Should You Carry Less-Lethal?

So Breda found this stupid ring that gives an attacker a wiff of pepper spray. It looks like a generally bad device, and what’s said there is all that needs to be said about this POS. Sebastian also talked about it, and also agrees the ring is worthless. That’s not what I’m talking about, I take issue in this:

I still think it’s a good idea to carry OC. There’s a whole lot of force between harsh language and hot lead that pepper spray helps fill. One can imagine situations where someone is in desperate need of being in pain, but gunfire would not be legally justified. For instance, someone stealing the radio in your car: if you shoot him, you’re going to jail.

Sorry Seb, can’t agree. First let’s just get the value of less-lethal devices out of the way be going back to my old post here. The effective stopping power of Tasers and Chemical spays is effectivly zero. Even if they work they’ll only give you a few seconds to remedy the situation before the attacker can continue the attack. For non-lethal situations, you’re now the bad guy. Somebody stealing the radio out of your car, as Sebastian suggested. Maybe you’ll stop the theft, maybe you’ll piss off somebody who was only interested in your radio, and convince him your blood might be a worthwhile endeavor.

As I have said there, here, and everywhere. You should be walking away or drawing your gun. If you can walk away you should, if you’re not in a position to walk away, then you can justify lethal force. Sebastian responds.

Basically, if you say stop, and he keeps escalating, you’re free to go immediately to spray. If you go immediately to gunfire, you better hope he has a weapon so you can make a plausible story for your $400 dollar an hour defense attorney to tell to police. Basically, if he’s escalating, you have to wait until he’s a deadly threat before you can resort to deadly force. Why should that be your only option? Sure, you can try to walk away, or run, but what if he pursues or wants to fight you?

You can’t shoot someone who wants to engage in a fist fight, and not expect to shell out six figures for a lawyer to defend you in court. Especially where we live. If you can end the fight with spray, it’s a preferable option, and less dangerous than a fist fight.

I didn’t respond on his comments mostly because the topic had gone in another direction and is quite long, and I don’t feel like having him chase my rebuttals all across a 20+ comment post. He’ll see my trackback, and if he wants to defend his statement here, that would be awesome.

First up there’s a false dichotomy. Yes, shooting an unarmed attacker is a messy legal issue (of course it can be very much less messy if it is multiple unarmed attacker, or there is an age or size difference, or if it happens that said aggressor is a well known thug ect ect) but Sebastian seems to suggest that dosing an aggressive person with pepper somehow won’t result in a messy legal battle.

Your pepper could piss off an otherwise posturing thug and suddenly having him charging you looking for blood. Now you have to choose how to defend yourself, do you attempt to use fists, or maybe a pocket knife, or do you go for the gun? You’re also going to now have to worry about maintaining control of your gun in case its discovered and your attacker attempts to grab it.

Also even if the person runs away, I would strongly recommend you call 911, as using pepper spray or a Taser is still assault. Will the police like your story or will you be charged? If you don’t call will your attacker attempt to call the police on you?

Its a mess either way, or potentially not a mess at all. (Say if you end up shooting a 300 Prison yard Monster who was released last week from the pen on a 5 year sentence for raping livestock to death, and the coroner found meth, coke, ibogaine, rogaine, midol, and jolt cola in his system…or the less hyperbolic gang of 5 drunk hoodlums looking to bother an innocent person)

Its my advice that you don’t clutter your belt, or your mind (If you are concerned about your safety you should not be weighing the situation on what you should reach for. Much simpler to reach, or not reach) with excessive tools for various situations. Instead I recommend:

#1. Carry a gun. If you can’t or won’t, carry a defensive knife like the ka-Bar TDI

#2. Avoid confrontation. If you see somebody acting aggressive, or otherwise irrational STAY AWAY from them. If you see somebody stealing property and you’d rather not escalate it to a deadly force scenario, LEAVE THEM BE and call the Police. (I’ll let others decide what where and when property is worth lethal force)

#3. If you are directly confronted by somebody de-escalate. Walk away, inform your accosted that you are walking away and have no desire to have a confrontation. If this somehow compromises your masculinity or self-esteem you shouldn’t be carrying weapons, and likely shouldn’t be considered an adult. I have a gun on me, and I’d rather not shoot anybody…if this makes a drunk asshole think I’m a “pussy” or a “wimp”, why the hell do I care? A night when nobody gets hurt is a good night. My feelings don’t count. Spraying or tasing somebody has just as much a chance of escalating the situation as it does to stop it. Also use of less lethal force is use of force, so you are now the assailant. This can be legally justified, but it can also be legally challenged.

#4. If you are unable to walk away (being forced to run can be a very tricky situation, and you do NOT want to be in a sprinting contest with somebody of unknown ability who is considered a threat), you ARE in a deadly force scenario. You CAN be beaten to death. You CAN have your gun taken from you, you do not know what weapons your assailant has or can acquire. (A loose piece of concrete while you are rolling on the ground can end your life just as easily as a .44 in his waistband), if you still have the advantage of distance from your assailant draw your weapon and request to be left alone. If they advance on a loaded weapon drawn by somebody who has already attempted to avoid confrontation, SHOOT THEM. Let the law sort things out, rather than you trying to figure out how to get a street fighter off your back while retaining control of your gun without him killing you.

There is already so much that has gone wrong before you even drew your gun that you will likely have a good case. Of course your case is going to be worse if you didn’t follow all those steps. If you confront the drunk asshole who hasn’t noticed you, you’re now in a bit of trouble if you end up shooting him. If you decide to talk tough in hopes that the person yelling obscenities at you will back down and cave to your alpha-dog swagger…well you’re going to have a tough case if this escalates to you shooting him. If you don’t attempt to escape when an avenue is available to you, and/or give verbal commands and/or warnings, and simply draw and fire when accosted, you’re in trouble.

The above steps are means to allow your attacker to escalate force to a point where they leave you little option but to fear for your life. If you take great steps to avoid deadly confrontations, when one DOES happen to you, you’ll be on good legal grounds.


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0 Responses to Should You Carry Less-Lethal?

  1. Reputo says:

    I agree. Less than lethal force is something that police are allowed to use (and usually trained to use with appropriate lethal backup) because their job entails confronting people and situations that the rest of us should walk away from. Too many people don’t quite understand that the Police Academy involves more than just learning how to shoot a gun (I would guess that maybe one day out of six months is spent on this topic). There is also how to use pepper spray (1 day), tasers (1 day), baton (1 day), hand to hand submission/grapling (2 days), interviewing (two weeks), crime scene investigation (1 week), evidence handling (1 week), traffic directing (1 week), driving (1 week), local law (3 months), report writing (2 months). If someone has actually gone through the police academy reads this perhaps you can correct my numbers.

  2. Stan says:

    I won’t carry pepper spray because my fiance has asthma and getting pepper blasted could kill her. Since tasers and stun guns are not allowed for proles here in Michigan I don’t have that option anyways.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Go have a look at my earlier post on the issue. While I think bans are totally stupid, you’ll see that “electronic stun devices” are nothing you’d want to hang your hat on anyway.

      They’re banned here in Mass as well. Stupid law, but stupid law over stupid devices.

  3. Whether to carry it is tricky. You’re right in that de-escalation of conflict is the rule of the day. In most cases where you could use it, you really should be walking away instead.

    However recommendation number 4 is flat out wrong in many jurisdictions. Yes, someone can beat you to death with their bare hands in a street fight, but few places will consider an unarmed attack to be lethal force or near lethal force unless there is a big disparity in size or number of attackers. In my state, you need to be able to show that the person is intent on killing or crippling you and actually has the capacity to do it (rational actor rule). Otherwise lots of places legally expect you to take the beating because it’s better for you to get hurt than him to get dead. The law will sort this kind of shooting out by putting you in jail for manslaughter.

    The only real negative I’ve heard is that using a lethal force option before a non-lethal force option can get you in trouble at trial. It’s easier to make a jury think you’re bloodthirsty if you skipped the non-lethal option.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Good point on being in the defendant’s chair with your fired gun as exhibit A, and you unused pepper spray as exhibit B. Still I’d imagine if it was a clean shoot a good defense lawyer should be able to swing that.

      I agree its messy to shoot a visibly unarmed attacker, still if I was being advanced upon by a total stranger with violent intent, I might have right to assume they may know their way around in a street-fight. I know I likely spent my time in school and in labs when he was pounding faces in the pavement.

      I’m willing to be berated and insulted by a stranger. I’m willing to leave a public place I have every right to be in for the sake of avoiding trouble. I am unwilling to take a beating from an unknown person, as that is a VERY risky proposition. I will also say that somebody who advances on an armed defender could very well be concealing a weapon, or superior fighting skills.

      I see where you’re coming from, and in the end there is no crystal ball. But if you follow scenario 1-4, and are still in a fight, I’d personally rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6, or crippled for the remainder of my life.

      Certainly I would say that no matter your thought on shooting somebody visibly unarmed, I think we can agree at no point is using chemical spray going to improve your situation.

  4. alan says:

    From my IANAL perspective there seems to be a pretty stringent standard for non-LEO civilians: Either deadly force is justified or it isn’t and if it isn’t then nothing else is justified either.

    I’ll take that a step further and say that if you are in a situation where deadly force is justified and you use a “less than lethal” option then you have raised doubt about whether deadly force was justified. I recall a recent case, in Lancaster PA, where a warning shot was fired. The shooter was charged with reckless endangerment and illegal discharge and the prosecutor argued that it wasn’t a deadly force situation because the shooter didn’t shoot at the other guy. If he HAD shot the other guy it would have been legal.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      There was a warning shot situation like that in New York. Warning shots, don’t do them. Either hold your fire, or shoot for keeps.

      Yeah that’s my feelings on the whole issue. Using less-then-lethal force is assault, no different than punching the person, or hitting them with a bat. If you aren’t in a justified lethal force scenario then you probably shouldn’t be assaulting that person.

      If you ARE in a lethal force scenario then you should be reaching for a gun.

      And frankly if you’re singled out after trying to avoid the situation, and pursued after making statements of disinterest in fighting, and not being allowed to leave the area. After all that and you draw a gun and they don’t back down, I think you’d be in a physical world of hurt if you don’t shoot….legal issues be damned.

      • mike w. says:

        The idea that I should have to allow my face to be bashed in before I may pull my firearm is ridiculous.

        Having had my face reconstructed once before I’m not too keen on letting some violent asshole beat on it before I use overwhelming force to stop them. That said, Jeff is right about Delaware law. I’d have a hard time defending my actions if I shot an unarmed 90 lb. woman who was attacking me. The situation changes drastically if the attacker is 6ft, 275, as does it if the victim is small, weak, or handicapped in some way.

        Breda for example would have a much easier time justifying use of deadly force if attacked by an unarmed man than say, PDB in an identical situation.

        • Weerd Beard says:

          I dunno, Mike, if you were accosted by a 90 lbs woman, she’d have a 30 pound advantage on you! 😉

          On a serious note I would say with your CP you’d be in better shape than Me.

          Tho I will say while I’m a pretty big guy, the number of fist-fights I’ve been in is VERY small, and the time its been since I’ve had one can be measured in decades. Anybody willing to take a swing at me unprovoked likely knows a LOT more when it comes to street fighting than I do.

          • mike w. says:

            Heh, I’d have to spend more time fighting the wind than my attacker 😉

            I’ve taken far more blows to the head playing sports than I have fighting (and I have the concussions to prove it)

            I’d say your average street thug has a significant experience advantage RE fighting compared to your average CCW holder. CCW holders tend to be pretty conflict averse (an armed society is a polite society)

            On paper deadly force situations are simple. Either it’s justified or it isn’t. Real life situations aren’t that simple given fluidity, circumstances, and the many variables that come into play. Perhaps I should do a post on this if I can figure out which way my brain goes. Damn concussions.

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