by Marty Hayes, J.D.
I had to double check when I realized I was writing the AUGUST President’s Message. It seems like we just started 2020, despite the unpleasantness we all have had to put up with.
Insurance Commissioner Fight
Over a month ago, we gave oral argument in front of a presiding hearing officer, stating the reasons we believe the Washington Office of Insurance Commissioner’s Cease and Desist order against the Network was unconstitutionally issued. The hearing officer assigned to our case is an administrative law judge, who, by the way, is an Insurance Commission employee. On July 30th, we received word that this presiding officer ruled against us.
Since we have only just received this ruling, we have not had time to fully study the decision and haven’t yet decided if it is better to appeal or simply move on to the next hearing which addresses our primary argument: that the Network’s assistance to members does not constitute insurance. That is the main issue in this fight. Those new to this discussion may wish to review https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/join/fight-against-wa-insurance-commissioner.
As a result of the presiding officer’s most recent ruling, the Network remains unable to accept new membership enrollments from WA residents. That is as far as the restriction goes and, in fact, the original cease and desist order mandated that we were to continue providing assistance to existing members in WA after an act of self defense. As I mentioned in my message last month, we are also allowed to accept membership renewals from existing WA Network members, and at no time was there any restriction against our work with members outside of WA.
As I ponder the latest ruling, I feel that we are in for a long fight. As I have stressed all along, we are willing to engage in this battle and we will do what it takes to win.
Certifying Deadly Force Instructors
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, once or twice a year for over a decade I have been assisting Advisory Board Member Massad Ayoob (no stranger to this eJournal–see lead article) in teaching a Use of Deadly Force Instructor class. Earlier this month, we put on this program for 47 students in Phoenix, so the subject is on my mind. Since this has been such a satisfying endeavor, I wanted to talk to you about it this month and explain what Massad and I teach, how and why.
The purpose of the course is to open up the world of deadly force law to instructors who teach good people how to defend themselves. You see, I made a promise to myself back in 1988 (when I first started teaching firearms) that I would not teach someone how to kill, unless I also taught them when (and as importantly) when not to kill. For 33 years I have kept that promise to myself, first calling upon the law enforcement model of teaching deadly force law, then adopting the model taught by what was then Lethal Force Institute. The model I teach today is a hybrid of the Massad Ayoob Group and law school models.
Most instructors get their certificates to teach firearms from the National Rifle Association, an instructor program which does not address teaching deadly force law. They require that a person who teaches an NRA course of instruction bring in a police officer or attorney to teach the deadly force law segment. That makes sense from the viewpoint of the NRA, needing plausible deniability if errant subject matter is taught. However, at the student level, this doesn’t work at all well, because cops do not necessarily know the laws regarding use of force in self defense, and unless an attorney specializes in self-defense law, many lawyers do not, either. You see, law schools pretty much ignore self-defense law. My law school experience entailed a total of 90 minutes of self-defense law, and much of that was WRONG!
In 1990, I started teaching with Massad Ayoob, and by the late 90’s, he and I decided to start certifying Deadly Force Instructors, so instructors across the nation could receive state of the art training in how to teach deadly force to their students.
The core of the curriculum is based upon Ayoob’s 20 hour MAG 20 classroom instruction. Students receive lectures in legal, psychological, physiological and tactical considerations when needing to use force in self defense, along with a look into the aftermath of justifiable use of force. One of the great debates in our field is what to say to the police, if anything, after a use of force incident. Students come to learn why Ayoob gives the advice he does. Network members should refer to Network lecture #2 (for a preview see https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/preview-handling-the-aftermath-of-a-self-defense-shooting – members may log in and view the entire presentation in the member-only portion of our website). It is a great lecture.
Additionally, because this is an instructor certification course, students are expected to demonstrate that they can actually teach the discipline, and so a portion of the 40 hours in the classroom is spent in student lectures. Students are assigned a subject to explain to the rest of the class.
Our most recent class was hosted by John Correia and, as I noted earlier, was attended by 47 students. Because of the size of this class, we converted student lectures into group presentations. With a small class, students are given individual assignments. [Photo, right: Melody Lauer gives a student presentation.]
Students also get a very keen look into the legal side of self defense, including lectures on how to testify for their students who have been involved in a self-defense incident. We teach how the firearms instructor can be used as an expert witness in self-defense cases in their local area. Believe me, this is a much needed field! Independent, expert testimony is often required to present to a jury why the armed citizen’s self-defense actions were justified. As the numbers of armed citizens grow, there will be more and more justifiable shootings. Currently, most professional expert witnesses are working as many cases as they care to. Our industry needs more competent people to serve as experts for legitimate armed self-defense cases.
On the fourth day of Deadly Force Instructor, we leave the classroom and go to court. Well, not physically, but at least mentally. We turn the classroom into a courtroom and create a one-day trial, putting one of the students on trial for murder after a questionable shooting, complete with many of the students filling the roles of witnesses and defendant. This gives the students a fairly realistic look into what happens in a typical self-defense trial. When the evidence has been presented and the witnesses called, the judge gives the jury instructions and the students who did not testify become the jury, or if we have a large class, two juries [Photo, left, a student jury deliberates].
If we have attorneys as students, they will typically fill the roles of judge, prosecutor and defense attorney. We had no attorneys in our recent class, so, as we have done before, we asked one of our attorney friends to fill the role of judge, and Mas and I become prosecutor and defense attorney. Attorney Matthew Messmer, with whom I was acquainted from the 2008-2010 trial of firearms instructor Larry Hickey agreed to help by taking on the role of judge. [Photo below, right: Messmer, center, Ayoob, right, and I playing our mock trial roles.]
Most students have not been involved in court cases and they tell us that the mock trial was the most valuable aspect of the class. We believe it gives a good look into the legal system after a self-defense incident, and after all, the final proceeding in any self-defense shooting is going to be the legal fight afterwards. The mock trial leads up to the final day on which Mas gives the final lectures, we wrap up the student presentations, and in the afternoon, we administer a 50-question test, based on the material covered in all the foregoing classroom time.
Who Attends Deadly Force Instructor?
In every class, there is a mix of experienced, competent instructors, inexperienced instructors and practitioners of armed self defense. Our recent class was weighted heavily towards the experienced instructors, with many current, popular instructors taking the class. It was a privilege and honor to have them in class.
We could not teach these classes without a host facility, and for this large class, we had an excellent one. The
Glendale Christian Church made their whole church available for us, including a spacious sanctuary with excellent audio-visual equipment. Pastor Brian Reed, who was also one of the students, was very gracious. It didn’t hurt, perhaps, that the church live services were shut down because of the COVID scare, but he couldn’t have known that when he scheduled the training event. Thank-you, Pastor Brian, for your generosity.
Our host and class promotor was none other than John Correia, the popular YouTube celebrity who has found a calling in his Active Self-Protection internet channel. [Photo, below: John participated as the defendant, shown here testifying during our mock trial exercises while Matthew Messmer, acting as our judge, looks on.]
John and his staff did a masterful job coordinating and filling the class, resulting in one of the largest Use of Deadly Force Instructor classes Mas and I have ever taught. John used the class as a fund raiser for one of his favorite charities, SWAT ministries, which rescues girls and young women from sex slavery. I was impressed with John’s charity, and both Mas and I donated a share of our teaching fee to the worthy mission.
A class like this tends to recharge an instructor’s batteries, and I know I came away feeling pretty good about our effort. I cannot say this about all endeavors, obviously.
Use of Deadly Force Instructor class is open to firearms instructors, expert witnesses, and a select few non-industry students like members of the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network and former LFI/MAG students. If you fall into one of these categories and would like to attend a Deadly Force Instructor class, we have another session scheduled for November 11-15, 2020 at my home range, The Firearms Academy of Seattle (see https://firearmsacademy.com/activities/deadly-force-instructor). We would welcome your attendance. Even if you are not planning to teach or serve as an expert witness, it would not hurt your chances in court if you ever needed to explain to a jury why you did what you did, and why your actions were those of a reasonable person.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.