The words we use matter, especially now that social media may memorialize it on the internet forever. People regularly lose their jobs or must explain the dumb social media posts they made several years back when they were younger. Some people may not know that what you post online or say to others could play a role if you end up using your firearm to defend yourself.
Let’s start by making an important distinction between legal behavior and wise behavior. Sometimes the two align, and sometimes not so much. It is perfectly legal to wear a shirt that says, ‘shoot first and ask questions later’. But ask yourself, is it wise? Well, for the same reason random folks give you a sideways glance when they read your shirt, the jurors may question the motivation of your actions. Right or wrong, fair or not, this is human nature. Why does it matter what kind of person I am? Shouldn’t the legality of my behavior be considered independently of anything I post online or any slogan I have on my shirt? Yes and no. There are irrelevant aspects of what makes you who you are that shouldn’t be considered. Stuff such as who you voted for or if you like 1911’s or Glocks etc. And then there are aspects of our heart and mind that are of major importance. Are you a hot-tempered person? Do you handle differences with violence, or do you look to de-escalate incidents?
Our actions are a byproduct of what we first think in our hearts and mind. After all, it is what is inside that makes us tick. So, what an investigator, prosecutor, or juror is trying to decipher is if your behavior is reasonable. One method is to try and determine what motivated your actions. Said simply, what kind of person are you, are you generally a reasonable person?
A prosecutor also may try to figure out if there is a way to present your actions as unreasonable. If there is some ambiguity on who the instigator is in an altercation, the one who is perceived as not being able to control their temper is the one who will seem to be the initial aggressor. This is all that needs to happen in many states to remove your legal argument that you acted in self-defense. This is because, in order to make a legal claim of self-defense, you must show you were not the initiator of the incident.
It is much easier to assume the guy with the skulls and death imagery on their firearm is somehow a little less reasonable than the average Joe. How about when they pull up social media posts talking about killing them all and let God sort ’em out? Or anyone who messes with you and your .357 is leaving in a body bag? Imagine sitting in the courtroom and hearing someone from your past talk about how the littlest of things set you off, or how you were fired for making an off-the-cuff remark about kicking their butt? See where I am going with this? Even if you weren’t the aggressor, can you see how this muddies up your claim as an innocent person who didn’t initiate the incident, couldn’t avoid it, and used reasonable force as a last resort?
Any chink in the armor that could allow you to have to defend yourself in court is something to seriously consider. You never know who the prosecutor is or their motivations. You don’t know who will end up on the jury and what their biases may be. Unless you have tens of thousands of dollars, you’re going to be relying on a public defender to fight your legal battles. All of this means you are placing your physical and financial freedom in the hands of other people. I don’t know about you, but I want to be as far away from that scenario as possible. When legally and morally justified to use deadly force, use haunt you. Becoming a citizen defender comes with liability and responsibility. It may be time to self-analyze and make sure you’re not setting yourself up for trouble down the road.