If you have to use your gun in self-defense, you will find yourself in a lengthy legal process. How will you demonstrate that you acted appropriately? How will you prove that your decision was based on knowledge, rather than panic or over-reaction? Could you articulately convince a judge or jury of your peers that your actions were justifiable?
Your legal defense may balance on your awareness of how long it takes you to draw your pistol, do a reload, or clear a malfunction. You may have to explain how quickly someone moving toward you could close distance to physically attack you, or your ability to get an effective hit on an attacker at different distances, or even your understanding of the law and Use of Force. This is not knowledge obtained haphazardly; this is information that you have learned through firearms training classes, sessions, and drills.
When you take a professional firearms course at KR Training, Karl Rehn distributes Course Completion Certificates after each class. He explains that the primary function of the certificate is to prove that you attended the course on a specific date and document that you passed if the course had a graduation test. The certificates could be needed for state carry permit applications or other requirements, and many shooters use class certificates and ratings to track their skill level and improvement. This documentation could also be used as part of your legal defense when you have been charged in criminal court or sued in civil court. It could help court officials understand your mindset leading to your decision to shoot in self-defense and ultimately prove that your actions were reasonable and justifiable.
If you take notes during a class, take them on a digital device or take a photo of the notes, so that both documents are time-stamped. Save them in a dedicated training folder in “the cloud” that you can access even if your phone or computer is seized as evidence. The most court-proof way to document your training is to make a hard copy of all your class notes, a copy of the class certificate, and a jump drive of any photos, digital handouts, videos, or other content related to the course, and put it all in a sealed envelope that you mail it to yourself via certified mail and keep it sealed. That creates a postmarked, date-stamped item that proves what you knew and what your skill level was prior to the incident.
You may already be documenting your training and practice in a legally useful way without realizing it: social media posts (photos, videos, and posts), as well as registration and attendance at events run by AG & AG or other groups, including shooting matches. Magazine subscriptions, online forums, and blogs you follow also influence your training. If you read something that makes an impression on you, include it in your Shooting Journal along with notes from your practice sessions, match experiences, and professional training courses.
One last thing to call attention to is how you can hurt your defense by something you might be doing unknowingly and unintentionally. If you ever have to use lethal force to save your life or protect a life of another, your character will be called into question. Your persona on social media will paint a portrait of your character. The memes that are somewhat inappropriate, controversial, or what you think is funny, will be used to describe your mindset. Signs in your home that say “we don’t call 911” or bumper stickers on your car that say “keep honking, I’m reloading” will sabotage your defense as you are trying to prove your analytical mindset and your understanding of the law and Use of Force.
Your Shooting Journal
If you have not downloaded your AG & AG Shooting Journal, start today to track your knowledge and skills. The information and worksheets will help to keep you organized. The drills give you simple ways to improve your shooting skills and document your improvement. Karl Rehn advises to use your phone to document the drills: photos of the targets, with the times and scores saved either by taking a photo of handwritten notes, sending yourself an email, or using a note taking app.