Last updated on April 29th, 2019
Regardless of how much you’ve trained or gone over the scenario in your head, the aftermath of any legitimate self-defense shooting will overwhelm you. Training can go a long way to help build up the proper mindset. Nonetheless, it can’t guarantee you won’t lock up in such a stressful situation. To help remedy that, here’s a self-defense guidelines card you can keep in your wallet. It can provide you with some basic tips on what to do – and not do – in a post shooting scenario.
I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Every situation will necessarily vary, and so should your actions. This is not a substitute for proper legal training and does not necessarily reflect the laws in your state. There is no guarantee of veracity or appropriateness whatsoever. Neither is it guaranteed that any information is up to date. In the case of any doubt, always consult an accredited firearm instructor or lawyer.
Why carry post-shooting tips for the immediate aftermath?
There is a lot of bad information out there on what to do in the aftermath of a legitimate self-defense shooting. And the best highlight of that are the people out there who will claim “you should shut up and not say a word to the police”. To make matters worse, in the minutes after self-defense, it isn’t the moment to start asking Google what to do.
While it is true that it may be better to shut up than to screw up, for anyone who isn’t irredeemably ignorant, that’s bad advice. The reasons to give a brief statement of facts far outweigh the risks of not saying anything at all – with the chief among them being lost evidence and the misidentification of the victim and aggressor.
The goal here isn’t to explain the pros and cons of each course of action. Rather, it’s just to make a brief list of general best-practices, for the purpose of a self-defense guidelines card. One that can fit in your wallet next to your Concealed Carry Permit.
Keep in mind that the point isn’t to read from the card as a script. It’s only there to look at if appropriate and necessary, should your mind (understandably) lock-up. Ideally, if you feel confused or distraught, you can pull it out, give it a quick read, and put it back away before the police ever arrive. It’s only there to provide a backup for what you already should know, and to give you some reassurance.
If you want to skip ahead to the printable PDF card already, click here to go to the download.
Best practices for the minutes after a self-defense shooting
If you would like to read the tips before downloading or printing the card, below are the guidelines you’ll find on it. And remember, by definition, guidelines are never mandatory. These are just a few good recommendations that you can adapt to your situation and needs. And it will help put you in the right mindset regarding what to say after a shooting.
If you disagree with anything, I urge you to cross it out or modify it. And always consult a lawyer or firearm instructor before trusting any information, as it may vary depending on state law or other factors.
Wallet-Sized Self-Defense Guidelines Card
If you have been involved in a legitimate self-defense shooting incident, the following steps should be taken only after you are completely sure there is no longer a threat.
- Secure the weapon the assailant used. Check yourself for injuries. Make a complete check of the scene. However, do not inadvertently tamper with potential evidence. If the person shot is no longer a threat, try to get them help. Do not talk to them or use abusive language. Don’t touch the assailant if they appear to be dead. Don’t let anyone else handle any evidence.
- Call the police as soon as possible. Tell them what has broadly taken place and your location. Ask for emergency medical assistance. Don’t give too many details of the incident over the phone. Put your weapon away if appropriate, and keep it out of sight. Innocent people have been shot by the police because they were holding weapons when they arrived. Try to spot them first and attract them in a non-threatening manner. At first, the police may treat you like a suspect. Identify yourself as the victim. Do as you are told. Don’t question or argue with them. Do point out evidence and state broad non-specific facts.
- Call your lawyer. Make no statements to the police or anyone else until your attorney is present. He should meet you at the scene if possible. Tell him exactly what happened and let him talk for you. If you must meet the police by yourself, be sure not to make any statements. Explain to the police politely, but firmly, that you do not want to talk until your attorney arrives. Keep in mind that anything you say can and will be used against you.
- When the paramedics arrive, get medical treatment for shock for yourself and any other person involved, whether physically injured or not. You may not be capable of objective self-evaluation.
- Stay away from the news media. Never talk or make any sort of statement to them. Let your attorney make any statements for you. Remember, the news media has NO authority. You do not have to talk to them.
- Legal actions: You are justified in using lethal force only if you “feared for your life”, or that of another person. Don’t apologize for defending yourself. Avoid statements such as “I’m sorry I had to shoot” or “I regret the incident happened”. Such statements are equated with feelings of guilt. You are remorseful therefore, your actions were inappropriate. Such statements can cost you later on in a court of law.
- Stress: Persons involved in shooting incidents face a great amount of stress. Psychological problems sometimes appear, and even physical ones such as sleeplessness, headaches, diarrhea and even heart problems. These problems are common and affect even trained law enforcement officers. If you encounter any of these issues, seek professional help.
Won’t this make you look bad in court?
This is probably the largest issue most people have with carrying this type of information on your person. As if carrying information on best practices were some form of premeditation.
However, consider that there are plenty of people who also would say the same thing about carrying a legal firearm in the first place. Namely that you wouldn’t carry a gun if you didn’t intend to shoot someone. Something we all know isn’t true. So feel free to disregard this.
Next, take into account that the USCCA used to make available post-shooting cards to their members with similar tips. Considering that they are one of the largest self-defense training and concealed-carry insurance organizations, it’s obvious that it isn’t a terrible idea. If it’s good for them, it’s good for me.
Finally, you’d have to have a pretty incompetent lawyer and a terrible demeanor for such a claim to have any credibility. Educating yourself is also a sign that shows you understand the responsibility that you have voluntarily undertaken. Not to mention that you also take that responsibility seriously.
All in all, it’s simply a question of risk vs benefits. If you think that this doesn’t benefit you, don’t carry it. Or leave it in your nightstand drawer to review every once in a while. If you carry it in your wallet and ever see yourself involved in a self-defense shooting, you can always leave the card where it is if you don’t see appropriate to pull it out.
What about formal legal education training?
This self-defense guidelines card is NOT a substitute for comprehensive education in the legal aspects of a shooting. Not by any measure. This is simply a refresher of things you should already know, in case you lock up in the unfortunate circumstance of having to protect your life.
For detailed training, I’d recommend you get two books: one state-specific and one general.
One would be some formal educational material on the laws of your state. In the case of Florida, I can whole-heartedly recommend Florida Firearms: Law, Use and Ownership. Written by Jon H. Gutmacher, it is regarded as the bible for firearm laws in Florida. If you live or frequently travel to the Sunshine State, it’s a must-have. If you live anywhere else, there is most likely some equivalent book for your state.
For more general, non state-specific training, there is no better guide than Deadly Force: Understanding your Right to Self Defense. The fact that it is written by Massad Ayoob – the world’s foremost expert on firearm self-defense – tells you as much as you need to know about its credibility.
Just keep in mind that, while the information in those books is invaluable, for most people it is unrealistic to learn them by hard. And even if you did, you’re unlikely to have the appropriate state of mind to recall it in a post-shooting scenario. That’s where the value of a brief self-defense shooting guidelines card lies.
Click below to download a PDF version of the card. You should always review and edit the information to adapt it to your circumstances and needs. I personally am a member of CCWSafe, so I added their phone number to my card. You should act accordingly.
As far as printing and storing the card in your wallet, print it double-sided on a regular sheet of letter-sized paper. Bonus points if you print it on cardstock, for longevity and sturdiness.
Any printer capable of printing double-sided should print it fine, with the front and rear sides of the card perfectly lined up. If you don’t have a double-sided printer, you can just feed the paper manually. Either way it should only take you a minute. Then carefully cut it out, using any credit card you already have as a template.
Finally, to make it last, I’d recommend protecting it with an affordable thermal laminator and some credit card laminating pouches. That’s what I did to the card shown above. Alternatively, you can simply just use cheaper self-seal adhesive pouches.
We can all agree that it is important to have a basic education on what to do in the aftermath of a legitimate shooting. Regardless of whether you think that a self-defense guidelines card is a good idea or not. This is just an extra backup tool you can keep in your wallet, if you so choose.
What do you think? Is there any guideline you disagree with? One that doesn’t include not saying a word to the responding officer, that is. Leave a comment below and let me know. I’d be glad to entertain the idea of any improvement.
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