Shoot Or Don’t Shoot? This Is The Question

Motor vehicles and distracted driving claim thousands of lives more per year than guns, but only guns have media bias against them, have millions of dollars aimed at their “removal from society”, and are considered by law to be “lethal force” devices just by virtue of shooting them.

Do you know when it’s legal to draw a weapon and shoot at someone? You as a gun owner have a very large responsibility when you are carrying a concealed or open carry firearm.

If you do not know the laws about drawing and firing a firearm, you could end up in jail because you thought you were doing the right thing; when in reality you broke the law. In some cases, you may be just as much of a criminal as the criminal you tried to stop because there are limits to when it is and is not appropriate to use lethal force.

While you may feel very tempted to fire them or aim them to “scare criminals off”, prevent a theft, or prevent other actions, it can backfire on you because it may not be reasonable to think your life (not property) or someone else’s life is in danger.

Most of the legally armed citizens will never draw their firearms unless in a self-defense incident. It is better to know what to do if you are forced to draw your weapon.

The Two Mind Boggling Questions

For those individuals who choose to carry concealed, there will be some sleepless nights when you must ask yourself some tough questions.

1 – When is it appropriate to draw your weapon and pull the trigger?

2 – Another question you must ask yourself, is “Can I take a human life if I must?”

gunThese are two very important questions. If you do draw your weapon and fire there are legal and emotional consequences of making a bad decision.If you do falsely believe that you can take a human life when necessary, and cannot do it when the event comes to pass, the odds are you and anyone you are trying to protect will become victims of this incident.

In this country most state statutes are very clear as to when deadly force may be used. It can only be used in cases of self-defense or the defense of others in imminent danger. Only the individual in the incident knows the point at which they felt their life or someone else’s life was being threatened and in imminent danger.

Sometimes the individual’s perception constitutes a very large gray area. When in this gray area, mistakes are made that will follow you one way or another for the rest of your life.

One thing that is certain if you draw your weapon there may be two, three, or possibly more stories of what happened. Get your version of the story of what really happened to local authorities before anyone else gets there with their lies and incorrect versions of what really happened.

It is up to the prosecutors to determine if a crime has taken place. It does not matter if the individual had a concealed weapons permit or not, it doesn’t affect how prosecutor’s office evaluates these incidents.

What one individual might perceive as imminent danger could be different from what another person believes. When a prosecutor looks at a case he must determine whether or not the person using self-defense has a reason for shooting, possibly injuring another person, or killing a person in this incident.

What If You Draw Your Concealed Carry Weapon Without Shooting It?

Some attorneys will tell you not to say anything at all to the local law enforcement, especially if there were no shots fired and no injuries. If they are wrong you could end up paying for attorney fees to defend you if you are arrested.

It is much better to speak up and let the authorities know what happened and go on the record before they are dispatched to get you and bring you to the police or sheriff station.

If you have drawn your pistol but no shots were fired, holster your pistol, and get out of the area before something else happens. Call the local police or sheriff’s office and tell them exactly what happened.

Let them know that you have a concealed carry permit or state license and you are concerned about harm done to you. Explain to them that is why you drew your pistol in the first place and you did it in self-defense. Insist on having your information recorded about what happened, and do file to have the other person arrested if possible.

If the law enforcement officials say it’s not necessary, still have it recorded as an official record in the event someone comes in and wants to press charges on you or a witness has a different story than yours.

Always get a copy of the official report for your records. Always make sure the report includes the police or sheriff employee’s name that took the report, the time of the report, and the date it was taken.

Remember you are a law abiding citizen that wants to stay on the right side of the law. You have been authorized by law to carry a weapon for self-defense purposes. If ever you have to draw a weapon, your reason for doing so, was the weapon was drawn in self-defense.

When Can You Draw Your Concealed Carry Handgun?

Generally speaking you may not draw your gun to threaten someone, even though they are threatening you. Legally your hand gun can only be used to save you or another from grave bodily injury or death. Many times a gun was drawn and that ended the threat, but to draw the gun is still required for you and a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstance to believe that the threat of great bodily injury or death was imminent.

Remember, in some ways carrying a gun is a lot like cleaning one or storing it. Always go on the presumption that it is loaded, and that by accident or intent, it can go off and kill whoever happens to be in the way.

When you are calm, you may think your finger will never reach for the trigger, however the bullet in the other person’s body is all the evidence that is needed.

Keep your life simple, and only draw a gun when you feel you or someone else is in imminent danger of losing life, because once you draw the gun, the only thing that is left is to aim it and pull the trigger. Both can happen without thought and due consideration.

If you draw your gun, you may also have essentially backed yourself into a corner and eliminated other options for resolving the situation. The gun is a tool of last resort and if you carry it concealed, you cannot use it to ward off potential threats.

It should only really come out of the holster when the expectation of death is imminent. Real life situations aren’t the same as what you see on TV or what goes on in the fantasies of anti-gunners.  You will be in a stressful situation and must think carefully in order to do what is best and within constraints of the law.

There are a couple of things to think about when you must make up your mind to shoot or not to shoot:

  • You walk up on somebody who is stealing a radio and other property out of someone’s car. You cannot point a gun at them or even shoot at them because human life is always valued over personal property.
  • If a woman is in her home and she is awakened by the sound of breaking glass in the middle of the night and sees a man climbing in through the broken window with a weapon. She has every right to protect herself in her home, but if she shoots at the presumptive assailant while he is fleeing outside of the home she does not have the right to use deadly force to stop him.
  • On Sunday October 18th 2015 a pastor in Detroit had to “protect his flock with a Glock”. An individual came inside of his church with a brick and was threatening people with sudden death if they did not do as he instruct them to do. This individual on numerous occasions had threatened the pastor and other members of his congregation but this was usually verbal threats. According to the news, this individual came to the church with murder on his mind. The pastor told him to leave but he refused to do so. This individual charged the pastor and was screaming and threatening the pastor with a brick saying that he was going to kill him. The pastor, defending himself and his congregation, had no alternative but to fire. The Detroit Police cleared the pastor of any wrong doing.

To have a concealed carry permit is a great responsibility. You have to know your state laws concerning this permit and any other state that accepts your permit in their state. Although most states that offer this permit may have very subtle differences in their laws and the laws of other states, it is your responsibility to keep up on the new changes of those laws.

You must always remember that you may only draw and fire your concealed weapon to protect a person or yourself from immediate death or great bodily harm. If your incident does not prove this, then you could be possibly charged with brandishing of firearm or charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Remember you could always be held legally liable if you did not follow the law to the letter. In some states if you shoot and an innocent bystander get hit, you can be held responsible in a civil lawsuit.  Therefore, not only must you always practice good firearm safety and accuracy, you must also be aware of the situations you find yourself in, as well as what the law says about them.

Interested in improving your safety? CLICK HERE to find out more!

This article has been written by Fred Tyrell for Survivopedia.

Written by

Fred Tyrrell is an Eagle Scout and retired police officer that loves to hunt, fish, hike, and camp with good friends and family. He is also a champion marksman (rifle, pistol, shotgun) and has direct experience with all of the major gun brands and their clones. Fred refers to himself as a "Southern gentleman" - the last of a dying way. He believes a man's word is his bond, and looks forward to teaching others what he has learned over the years. You can send Fred a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • In your second to last paragraph, you refer to “banishing of firearm”. I assume it was a typo and you really mean “brandishing”. In that context, here is some information that may be of interest to you.

    Dreamed up and first enacted in Montana, “Defensive Display” has been drafted, introduced and pushed through by the Arizona Citizens Defense League (with help from the NRA and the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Assn.). A citizen now has robust protection for using a firearm in self defense without actually firing it. Previously, a threat or motion to produce a firearm, even when threatened by an attacker, could lead to assault charges against the innocent gun owner. Now, to balance that out, a specific law justifies the threat or reach for a gun in self defense. Elegant, simple, fair.

    A.R.S. §13-421. Justification; defensive display of a firearm; definition
    (SB 1243, enacted July 13, 2009, effective Sep. 30, 2009.)

    A. The defensive display of a firearm by a person against another is justified when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the use or attempted use of unlawful physical force or deadly physical force.

    B. This section does not apply to a person who:

    1. Intentionally provokes another person to use or attempt to use unlawful physical force.

    2. Uses a firearm during the commission of a serious offense as defined in section 13-706 or violent crime as defined in section 13-901.03.

    C. This section does not require the defensive display of a firearm before the use of physical force or the threat of physical force by a person who is otherwise justified in the use or threatened use of physical force.

    D. For the purposes of this section, “defensive display of a firearm” includes:

    1. Verbally informing another person that the person possesses or has available a firearm.

    2. Exposing or displaying a firearm in a manner that a reasonable person would understand was meant to protect the person against another’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force or deadly physical force.

    3. Placing the person’s hand on a firearm while the firearm is contained in a pocket, purse or other means of containment or transport.

    • Brandishing is usually a bad idea. Know of the scene in Get Shorty where tuff guy shows his 357 stuck in his belt and the other tuff guy kills him in hail of bullets from his 9mm.

      If bad to think your life in danger to use deadly force, drawing firearm should be taken into account and not be brandishing. 2nd prob is: once drawn: now what? If BG or obnoxious brother in law doesn’t skat, are you up and legally clear for using DF or hope he doesn’t take firearm from you and do a nasty to you?

  • Great article….good reminder.
    (Everyone, myself included, has a love/hate relationship with Spellcheck, but it appears that spellcheck may have gotten the author, in one of the last sentences…. I’m pretty sure that you/he meant “brandishing” (to show) a weapon, not banishing…) it was such a good article/reminder, it seemed worth correcting, before it gets posted and reposted around the web.

    • JEEZUS Flucking Christ, MIKAL! (oops don’t miss that spelling typo) What fucking Grammar NAZI troll farm did you come out of (oops again, ended a sentence with a preposition, naughty naughty!)

      But you do get the meaning, of what i’m trying to say here, don’t you? Having an obsessive compulsive anal retentive obsession with noticing spelling and grammar diminishes your comprehension ability to discern the essence of the important information from an author who probably types faster than your mind can think.

  • Bad advice. Just because this cop is a “Southern Gentleman” who believes “a man’s word is his bond” doesn’t mean they all do. Lawyers, DAs and even cops will all tell you DON’T TALK TO THE COPS! See this 3 part video to start the conversation from a lawyer/former DA/ law professor:

    and this one from a cop:

    • Correct. NEVAAH…as they say down south, start to explain what happened at the scene to the responding officers. Obey his commands but if She starts to interrogate you in any way other than asking for your ID, which you give to the officer, and simply respond with, I feel very sick at the moment, think I shit in my pants. I can’t even think right now. I just need to call someone to come help me pull myself together before I do anything else.’

      If they insist on taking you in to the station, then keep your trap shut (they call your mouth a ‘trap’ because you will Always get ‘trapped in trouble’ everytime you open it.) and wait politely but quietly until you get your lawyer present before answering ANY questions relating to what happened. PERIOD!

      If the officer doesn’t stop interrogating you after that, clam up completely if they won’t let you leave

  • It’s because of our corrupt govt, that our rights have become so misconstrued and unrecognizable….this is the 2nd Amendment to the “Bill of Rights”;

    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    This is an inherent right, to have the ability to protect ourselves, IT IS A RIGHT!!!, not a privilege given to you by govt, which at any time they could take away for any reason. BTW, your rights, can never be taken away, sold, bought for any price, bartered for, traded, exchanged, nor can they be infringed upon by ANY entity of govt or otherwise authoritative figure….they are your rights and you or anyone else does not have to ask permission to exercise them….no permits, no license….nothing….you/we are all suppose to be free and freedom loving people. When you take that license, permit and anything else that has to ask or have permission of authority or govt, you then do not have any rights, and you’re not suppose to give them away to/or for anyone or anything….period, end of story…

    • Andrew,
      You are 100% right! The first ten amendments to our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are unalienable or inherent rights and none of them can be taken away, voted away, reduced nor repealed. This is despite what many Democrats fantasize about doing in regard to our Second Amendment. These rights and not given nor granted to us as citizens by our government. In fact, the Founders repeatedly state this in their letters and the Federalist Papers. They clearly defined the Second Amendment as a way of protecting the other Amendments and thus the People from the Government.

    • I agree with your sentiments completely. The only problem is government and politicians keep taking bits and pieces and placing more limitations and requirements on this right and no one is standing up to them and telling them to stop; they allow this infringement by their silence and inaction. When others are willing to stand up with us and take this right back fully and completely all you are spouting is meaningless hyperbole.

  • Eagle Scout and ex cop should know the difference between the words brandishing and banishing, and when it is proper to use which word.

  • This is the most sticky, iffy areas today. Anyone watching the news knows George Zimmerman, Officer Wilson, Offer Slager and others. Slager is charged with Murder, the other two lives never the same. Few jurors ever experience Adrenal Dump. Those who have, even cops, may not know what it was or why what they believe they saw or heard is not factual. In a trial, need an expert to explain what most don’t have a clue. Would like to see this explored.

  • It is vital that you be the first person to call 911; briefly explain an ambulance is required because you were attacked and you had to shoot to protect your life. If a bystander calls 911 and erroneously describes the scene as you being the bad guy, the dispatcher will relay that information to the responding LEO, who can also put your life in danger. Do not have anything in your hands when the LEO arrives – no gun, no phone, no license. The only exception would be if the aggressor is conscious and his gun is within reach.
    Toward the end of this article a photo shows the back of a person who has drawn his gun, which is pointing down by his knee, but he already has his finger in the trigger guard. This is a safety violation that should never happen if the person has been properly trained.