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Recently, there has been considerable discussion about the role of training for armed citizens and whether or not training could be used against the armed citizen in a court of law.

We here at the Network are intimately aware of one such case https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/images/stories/Hickey_Booklet.pdf in which an armed citizen was questioned extensively while on the witness stand about attending several military-centric training courses. Consequently, we asked our affiliated attorneys a couple of questions.

Do you have personal experience with training becoming an issue in court for an armed citizen in a self-defense trial, and if so, what was the outcome?

If a person has a strong training résumé, what steps would you suggest taking to keep their extensive training from creating a negative result in court?

Our affiliated attorneys responded:


Cole B. Combs
Cole Combs Law Firm PLLC
5600 Bell St., Ste. 105, #298 Amarillo, TX 79109
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This isn’t an issue I’ve ever had the prosecution raise in exactly the same manner, but the best way I could think of to fight it is to be extremely aggressive with your cross examination of every cop who testifies, and to perhaps also call as witnesses (even hostile) the training officers for that local agency. Cops often go to the same courses, or the same type of courses. It would be pretty straightforward to get the arresting officer on the stand and ask, “Have you had training on the use of force?” “Did you take that training because you’re a gun nut who wants to shoot people?” “Why do you carry a gun every day?” I’d make it plainly absurd in countering such a tactic by the prosecution. Turn their own witnesses against them.

I’d also call as witnesses the instructors for that course. The prosecution will leave the jury with an impression of nothing but a bunch of gun nuts shooting all day for multiple days, yet most modern courses have a more involved curriculum, including medical training, escalation of force, and escape instead of engagement if at all possible. If you let the prosecution control the narrative then you’re screwed.


Bruce Finlay
Attorney at Law
P. O. Box 3, Shelton, WA 98584

I’d turn this into a positive on voir dire of the jury and direct exam of the defendant. The defense attorney questions the defendant first.

If the matter is solidly fixed as a positive rather than a negative during voir dire and direct exam, the prosecutor will have difficulty turning it into a negative and might even cause the jury to resent the prosecutor. I can’t tell you exactly how to do this because every case and every defendant is different. But it can be vitally important for the jury to like the defendant and at least not dislike the defense lawyer. One possible strategy among many is to illustrate that police go through very similar training, but again this depends on how your jurors view police officers. In western Washington small counties where I practice, most jurors see their police as honest and honorable.


Thomas Glasgow
Glasgow & Olsson
1834 Walden Office Square, Suite 575, Schaumburg, IL 60173

I have had this experience in court. The wonderful thing is that the person who I represented had a very strong training background with respectable trainers. Because the trainers had such exceptional military and law enforcement background, they testified extremely well and were extremely persuasive. In another situation with another attorney, I have seen this go in a different direction where the trainer was the person who had to have the biggest truck, the biggest gun, the most over-the-top stories and had to embellish everything that they have done because of some need to feel accepted. Because of that embellishment, and because of their over-the-top attitude, it did not work out well for the client.


William McGinn
20 North 16th St., Council Bluffs, IA 51501

I have not had a client with training where it was used negatively against him.

With regard to question two, this should be treated like a CDL driver who gets into a car accident. The standard in Iowa is what an ordinary reasonable prudent person would do. This could come into question as it would be a reasonable person with some training. I argue that it lends credibility to the client as getting training shows they are careful and have respect for the firearm.


Justin L. Ward
The Ward Firm
Attorneys & Counselors at Law
4600 Northgate Blvd., Suite 210, Sacramento, CA 95814

Do you have personal experience with training becoming an issue in court for an armed citizen in a self-defense trial, and if so, what was the outcome?

I have not had it come up yet.

If a person has a strong training résumé, what steps would you suggest taking to keep their extensive training from creating a negative result in court?

I would suggest the attorney highlight all of the deescalation tactics the client tried to use before using force, i.e. talking, walking away, urging the other person to walk away, etc. I would also be sure to highlight their mindset that the use of the firearm was the only reasonable way to defend themselves.


Marcos Beaton, Jr.
The Beaton Law Firm
12926 SW 132nd Street, Suite 4, Miami, FL 33186

I have had personal experience and heard of training/preparedness becoming an issue in self-defense trials. My own experience involved a young man who defended himself in a disparity of force situation against what appeared to be an attack by multiple men, one of whom was much larger than him. The young man was armed with both a TASER® and a handgun. He attempted to use the TASER® first, but when it was knocked out of his hand during a relentless beating, and he was bleeding and staggering, he used the handgun to shoot and kill the primary aggressor in the beating, which was also the largest of the men involved in the beating.

The young man was charged with murder. At trial, the act of arming himself with the handgun and TASER® was argued to be the actions of an aggressor looking for a fight, and indeed looking to kill someone. During the prosecution, it almost seemed like carrying the TASER® was a bigger sin than carrying the firearm. I believe we were able to show that the carrying of the TASER® demonstrated quite the opposite, that it demonstrated an understanding of escalation of force and the conscious decision to not just carry, but initially attempt to deploy (unsuccessfully) a less-than-lethal self-defense tool. Ironically, we were able to demonstrate these concepts over and over through the questioning of the numerous responding officers who came to testify, dressed in uniform, carrying their side-arm and their TASER®.

The young man was acquitted on all counts after an approximately three-week trial.

In my opinion, there are numerous lessons to be learned from the dynamic potentially created by extensive training and/or preparedness. The first is to remember that prosecutors are human and prosecutors are lawyers and therefore advocates. As humans, if we look hard enough for things to justify a point of view in a set of circumstances we’ll usually find it. When prosecutors engage in this exercise and they find that thing or things, they’ll do what advocates do and make it a thing. There is often no sinister motive; I believe it has more to do with tunnel vision combined with the pop culture hatred of guns and gun culture. The more important lesson, I think, is to avoid doing, saying or associating with things that leave room for an advocate to argue that bravado or “gun-nut” mentality motived or at least contributed to a use of force decision. The example that immediately comes to my mind are the signs that read “we don’t dial 911” accompanied by the image of a firearm. This is easy pickings for a good prosecutor to argue that bravado or the “gun-nut” mentality motivated a defensive shooting, not reasonable fear.

The training or preparedness is not the problem, it’s what might be unintentionally communicated that this training/preparedness could mean to the individual.

One’s own desire to communicate a deeply held belief of being the protector of the home and the family should give way to a consideration of how something as silly as a sign that is meant to be sarcastic (or a social media post) might someday be used against you after a self-defense incident. I would think of it this way: we don’t go around joking about dying unexpectedly and leaving our families grieving and without a provider, but we buy life insurance because we want to be prepared in the event it does happen – because the unfortunate truth is it does happen. Being prepared to defend oneself or one’s family is no different.


Thank you, affiliated attorneys, for sharing your experience and knowledge. Members, please return next month when we share the second half of our affiliated attorneys’ response to this question.

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