Threatening with a Gun

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

One of the things that the world thinks those of us who carry guns do, is to threaten people regularly, whenever we don’t get our way. I have yet to see anyone with a concealed carry license do any such thing, but this image is prevalent and could even be driving some of the anti-gun rhetoric that we hear.

Of course, such an image shouldn’t surprise us, as this is the image that Hollywood portrays regularly. Anyone in movies or TV shows who has a gun is likely to use it to stick it in other people’s faces to get their way. It doesn’t matter if they are good guys or bad ones. But then, to Hollywood, good guys with guns are bad guys anyway.

Reality is far from this, as those of us with guns know. Carrying a gun is a very serious responsibility; one that can’t be taken lightly. Yet one of the major influencers in our society makes it appear as if anyone who carries a gun takes that responsibility lightly. No wonder it is so easy to convince uninformed people that guns should be taken out of our hands.

A license to carry is just that; a license to carry a firearm concealed on our person. It doesn’t convey any other rights in any jurisdiction I know of; although police in some jurisdiction tend to look favorably upon those who have a license to carry and are more likely to believe their testimony about a given situation. But that isn’t true everywhere.

With that in mind, we should use extreme caution when it comes to drawing our firearms. This is somewhat of a contradiction. On the one hand, we need to get our guns into play as fast as possible, if we are ever in a life-threatening situation. At the same time, drawing too early or in a situation where it discovered that it really wasn’t necessary could see us facing some pretty hefty charges.

Brandishing a Firearm

The least serious charge that we could face while carrying a firearm is “brandishing a firearm.” While definitions vary from state to state, the general idea is that one shows they have a firearm in a threatening manner. This is key, carrying a holstered firearm, in states which allow open carry, is not considered brandishing it. Once you make any sort of threat, even if it doesn’t involve the firearm, you are guilty of brandishing a firearm.

Since this charge revolves around you being a threat, then your motive isn’t much of an issue. What is an issue is whether or not the other person feels threatened. If someone sees you take your gun out of your holster or even your glove box and they feel threatened, then in the eyes of the law, you are a threat; you are brandishing a firearm.

Although brandishing a firearm is only a misdemeanor offense, it should not be taken lightly. Being found guilty of this crime could see you spending several months in jail, paying a fine of up to $1,000 and losing your license to carry.

The only real defense you can have for this charge is to prove that you drew your gun in self-defense or that you were carrying it normally, in accordance with the law. Those are both legal activities, for which there is no punishment. Of course, your best defense is to not let anyone know you are carrying, until such time as you need to use your sidearm in self-defense.

Threatening with a Firearm

While it may seem like the same thing, some states define “threatening with a firearm” differently than brandishing it. The key difference here is mostly one of scale; are you simply holding a firearm or are you making clearly threatening actions with that firearm. To the police and courts, this is a much more grave crime as you are demonstrating your intent to use that firearm, for the purpose of instilling fear in the other party.

You and I may not see any reason to ever threaten with a firearm; that’s something that criminals do. But our actions could be construed as threatening with a firearm, if we were to point our sidearm at someone who is acting in a threatening manner or who is doing something that we want them to stop.

As with brandishing a firearm, the only real defense here is that of self-defense. There is no reason why any of us should draw our firearms or point them at another person, unless we intend to use them. And the only legal reason to use them, is to put an end to imminent risk of life and limb.

Warning Shots

Warning shots are something else that is considered illegal. This is actually logical, as any round fired has the potential to kill or injure someone. The worst possible result is for a shot fired as a warning shot to hit an innocent bystander and kill them. Since what goes up must come down; any shot fired into the air has a chance of causing a fatal injury, if it happens to fall onto an innocent bystander, no matter how far away.

What You Should Do

The only time any of us should draw our sidearm is when we make the reasonable judgment that we are in imminent danger and must draw it to defend ourselves, our loved ones, or our property. Even then, I’d be reluctant to draw a gun just to protect property. Homes and cars can be replaced, people can’t.

The old saying is “Never draw your gun unless you plan on using it and never use it unless you plan on killing with it.” That’s pretty good advice. If a situation becomes dangerous enough that you see a need to use deadly force, then use deadly force. Don’t threaten to use it; use it. Just be sure that you are justified in using it in self-defense, before you draw.

And as always, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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