gila 300

by Gila Hayes

The latest Varg Freeborn book, reviewed in the foregoing pages, was as thought-provoking as his first. What he has written is so important as to merit risking repetition. In Violence of Mind and now in Beyond OODA, Freeborn urges readers to search their souls to make sure the ideals they embrace when preparing for self defense are congruent with 1) their actual skills and abilities 2) legal and ethical allowances accorded to the private citizen; and 3) the abilities of the criminal predator. Without congruence, a fatal hesitation, punishment for committing crimes, or simply being overcome by a more willing and deadly opponent are all very real risks.

Freeborn is entirely correct about the necessity of internalizing the boundaries of our legal and ethical restraints. Providing for the safety of our families and loved ones is a responsibility we shoulder willingly. Conversely, using deadly force to interdict prowlers and burglars in the neighborhood is subject to different legal, moral and ethical constraints. What might begin as deterring theft can morph into much more and the question of use of deadly force to protect property coupled with being the one to initiate contact with the prowler is sure to become anything but simple, as we have seen in the trial of three Georgia men in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. 

In Beyond OODA, Freeborn opines that many citizens are less knowledgeable about the laws and ethics of using deadly force in self defense than they are about what he terms the warrior mythos in which they are emotionally invested. I would retort that Network members are an exception. Our 19,250 members are a tiny fraction of the estimated 72 million Americas who a few years ago admitted to Pew researchers that they owned a gun. It’s probably an even smaller fraction; researchers likely under-count armed citizens because even with the promise of anonymity, not everyone is going to tell a stranger they own guns.

I’d like to think Freeborn is wrong about those adopting the “warrior” persona without acknowledging or even knowing of the legal responsibilities and moral burdens it entails. I’m afraid, though, that he is right. I recently heard an echo of his concerns while chatting with our Advisory Board member John Farnam about the big jump in sales of firearms to first-time gun owners. John, indulging his inimitable dry humor, commented, “The majority of guns that are being bought will probably spend the next 20 years in the box that they came in. People buy them, remain conflicted, and think, ‘I will just put it in this drawer until I can get to it later.’ Well, later never comes and the gun never has a chance of doing anybody any good. After the person dies, their children will open the drawer and say to each other, ‘Oh! Did you know Dad had this?’ That is going to be the fate of a lot of the guns sold.”

When John made that observation, I flinched imagining theft or misuse by an unsupervised child or incompetent adult, although that’s only one of a number of concerns arising when someone obtains a tool without any instruction about its use. There’s little doubt that new gun owners could benefit from mentoring, coaching and education on how one going armed should behave. New gun owners need exposure to gun safety, to the ethical concerns attached to use of force and to information about what to expect from the criminal justice system after use of force in self defense.

Goodness knows that new gun owners are unlikely to get the truth from their usual sources of information. Propagandizing is rampant–even by so-called charities! I recently ran across a disturbing example. Don Kates, blogging on The Volokh Conspiracy wrote about Amnesty International’s amicus brief in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen . In his post, Kates highlights Amnesty International’s anti-gun bias expressed some years ago by one AI director: “We at Amnesty International are not going to condone escalation of the flow of arms to the region...You are empowering (the victims) to create an element of retaliation...It is a dangerous proposition to arm the minorities to fight back.” One can only hope the USSC Justices take that amicus brief with a grain of salt when it suggests that the NY “plaintiffs have no right to be issued a license to carry a firearm for lawful self defense.” (Don’t miss the rest of Kates’ great commentary at .

Do you know new gun owners whom you wish more closely shared your understanding about use of deadly force in defense of innocent life? Education is the key! Please order a complimentary copy of our booklet What Every Gun Owner Needs to Know About Self Defense Law for them by calling us at 360-978-5200 or online at . If you know their mailing address, tell us (we’ll never use it for crass marketing purposes) and we’ll happily send a booklet directly to them, or better yet, let us mail you a copy to give to them so you can personally emphasize the necessity of knowing when using deadly force is justified and when it is not. It costs you nothing, but can pay big dividends in preventing the kinds of firearms misuses that spurs legislation that’s obeyed only by law-abiding armed citizens. We are much better off when we keep government out of it and influence our own to behave more safely and responsibly.

We must lead by example. If you’re not sure of your state’s gun laws, get started with websites like or the one the NRA runs at and for use-of-force law, Andrew Branca’s state-specific Law of Self Defense online training compliments the Network’s member education program very nicely to fill the deficit Freeborn identifies. Let’s be the exception, members, and in addition to internalizing a clear-eyed view of when we will use force against another human being, know the laws where you are so your use-of-force options are legal, too.

To read more of this month's journal, please click here.