Some Excellent Wisdom About Self-Defense

Tam reproduces (with permission) a forum post that I think everyone should read, related to the Treyvon Martin shooting. I would also add this case is a great example of why I’m such a big advocate of carrying a defensive spray in addition to a gun. If Zimmerman had been able to spray Martin, he might have either stopped the attack or put Martin in enough pain in order to gain the upper hand and make an escape. As it is, Zimmerman only had one option, and that was deadly force. If Zimmerman had something else, we would have been talking about something else this week, because Martin would still be alive, and Zimmerman wouldn’t be in any real trouble. The advantage of sprays is that they can be used much earlier in a confrontation than a firearm, and at a considerably reduced legal standard. In most states the standard is being in reasonable fear unlawful force is about to be used against you. Unlawful force can be as much as a shove, grab, or even a verbal threat. It could even be someone approaching you that won’t respond to verbal commands. In most cases, if you shot someone in that situation, you’d be guilty of manslaughter at best, and murder at worst. Even if you ultimately end up wrong in a “bad spray,” it’s generally going to be misdemeanor assault, rather than felony manslaughter.

19 Responses to “Some Excellent Wisdom About Self-Defense”

  1. Miguel says:

    If you are gonna use pepper spray, learn how to deploy & use it with your non-dominant hand.

  2. 45er says:

    I agree. Sprays are what fill that gray area of a potentially deadly threat from an “unarmed” individual. I tend to carry some some on occasion, especially when we go for walks where dogs may be an issue.

  3. McThag says:

    In Florida if you can legally use pepper spray you can use the gun. Or put another way, you have to wait until you need the gun to use the spray.

    • Sebastian says:

      That’s not true. Florida law makes a distinction between force and deadly force, and the circumstances under which force is allowed are considerably broader than those in which deadly force is allowed.

  4. Bram says:

    I agree with the “was it worth it?” post. I don’t know if Zimmerman was justified or not in the shooting, but he sure made a long recording of what NOT to do beforehand. Pepper spray would have been a better option, as would avoiding the confrontation altogether.

    • Sebastian says:

      I don’t know if Zimmerman was justified or not in the shooting, but he sure made a long recording of what NOT to do beforehand

      He is the poster child now for how not to practice avoidance. I imagine he’ll be used as an example of what not to do in just about every concealed carry class from here on out. Regardless of how the case ends up, pursuing someone merely on suspicion is just ridiculous. If Zimmerman had witnessed Martin just break into a car, or assault someone, I could forgive following him against advice of police in order to be sure he could tell the cops where he was. But dealing with “suspicious” persons is something that really ought to be left for police. Regardless of whether this turns out to be self-defense or not, that’s not really going to change my opinion that Zimmerman’s highly unwise actions lead to an unnecessary confrontation, which lead to the shooting.

  5. Weer'd Beard says:

    Serbastian, you know I differ with you in this issue. That being said I do work in a security position a few times a year and in these instances I do carry OC because I’m no longer only in charge of MY safety, but the safety of others, and in this case my standard approach of “Just Walk Away” cannot be used.

    For that OC is ideal!

  6. EBL says:

    Good point and of course in hindsight the pepper spray would have been preferable to the gun…but if the kid with the hoodie had a gun and was prepared to use it, pepper spray probably would not have saved him. If an attack is happening and I had a gun or a canister of pepper spray, I am using the gun. I linked you.

  7. Kevin says:

    Someone just posted a nice article on this, and he’s not a fan based on his personal experience of seeing them fail. Again and again.

    • Sebastian says:

      I agree with respect to most other less-than-lethals, and they won’t work on a determined attacker. But generally speaking, if you shoot an unarmed drunk who wants to fight you, you’re going to go to prison. I’d rather try to fix that situation with spray and try to get away.

      And that’s that I think spray is wise is not to say I think it’s always wise. If you’re justified in going straight to the gun, go straight for the gun. Someone trying to rob you, for instance, isn’t a pepper spray scenario. Neither is a couple of people trying to back you into a corner in a dark parking lot to pull of a robbery. Defensive sprays are for dealing with people who want to fight you, who you’d rather not actually fight.

  8. SPQR says:

    There is some wisdom to this but after mulling it over, I’ve decided not to carry condiments.

  9. Eddie says:

    I think that before using any kind of lethal weapon the use of any other weapon is better.
    there are to many legal risks of using a gun right away in most cases.
    I do not want and can not judge someone else his actions and I am just glad I am not in Zimmermans shoes.
    But I have to agree with Sebastian that if he had pepperspray this might have ended with no dead body.

    • Sebastian says:

      Whether you use any kind of less than lethal force first is entirely circumstantial. There are potential situations where it would be foolish to try to employ less than lethal force first. I would not, for instance, suggest pepper spray to try to defeat kidnapper, rapist, or armed robber. If you’re facing a reasonable fear of grave bodily injury or harm, that’s a deadly force situation, and you should draw your gun and be prepared to use it.

      But a lot of self-defense situations begin as some bozo that wants to fight you, or who wants to start a confrontation and escalate from there.

  10. Harold says:

    OK, I’m convinced (wasn’t difficult, I’ve been thinking about this continuum of force concept); anyone have recommendations for brands and models you’ve tried out that seem to work? I’m assuming function in producing a useful cloud of the spray or whatever, not that you’ve tried it on living creatures.

    • Sebastian says:

      I use Fox OC. It comes in two sizes. Get stream, not spray. Spray is for getting hippies to stop sitting around being hippies. Stream for attackers. Gives you more standoff room and let danger of blowback, which is a real danger. You need to be prepared to fight through blowback if it happens.

  11. Scott says:

    Pepper spray is an appropriate use of force where the assailalant intends to use force but not deadly force. The use of force must be reasonable and in the trevon martin case deadly force was not called for based on the continum of force i.e. the use of nonleathal force before a firearm.

  12. Sebastian says:

    That assumes the line between force and deadly force is a clean, brightly drawn line. It’s not. Fists can be deadly force.