Today’s After Action Analysis has been postponed this week to make room for something I think is both fascinating and important. Jacob Paulson of Concealedcarry.com has agreed to write a few lines about his experience with self-defense law as it pertains to instructors. I hope you enjoy it as much as I. Our After Action Analysis Show will return next week but don’t feel bad – this info is just as fantastic. So please enjoy this contribution from our frequent partner, Jacob Paulson of ConcealedCarry.com.
Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
How I Changed How I Teach Self Defense Law In My CCW Classes
It is time for firearm instructors to change something. Something that is as deeply rooted and well intentioned as any other dogmatic practice I know of. Let me start at the beginning…
My Journey In Teaching “Gun Law”
I’ve been teaching Concealed Carry classes since January 2007. While I’m no longer a newbie I know a lot of instructors who have been at it much longer than I.
I started out in Utah where the state has a defined curriculum that requires the instructor to push up onto the screen the actual language from the state statutes relative to justifiable force and then attempt to explain what it means.
In theory instructors know what these statutes mean from having previously attended an instructor qualifying class given by Utah State employees who are essentially state level law enforcement tasked with managing the permitting program.
When I moved to Colorado I continued to do the same, this time researching those laws on my own and seeking legal council from a local competent attorney. I thought I was doing the best thing possible for my students by showing them the language of the actual statues and explaining what it meant.
Like most parts of a class curriculum you start to notice patterns in the questions that your students ask and so you tweak and adjust your presentation of the material to address those concerns before they can be asked by the students.
At this point if you are a firearm instructor I suspect you identify with my story. I currently work with about 50 instructors across the US who make up the ConcealedCarry.com instructor network and most of them have a story just like mine.
BUT ONE DAY I TURNED THIS WHOLE THING UPSIDE DOWN
Before I tell what I changes I think it is important to know WHY I changed it. Sharing the actual state statutes with my students and attempting to explain what they mean has some significant drawbacks. I hadn’t really thought about it before because I just assumed this is the way it needed to be and should be done.
- Statutes are written in legalize rendering them difficult to understand even for educated people.
- Statues by themselves are not the only source of the law. In many states in order to fully understand self-defense law one also would need to share with their students several case precedents set by a state supreme or appellate court
- This teaching method is time consuming. First we read the statute. Then I interpret in my best plain English possible. Then I add some clarifications that will address common questions. Then we move on to the next statute. Repeat as needed. This can take up A LOT of time in a class where any decent instructor is trying to cram a lot into a short time period.
- This method of teaching makes it hard for the students to remember any of the finer points. Based on my 60 day surveys sent to students I know they are likely to remember an emotion like “if I do smart and ethical stuff I’m likely to have acted legally” but when pressed on finer legal points that matter they don’t remember the answers to basic questions. This emotionally weighs hard on an instructor who feels an obligation to set up his students for success.
HERE IS WHAT I DO NOW
I push up this slide:
With the use of PowerPoint animations I have each of the 5 Elements appear one by one as I explain them.
*Note, given you are reading this article on lawofselfdefense.com I’ll assume that you are fairly familiar with the 5 Elements of Self-Defense. However if you are NOT, and this part of this article feels like a curve ball please click here and get up to speed… I promise it will be the best thing you do all year as an instructor.
This approach takes me about 10 minutes. Yep, 10 minutes. This single slide 10 minute lecture has replaced 4 slides previously used to deliver a 25 minute lecture.
I CANNOT GO BACK
I’m as likely to go back to having a home phone as I am to go back to pushing statutes up on the screen for my students. Here are some of the benefits I’ve found.
- As previously noted this saves times which means I can add other valuable content to my class period further benefiting my students.
- I get less questions from students which isn’t on it’s own important; but it is indicative that they understand when and how they can engage in the use of force in self defense of themselves and others within the boundaries of the law.
- Retention is much better. Students are much more likely to remember 3-5 of these elements of self defense 60 days later than they were to recall the rules of engagement based on discussing state statutes.
A Few Important Notes For Any Instructor Reading This
Like any material you teach you should become as much an expert on that material as you can to ensure you can teach it concisely and with credibility. I recommend you start by reading the book, “The Law of Self-Defense” and strongly would encourage you to complete the Law of Self Defense Instructor course which is the equivalent of a law school class on self-defense law. I loved it and I know you will too.
You will note from the image above of my slide that I have the word Avoidance struck out. In Colorado there is no element of avoidance but since (at the time of this writing) 13 states have some element of avoidance in place (better known as a duty to retreat) I still keep it on my slide deck so I can explain what it is and how it might apply should they be in a state with such a requirement.
Also note that at the bottom of my slide I provide the references needed for the students to find and read the actual state statutes should they desire. I feel this is important for a few reasons. First, they know that I have researched and read the statutes myself and have proactively chosen to explain the concepts therein via this paradigm of the 5 elements. Second, as many of you know; some of your students will feel compelled to go look up those laws and read them. I don’t see any harm in this, especially AFTER they understand the 5 Elements.
Lastly, I need to note that when I teach a Utah Concealed Carry Class I still push up the relevant statutes because Utah requires I do so and I work hard to be compliant with any state requirements. If you also teach in a state where you are required to share statute language with your students I encourage you to FIRST, explain the 5 Elements of Self-Defense. Then, with that starting foundation take the student through whatever other required material.
I haven’t shared any massive breakthrough or technique in this article… actually an overly simple solution that I feel has strengthened my class and my students. I hope you will consider it as well!