Vet your sources

Please accept no advice or references with regard to personal protection without vetting it directly from the source. That includes anything I say. I try to cite where I get my information but anyone can be mistaken. There is no shortage of misinformation floating around and not all of it comes from gunshop commandos.

Already this morning, not one but two examples of why this is important have been brought to my attention. Another was made apparent last night.

In the first example this morning, a friend and client of mine shared some utterly incorrect advice that was given to her by a local law enforcement officer. My response came from my old website.

Only accept legal advice on firearms and/or self-defense from the POLICE or OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES OR OFFICIALS if it is in writing on official letterhead signed by a sworn senior supervisory official of that department in his or her official capacity or a current official document of that department bearing the department’s insignia and signed by the current head of the department (Chief of Police, Sheriff, or Special Agent In Charge). Verbal (not in writing) advice from law enforcement personnel may be in error and will have NO standing in a court of law.

It is rare that you will ever get anything in writing and signed by a senior official of the PoPo. There’s a reason for that. The police rarely know the nuances of the law and frequently do not keep up on changes in the law. Last night’s example was the result of a Sergeant using an outdated legal codebook when developing a briefing. His Captain, a friend of mine, fortunately reviewed the briefing prior to it being given. When asked to cite his references, the Sergeant pulled out a five year old codebook. The section he was citing had been changed.

If you want legal advice, go to a legal expert or read a book by a legal expert, such as Andrew Branca or Massad Ayoob. Don’t ask the police. They probably don’t know as much as you would like them to. This also applies to firearms training.

2. This morning I read an article in one of the online NRA Journals that referenced “FBI Crime Statistics.” Whenever you hear or read something that cites “the FBI,” assume it is the result of a game of Chinese Whispers.


FBI information is so rarely cited correctly that your can generally assume what is being said about it is more likely to be wrong than right. Personal Defense Network published my article What Do FBI Statistics Really Say About “Gunfights”? It’s worth reading.

When it comes to using force or training/practicing to use force, either lethal or non-lethal, you have to know what you’re doing. That means doing your own research, not relying on someone else to do it for you. At the very least, do an internet search for “use of force [your State]” and find the statutory code for your State.

10 responses

  1. Concur. I always try to run down sources. I get weary of hearing, “I heard …. ” AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!

    Gary J. Glemboski Director Global Tactical Training Group Facebook 912-667-5667 The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. – Epictitus

  2. Great reminder! Especially about state firearms laws. If you want to get it right, you need to read the actual statutes yourself, along with the sources you mentioned. Trust but verify, even with a written interpretation from your local LEA. That could be incorrect, too.

  3. I can only shake my head when people turn to a law enforcement officer for legal advice, especially in cases of use-of-force that could result in a life sentence if you get it wrong. I think LEOs are great, best man at my wedding is career LEO, but understanding the nuances of the law is not what they’re trained to do. Would we turn to a lawyer to conduct a felony arrest? It’s silly.

    Also, anyone relying on an apparent plain English reading of a statute is playing a risky game, indeed. A statute is merely the Legislature’s intent, what they’d LIKE to see happen. A statute has no effect in the real world until it is interpreted and applied by a court to real people. It’s not at all unusual for court’s to interpret and apply statutes in ways that seem contrary to their plain English reading. If you haven’t studied how the courts actually apply a statute, I suggest you don’t REALLY know the legal effect of that statute at all.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    1. “Would we turn to a lawyer to conduct a felony arrest? It’s silly.”

      Ha, great analogy.



    Did you attend IOBC – Benning in April – August 1983, Co Cdr MAJ Taylor?

    There was a skinny SF qualified 2LT in my class that could have been you.

    The resemblance has been bugging me since we met in Dallas last fall at revolver school.

    Mere curiosity

    Greg Taggart

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. That was me. I have my head down in the class picture.

      I was the ‘sponsor’ for the Allied student who was the mullah for the Arab students. One of the more challenging assignments of my entire career.

  5. Richard Koefod

    You hit the nail on the head with this one, Claude. I’d add two considerations.

    First, while it’s very important to know the laws where one lives and works, it’s sometimes not as simple as just “reading” the statutes. Like you, I encourage people to read them. However, after 25+ years of litigating, I have become acutely aware statutes are often subject to interpretation. That’s often what makes a case go to trial in the first place. For example, many read the stand your ground statutes and conclude if they are where they have a legal right to be with a gun, they can simply engage what to them appears to be a threat and that’s that. Most of those statutes require the AOJ triad, at a minmum, to be fulfilled: ability of the opponent to hurt you; opportunity to do harm; and jeopardy-the intent to harm you. While the first two tend to be objective, jeopardy tends to be subjective. While a defendant may believe all elements have been fulfilled and therefore justifies deadly force, it is a jury which will look at jeopardy, in particular, to determine if, in their mind, a reasonable person, in like and similar circumstances, would have felt that jeopardy. If they do, you win. If they don’t, you lose. Interpretation is everything.

    Second, while your point about leos not always being on top of firearms related law is absolutely correct, the same is true of many attorneys. Unless an attorney is an experienced criminal defense attorney or a firearms attorney versed in self-defense laws, many attorneys only have vague notions of that field. It pays to get the name and contact information of a good attorney who knows this field and give him/her a call if you need legal assistance in this field. This is not the time to call the divorce lawyer or real estate guy you used last year.

  6. […] Continue reading “Vet your sources” at tacticalprofessor… […]

  7. […] be sure to vet your sources to be sure that it’s not some goober who thinks pointing a pistol at a student’s face, or […]

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