This article first appeared in the Network's membership journal.

by Marty Hayes

Words mean something. So do appearances.

For example, if you were in charge of hiring an individual for a public relations job, would you likely hire the well-spoken, well-educated individual wearing a nice suit or hire the very same type of person who showed up in blue jeans and a t-shirt?

Of course, you would hire the nicely dressed person, all other things being equal. Basic Logic 101.

So, what does this have to do with armed self defense? Quite a bit, I believe. I’ll explain.

Let’s say you live in an ultra-liberal city in the U.S. of A. But, due to a sane legislature in your state, you still have the right to own any type of firearm for self-defense (with perhaps the exception of a fully-automatic machine gun, so let’s take that off the table). Still, you can pick and choose between the AR-15 military style rifles, AK-47 “assault rifles,” nine-shot Benelli combat shotguns, and, of course, the latest and greatest high-capacity pistols using the latest and greatest deadly ammunition. And, given this right, you accumulate a nice collection of these firearms, about which there is nothing wrong or illegal. Your collection consists of a couple of AR-15s (also called M-4s), several handguns (both semi-auto and revolvers), and a few basic pump and semi-auto shotguns. You may also be into hunting and own a couple of hunting rifles, perhaps even a lever action 30-30 carbine you inherited from your father.

So, which ones do you keep loaded for self defense in your home?

Assuming it is legal, you can keep any or all of them loaded, and I have been in homes where that is the modus operandi. I have no issues with that, and in fact, it is perhaps the most logical way to go. Now, I presume for the sake of our discussion, that people have their “go-to” guns, and those are the ones that stay loaded. Again, which do you choose? Do you choose the AR-15 with white light, red-dot sight and tactical sling on it, or choose the Marlin 30-30? Each will fulfill the role of the home defense rifle pretty aptly.

But, also assuming that you live in that ultra-liberal locale, if you choose the AR-15 over the lever action hunting rifle to shoot and kill the individual you confronted on your door step with the tire iron in his hand, and given a murky set of facts and witness statements, which firearm used will more likely than the other result in your arrest and prosecution, all other facts being equal? I think you can see where I am going.

I have given this subject a considerable amount of personal contemplation since reading the appellate briefs of Harold Fish, following his conviction for first-degree murder ( In the appellate brief submitted after Fish’s conviction, it was written:

“Fish was grilled about whether the Kimber 10mm was one of the ‘most powerful’ guns that he owned. [Id. 193-94]. He was questioned extensively about the hollow point bullets that he used. [Id. 194-95]. Fish was asked about the impact of a hollow point bullet upon a subject, which admittedly causes the bullet to expand. [Id. 197-98, 257-59]. He was asked about the written training materials that he received when he took a concealed weapons course. [Id. 199-200]. Fish was questioned extensively about the safety mechanism on the 10mm handgun. [Id. 201-202]. He was questioned about whether or not the gun was loaded in the automobile during his drive to northern Arizona. [Id]. None of this evidence was relevant to the self-defense issue.”

Fish did not testify at trial, but instead, the above refers to his Grand Jury testimony. The point is that the prosecutor did everything he could to make Fish look like a crazed Rambo-type gun nut–and succeeded, by the way, as he got an indictment for murder.

In this day and age, the Internet provides a fair amount of really good advice about self-defense considerations. It also provides an incredible amount of extremely poor advice. One of those subjects arises when the topic of guns and ammo come up, and misguided but otherwise well-meaning people spout off saying: “It doesn’t matter, all that is important is that the shooting was justified.”

This assertion can be made about the type of ammunition (factory v. reloads), type of gun, number of shots fired and other topics of hot debate. The problem with that advice is that a shooting is justified only after the prosecutor, district attorney, and judge or jury decide it is justified. If the prosecutor or district attorney is bent on getting an indictment, he or she will attempt the Harold Fish grand jury protocol, painting you as a Rambo-type gun nut, using your choice of weapon–and perhaps even your entire gun collection–against you.

I would opine that perhaps, if Harold Fish had used a J-frame .38 special, and had fired once instead of three times with his 10mm Kimber, and if he didn’t have an expansive gun collection, he might never have been indicted by that grand jury. No indictment means no prosecution. No prosecution means no conviction, and no conviction means no prison time. Given the emphasis the prosecution made in the grand jury proceedings on Harold Fish’s life with guns, I have to wonder if our Network members, especially those who live in liberal, anti-gun leaning jurisdictions, have a real concern here.

Which leads me back to the introduction, in that appearances do mean something. Maybe not on the Internet, but certainly in the real world. Just ask Harold Fish.

NOTE: Harold Fish’s conviction was overturned on appeal, with Fish being released from prison after three years. The prosecutor has decided not to retry Fish, but the Arizona Attorney General has stepped in to the case, and is appealing the decision to overturn the second-degree murder conviction.

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