It may seem obvious, but when carrying a concealed firearm it’s even more important to avoid stupid places, stupid people and doing stupid things.
One of the most well-respected firearms instructors still active is my dear friend John Farnam, who teaches occasionally around the United States. As he’s in his 70s, a serious student of the gun would be well served to attend a class from him before he retires. His business name is Defensive Training International, and it can be easily found on the internet. John has a famous saying, or perhaps a code of conduct: “Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things.”
My professional life sees me occasionally serving as an expert in court cases, where some aspect of the case needs testimony in court to explain to the jury a possibly confusing issue. For this month’s column, I will relate some violations of John’s code of conduct I’ve seen in these court cases.
Stop Playing With It
The first case I worked on back in the ’90s involved a teen who was playing with a Smith & Wesson Model 37 revolver when he involuntarily discharged it and killed his sister. He was untrained, curious about guns and sitting in his living room cocking a loaded revolver and de-cocking the gun with his thumb while pressing the trigger. He was also distracted by the TV. When his sister walked between him and the TV, the hammer slipped, discharging the gun. A case of doing stupid things.
The judge found the teen not guilty of manslaughter, primarily based on my testimony of showing how this could have and likely did occur. I didn’t agree with the verdict; in the jurisdiction it occurred, “negligence” was an element of the crime of manslaughter. The attorney must have made a heck of an argument. I wasn’t hired to prove the defendant’s guilt or innocence, but instead simply to explain the mechanics of how this could’ve occurred. I hope the young man went on to become a useful member of society.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
Another early case saw me working on placing blame on who fired the fatal bullet in a drive-by shooting between rival gang members. This was a murder case, where the deceased died as a result of being shot in the back with a 9mm bullet. The defendant wasn’t the shooter, but the driver of the car. Under the “felony murder rule,” he could be charged with, and tried for, murder.
It seemed like a slam-dunk for the prosecution, as the weapon used in the shooting was a 9mm Beretta. But wait … the crime lab report regarding the 9mm bullet indicated it was a full-metal jacket 9mm, weighing 90 grains. Experienced reloaders reading this will now understand why the “slam-dunk” case was dropped by the prosecution after reading my report, explaining the bullet was very likely fired from a .380 handgun from someone on the street.
When the prosecutor read my report, he tasked the detectives to do a larger crime scene search. Lo and behold, a Walther PPK in 9mm Kurz (.380 auto) was found hidden under some bushes near the scene. It turned out to be the murder weapon and wasn’t fired from the car but instead from a buddy on the street. Case dismissed. This was a case of violating all three: stupid places, stupid people and stupid things.
Skip The Sauce
A third case I worked on saw a victim of a robbery using his firearm to shoot and wound the robber (a gold chain had been forcefully removed from the neck of the defendant). Despite the felony committed against the defendant by the shooting victim, a conviction resulted for first degree assault. My role was to do a shooting incident reconstruction, as several rounds had been fired, resulting in bullet strikes to the ground, cars in the area and the robber.
In this case, the defendant also violated all three parts of the code. He sought out the other party who was at a bar and called him out the parking lot. The stupid thing part of the equation wasn’t his gunfire, but his level of sobriety, as in he was sh*t-faced drunk. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of doing these cases, it’s that juries hate drunks with guns.
Skeletons Rarely Stay Buried
Lastly, I worked on a case where the defendant did everything right, but he still ended up being prosecuted because he lied to the police. This case was one where an individual was involved in the killing of one of four individuals, all four of whom were attacking the defendant with fists and shoes. At the time of the shooting, the defendant had been down on his knees and was being beaten and kicked (even in the head).
So, you might ask, why did he get prosecuted? Because he sat down with investigators and wanted to cooperate with the police, but did so without an attorney. During this interview, the police asked him if he had been taking any drugs (a routine question). He answered no. But because he had gone to the hospital to get checked out from the beating and there was blood drawn, the lab report showed a small amount of cocaine in his system. The police rolled the dice to see if they could get “another gun off the street” by convicting the defendant. The lie he told the police was the key piece of evidence that spurred the prosecution. After all, if you lie about one thing, what else are you lying about?
The advice from this corner of the world is never submit to conducting an interview with investigating officers without an attorney by your side. After one full trial that resulted in a hung jury and a second prosecution, the defendant eventually pleaded guilty to a low-level felony and got on with his life.
Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things. Those are words to live by.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the 2023 EDC Special issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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