In the last seven days I have encountered several instances of some truly terrible self defense “advice”, all of it attributable to one of the most common bad idea boogie men of the gun world: “a cop buddy.”
“A cop buddy of mine told me that if you have to shoot someone, make sure you empty a whole clip into ’em so they’re good and dead because you don’t want them to be able to sue you!”
“A cop buddy of mine told me that anyone who is more than ten feet away from you isn’t a threat and it’s illegal to do anything to them.”
“A cop buddy of mine said that if you use hollowpoint bullets when you shoot somebody the law will automatically award a civil suit to the person you shot.”
…and I could go on, but those statements (used verbatim) represent the choicest examples of mind-bending nonsense attributable to the mysterious “cop buddy.”
Many members of the public labor under the misapprehension that police officers, by virtue of simply being a police officer, are experts in a number of subjects including first aid, law, combatives, and firearms. Since most members of the public have next to no knowledge about those topics it can certainly seem like the police, who receive at least some training in most of those areas, are experts.
The unfortunate reality is police training is often minimal (sometimes nonexistent) in those topics, and rarely will anything an officer encounters in police academy training be sufficient to make him/her a genuine expert on the subject. I’ve heard some spectacularly bad advice given out by sworn law enforcement officers. My favorite direct experience was hearing a deputy (in uniform) advise someone at a gun store that if they ever had to shoot someone on their property in self defense, drag the deceased into the house before calling the police. I’m sure the deputy meant well, but that deputy had never once worked a homicide investigation in his (to that point) relatively short career. He wasn’t a trained investigator. To that point the bulk of his career had been writing traffic citations and occasionally providing perimeter security at a crime scene. He’d certainly never done an investigation of a legitimate lethal force self defense claim before. I’m certainly not an expert in homicide investigation, but I am pretty certain that a self defense claim is not bolstered by moving the corpse of your claimed assailant to a different location. Because it’s not like police departments have detectives and forensic experts working for them right? They’ll never know!
In my experience that particular deputy is more the exception than the rule. Often the bad information is, at best, third hand and the attribution is to “a cop buddy” that I’m reasonably sure does not actually exist. I’m fairly certain that “a cop buddy” is usually invented to add credibility to an idea that is, on the face of it, pretty damn goofy but that fits with prejudices and fears many have about the complexity and incomprehensibility of the law. We’re all familiar with the idea of a legal “loophole” and we’re conditioned to think that the foibles and flaws of the written laws make for some pretty strange outcomes:
The law is complex and it does do strange things at times, but it is not so badly structured and incomprehensible that executing an assailant who is no longer threatening is rewarded. (At least not unless you can convince Judge Micheal Gary that you’re a child at 22 and society somehow failed you and that’s why you tried to murder four people) The whole “make sure they’re dead!” thing has been tried before. It turns out that making sure the criminal is dead turned a perfectly legit self defense shooting into a first degree murder conviction complete with life sentence.
Legitimate self defense, you see, is based on an exigency. You are resorting to the use of significant violence (including lethal force) because your life and physical well being is endangered by a criminal assault. When the danger passes, so does the justification for the use of that force. Using the convicted pharmacist cited in the last paragraph as an example, when he fired his initial shots at two mobile robbers he was legally in the clear. The hit he delivered that rendered one of the robbers unconscious was a perfectly legitimate use of force. When he decided to stand over the top of the unconscious criminal and shoot him in the head, though, there was no longer an imminent threat to his life. Note that this change did not take hours. The exigency that justifies pulling the trigger usually lasts only a few seconds. Use lethal force beyond those few critical seconds and you can utterly ruin your life. Generally speaking, ruining your life isn’t really compatible with the goals of self defense.
Self defense is a serious subject and it’s worth investing your time and effort into learning more about the legal requirements surrounding it. Your life and your future are too precious to trust to the gossipy nonsense attributed to “a cop buddy” (be he real or invented) or gunstore lawyers.