According to the National Rifle Associations’ Right to Carry
2004 Report, 64% of all the citizens
of the United States of America live
in one of 38 Right To Carry States (RTC).
The majority of states within the U.S.
have laws and statutes that give an individual
the legal right to defend them-selves.
Obviously there can be vast differences
between the actual mechanics of the laws and statutes themselves
between different states, but the filament of commonality between
the states laws and statutes that seem to be present in each state
is the “Reasonableness
Standard”, also referred to as
the “Reasonable Man Standard”, which in short is the
legal standard to weigh the actions of
an individual in a use of force issue.
If the “normal” person
on the street or jury would have acted
within the same manner, given the information
at hand, a person has met the “Reasonableness
Within the Law Enforcement Community,
Police Agencies must have written guidelines,
detailing the Agencies official “Use of
Force Policy and Procedures”. Along with the official use
of force policy, Agencies also have to
implement and train their officers on
the “Use of Force Continuum”.
The Use of Force Continuum is a model
which is a graphical representation of
a police departments official use of
force policy, detailing the progression
of the use of force an officer is authorized
to use, depending on a suspects behaviors
and actions. Unlike the Law Enforcement Community, most civilians
in States that have the right to carry, spend little, or no time
talking about force options, but only on using deadly force and
the circumstances surrounding its’ legal
use (i.e. being a reluctant participant,
immediate fear of death or great bodily
harm, retreat not practical or available,
no lesser force will do, preventing the
commission of a felony in the actors
place or abode, etc. . . .). I truly
feel that a Civilian Use of Force Continuum is needed and mandatory
to help civilians understand the realities of human conflicts along
with possible alternatives to using “Deadly
Force” and which “Less
options are available to them.
Example of Use of Force Continuum
Most Use of Force Continuums have the following progressing levels:
1. Presence of the Defender/Officer.
2. Verbal commands.
3. Soft-hands (compliance & redirection techniques, display
of non-lethal weapons).
4. Non-lethal weapons (OC spray, Electronic
5. Hard hands & Impact Weapons
6. Deadly force
One important aspect of the “Use of Force Continuum” is
that a person does not have to always enter at the same spot or
the lowest option on the force continuum, but at the level that
would be “reasonable” in which to respond to whichever
threat they are confronted with.
Most of the times, conflicts can simply be resolved by an assertive
and commanding “Presence”. Part of teaching self-defense
to people, is instilling them with confidence and mindset to handle
themselves emotionally and physically. Often we have heard criminals
comment that they chose their victims, because of the passive-avoidance
type of body language. By teaching student to always present an
assertive presence we can begin to master the first stage of the “Use
of Force Continuum”.
Usually the first two stages of the “Use of Force Continuum” go
hand-in-hand. Presence coupled with strong verbal commands/negotiations,
etc can often de-escalate a situation. Any and all self-defense
training should include some type of scenario based training where
students can master the art of presence and verbal commands to handle
potential threatening situations. The verbal stage of the use of
force continuum includes conversation and persuasion and then commands
and ultimatums, such as stating to a would-be thug or assailant “hey,
I don’t want any trouble, I am just going to leave”.
As we progress up the “Use of Force Continuum” so does
the severity of our actions, which leads us to the third stage of
the continuum Soft empty hands. Soft empty hands techniques encompass
biophysical techniques that involve compliance, redirections or
posturing/display of non-lethal weapons.
The Fourth Stage of the Use of Force Continuum is “Non-Lethal
Weapons” such as Oleoresin Capsicum (Pepper Spray/O.C.) or
Electronic Stunning Devices. As an Instructor, I have found that
this is one of the areas most lacking in training amongst the civilian
sector. In the United States, we may have 38 states with Right to
Carry laws in effect, but not many people use less lethal weapons
and technologies, or receive the appropriate training for the less-lethal
tools they use and carry. Many people buy or carry O.C. (Oleoresin
Capsicum/Pepper Spray), but have never received training, or been
exposed to the agent themselves with little or no understanding
how O.C. works, the effects it will have on the attacker and possibly
the victim if used incorrectly. Many people who are unfamiliar with
O.C. have some type of magical belief that an attacker sprayed with
pepper spray or O.C. will be immediately incapacitated, without
realizing that around 10% of the people in the world will have little
to no reaction to Oleoresin Capsicum; and even those people who
are affected will have anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes to
continue to attack you.
The final stages of the “Use of Force Continuum” encompass
Hard Empty Hand Techniques/Impact Weapons and then of course Using
Deadly Force. Many Americans have taken karate classes or self-defense
classes hoping this would protect them from harm or random acts
of violence. Martial Arts is a wonderful place to start to learn
empty hand techniques, but real world self-defense encompasses quick,
easy to use and devastatingly effective techniques that a person
can utilize in moments of high stress were they have lost all fine
motor skills. Unfortunately, most martial artist themselves are
unaware of the conditions and requirements concerning the legal
use of force.
Each state that has RTC has legislation and statutes that regulate
the legal use of deadly force, but rarely is there clear direction
in what is allowed or permissible in less-lethal use of force cases.
By instructors and States adopting a “Use of Force Continuum” for
civilians, we can provide alternatives to self-defense scenarios
and situations and prepare citizens for the realities of violence
and it’s consequences. By providing a graphical representation
of what is allowed or not allowed in the civilian “Use of
Force Continuum” we can provide a graphical representation
of what is “reasonable” when using force to defend ourselves
and what progressions or stages the “average” person
progresses through in the course of defending themselves.
As a Law Enforcement and Civilian Instructor, I love the fact that
a large majority of Americans live in states where they can exercise
their rights to self-defense, while at the same time being very
concerned that many people’s training in self-defense is an
all or nothing approach, being trained only in the “use of
deadly force” while having little or no exposure to less-lethal
weapons training and force options. I feel through training and
utilization of a “Civilian Use of Force Continuum” we
can provide the CCW permit holder with options for use of force
that they are currently unprepared for when deadly force is not
legally an option, but some degree of force is.
About the Author: Michael Andrew Lord VanBlaricum is a Certified
Law Enforcement Instructor, Published Author, Certified NRA Instructor,
Master Black Belt Instructor in Hapkido Hoshinsul and Owner and
Chief Instructor of LordVan Tactical LLC. To contact Michael or
learn more about LordVan Tactical LLC self-defense philosophy or
seminars visit www.lordvantactical.com or call 651-324-6854.