Marty Hayes

by Marty Hayes, J.D.

It was the late, great Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite Academy, who coined the phrase “Problem Two.” He was referring to the fact that in any self-defense confrontation/incident, there were two problems one needed to survive. Problem One was surviving the life-threatening event, and Problem Two referred to surviving the legal aftermath of using force in self defense.

I first considered this dual problem back in the late 1980s when I first started teaching private citizens how to use handguns for self defense.

Before my first class as an instructor, I promised myself I would not teach people how to use guns in self defense, unless I also taught them WHEN to use them in self defense. I continued this promise until 2022, when I sold the Firearms Academy of Seattle to one of my brightest students, Belle McCormack. I am heartened to learn that she has continued this practice.

In the time between 1988 and 2022, individuals and schools offering firearms training for the private sector has grown exponentially, to the point where it would be impossible to name all the instructors and programs currently in the marketplace. While that’s generally a good thing, there is one glaring drawback. The vast majority of current instructors do not sufficiently address Problem Two in their offerings.

During the time I was teaching, I had the opportunity to not only enroll and take training from many of the top instructors in the country, but to also audit many more programs. In more than one program I heard, “I don’t teach the law; I teach gunfighting.” That would have been all well and good, assuming the student had access to instructors who did teach the law and was taught how to handle the legal aftermath of a self-defense shooting. The biggest problem arises when these instructors take in beginning students. It might well be that the student never gets to another class that teaches about Problem Two before they are faced with Problem One. 

Early on in my teaching career, I was fortunate to have two mentors. The first was not actually an individual, but instead, I benefitted from competent law enforcement training, when I began carrying a gun for work all the way back in 1978. I was taught about “ability” “opportunity” and “jeopardy” (AOJ) and so, when I began my teaching career, I fashioned a class outline using that model of when a person can use force in self defense. I figured if it was good enough for the cops, it ought to hold up for the private citizen.

Three years later, in 1990, I started training with Massad Ayoob and the Lethal Force Institute. A couple things immediately came out of that experience. First off, I was gratified to learn he also taught AOJ to his civilian students. Secondly, I learned there was much more to justified use of force in self defense than just AOJ. There are also legal principals such as duty to retreat, stand your ground, disparity of force, and post shooting trauma, to name only a few of the new details he taught.Belle Shooting Sm 

During the next 30+ years, I also learned that the legal system wasn’t necessarily a just system, discovering that despite armed citizens being perfectly justified in using deadly force in self defense, innocent people were being prosecuted at an alarming rate. Again, thanks to Ayoob, I learned that there was more to just being right; one also had to be able to prove he or she was right.

After my first class with Ayoob, I came to the realization that I was extremely deficient in my knowledge about Problem Two, so I convinced him to take me on as an assistant instructor, where I could study the problem under him, and pay him back by assisting him in teaching the Problem One aspect of use of force in self defense.

In 1998, I convinced Ayoob to start teaching instructor-level Deadly Force Instructor certification courses, and I helped design and implement the curriculum for the first such class, which we held at The Firearms Academy of Seattle. That was 25 years ago, and since then, we have taught an estimated 15-20 such certification courses, with an estimated 300+ graduates, all either police firearms instructors or instructors active in the civilian sector.DFI Onalaska 2020 sm

Photos: We expect firearms instructors to have high levels of shooting skills, as demonstrated by Firearms Academy of Seattle Director Belle McCormack above, right. Instructors also need knowledge of and ability to teach about Problem Two, as illustrated to the left, where Belle is testifying in a Deadly Force Instructor mock trial, with Attorney Brian Hallaq, right, acting as judge.

This column isn’t a history lesson or a session of me patting myself on the back. I write it hoping it might serve as a wake-up call to the thousands of instructors who teach basic firearms use. Have you made a personal assessment, asking, are you doing enough to teach your students the rules of the road when it comes to use of force in self-defense? If not, why? You are going to feel pretty terrible for a long time when one of your students screws up and ends up in prison because of an error which you might have been able to stop him or her from committing if you had provided students with a little legal education. These people are trusting you to teach them what they need to know. Are you fulfilling your responsibilities?

There are only two places for you to get certified to teach use of deadly force in self defense. One, is of course through the Massad Ayoob Group . As you read this, I will be preparing to travel to Phoenix AZ to teach the course with Ayoob. In fact, it was preparing to teach this course which spurred me to write about this subject this time. While it is likely too late to sign up for the Phoenix course, it is not too late to make the one we are offering at The Firearms Academy of Seattle, in July. Read more at . These are the only two scheduled this year.

I also mentioned another place to receive this education and certification, and that is through attorney Andrew Branca’s Law of Self-Defense courses. I have been acquainted with Andrew for many years and know his material to be first rate. He has an on-line certification course which comes highly recommended, and I would suggest you check it out at .

That covers my message for this month, and I hope it reaches at least a few of you, and you move forward to expand your knowledge in this critical area. Your students will appreciate it.

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