I have seen many posts in lots of different social media groups and threads in Florida about how the current State of Emergency order by the Governor has affected the owners of firearms and the ability to carry them legally.
There are RUMORS going around that the current SOE allows the open carrying of firearms. THIS IS NOT TRUE. While the listed exceptions in the Florida state Statutes still are applicable, nothing has changed in this regard. YOU CANNOT open carry a firearm in Florida Because of the State of Emergency order. What people may be misunderstanding with this one is that during a State of Emergency Evacuation order it is permitted to conceal carry a firearm on them during an evacuation:
790.01 Unlicensed carrying of concealed weapons or concealed firearms.—
(3) This section does not apply to: (a) A person who carries a concealed weapon, or a person who may lawfully possess a firearm and who carries a concealed firearm, on or about his or her person while in the act of evacuating during a mandatory evacuation order issued during a state of emergency declared by the Governor pursuant to chapter 252 or declared by a local authority pursuant to chapter 870. As used in this subsection, the term “in the act of evacuating” means the immediate and urgent movement of a person away from the evacuation zone within 48 hours after a mandatory evacuation is ordered. The 48 hours may be extended by an order issued by the Governor.
The next one I have seen is that the current SOE prohibits you from concealed carrying with CWFL or even without legally during one of the exceptions. Again THIS IS NOT TRUE. You can carry a firearm lawfully just like before, nothing has changed in this regard. You may still lawfully carry with a CWFL and also still possess a firearm in your vehicle according to the Florida Statues. (F.S.S. 790.25(5) for one.) So you can still carry according to the laws just like before this current crisis.
Some counties have closed gun stores under the guise of them being “non-essential”. That is an entirely different debate, and one I think you all know how I feel. But that is currently the ability they have. I would like to see after this is all over that firearms suppliers are exempt from these closures because the items they are selling are Constitutionally protected and unless the Constitution itself is suspended, these businesses stay open. But thats for a different time.
And as we have a lot of new gun owners because people went out and panic bought a firearm, many for the first time, please become very familiar with the current FLorida laws before you get yourself in a legal bind with the police or someone else. Get some training, follow the four cardinal rules of gun safety s you can safely have a firearm. Teach yourself these rules and follow them! Make everyone in your house follow them!
The struggle to educate Florida’s law enforcement officers and agency heads continues and recent arrest/ events do not help with the public view of this topic!
On January 30th, 2020 my private message box started going off like crazy. This usually means one of my former students (now law enforcement officer) has a question about a particular firearms law. But not this evening.
The messages were to get me to review and respond to a Facebook post by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office about a firearms arrest they had made. Probably because many of my LEO friends knew that the circumstances described in the original post by HCSO were questionable at best and they wanted me to try and help out by clarifying the law for the HCSO. But a little background is needed first on Florida law enforcement academy training.
In the state of Florida, up until June of 2019, police recruits in Florida received no training in the police academy on Florida’s rather complicated and lengthy firearms laws. Yes you read that correctly, ZERO, none, nada, zilch training on what one would think are very important laws for both law enforcement and citizens alike. Now this does not mean that agencies did not do any in-service training (on going training that officers go through on a regular basis) on this topic. I know that my local agencies did some great training on this topic and trained every officer/deputy on the firearms laws in Florida. But sadly I cannot say this is the case for most of the larger departments.
I noticed this lack of training about 4 or 5 years ago in the curriculum being used and began to work with the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission to try and get some material added to the curriculum so that all officers state wide would get at least some training on firearms laws. After several years of learning how slow this process is, this last June the CJSTC added a short lesson in the training text books and now every recruit in Florida is taught some information about the firearms laws in Florida. While I do not think it is in depth enough, I am happy they at least get some training in it now. But therein lies the problem. Officers who graduated before this addition happened did not get any training and it is beginning to show as more and more Floridians are carrying firearms for self protection. More than 2.1 MILLION people in Florida have Concealed Weapons and Firearms Licenses. That does not include those who carry firearms in their vehicles as allowed by Florida laws.
So back to the incident in Hillsborough County. From a description given by the HCSO itself:
On Thursday, January 30, at approximately 5:54 a.m. an HCSO deputy was driving onto I-75 from Fowler Avenue in Tampa. The deputy observed a white 2018 extended cab Ford F-150 pickup truck immediately behind the patrol car with high beam lights on and following too closely. The pickup truck crossed all lanes of traffic to get into the left lane of the highway and began speeding. The deputy looked over at the truck and could not see into the windows due to a very dark level five tint, which was later tested at the scene and found to be in violation.
The deputy pulled up behind the truck two separate times, both times flashing emergency lights, however, the driver did not stop or slow down. Instead, he continued to speed at a rate of 87 mph. When the driver ultimately decided to pull over, the deputy approached the pick up truck on the passenger side for safety due to traffic.
Stephen Michael Frisco (DOB 07/26/95) was in the sole occupant in the vehicle. The deputy did a visual sweep inside the pickup truck and noticed a rifle wedged between the passengers seat and the center console, rifle end down. The deputy asked Frisco for his driver’s license, where he was coming from and going to, if his rifle was real and if he had any other weapons in the truck.
Frisco told the deputy he was coming from a residence in Pasco County and headed to his place of employment in Bartow. He said the rifle was real and that he had several other weapons in the truck. Frisco said he does not have a concealed carry permit.
At this point, the deputy asked Frisco to exit the vehicle due to probable cause for an arrest. The deputy searched Frisco’s vehicle and found three loaded handguns — no cases and ready to use — in addition to loaded magazines beneath the center console. Additional loaded magazines were found in the glove box. In Florida, open carry is unlawful (2nd degree misdemeanor).
Frisco was arrested for Open Carrying of a Weapon and Carrying a Concealed Firearm (3 counts). He was also cited for failing to dim headlights 300 feet behind a vehicle and received only a warning for speeding and the tinted windows violation.
We want to reiterate that in 𝐍𝐎 𝐖𝐀𝐘 were Mr. Frisco’s rights violated. As a law enforcement agency, we just ask that anyone who chooses to exercise their rights to carry a firearm does so within the law.
If you know Florida firearms law you may immediately see the issue with this incident. First in Florida is legal to have a long gun (rifle or shotgun) anywhere in the passenger compartment of your vehicle. F.S.S. 790.25(5) covers this:
(5) POSSESSION IN PRIVATE CONVEYANCE.—Notwithstanding subsection (2), it is lawful and is not a violation of s. 790.01 for a person 18 years of age or older to possess a concealed firearm or other weapon for self-defense or other lawful purpose within the interior of a private conveyance, without a license, if the firearm or other weapon is securely encased or is otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use. Nothing herein contained prohibits the carrying of a legal firearm other than a handgun anywhere in a private conveyance when such firearm is being carried for a lawful use. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to authorize the carrying of a concealed firearm or other weapon on the person. This subsection shall be liberally construed in favor of the lawful use, ownership, and possession of firearms and other weapons, including lawful self-defense as provided in s. 776.012.
So let’s break down the incident as described by the HCSO itself and I will attempt to explain the issues I see. First the stop itself was made for a traffic infraction, a civil issue and not a criminal one. The description then goes on to say that “The deputy did a visual sweep inside the pickup truck and noticed a rifle wedged between the passengers seat and the center console, rifle end down. The deputy asked Frisco for his driver’s license, where he was coming from and going to, if his rifle was real and if he had any other weapons in the truck.” It is important to note that at this point Mr. Frisco has not done anything criminal as far as the Deputies know since the carrying of the rifle in that manner is legal, AND they do not know if the handguns are being carried in a legal manner or not yet since they cannot see them. In Florida you may carry a handgun in your car if you have a CWFL or if you meet certain criteria under F.S.S. 790.25(5).
This is where things went wrong because of the lack of knowledge of the Florida firearms laws: “At this point, the deputy asked Frisco to exit the vehicle due to probable cause for an arrest. The deputy searched Frisco’s vehicle and found three loaded handguns — no cases and ready to use — in addition to loaded magazines beneath the center console. Additional loaded magazines were found in the glove box. In Florida, open carry is unlawful (2nd degree misdemeanor).” Now since the rifle was carried legally there actually was no probable cause (legal term meaning a strong reason to believe) to arrest Mr. Frisco at this point and the “search incident to arrest” is therefore improper. The handguns were located during the search incident to the arrest and the arrest was not proper. In addition there needs to be a little more clarification on where the handguns were located.
The description says they were located: “The deputy searched Frisco’s vehicle and found three loaded handguns — no cases and ready to use — in addition to loaded magazines beneath the center console.” What is “beneath the center console”? Do they mean inside? My center consoles on all of my vehicles have a lid and open and close. If the handguns were inside the center console, and the lid closed, the handguns were then being carried legally. The law in Florida makes it legal to carry a handgun in your vehicle without a concealed carry permit if you do one of two things:
“it is lawful and is not a violation of s. 790.01 for a person 18 years of age or older to possess a concealed firearm or other weapon for self-defense or other lawful purpose within the interior of a private conveyance, without a license, if the firearm or other weapon is securely encased or is otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use.”
One must then look at the definition of those two terms “securely encased” or “not readily accessible for immediate use”. Lucky for us those terms are defined in the laws. F.S.S. 790.001 (16) and (17) define these:
“(16) Readily accessible for immediate use” means that a firearm or other weapon is carried on the person or within such close proximity and in such a manner that it can be retrieved and used as easily and quickly as if carried on the person.” and
“(17) “Securely encased” means in a glove compartment, whether or not locked; snapped in a holster; in a gun case, whether or not locked; in a zippered gun case; or in a closed box or container which requires a lid or cover to be opened for access.”
This is where the description of where the handguns were found “under” and center console is not helpful. I can’t place anything under my center console, only inside it. If inside of it, it has a lid which requires opening and meets the definition for (17) above. So if the handguns were inside of the center console with the lid closed, they were legally being carried under Florida law. If that was the case then Mr. Frisco did not commit any violations of Florida’s firearms laws and the arrest was for charges that do not exist. I would like for HCSO to clarify where the handguns were located.
But where the handguns were may be a moot point in that of the Deputies removed Mr. Frisco from his vehicle based on arresting him for the rifle (which turned out not to be a crime at all) then the discovery of the handguns is tainted and not usable for charging him either. Additionally if the Deputies suspected Mr. Frisco of a crime (Specifically a firearms crime) and after knowing or thinking this they asked him questions about that crime, Miranda issues may also come into play. But that is another subject entirely.
I have offered to assist the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office with some free in-service training to help bring their deputies up to speed on the firerms laws. This is a sincere offer in that it helps to protect the deputies and citizens alike. It helps to prevent things like this from happening.
Training our law enforcement in Florida on firearms law is vital to community relations, officer safety, and most importantly citizens rights. This incident should never have happened and could have been prevented by a little education. I hope some deputy or officer somewhere reads this article and it prevents the next incident like this from happening. This is not the first of these types of incidents, but we can strive to make it the last.
While I may not agree with some of the current firearms laws, until they are changed through legislation, they are still the law and we should know them. Plus one minor point to all my LEO friends out there. You do have the discretion to not enforce misdemeanor violations. Sometimes when in doubt or you feel the law itself is not proper, discretion is the better choice.
Recently the anti firearms group Moms Demand Action, part of Everytown for Gun Safety (both funded by Bloomberg) have been in full press mode in several states. One of those states being Florida where I live.
They have of course been pushing for any kind of anti firearms legislation they can get but in Florida they say all they want is “universal background checks”. Well let’s address that very issue with some interesting myths verse facts. You know those things you can verify and check to see if they are true are called facts, those things that are just made up by someone can be a myth (or an outright lie depending on intention).
First myth, you can by a firearm over the internet without a background check. The answer is actually yes, and no. What it really boils down to is who you buy it from and where the seller and buyer live.
If the buyer and seller live in different states then you must go through a FFL (licensed to sell guns, and requires a background check to transfer it). This is from the ATF website FAQ:
“Under Federal law, an unlicensed individual is prohibited from transferring a firearm to an individual who does not reside in the State where the transferee resides. Generally, for a person to lawfully transfer a firearm to an unlicensed person who resides out of State, the firearm must be shipped to a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) within the recipient’s State of residence. He or she may then receive the firearm from the FFL upon completion of an ATF Form 4473 and a NICS background check. More information can be obtained on the ATF website at http://www.atf.gov and http://www.atf.gov/firearms/faq/unlicensed-persons.html.“
If the seller is a FFL (regardless of location) then you have to have it shipped to a local FFL holder and a background check must be run.
If the seller and buyer are in the same state and are not FFL’s then you can buy it without a background check, BUT, if you sell a firearm to someone who lives in your state you are responsible for knowing they are not a prohibited person. This is federal law:
“18 U.S.C. § 922(d) makes it unlawful to sell or otherwise dispose of firearms or ammunition to any person who is prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition.”
If you do sell to a prohibited person, you not only violate federal laws but most of the time also violate state laws and they are serious crimes and felonies.
Second myth: Criminals get guns from Gun Shows or Private sales. This also is true and false, except that the numbers that get them from these transaction is less than you think and most criminals get them from illegal transactions.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison Inmates from 2016, a survey of over 1.3 million prisoners in US Prison found some very interesting facts. Only 1.2% of ALL prisoners who used a firearm in a crime got them from a “flea market” or “gun show”. That supposed “gun show loophole”. Now of that number we do not know how many required a background check since the majority of sellers at those locations are FFL (licensed and required to run background checks on sales) holders. What is really eye opening in the study was that 85.9% of criminals reported getting the firearms from illegal means. 9.1% got them legally and had background checks run.
So what this all basically says is that criminals either get the guns illegally or legally, but background checks did not stop any of the hundreds of thousands from committing a crime with the firearm.
So what would requiring private sales do to help curb crime? nothing of course. Criminals will just get the firearms through illegal means. What will requiring these background checks do to those that follow the law? It will just make it harder and more costly for them to acquire a firearms for self defense. What most who support UBC’s (Universal Background Checks) do not even think about (or worse do not care) is that the segment of society that are the most preyed upon by criminals and who need self protection the most are the lower income, sometimes minority groups. So by placing additional cost of background checks and making private sales (which are sometimes cheaper) out of their reach the proponents of UBCs are actually hurting the most vulnerable demographic section of society.
Now of course this does not take into account that they are trying to place more restrictions on a Constitutionally protected right. The one and only in the Bill of Rights that has the words “Shall not be Infringed” as the emphasis in it.
So to all of those out there that support Universal Background Checks you may want to rethink your priorities. It is kind of like the people that want to ban those nasty scary assault rifles. Those kill far fewer people each year than even hands and feet (The Ban Assault Rifle Movement is Misled, Lied to and Down Right Manipulated), yet there is such an outcry about them. It all comes from an ignorance of the subject matter. Maybe we should be looking at those things that cause violence and mental health issues in our society. Maybe we should use actual research and numbers to direct our efforts.
So to Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety and Michael Bloomberg and the like, you really are misinformed and misdirected. Maybe just maybe you might think abot those you are going to hurt the most, law abiding citizens who want nothing more than be left alone and defend themselves, and those you will affect the least, criminals.
I want to take a few minutes to ask you, you the liberal, anti-firearm, anti-citizen self-defense, pro law enforcement people out there “do you trust law enforcement to protect you and your family from most threats?” I hope the answer would be yes. The vast majority of law enforcement officers are average Joe’s or Jane’s who have a family to support and are just trying to make it by doing what they feel is a job that is worth doing. Making everyone around them feel safer, be safer and if in the process they can remove threats to society as a whole and lock them up, that’s a plus. Cops are for the most part really good intention-ed people. Yes, we have our bad apples, just like most professions.
Unlike some professions, people do not realize that when a cop misbehaves they can be punished more than the average citizen most of the time. Cops who do wrong on purpose are even fewer, but when caught they can be punished by their department, by the courts, and fined civilly in court also, losing their job is not unheard of either. All one has to do is look in the news for examples of cops that have done something wrong and been arrested or punished. In Florida we have the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission that governs all police officers in Florida at all levels. If a cop screws up in Florida they can have to “go before the board” and they can get anything from not guilty and no punishment to losing their police license for life. We try to do a good job of policing our own, and we like to think we do a fairly good job of it.
But just how many cops really screw up and get in this kind of trouble? There were roughly 550 officers in Florida that were disciplined for some kind of offense in 2015. (FDLE/CJSTC Officer Discipline Report). So even with that many I still think that the men and women in law enforcement as a whole are good people and I when I call 911 I want one of the m to respond. So what does this have to do with anything? What could this possibly have to do with Concealed Weapons License holders or self-defense? Well, you see many of the arguments that you hear that oppose things like Campus Carry and Open Carry are that there will be all kinds of people waving guns all over the place. People will be getting in shoot outs left and right and God forbid we pass Campus Carry, all of our drunken “children” in college will be shooting it up at frat parties! I have to laugh when I hear people say how all these problems and others will happen. What they fail to do is realize that the citizens that have gotten a concealed carry permit are even more law abiding than the police officers they call for help. In fact, not just more law abiding, but by a FACTOR OF 6 TIMES MORE LAW ABIDING! What? You mean that concealed firearms license holders are more law abiding than our cops? The simple answer is yes, by far. After reading the above information on our police officers and their discipline, we looked at the number of officers that were disciplined for committing a crime that would result in their certification as a police officer being revoked verse concealed carry firearms license holders and how many of those have had their CWL taken away because they committed a crime. And what we found was very surprising. CWL holders are 6 times LESS LIKELY to commit a serious crime than the police officers you trust with your families’ safety and even your life if need be!
So why are so many of the anti-gun types so fearful of those that carry firearms lawfully? When those that do so are even ore law abiding than the police officers they trust their lives and the lives of their family members to? It’s because they do not look at the entire set of facts before making a decision on something. I would be willing to bet that CWL holders are one of THE MOST law abiding demographics in the country. Here is a group of people that have gone through background checks, spent money, been fingerprinted, sworn that they do not abuse drugs or alcohol among some things. How many of your friends that are not CWL holders can you claim you know their back grounds are clean?
I find it seriously flawed logic and thinking when a business owner posts a sign on the front of their business saying that they do not want lawfully carrying and licensed firearms owners in their stores. First any of their customers with a CWL have been screened as mentioned above, what can they say about their other customers? In addition, the business owner is announcing to the criminal world that the chances of one of the customers in the store being armed and able to fight back is slim. Better for the criminals don’t you think? Might as well post a sign that says, “Criminals Welcome, no one here will fight back or shoot at you, so feel free to rob us!” Instead some businesses have gotten smart and posted pro CWL signs, even going to the point of offering discounts to CWL holders to attract more of them. Why? Well one it shows solidarity with the segment of people that believe in your rights, but even more important, it’s a warning to the criminal element that “Our customers may be armed, it even a good chance they are, and if you try to rob us, you may very well be shot!”
I know which store I am going to spend my money in. And maybe if the business owner thought it out a little more, they might not be so quick to alienate the 2.0 MILLION CWL holders in Florida (as of Dec 2019)!
I have been retired now for almost a year. And in that time I have begun teaching civilian concealed carry classes locally as well as still teaching at the local police academy. I have been teaching police recruits for over 28 years and civilians for about a year or so.
One of the things that I have noticed is that the people that take the civilian classes are very well meaning and law abiding people. And they want to try and make sure to stay the law abiding part of that. So when I am teaching what to do when you are involved in a self defense incident, they seemed very surprised when I tell them what I do when it comes to speaking to the police.
You see TV and movies have yet once again misled the vast majority of law abiding citizens to think that as long as you are in the right and telling the truth, you have nothing to hide form the police and should feel fine about giving them a description of what happened and why you had to defend yourself. Well as a retired cop I am here to tell you that is not necessarily true.
When a LEO is involved in a on duty shooting, they for the most part, are given up to 72 hours to recover from the stress involved before being requested to give a statement to the investigating detectives. This is because when you are involved in a life and death incident you are going to be affected both physically and mentally, even if you are not injured. Adrenaline and other hormones will be dumped into your system. You will most likely become very shaky and out of sorts. Your thought process will be muddled and you may have trouble recalling exactly what happened at first.
People experience things during these types of situations like time compression (time moves faster than normal) time expansion (time slows down). Auditory exclusion where you don’t remember hearing anything like gunshots or screaming. Visual field restriction (tunnel vision) where you lose peripheral vision. And many more things. If you want to learn about what happens to the body and mind during these types of situations I highly recommend Lt. COl. Dave Grossman’s book “On Combat” published in 2004 and available on Amazon and elsewhere.
First once the scene is safe and there are no more threats, RE-HOLSTER your firearm. Or at least do not be holding it when the cops show up. Unless you are on the phone with 911 and describing yourself to the dispatcher, the responding cops do not know who you are and if you are standing there with a gun when they pull up, they are likely to mistake you for a bad guy. And you don’t want that.
Even though you are 100% certain that you are within the law, and you have no doubt you can explain exactly what happened and the cops should see it plain as day, DO NOT TELL THE POLICE ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED! Now I am not saying do not cooperate and provide some basic information. It’s OK to give them your name, address and identifying information. But when it comes to answering questions about what happened and why you had to use force to end the situation, do not say anything! I cannot emphasize that enough!
Give the police that respond all the personal identifying information they ask for, that’s not a problem. They will more than likely take your firearm or any other weapon you have and say it is for “evidence”. That’s fine also. But tell the officers who ask you to tell them what happened, very politely yet firmly;
I would be happy to fully cooperate and I will but I wish to have my attorney present before any questioning.”
So even though you may feel compelled to talk about what happened to the police, and they may try and ask you many questions and get you to “fill them in”, do not.
At the point that you request your attorney law enforcement is supposed to stop asking you any questions about the incident. Now if you then start talking about things, they can use whatever you say if they want. So do not talk about it.
Once you have contacted an attorney (or if you are smart you have one through your self defense insurance) wait until the attorney advises you what to say and when. That’s what they get paid for.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking, I was within the law and have nothing to hide so why not tell them? And that is all well and good, but because of the trauma you have been through you may not recall things as they really happened, you may not recall something important, and you will not be able to recall things properly until later after you recover from the initial shock.
No I know this may sound strange coming from a veteran retired cop and someone that trains police recruits, but I have seen first hand what can happen when even though you are well meaning about what you are saying, things can be twisted or taken out of context or you may actually not remember something very important and leave that out of your statement.
Your attorney will guide you through the “elements” needed to prove self defense and discuss with you what to say in your statement. They should also be present with you while you are speaking with police.
That is my simple advice to you. Coming from someone that has seen it and heard it. And experienced it themselves. Do not talk to the police until you have an attorney present, even when you know you are 100% right in what you did.
I have self defense insurance for just something like this. You should consider that also. There are several out there. My personal one is US Law Shield, but you should research on your own.
So be safe, carry always and if you ever have to use your self defense firearm, do not talk to the police until you have an attorney present. From the cop that used to ask the questions.
A lot of social media buzz has been created by this terrible murder of Texas church members. Some major media covered it, but most only for a brief mention. The reason for the brief mention of course is because one, there was not a mass murder (he was stopped before he could kill more people), the victim count was not high enough. Two, the murderer was stopped in literally six seconds by a legally armed citizen. Those two things make this against the mainstream media playbook for a mass murder they can use to push the agenda of “gun-control”.
The attack on the church was caught on live stream video unlike any others we know of, so while a true tragedy, it is a great opportunity to learn from it and maybe make a few changes that could help prevent or lessen attacks in the future. So let’s break down the attack as seen on the video.
The murderer was sitting buy himself in the back row of the sanctuary. He gets up and moves to the rear where he appears to engage one of the ushers in a very brief conversation. That is when you can see him pull a short shotgun from under his jacket/ coat. He initially points it at the usher he was speaking to.
At the same time several things are happening. There is an armed member of the church security team sitting just a few feet away along the back wall. He sees the subject pull out the shotgun and stands and begins to draw his concealed handgun. Also a few more feet away a group of men also along the back and already standing seem to notice the commotion and one drops out of sight, and one moves off camera and the third draws a handgun. From the video it’s hard to tell if it was concealed or openly carried.
The subject seeing the security member reaching and attempting to draw his concealed firearm turns the shotgun on him and fires one shot, striking him. The security member is seen to fall to the floor. The subject then turns back to the usher and fires one shot at him. This takes just a couple of seconds.
The other church security member, identified as Jack Wilson later, had during this time drawn his firearm and according to Mr. Wilson’s own statement he could not fire for a second or two because of church members between the subject and him in his line of fire. On the video you can see someone standing what looks like half crouched over and possible in Mr. Wilson’s line of fire.
The subject turns and begins to move forward in the direction of the stage in the church and takes one or two steps. Mr. Wilson appears to illuminate the suspect probably with a weapon mounted light. A second later the light goes off, and Mr. Wilson fires one well aimed shot at about 40- 50 feet striking the subject in the head. The subject falls to the ground.
At this point Mr. Wilson begins to move in the direction of the subject. At this point several other armed members of the church appear.
The entire situation from the time the suspect stood up and moves to the back of the church until he was shot by Mr. Wilson was 18 seconds. After the situation was deemed safe and over, people began to exit the sanctuary.
So what lessons can we learn from the video and the information shared by Mr. Wilson and other members of the church?
1. The subject was already acting suspicious and has been identified by the security team members. People acting suspiciously or dressed inappropriately (fake beard, hair and over coat in this case) bear watching and maybe even making contact with them.
2. Reaction is always going to be slower than action. Once the subject had his shotgun out drawing from concealment puts you at a serous disadvantage. Especially for those that do not practice it.
3. Distance is good and bad. Good in that you are not the sole point of attention, and may give you more of a chance to bring your firearm to bear. Bad in the the greater the distance, the more skilled a shot you will have to be. Practice is key here.
4. Move!! Standing still and trying to draw on an already aimed firearm is impossible. Move and draw! A moving target is much harder to hit. This is NOT a negative critique of the security team member who was shot while drawing from concealment, but a training lesson to learn from the tragedy.
Practice shooting at distances other than close range only. I see many people at the range I teach at and I never see the target go past the 7 or 10 yard distance (21-30 feet.) While yes the vast majority of defensive shootings happen under 21 feet, that does not mean you should not practice and be able to hit targets accurately at greater distances. I regularly work at distances up to 50 yards with handguns. There is a great feeling of accomplishment at hitting a target at those distances.
There are few other things that I noticed that might make good training topics from this incident, but those could be completely separate topics on their own.
So whats the final overall take away form this? That armed, trained, and ready lawful firearm carrying Americans CAN and HAVE stopped mass murderers. And that if these citizens had been prevented by laws from carrying in the church (aka gun free zones) more people would have died.
I am thankful that Mr. Jack Wilson and the other members of that church were there and ready and trained for this incident. We must learn from these incidents if we are to be ready for the next, and sadly there will be more.
As many of my readers know I am a 35 year veteran sworn law enforcement officer who retired at the rank of Commander and more years after that training cops. I can tell you that a large majority of cops are strong supporters of citizens rights to be armed. I am also a U.S. Army veteran of the 3rd Infantry Division. Contrary to the few incidents that make the news or social media most of law enforcement supports the citizens right to self-protection and to being armed. I have had citizens come to my aid more than once when I needed back-up and none was around, and I was thankful for their help.
But there is rapidly coming a time in this country when law enforcement as a whole may need to finally take a stand with the citizens and stand up for the Constitutionally protected right to “keep and bear arms” that seems to be under attack.
In VA. there are many Sheriff’s and Police that have taken a stand with the citizens they are sworn to serve. This is a good sign, but I do not think it is going far enough. We need a national push, and national movement in law enforcement to stand up against further restrictions on a citizens right to keep and bear arms. The second amendment is for all citizens, even law enforcement. Citizens in several states have even gone so far as to save officers lives using a firearm to stop attacks on officers.
After retiring from law enforcement training, I began teaching civilian classes at a local gun range and found to my very pleasant surprise that many firearms owners shoot as much if not more than most cops. Sure, there are some in each group that train a lot and some that train very little. Point being that on an average I have to say from personal observation police are no more well trained in firearms than most firearms owner citizens.
So why do legislators seem to always include exemptions for law enforcement in most firearms bills and restrictions then? Well they will say it’s for public safety. But an officer’s home collection does nothing for public safety. Only the officer’s duty firearms while they are working and maybe their off-duty firearm (if they carry one, I know many that do not). The reason that they include these exemptions is because they know that if law enforcement had to abide by the same laws and rules as citizens the cops would be in an uproar and fight any more restrictions. Imagine if law enforcement officers’ personal firearms were going to be banned just like they are threatening citizens firearms. What if law enforcement was required to keep any “assault weapons” (before you scream at me I know there is no such thing, I’m using the anti-rights groups words) at the station and check them out only when working. What of they were only allowed the same magazine capacity that the legislature is trying to place on citizens. I don’t think they would like it much and you would hear a huge cry from the police unions and officers themselves. Now do not misunderstand me, I think that ALL law-abiding people should have a right to those things, not just law enforcement. And I know some will say, and I agree, law enforcement does need these things since those are the same weapons they encounter criminals already using. Being at least as well armed as the criminals is a necessity for law enforcement, why is it not for the citizens who will encounter the criminals before the cops do?
I teach the police recruits that I have in the academy that the golden rule of law enforcement is to treat every person (good and bad) the way they would want another cop to treat their family member if they were in the same situation. Cops need to remember that these laws and exemptions affect their families and friends who are not cops, and everyone else.
In closing let me point out that I am pro law enforcement and know most are great, brave, decent people trying to make the areas they live in just that much safer, but I also know we (LEOs) see the worst that society has to offer and sometimes forget that there are millions of times more good people out there than criminals. If we remove the exemptions for law enforcement from the firearms laws, then I think we might see much different reactions from the law enforcement world in opposition to any more restrictions. Maybe even they might stand with the citizens and require the law makers actually follow the Constitution and remind them they “shall not infringe” on their right to “keep and bear arms”, both citizens and cops. Virginia law enforcement seems to have figured that out.