FEBRUARY 10, 2015

Editor's Notebook: "Rules of the Road"

There's so much nonsense out there, it's hard to sort out even if you've done some serious time in this business. It's too bad. I saw a few such inanities recently with some striking today's topic: the "rules of the road" as they relate to armed self-defense. Now you can get your instruction from the latest hip internet site or someplace that is named in such a way as to give you some confidence that what you're seeing is real. While you sometimes strike pay dirt, more often you get some seriously bad analysis of really important topics. Take the Tueller Principle for example. Bastardized by the unknowing/unthinking into some ridiculous "21-foot rule," they lead you to believe there's a bright line rule – "shoot at 21 feet, not 30 feet" or some silliness. Understand what Tueller was about: legal, moral and ethical justification for the use of deadly force in the real world. It's not some fruitcake's internet fantasy to be pronounced with all the gravitas of Brian Williams telling of his latest heroic efforts on our behalf. The single best description and discussion of the Tueller Principle – a component of the "opportunity factor" relating to distance in a contact weapon assault/gun-grab attempt – is in Massad Ayoob's text Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense -- available from Gun Digest Books.
Training with Ayoob doesn't mean he doesn't work. He's shown here doing the pace-setter for the qualification in the Stressfire class he did in Springdale AR in the 1990s.
Now a disclaimer: I've read Mas Ayoob's articles since the 1970s. I met him in 1994 while he was in my area on a criminal defense effort. From there, he introduced me to James Lindell, creator of the Lindell Handgun/Long Gun Retention and Disarming System and Founder of the National Law Enforcement Training Center. I trained with Mr. Lindell and company, meeting some of the finest people I've ever known, and I trained with Mr. Ayoob as well – taking Stressfire in Springdale AR and Deadly Force Instructor at the Firearms Academy of Seattle. I could well be a bit biased. I know many others who will tell you that, when it comes to the legal, moral and ethical parameters of use of deadly force, Massad Ayoob is the guy you want. They're right. His formulation – actually a report of his observations and studies – is that three components have to be in place before justifiably deadly force can be used – ability, opportunity and jeopardy. Mas' latest book explores those components in close detail using recent cases to make his points. Those three elements, properly understood, determine if the circumstance which justifies homicide is present. Like Jeff Cooper's Mindset and the tool used to make it successful – the four-part color code – it provides the roadmap for appropriate response to imminent threat. (And it is a four-part color code; adding to it makes it unhandy and demonstrates the lack of comprehension of the commenter. Not using all four elements fails to cover the topic.) Mas isn't a lawyer – though he's presented at continuing education classes for lawyers – and he doesn't give legal advice. He's a guide through the treacherous venue, the legal morass leading up to and during litigation. And that's trials – not a trial. Just because you survive one stage of judgment, say criminal prosecution, doesn't mean you won't face a civil case. Your state has a statute preventing that?
Taking an Ayoob class is work for students too. This is Deadly Force Instructor, conducted at Firearms Academy of Seattle in 1998.
You might be surprised to learn that it doesn't always work that way. You'll find the 'hole in that boat' in the pages of Deadly Force. For years, I've recommended In the Gravest Extreme as the book for learning when to use the ultimate force option. I still do, but I've added Deadly Force to the required reading list. I've passed my instruction along to a large number of students – many who currently serve. I recently found out that a college student of mine from the early 1990s has been involved in serious work overseas where they talk in terms of "Rules of Engagement" instead of the reasonable use of force and the Constitutional Standard we use here. I was surprised that he remembered me – and that he remembered those lessons taught about the justifiable use of deadly force all those years ago. He thanked me. I thank Mas Ayoob and my other instructors. We teach the rules of the road. Winning the fight is only the first stage, Problem A (h/t to Jeff Cooper). Winning the battle that can take you before the bar of justice, Problem B, is no less important. It's not about survival. It's about winning. Deadly Force can help you prepare for Problem B. And being prepared is the first step in prevailing. -- Rich Grassi