9 ways your firearm can be attacked in court
To most level-headed people, a gun is a gun is a gun. So the equipment you own or carry shouldn’t matter if you find yourself in court after a self defense shooting.
After all, when your life is on the line, you’re going to use whatever weapon you have at hand.
But as crazy as it seems, some prosecutors will do anything to get a conviction, and that includes trying to turn a jury against you based on the specifics of the firearm or ammo you used to defend yourself.
Here are a few examples:
Semi-automatic – Some experts believe that juries look more favorably on revolvers than semi-automatics. The reasoning is that most people are more familiar with “old-fashioned” firearms and can more readily see themselves using a revolver than using a “high-tech” semi-auto. This is probably not as true today as it was a few decades ago when even police officers were more likely to carry a revolver, but it’s still a possible line of attack for some prosecutors.
Trigger Job – “Why would you tinker with a trigger? To make it lighter and easier to kill someone?” It’s a ridiculous assertion, but any alteration you make to a firearm could be spun in court to suggest some level of premeditation or evil intent. As with many of these arguments, there’s a presumption that good-hearted people don’t put much thought or effort into guns. And if you do, it indicates an obsession with killing.
Hollow Point Ammo – Hollow points are designed to expand upon impact, create more tissue damage, and deliver more energy to the target than solid or “ball” ammo. It’s well known that hollow points are actually safer than ball ammo, which can over-penetrate and cause damage beyond the target. However, if a prosecutor wants to call your motives into question, this is a likely line of attack even if every competent self defense instructor in the country specifically recommends this type of ammunition and despite the fact that most law enforcement officers carry ammo of this type.
Hand Loads – “Regular ammunition wasn’t deadly enough, was it? You wanted to set up your own ammunition factory at home and make even more deadly rounds!” Of course, hand-loading is usually more about saving money than evil intent, but because it’s not common among ordinary gun owners, a prosecutor will assume he can easily pull the wool over a jury’s eyes.
Magazine Capacity – High-capacity magazines are common today, some holding as many as 17 rounds or more. And as with hollow point ammo, high-capacity magazines are popular with law enforcement. But a prosecutor could argue that you weren’t content to have a few rounds. You wanted a portable arsenal. “How many times you have to shoot someone? How many people did you intend to shoot?”
Laser – This is another example of the “high tech” prejudice that could be used against you. Even with lasers going mainstream on cat toys and business presentation pointers, many in the general public still see lasers as a futuristic technology. “Look at this gun. The owner wasn’t happy to simply shoot someone. He wanted to carefully aim the shot to inflict maximum damage.”
Holster Type – Do you carry your firearm inside your pants like a gangster? Do you have a plastic “fast draw” holster? Is your holster made of expensive leather like it’s some kind of sick fashion statement? There’s no argument too silly for a prosecutor on the hunt for a prosecution. Even the idea of carrying concealed, or carrying a “hidden” gun, could potentially be used against you.
Knife – It’s common for advanced-level concealed carry students to carry both a firearm and a self-defense knife. From a tactical standpoint, it makes sense because it provides another option in a life-or-death situation. But it gives a prosecutor an opening to argue “overkill” or “paranoia” because why would you need more weapons when you’re already carrying a gun?
Extra magazines, flashlights, etc. – If you’re loaded up with additional ammo or tactical gear, a prosecutor might attempt to argue that you’re a cop wannabe or a vigilante “armed to the teeth” and ready to kill. Ordinary folks don’t carry all that stuff so there must be something fishy about anyone who does.
If you think none of these things can be used against you, consider the arguments made in the recent case against George Zimmerman who was prosecuted for the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
Prosecutors portrayed Zimmerman as a “wannabe cop” simply because he was a neighborhood watch volunteer and had a concealed carry license. They said he carried a “fully-loaded semi-automatic pistol” and carried “two flashlights.” Those were not arbitrary words, they were chosen carefully in a attempt to prejudice what they hoped was an ignorant jury.
Should you avoid trigger jobs or lasers or high-cap magazines? No. You should use the equipment you think you need to effectively defend yourself. But it’s important to be aware that your choices could be used as weapons against you if you are unfortunate enough to land in court following a self defense shooting.