January 2012 - Competition Pg 4
COMPETITION AND THE LAW
The answer to that question is “it depends.” If you are up against a plaintiff’s attorney in a civil case, they will likely have found out about your Saturday afternoon hobby of playing Rambo Gun Nut by engaging in games where people run around and shoot humanoid-shaped brown targets, very fast and very accurately, over and over again, with the winner of the game being the person who shot the most humanoid-shaped brown targets the fastest and most accurately. I would be prepared for this to come up at trial, though you will also likely know ahead of time, because they would have broached the subject with you at deposition. (There are few if any surprises in a civil trial).
If it is a criminal trial, the likelihood is diminished, because most agencies simply do not have the time and energy to investigate the criminal suspects (which is what you are if you are on trial) as thoroughly as a plaintiff’s attorney does. But you still need to be prepared for it to come up at a trial. Let’s take a look at the big picture first, then narrow it down.
If you use a firearm for self defense, you face two legal challenges: a criminal one and a civil one. Remember the reasonable man doctrine? In either a criminal or civil trial the jury will be scrutinizing you and your credibility, measuring your actions against the standard of a reasonable and prudent person. Will the perception that you spend your Saturday afternoons with a gun in your hand, practicing how to kill people, and in fact seem to enjoy the endeavor, come up in your trial and have a negative effect on the jury? Remember who will likely be the jury.
The opposite side, either a prosecuting attorney or a plaintiff’s attorney will do their utmost to eliminate from the jury anyone who might have a bias in your favor. That means gun owners, and if they cannot eliminate all gun owners, they will at least attempt to eliminate the most active gun owners, the ones who actually practice with their guns and are members of the NRA.
Of course, your side will attempt to eliminate those who likely have a bias against your use of a gun for self defense: people who have suffered family tragedy where a gun was involved and members of anti-gun organizations. This will result in a supposedly clean slate, and it will be your job to persuade this clean slate that it is perfectly normal, and in fact responsible, for you to be a competitive shooter.
I can’t speak for you, but let me explain how I would do it if I were on trial.
First, I would arrange for at least two experts (and perhaps three or four) to testify on my behalf. The first expert would be a highly respected police trainer, hopefully local but if not local, then at least from the region. This first expert’s job would be to explain to the jury how police officers are trained to respond to threats against their lives and the lives of the public. I would explore how police training incorporates shooting at humanoid-shaped targets, and that some times, police officers even shoot at colored targets depicting people holding guns. Some of those targets might even be pictures of juveniles holding guns. Maybe even pregnant women holding guns. We would explore why this is done. (Photo below shows samples from LE Targets showing people from all walks of life in various poses for use in scenario-based training, long a staple of law enforcement education.)
We would also discuss how much training the typical officer receives before being put on the street, how much training officers receive annually, and why.