What every gun owner says right before going to jail

It's a sad fact of life that many gun owners are in denial when it comes to the realities of using a firearm for self defense.

Gun owners may think about someone breaking into their home or hijacking their car, so they plan ahead to have the appropriate means of protection. However, they don't think beyond pulling the trigger.

And ironically, it's what happens right after you pull the trigger that's most likely to get you into legal hot water.

We recently attended the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, PA. Tons of people became members, and we had a great response to our seminars for the NRA. But it was astonishing how many people thought that they would never get in trouble for defending themselves with a gun.

Some of the most common comments we heard were …

"The Second Amendment is all the protection I need."

"We have Castle Doctrine. I don't have anything to worry about."

"My homeowner's policy gives me a lot of liability protection. So I'm covered."

"I have a right to defend myself. How could I get in trouble if I'm the good guy?"

Let's deal with these one-by-one.

"The Second Amendment is all the protection I need."

We believe in the Second Amendment too. In fact, every single person involved with Second Call Defense is a staunch Second Amendment advocate. However, the Second Amendment simply codifies the concept that citizens can keep and bear arms. It doesn't offer any specific legal protection.

Assuming that you can't get in trouble because the Founding Fathers thought it was a good idea for you to be armed isn't going to keep a police officer from cuffing you, a prosecutor from trying to convict you, or a jury from finding you guilty of murder or manslaughter. These things happen all the time.

“We have Castle Doctrine. I don't have anything to worry about.”

The press has done a terrible job explaining what Castle Doctrine, Stand Your Ground, and similar laws really do for you. If all you do is read your local newspaper, you'd think once Castle Doctrine becomes law in your state, you're free to shoot bad guys at your leisure and have nothing to worry about when law enforcement shows up.

In reality, Castle Doctrine is little more than a traditional concept in common law that says you have a right to defend your home and yourself. The actual legal details are different from state to state. And the “fact pattern” in every case is different.

While it may be true that Castle Doctrine laws give authorities a way to think about armed self defense, it's not a get out of jail free card nor will it prevent police from arresting you, subjecting you to an intense interrogation, or recommending charges be brought against you. In some areas of the country, every gun-related case is automatically brought before a grand jury as part of a routine investigation.

“My homeowner's policy gives me a lot of liability protection. So I'm covered.”

Have you actually read your insurance policy? Have you asked your insurance agent specifically if it covers you if you shoot someone on purpose? Most homeowner liability policies contain a provision that excludes coverage for injury or damage intentionally caused by the insured. This is sometimes called the "intentional injury exclusion."

A few policies include language for a "reasonable force" exception for "bodily injury resulting from the use of reasonable force to protect persons or property." But this only protects you for "liability," meaning damages in a civil case and applies only after you are acquitted or the charges are dismissed.

Bottom line, don't set yourself up for a costly surprise expecting your homeowner's, or any other insurance, to provide protection in a self defense case. In most situations, it won't.

“I have a right to defend myself. How could I get in trouble if I'm the good guy?”

Sounds good. But that's idealism, not realism. Good guys get in trouble all the time. You can see someone fall down choking, you render aid, then get sued because the guy died or lived and sustained injuries. “Good Guy” is not a sound defense.

Gun owners are in denial in many ways, but this is probably the most common. It seems so commonsense to think that if you honestly believe your life is in danger and you abide by the law to defend yourself, you won't end up being treated as the bad guy. But that's not the way the world works. You know you're the good guy, but authorities don't. Witnesses don't. Prosecutors don't.

It boils down to this: if you're realistic enough to understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people in one situation, then you should be able to understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people in another situation.

And just as it's wise to prepare to defend yourself from a physical threat, it's wise to prepare to defend yourself from the legal and financial threat that so often follows. A physical threat is usually over in a few seconds. A legal threat can dog you for years, even for a lifetime.