legal gun draw

When Can You Draw Your Gun?

If a person has to engage in gun drawing, one had better be sure that they do so in the right situation. There are circumstances in which it isn't legal to draw a firearm.

Self-defense laws are almost entirely the province of the various states, as federal law doesn't cover it. Bear in mind that this is not legal advice, but rather a discussion of the publicly-available laws that exist on the topic. Please seek counsel from a qualified legal professional for any actual legal questions. If a person is going to put on a holster and gun belt, it's something a person should be aware of and think about.

Generally, You Can't Pull A Gun Unless Threatened - Or Else It's Brandishing

brandish a handgun

What's clearly distinguishable in essentially every U.S. state is that there is a difference at law between when a person decides to pull a gun for the purposes of self-defense, or when they do so for other purposes. The latter is a crime, usually a misdemeanor, most often referred to as "brandishing."

Brandishing is in virtually every state's criminal code, and is defined as when a person draws a weapon for the purposes of intimidating someone. Despite what some gun-grabbers might say, open carry doesn't qualify. It doesn't have to be a gun, per se; any deadly weapon - such as a knife, club, baseball bat, hatchet, whatever - can be brandished in such a manner and land the brandisher in handcuffs.

If one pulls a gun for self-defense, on the other hand, that is not illegal provided that a person does so due to a reasonable belief that their life or the life of another person is in jeopardy, or that they or another will suffer crippling injury if they don't pull a gun.

There are other circumstances, depending on state regulations, in which a person can use deadly force - such as (again, depending on what state a person resides in) if a felony is being committed.

You May Have To Justify Drawing A Handgun After The Fact

defensive shooting situation

Whether one only is drawing a handgun or actually has to shoot in self-defense, there is something that not everyone appreciates.

Gun drawing or shooting a gun in self-defense is using deadly force. In other words, if you draw a gun or if you shoot at someone/shoot someone you've used deadly force, which is in most circumstances a criminal act. You have to justify it after the fact. Anyone who thinks defending one's self is going to garner them a garland, parades and a triumph for them in a public square is fooling themselves, and likely a unsafe carrier.

If you think you may have to pull a gun, you had better be sure or at least reasonably certain that you're doing so because you'll be seriously harmed or killed otherwise, or under any other legal circumstances in which a person can use lethal force.

Drawing A Gun Sometimes Resolves A Situation

concealed carry brandishing resolution

Drawing a gun should only be done in self-defense, but there's a certain amount of evidence indicating that merely drawing a pistol may be enough to keep a violent crime from occurring. Studies into defensive gun use vary widely; there's not much consensus when it comes to the use of force in self-defense by citizens. Studies by John Lott and Kleck and Gertz have found high numbers of defensive gun use, many of which consisted entirely of mentioning the gun, showing the gun in it's holster, or drawing the gun without firing, all of which were effective.

However, other studies have found DGU rarely happens. Law enforcement studies, such as the FBI's Crime Victim Survey series, don't study DGU directly but only as a side effect of being a victim of crime.

In any case, a draw may be all that's required to end an engagement. That said, one had better be as sure as possible before pulling that the threat is real.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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