Why you should never use the word "kill"

In many cases, what you say can get you in more trouble than what you do. This is especially true before, during, and after self defense with a firearm.

And there's one word that you should consider eliminating from your vocabulary: "kill."

Why? Because the legality of using lethal force often boils down to your intent. And in addition to physical evidence, the words you speak will be used to establish what your intent really is. When you use the word "kill," you invite law enforcement, prosecutors, and a jury to conclude that your intent was to take a life rather than preserve your own.

What should you say instead? In all cases, your intent should be to "stop the threat," not to kill. So you should train yourself to use the word "stop."

Here's an example of using the word "kill" that could come back to haunt you: "He was beating me so I shot and killed him."

Now here's the same example but using the word "stop" instead of "kill": "He was beating me so I shot to stop him."

See the difference? In all cases, you never want to say, or even imply, that your intent was anything but to stop the threat. It's true that using a gun to stop a threat sometimes results in death, however you should never in any way suggest that was your intent.

This applies to everything you say to anyone at any time, not just when you're talking to police after the fact. Investigators may ask your family and friends about statements you've made in the past. They may look at Facebook posts or emails where you've talked about self defense. They will listen to your 911 call and talk to witnesses. If your attacker survives, they'll even consider his statement about what you said during the incident.

If you use the word "kill" at any time, you put yourself in more legal peril.

Now let's take this one step further: don't even think about killing. Think STOP. That should be your true intent in any life-or-death situation. You should want to stop the threat, not purposely kill your attacker. If all you do is replace one word with another without believing it, the extreme stress of a shooting could unravel your deception.

Make it a habit to both think and talk about self defense in terms of stopping the threat. This will make it more likely that even under stress, you won't say the wrong thing and hand a gift to an eager prosecutor who is thinking about other words, such as "murder" and "conviction."