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Unforced Errors: Don’t Send the Wrong Message

Old bumper sticker owned by a person who has guns

The USCCA is an organization that in large part defends gun owners in court after they have had to use deadly force to defend themselves or their loved ones. Here’s what they have to say on the topic of bumper sticker slogans:

WE’VE ALL SEEN THEM: bumper stickers, welcome mats, signs and placards, each proclaiming some political or social value or point of view. Sometimes, they mean little or nothing to us. Sometimes, we get a little miffed. Sometimes, we nod in agreement. And, sometimes, we think — or blurt out — “You’ve got to be kidding!”

Harmless, right? Not if you are an armed citizen. In fact, it can be extremely harmful to you and a threat to your freedom.

Before anyone leaps on me for “trying to quash their 1st Amendment Rights,” let me say that it is not a matter of your rights but rather an area in which you need to make carefully reasoned and prudent decisions. While that bumper sticker slogan might reflect a deeply held belief of self-reliance and acceptance of personal responsibility for your own security, it is a poor choice of forum for a complex subject. Rather than pushing a clever sound bite, the wiser course of action is to be like the strong, silent, self-reliant type we all admire.

What, Me Worry?

I’ve had people tell me that their bumper stickers or signs in their windows are a ridiculous thing to be concerned about. Not so. If you ever have to use deadly force to protect yourself or a loved one, your world will likely get turned upside down. Unless you’re very lucky, every aspect of your life will be examined with a microscope by a prosecutor looking for wrongdoing, an attorney looking for a lawsuit or a reporter looking for a front-page story. Anti-gunners will look for any way to vilify you. Why load that metaphorical gun they’ve already trained on you?

Remember the general standards that justify the use of deadly force: You didn’t start it, you didn’t escalate it, you couldn’t safely retreat from it or you were in your home. You faced a threat of imminent death or great bodily harm. You had no recourse to save your life other than the immediate use of deadly force.

“Trespassers Will Be Shot. Survivors Will Be Shot Again.”

Now, how reasonable, responsible and compliant with those standards do you appear with a welcome mat that reads, “I Don’t Dial 911”? Or the ever-popular, “Be Found Here at Night and Be Found Here in the Morning”? The evening newspaper’s banner headline will declare “Shooter Claimed He Was Ready to Shoot Anyone on Sight,” while the prosecutor quietly prepares your welcome mat as People’s Exhibit 1 to establish your bloodthirsty character and the premeditation of your act. The tongue-in-cheek humor will be lost on them, believe me.

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