From mock jury trials to psychological studies, there is substantial research on the psychology of juries, especially where self-defense is concerned. We should take advantage of it.
We’ve all heard the urban myths spouted by legal “wannabes” in gun stores and on the Internet, usually pontificating with absolute certainty something like, “As long as you do (X) they can’t prosecute you.”
Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that self-defense is one of the most complex, uncertain, and difficult cases to win. And the outcome is always unpredictable.
So, absent a “bench trial” (i.e. before a judge rather than a jury) your fate will be in the hands of ordinary people, most of whom do not own guns. They often lack even a basic understanding of firearms and get most of their beliefs about guns from television. As a result, in a case hinging on the use of firearms, they can be easily manipulated by a skilled prosecutor.
One thing that can have serious ramifications is the kind of firearm we choose for self-defense. Now, I agree that it shouldn’t matter what kind of gun you used to defend yourself from a violent attack, but the cold hard fact is that it does.
Keep it simple. Research shows that your carry gun should be any standard, off-the-shelf,unmodified pistol or revolver in a typical self-defense caliber (.38 Special, 9MM, 40 S&W, .45Auto, etc.). And stick with the vanilla models; no “Super Combat Tactical Ranger” versions or “tricked out” custom guns. Likewise, you do not want a prosecutor holding up a .44 Magnum or Desert Eagle 50 caliber “hand-cannon” in front of a jury.
In home defense situations, handguns are surprisingly less threatening to juries than shotguns or rifles. But if you do opt for a home scattergun, a plain-Jane model with a wood stock and fore-grip is far less problematic than one with a black pistol grip stock and fore-grip. And be advised, the more accessories on your gun, the worse the reaction of the jury.
Rifles have the highest negatives with juries, with military-style guns at the top of the list. So for home defense, don’t even think about using an AR-15 (or, God forbid, anything with the letters “AK”). These are virtually radioactive to juries.
And remember to load ONLY name-brand, factory ammunition labeled “self-defense” or “personal protection.” NO “extreme” or hand-loaded ammo. Ever. Imagine your jury hearing that you had “Demon Devastators” in your gun, rather than standard ammo.
Now, make no mistake, I am not saying that having a “scary” gun is going to necessarily result in you being convicted. You could do everything wrong, and still, theoretically at least, win a self-defense case. It’s happened.
But why not do everything we can to tilt the odds in our favor?