Michael C. Hennenberg

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Why you should not brandish a firearm

You legally carry a handgun. It gives you a sense of protection and safety that you wouldn't have otherwise. You know that modern society isn't always safe, and you do not want to find you and your family in a dangerous position. You hope that you never have to use the gun, but you know that day may come.

In the spirit of not using it, though, you hope that maybe it can help to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation. For instance, say you get into a minor car accident. The person you hit gets furious, however, and they start walking toward you aggressively, shouting about the accident.

You don't want this to turn into a road rage situation or some sort of fistfight on the side of the road, so you calmly display your pistol. You want them to know that you're armed so that they'll back off. This is known as brandishing a firearm. You hope it can calm everyone down so that they won't do anything rash.

Why it's a bad idea

In theory, you may feel that your decision makes sense. Maybe they would have tried to fight you if you were unarmed. You've probably seen this same tactic used many times in the movies, where the hero chases off his would-be attackers through some sort of display of weaponry.

In reality, though, it's not a good idea. A few reasons why include:

  • You could end up getting arrested if you did not face an imminent threat and had no reason to really fear for your life. A good rule of thumb is that you never want to draw a gun without a legal reason to use it. This means drawing it to "diffuse" a situation could constitute making a deadly threat or even attempting an assault without justification.
  • You may escalate the situation. That other driver may have felt angry, but maybe they really just wanted to talk. Then you brought a handgun into the encounter. What if they're armed and they take that as a threat?
  • A gun represents lethal force. You could get accused of attempting to use lethal force, even if you say that you never planned to fire the gun.

After all, the court case could see some disagreement over what happened. For instance, some people also think it's wise to fire a "warning shot," but, if you do so, the opposition may argue in court that it wasn't a warning at all. You tried to shoot the other person, but you're not a very good shot, and you missed. A warning shot isn't considered, legally speaking, a non-lethal way to diffuse a situation. It's considered an attempted use of lethal force.

Your defense options

As you can see, it's very important to carefully consider every action you take with a firearm. If you do find yourself facing unexpected charges, make sure you know all of your legal defense options in Ohio.

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