘gun mod’ camp, I would suggest that you be able to explain why you have made the modifications that you have to your weapon. It should be a rational, well thought out reason and not something like “I just thought it was cool” or “I decided to have ‘smile, wait for flash’ stamped on the muzzle of my gun because I thought it was funny”. In these situations you could be in legal hot water. This is because if you are not able to articulate why you made the modifications that you did, and have a good reason for making them, ie. they make you safer and/or more accurate, then it will be easy for the other side to attack you in court for said modifications if it ever comes to that.
I can give you a personal example of this. The first thing I did to both of my carry guns when I got them was have the sights replaced. My reasoning for this is because the original sights were not night sights. I wanted something that I could see in daylight and also in the dark if I needed to. I was also a newer shooter at that time so I opted for sights that were easier and quicker to acquire a sight picture on. My reasons for changing out the sights were to make me a more accurate and faster at getting on target. This in turn helps to ensure that I am able to hit my target an only my target. If I ever had to explain this decision in court, I believe my reasoning would make me look more responsible for getting equipment to help me (and innocent bystanders)stay safe in the event that I needed to use my weapon in self-defense, God forbid.
While we are on the topic of court discoverable evidence, did you know that everything you post on-line can also make its way to court to be used against you? It can, and I have heard of instances of this happening. Often times opposing counsel will try to discredit defendants and even (expert) witnesses (for the defense) by bringing in writings and such from the inter webz and admit them as evidence. This is some scary stuff. Please be careful of what you say, who you say it to and what context it is being said in!
When I see signs or memes like these I always cringe:
To me this all goes back to why we shoot in defense of ourselves in the first place. That is to “Stop a threat” for those of you keeping score at home. Not to kill, maim, wound or scare. And most certainly not to “punish” the bad guys or get revenge. It has to be about getting home safely. Let law enforcement do the rest.
So, before you go buy one of these signs or share them on the web, please consider how this might be construed and possibly used against you if you are ever in a situation that you find yourself battling a court case over.
Stay safe, and Carry On, Colorado!