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This question is one we all need to consider. If I had a fatal recreational accident or had to shoot a person while on duty or in self defense, could I live with my conscience? I guess this answer depends largely on the individuals outlook on life, religious and moral standing. A sensitive and painful topic for some no doubt. I am not inviting anyone to express religious views because of the rules by which this forum must be conducted and I don't want to drag up any painful memories. But I think as responsible gun owners and in the case of anyone wanting to enter into law enforcement it is question we all need to address.

About 20 years ago I was standing on the back of a utility shooting rabbits with a 12 gauge shot gun as my friend drove. Their was hundreds of rabbits and it was quite a frenzy. while cycling the pump a spent cartridge jammed in the ejector port. Holding the gun in my left hand and trying to free the shell with my right I suddenly realized the muzzle was pointing at the back of my friends head. I promptly pointed it sky wards. When the shell eventually freed the next round chambered and fired. To this day I swear my finger was no where near the trigger. It was a valuable lesson to learn early on in my shooting career but one that could have quite easily changed the course of my life and his.

This question I suppose is closely related to the new Poll question "self defense",

http://handgunsandammo.proboards36.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=1158877631

hence the reason I decide to finally post this question. I would like to think that no person will ever have to take the life of another either by choice or accident, but what if we did, how do we react and what support can we expect?

BB.
 

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Howdy Mr. Bangbang,

I think you have posed an interesting question sir. But it is one that may simply not receive too many comments as well. The reason is that many folks who have been forced to use deadly force as a LEO, a member of the military or even as a civilain, simply choose not to talk about it much, at least not publically.

All of my situations have been while I was a working LEO, and again I will choose not to really discuss them publically for a variety of reasons. But I will say that for me, they were sobering experiences to say the least, even though totally justified under both state law and pursuant to the oath of office I took.

As far as what can you expect, I can only address that within the US really. Expect to have the police respond, even if you are a LEO, and have to treat the shooting as a possible criminal matter initially. You can expect to have your firearm seized for evidence and ballistic testing to compare with any bullets recovered during the autopsy.

You can expect to be read your rights, and requested to make a statement to law enforcement personnel. In my jurisdiction, whenever an officer was involved in a shooting situation, the state investigative agency was requested to conduct the shooting investigation. This allowed a thorough investigation to be conducted, while avoiding any possible accusations of improper actions by coworkers.

You can expect the situation to be presented to a Grand Jury for consideration, and their determination if the shooting was indeed justified as in the performance of your duty as a LEO, or as justifiable self-defense as a civilian. If the Grand Jury votes that the shooting was indeed justified they will vote a "no true bill" which then ends any criminal proceedings. Their decision does nothing to prevent any civil suits from being filed by family members of the person you were forced to shoot. Of course such suits will allege that you were not jusitifed in taking the life and attempt to obtain a monetary payment from you and/or your agency if a LEO.

Beyond any criminal or civil issues, you will also have to come to terms with the shooting yourself. Most LE departments/agencies have policies in place that will take the LEO off active duty for a specified period of time post shooting. They will also require the officer to speak with a trained professional, usually either a psychologist or psychiatrist, who will evaluate the officer's mental state, and offer their thoughts on when the officer has adjusted to their situation and is capable of returning to full active duty again.

Sadly, having to take a life may well cost you some "friends" or at least folks you considered friends. They will struggle with treating you as the same person afterwards, and some simply can not do so. But you will probably realize there are also some folks you never considered a friend who indeed turn out to be, by offering their support and a friendly ear if you feel the need to discuss your feelings.

As I said, it will be a sobering event, and easier for some folks to deal with than for others. After all, none of us are clones, we are all unique in our own individual ways. So it is only natural that we will all react and handle dealing with this situation in our own unique ways too.

I think your question also presents an ideal time to mention a room this site has elected to establish. While I am not aware of every gun site that exists, I can say that of those I do know of, this site is unique in offering such a room. It is the Elephant and is designed expressly for those folks - be they LEOS, military, or civilians, who have been forced to either take a life, or nearly take one. It provides a safe, secure atmosphere in which those folks can share their thoughts and feelings with others who have been placed in the same situation and can understand and relate to at least some of the things they are being forced to deal with.

As the comments about the room indicate, it does require it own unique password to enter, as well it should. The password will not be given to someone who is simply interested in learning more about things, but is indeed restricted to those folks who have a valid need for it. So please do not be offended if the decision is made not to provide the password just because it is requested.

But for anyone who has been forced to deal with this, I wanted them to understand this room does exist here, and that they would indeed be welcomed to share their thoughts with others who can at least in part relate to what they are dealing with.

Again Mr. Bangbang, I think you have asked a very valid question. But it may not receive too many comments because it is such a sensitive issue too. Please understand that if it does not get many responses.

twoguns
 

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I will limit my comments to what I will term the psychological/emotional aspects of a shooting.

First, I need to state that these comments are based solely upon my personal experiences and observations as a combat soldier, an LEO in Australia and the USA, and as an armed private citizen. Second, you pose two vastly different situations (an accidental shooting & a self defence shooting) with very different dynamics.

The accidental shooting:
While I've never faced the situation myself, I know that noone is prepared for the emotional turmoil that follows an accidental shooting particularly if the victim is a close friend of relative. Imagine what it would be to accidentally run over your own child as you back out of the driveway to go to work. The self doubt, the self recrimination alone would drive one to depression. Immediate psychological intervention would almost certainly be necessary. However, we can do everything in our power to minimise the risk in the first place. That means training, vigilant weapons handling (knowing/keeping your muzzle is pointed in a safe direction, finger off the trigger, safety, etc.) and awareness of one's surroundings.

The self-defence shooting:
One reason, possibly the primary reason, the military and law enforcement use humaniod instead of bullseye targets is to mentally prepare the shooter for the act of shooting another human being. That is a collective act at an organisational level, and is but the first step toward the shooter accepting that shooting and killing another person is (or may be) a rational, justifiable act.
Again, from my experience, one must have made that 'leap' before ever pulling the trigger. Once it has been made one must also define the parameters within which the act of killing is rational, reasonable and justifiable. After that has been done, then it is a lot easier to deal with the after affects of the event. Tbat's not to say there won't be any emotional or psychological trauma, but that it can be minimalised. We may minimalise that trauma by mentally placing the act in a positive perspective.
A real life example of how one must come to terms with the consequences of self defence;
A woman I knew whilst in the firearms industry approached me to ask about the best gun for her for home and self defence. I didn't know her particularly well, but from past conversations I knew that she had not followed the concept of self defence through to its natural, final consequences - that is the possibility of actually shooting and killing another person. I suggested that before she purchased another gun (I knew she had one already for target shooting) that she sit down, mentally examine the meaning of self defence and decide, quite literally whether she believed AND COULD ACCEPT that HER life was worth the life of an evil-doer. I suggested to her that until she could do that she would not be able to use a firearm to defend herself and that potentially she might create a situation where she would, given that she probably wouldn't/couldn't resist being overpowered, provide a weapon to the person attempting to harm her. I suggested to her that she should also consider taking a martial art, TKD or HKD, and purchase a non lethal device (taser) IF she couldn't accept the possibility of killing in self defence.

Finally, everyone is different. There personal experience, education, religious beliefs, emotional/psychological state are all factors in the equation of how a given situation, or any situation, will affect them. There is no text book here. The reality is that each of us who journeys forth (life, shooting incident, what have you) does so with the knowledge that we will explore a world new to us and to others even though others have made the same (really only a similar) journey.
 

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First, I hope I never have to find out about either an accident or on purpose shooting fatal or otherwise. I know this to be traumatic because the only person in my police academy class involved in a shooting simply could not handle it and they were one tough cookie.

Second, either way it is going to be expensive. Every bullet (even the ones in the berm apparently) "has a lawyer attached to it" to paraphrase Clint Smith. Here, in The Holy City, the cops are sued regularly by ambulance chasing filth and thug parents after each and every shooting.

Finally, those who are unwilling to accept/take that responsibility had best not become involved in this area. But my belief is that it is morally unacceptable to submit as a sheep to the wolf. Again to quote Clint, "Some people just need shooting."
 

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When I was six years old, one of my also six years old friends accidentally shoot his father with a .22 rifle in the abdomen when they were hunting. The father was an MD, and treated diabetic patients. The shoot was initially not lethal, but the time that took to bring the doctor to a hospital was simply too long. Now, I know it was a small bowel perforation. The doctor died because of infectious complications.

The shooting son, was then in my class at the university and studied medicine. He made the same specialization as his father had, and now, he is making the same work his father was doing before the hunting accident.

This colleague never speaks, or has never spoken with me this incident after it happened, but i find very suggestive that he is doing the same as his father, as if he would like to complete the fathers work.

Second case I closely know:

An old military, relative high grade, shoot a man in a party consuming alcohol. In the trial he was set free. Some years after, he tried to shoot his wife, but made just many holes in the wifes car. He spent a time in a mental health institution, but I have the feeling he has never felt guilt or anything similar. He might had a criminal mind. He died as an old man about three months ago, in a neighbor city, about 350 Km from La Paz. Interesting fact, is that when son (50 Years) and grandchild (27) were driving to La Paz after the military bury, they had a car accident and the son (50) was injured and died in the way to the hospital.

This are the only two people I know that have shoot someone.

One was a very small kid, and the other a military officer.

I have had very few patients with gun injuries, but never meet the shooter.

I just can say that I am happy to live in a very peacefully country, in a peaceful neighborhood, and that I have the feeling I will never have to point my gun to anyone, and never have to pull the trigger. I also do not feel I am psychologically prepared for such an incident, so, I will avoid any situation that requires deadly force. Police officers are there to protect us and shoot for us if needed. Let them do the dirty work, and enjoy your guns for sports.
 

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Bangbang,

I've deliberately not responded to this, as outside of the military environment, I've never been involved in a shooting. Close, but luckily, not needed.
I have studied the subject fairly extensively and think that Twoguns reply is as good a description of what can happen as any. Probably the hardest thing to deal with is the reaction of others to a shooting. Many, even though you were forced to shoot, simply want nothing to do with you. You are "tainted" in their eyes. Disreguard the fact that you were forced to shoot someone to save yourself or another. Some folks just don't (or want) to get it.
Cops get a bit more latitude as most shootings are in the performance of duty. That said, there are departments that would rather throw you to the wolves than take the heat for some types of shooting.
As a civilian I recommend having a personal liability policy(larger the better) and retaining a good KNOWLEDGABLE lawyer PRIOR if you carry for self defense. Do your best to court proof yourself and document training. The more you get the better off you are...
My general guidelines are simple when carrying. Try not to do anything that will put you at risk. Just because you carry is not a reason to "gore the bull" so to speak. Don't drink when carrying, stay out of areas known for trouble (if you can), and walk away from trouble when you can. Not macho, but seeing what the courts and society put you through I can honestly say that's the best option. Know the law concerning application of deadly force and follow it. Some states go as far as mandating you must first try to retreat before using deadly force. Fortunately, there are only a handful left that practice this policy.
The press...expect to be vilified in the press as a vigilante, nut with a gun, or some such. Letters to the editor will flood in most negative in nature. I seen this even with cop shootings and are generally from people who's only experience with firearms and self defense comes from television. To whit one that said; "why didn't he just shoot the knife out of his hand?"
In short, any time you draw that weapon you had better be justified. Being prepared for the physical and psychological aftermath is probably just as important as any other aspect discussed.
Enough for now...as I said, Twoguns summed this up quite well.

Wes
 

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I have stayed out of this , the other authors have answered most of the questions,but be aware ,that aside from combat, if you take a life you will never be the same.That is a given. Doug
 

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Sobering is a good way to describe it and true you'll never be the same. Thats all I wanted to say right now.

This site is a great place to be.
 
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8/29/07 marked 27 years since my attempted murder/robbery. Strangely, my assailant and I rode together in the same ambulance and both lived. He got 13.5 yrs. in the pen', organs damaged and lost the use of his right arm. I healed. Completely?

A gunfight is a rare, terrifying, life experience. PTSD. It forever changes you in ways. I experientially understand the "elephant."

As a mental health professional, I truly believe psychologically healthy, grounded people always heal in time, especially with quality counseling. People of faith appear to heal quicker. I consider professional counseling mandatory for everyone; no exceptions. It greatly facilitates the healing process; the totality and the time.

I pray your question is based solely on serious, self-examination and psychological preparation.
 
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I have stayed out of this , the other authors have answered most of the questions,but be aware ,that aside from combat, if you take a life you will never be the same.That is a given. Doug
A friend's experience goes along with this. My friend shot and killed someone (completely justified; never went to court) 30 years ago. To this day my friend will tell you that killing someone is easy. Living with it afterwards is not.
 

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Howdy folks,

I have debated posting another response to this question, and finally decided that I would. Again since I am only expressing my opinion, and we feel we have no experts here, all or us are entitled to our personal opinons. The fact one member holds a different opinion from another member does not mean one is right and the other wrong - only that they hold different opinions.

I hold the view that all of us are unique in our own ways. Therefore we will deal with life events in our own ways as well. At the time of my first LEO shooting my department did not have a policy requiring officers to speak with anyone. I worked through the situation by talking with co-workers who had been in Vietnam and by understanding the individual had forced me to resort to deadly force. Had I not felt comfortable with how I had worked things out, I would have left my chosen profession nearly 3.5 decades ago.

In subsequent situations, my department did require us to speak with someone. My attitude was simply "howdy, I have been here before, I have worked things out and am fine. Please just sign off so I can go back to work." While they may not have liked my attitude, in speaking with me they could not really argue with it either, so they signed off.

My point is some folks will benefit from speaking with someone. Some folks will work things out on their own - usually because they are LEOs or military and have already given the subject a great deal of personal thought. But again there are no blanket statements possible here in my view. Some soldiers and police may wish to speak with a professional. To me the same holds true with civilians - some will want to speak with someone, and some will not feel that need.

Everyone is different, so everyone simply needs to decide what will work best for them. My primary concern for posting again was I simply did not want anyone who had worked through deadly force without speaking to someone to wonder if they were "not quite right" because they did not feel that need.

Just my thoughts, but I wanted to offer them here.

twoguns
 

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Myabe because I've never had to shoot someone or I'm not sensitive enough, but I just can't understand why I would be so distraught over shooting someone who was threatening me or my loved ones with death. I have been in fights before, and I never felt bad if the other guy lost the fight. I have hunted and killed animals and do not feel bad about that either. I have talked to friends and acquaintances who were in the military and had to shoot and kill people, and they express the same attitudes as I do. Is there something wrong with us? I don't believe I am sociopathic, as I do feel for other human beings, and believe that animals should not suffer through our actions or inactions.

Now if I were to negligantly shoot someone, I would be distraught, feel extreme guilt and it would take alot for me to get over that.
 

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Hello, Nuclear. Though it is hard to say until one has done it how one will react, some folks do fine after a justified shooting. Others benefit from sessions with a trained professional. I have been acquainted with both types of folks after they were involved in fatal shootings.

I don't think that there's anything "wrong" with the person who does fine w/o counseling.

I don't think that there's anything "wrong" with the person who wants or benefits from it.

I do think that a problem might rear its head if a person could really use such sessions doesn't take advantage of them for fear of appearing "weak" or whatever. This is why my agency made it a mandatory requirement after any shooting by an officer. More than half of the shooters were released from treatment extremely quickly by the psychiatrist because they were actually fine. Some benefited from a few sessions.

The last two police officers under my command who killed felons were fine once I learned what had transpired and told them that it looked like a "righteous shooting" to me and that as far as I was concerned, they were within both policy and the law.

Best.
 
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"...psychologically healthy, grounded people always heal in time..."
Counseling? Professionally, re: any subject, I always ask myself, "What's the harm?"

twoguns, in your case, your "sign-off" may have been perfectly adequate/appropriate.
Nuclear, no, you certainly do not sound sociopathic.
We're all created differently and will respond differently.

Professionally, I'm concerned only about my client and his future well being. In a legit' shooting, I wouldn't concern myself with the miscreant; dead or alive. My concern with my client is the stigma, machismo, silence and more importantly...if there should be another one, will this one cause him/her to:
1. hesitate and be slower to respond?
2. overreact and be too quick to respond?
And no counseling in the world will be an adequate predictor of an answer to either of these questions. But they're definitely worth exploring.

First and foremost, my client's safety and well being is my primary concern.

As Bangbang said, things "...we all need to consider." Food for thought.
Of course, always stay safe. That's why we own.
 

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I personally have no experience in the matter, so my opinion can only be considered lightly.

This thread reminds me of what Col. Cooper wrote in his book, "To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth." Cooper stated that he felt a person who was forced to shoot another in defense of his life should not feel guilty, but rather he felt guilt was a by-product of our modern social atmosphere. He did say, however, that it was natural for one to feel upset, angry, and confused.

I found this rather interesting and I finally arrived at a conclusion similar to Mr. Camp's. Some people probably do feel guilt while others feel fine. Ultimately, how you will feel is really a matter of your personal philosophies when it comes to life and bad guys.

I strongle recommend reading Col. Cooper's book as his writings were very enlightened as to this particular subject.

Let us hope that those of us who have been involved in a shooting will never have to be again, and that those of us who haven't been involved may never be.

-Rob
 
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Bangbang, I had a very similar, 12 ga., dove hunt, experience 38 yrs. ago. I thank God I did not kill or injure anyone due to my own negligence. But it does make "gun safety" much, much more "experiential!"
Personally, I consider your questions to be healthy, self-examination. I respect your introspection. I suspect you'd be fine.
GOD FORBID...IMHO: The best support you will get will come from the sources you expect; those who truly love you and care about you unconditionally more than anything else on this earth. And if you should lack anything at all psychologically or spiritually, DO NOT ever rest until you get whatever you need. It is certainly available!
All of these posts have been outstanding and Messrs. Camp & Rob have very succinctly and eloquently responded. My curse is verbosity!

Rob, coincidentally due to last night's late night research, my dilapidated, packing-tape-repaired, 8/18/74 purchased, copy of "Cooper on Handguns" lies beside my keyboard as we speak. Thank you for an excellent reality check! All should read him.

How about another moment of thanks and silence for our Lt. Col. John Dean Cooper, USMCR...
 

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I haven't responded to this thread, for perhaps some of the reasons other people have given. I would only say this, that talking it out, with the house chaplain, your rabbi, or a mental health professional, is not a sign of weakness, but utterly necessary. None of us exists in a vacuum: we have our families, we have colleagues, we live in a larger social structure. And of course we have to live with ourselves. Acting out of necessity doesn't make the consequences any easier. Maybe it makes them more difficult.
 
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First, I am not a LEO nor have I served in any military branch.

Any person who actively decides to defend them self or another needs to understand that if you do injure or kill there most likely will be emotional trauma. It does not matter if you use a firearm or martial arts or 2x4.

I do believe that IF a defensive scenario came up it would be easier to deal with then an accidental shooting.

A now retired co-worker gave up deer hunting when he realized that the deer he was about to shoot was being carried on the back of bent over person. The associate said he cleared his gun and has never returned to the field.
 
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