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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for the ‘Legal Issues’ Category

Massad Ayoob


Sunday, June 4th, 2017

It is good to read a letter from a prosecutor to the defense lawyer that says, “Since meeting with you and your client I have personally undertaken a thorough review of this matter and am dismissing the charges against your client…Please find enclosed the Nolle Prosequi.”

Last month, about four cases cleared from my personal expert witness docket without having to go to trial.  This one, in the Southeast, involved a murder charge against a woman whose estranged husband had pounced her from the back seat of the car and was strangling her from behind when she drew the handgun she was licensed to carry and fired over her shoulder, ending the assault. The charges had been brought by a senior prosecutor infamous for her obvious dislike of armed citizens. That prosecutor lost the last election.  A highly competent defense lawyer sat down with the prosecutor from the new administration, who took her role as minister of justice seriously.  Kudos to the defense lawyer and prosecutor alike.

Out West, an idiot show-off bully wielded a gun to intimidate a professional rival. He claimed it “went off accidentally” and that he had never fired it before. The bullet inflicted a grievous, personal injury. I was retained by the plaintiff.  The defendant’s insurance company caved and settled for the max of the policy, a couple million dollars. Case closed.

In the heartland, a burglar attacked an armed homeowner who caught him in the act. Bad move: the armed citizen shot and killed him. His survivors sued.  For much less than cost of trial, the case was settled. How much? I figure after the plaintiff’s lawyers take their cut, their clients will get enough money to buy a nice lawnmower.  Full trial might have gone over $100,000; my fee as expert witness for the homeowner’s side would have been among the least of that.

Not far from that one, a manslaughter charge against a homeowner who’d killed a burglar was dropped in return for a plea to a misdemeanor, again saving the ordeal and six-figure expense of trial.  The respected defense lawyer who had retained me had shown all his cards to a respected prosecutor, and the latter had made a decision both sides were happy with.

There’s an analogy between gunfights and court fights.  History shows that when a stalwart, competent cop or civilian alike point a gun at a violent criminal and make it clear that if the assault continues, the criminal will die, the criminal generally surrenders or flees.  When a stalwart, competent legal defense team faces an unmeritorious allegation with facts, the lawyers on the other side often have the same epiphany: realizing they can’t win, they either offer an acceptable compromise or drop the matter entirely.

For the most part, the system works.  Thus the old saying among lawyers: “In the halls of justice, most of the justice is in the halls.”

Massad Ayoob


Friday, May 5th, 2017

For years, I’ve warned people that there are a couple of serious concerns with using handloaded ammunition for personal or home defense.  The big one is forensic replicability when the shooter is accused, and opposing theories of distance become a factor.

How often does this happen? One time some years ago, that question came up on an internet debate.  I looked through the ten cases I had pending at the time as an expert witness, and gunshot residue (GSR) testing to determine distance from gun muzzle to the person shot was an issue in four of them.  Forty percent is not what I’d call statistically insignificant.

I’ve found this to be perhaps the most visceral and contentious of gun forum debates. When I suggest to someone that the ammo he crafted himself might be a handicap in court, it’s as if they had just prepared a Thanksgiving feast for their family from scratch, and I’d told them “Don’t poison your family with that crap, go out and buy them some KFC.”

They react as if you had told them they had ugly babies.

Here are two very good writeups, at least one by an attorney, explaining how and why handloaded ammunition can muddy the waters if and when you find yourself in court after a self-defense shooting:


Read, and if you have any friends who use handloads for serious social purposes, please share. You might just save them from the sort of nightmare suffered by the defendant in New Jersey v. Daniel Bias, who was bankrupted by legal fees before the first of his three trials was over, and wound up serving hard time.  Both of his attorneys were convinced he was innocent, and told me they believed that if he had simply had factory ammo in his home defense gun, the case would probably never have even gone to trial.

Discussion is invited here, but PLEASE, read and absorb the two links before posting.

Massad Ayoob


Thursday, March 30th, 2017
National Public Radio just did this story on the International Association of Chiefs of Police conditionally approving warning shots, which have long been verboten in American police work. Not mentioned in the article is one of IACP’s caveats, that the warning shot should be fired only in situations that would otherwise warrant deadly force.
My take on it is in the NPR story, linked here.
I’m interested in all y’all’s opinion on it, including relevant experiences.
Massad Ayoob


Thursday, March 16th, 2017

I thought I’d share this interesting read, courtesy of regular correspondent Ted –

Comments welcome, as always.

Massad Ayoob

George Zimmerman and Don West Speak on the Trayvon Martin incident.

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

You all remember the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman.  The fifth anniversary of that incident has just passed.  You may have read my 20-part take on the trial, archived here at the blog beginning the day of Zimmerman’s acquittal, July 13, 2013.

A year ago, George and Don West, one of the two attorneys who managed his brilliant and successful court defense, were kind enough to talk to one of my MAG-40 classes about it.  The result is now posted at ProArms Podcast.

Budget yourself a couple of hours to hear it.  There is much to learn that never hit the papers or the airwaves.

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