Why Do We Use Deadly Force?

shoot to stop threatsWhen it comes to the use of force and concealed carry, there are some topics that can never be covered too many times. I feel that this is one of them. In the classes I teach for obtaining a concealed carry license, I point out the importance of understanding the reason WHY we use deadly force, not just HOW to use deadly force. Unfortunately, I find that the mental component (thought process) of training to shoot the target is often neglected in comparison to the physical aspect (shooting positions). Both are critical. Leaving out a huge part of the formula sets people up for failure, such as.

So, why do we use deadly force, and what is our ultimate goal? It is quite simple; we use deadly force as a last resort to protect ourselves or others from death or serious bodily harm. Our goal in using deadly force is also simple: to stop the threat. The phrase “TO STOP THE THREAT,” should be one that is not only ingrained in your vocabulary but one that you truly understand and buy into. If you come from the “shoot to kill’” school of thought, you need to read this article with an open mind and remove the idea that your goal in using deadly force is to kill the threat.

When using deadly force, we all concede that it is inherently dangerous and could result in the death of the person we choose to use it against. We are using a deadly weapon and targeting the large areas of the body. The large areas of the body contain vital organs which if struck with a bullet, are likely to result in death. So, it is argued that:

  • Because targeting parts of the body that contain vital organs, and hitting those vital organs will likely result in death, we are actually targeting to kill the threat
  • If we are not trying to kill the threat, why wouldn’t we shoot to wound the threat, aiming instead at the hand, leg or other part of the body that would merely wound the threat

The reason these claims are completely wrong is addressed above in the statement that we use deadly force TO STOP THE THREAT. There are a few reasons we target large areas of the body:

  • During high stress incidents, such as those typically associated with deadly force shootings, the greatest probability of hitting a target is to specifically aim for large areas of the body. We do this to reduce the probability of missing the threat and hitting an unintended target (for example, someone who happens to be standing behind the target).
  • The way a human body reacts to a gunshot is not at all like what is depicted in movies. Bodies do not fly back or immediately drop from being shot. Instead the threat can continue to advance and present itself as a threat even after absorbing several shots. Because of this, we intend to stop the ability of the threat to continue to be a threat as quickly as possible. Targeting areas of bone support or vital organs is sometimes necessary to stop a threat who otherwise would not stop and continue to harm the one seeking to stop this deadly threat.

When we use deadly force, we are constantly reassessing the situation and determining if the threat still presents a risk of death or serious bodily harm. This may result in 1 shot being fired or 3, 10,12, etc. shots being fired. The point is to stop the threat. Once the threat is stopped we should cease using deadly force. If one shot stops the threat and the subject survives, outstanding. If the subject does not survive, we understand that when we chose to defend ourselves with deadly force, that that is a possible outcome. Do not overlook the reality that when someone chooses to inflict death or serious bodily harm against another, s/he is choosing to place his/her life at risk and is accepting that someone may use deadly force against him/her in return. As law abiding citizens carrying a firearm for protection, we are not the ones determining when we will be obliged to use deadly force. It is the criminal who has made the conscious decision to begin the series of events that lead to the use of deadly force.

The reason this is such an important concept is that not only will your actions during the deadly force incident be scrutinized and investigated, but your own words will be used (for good or bad). If you say you shot the threat to kill him/her, stand by for a very difficult defense, especially during the ensuing civil case that is sure to follow, regardless of the outcome of the criminal investigation. Additionally, if you understand and live with this reason of our intent of using deadly force, you are much more likely to be on the right side of the law and morals when it comes to your application of force. As always, stay safe and stay alert.

Leave a Comment