We see so many discussions on line regarding “what if I have to shoot?” scenarios that I thought it might be useful to try to distill the wisdom and experience I have tried to accumulate over the years, which involved more than a decade in and around law enforcement where I was present three times for officer-involved fatal shootings, a dozen or so more times for non-fatal discharges of weapons and many times on shooting and homicide scenes, a number of them involving self-defense by armed citizens. Take this as just one observer’s opinions. First, and I know this will hack off some 2nd Amendment purists, but open carry is dumb. Why? There’s a reason cops in uniform sit in restaurants facing the door, and that as soon as they make detective they grab a cover garment. Open carry makes you the first target of the robber or mass shooter and kills most of your tactical options, and maybe you. Save it for the security guard job on weekends. Second we hear a lot about “scan the background before you fire.” Nice sentiment, but every officer I ever talked with after a shooting described the adrenalin dump and the extreme tunnel vision/hearing that ensues. If it ever happens you will be focused on the threat and only the threat. In most cases officers didn’t even know how many shots they had fired. In the real world you are going to do the best you can in the right now. So what does the CCW holder do if he/she has to deploy a weapon in the defense of self or others? NUMBER ONE is be first to call 911. Traditionally, first on the line is the victim. The simple act of dialing those three numbers takes the first step in certifying you as the good guy. Note that this applies even if no shots were fired, and if the suspect is long gone. You need to officially report ANY deployment of a weapon in self-defense and you need to report it first, lest some mugger claim he was threatened by a “nut with a gun.” Tell the 911 operator in short, simple sentences what happened. “I just fired my weapon at an armed robber.” Give your name and the location in as precise terms as possible, as in “in front of the 7-11 on the northwest corner of Main and Broadway.” If anyone is injured specify that you need an ambulance. If you are calling a smaller agency, the person on the line is probably also making the radio calls, so allow him/her to dispatch the first officers. For a larger agency the call taker is probably entering your information on a keyboard that is relaying to the radio dispatcher and/or the mobile terminals in patrol cars. Respond to the dispatcher’s questions promptly and succinctly. This is not the time or place to tell the whole detailed story. Quickly also give your description so the first officers know you are the caller. “I’m a white male, gray hair, 5’ 11” in green shirt and blue jeans.” Then note the status of your weapon which the responding officers will need to know. “My weapon is holstered” or, “I am holding two at gunpoint” are vital bits of information for the initial responders. They are going to safe the entire scene when they arrive, which may likely include disarming and handcuffing you until the details emerge, but make it as clear as you can to the dispatcher who you are and that you are the good guy. If any suspects have fled, give as detailed a description as you can, including vehicle and direction of travel. AT SOME POINT EARLY IN THE CONVERSATION MAKE A CLEAR STATEMENT THAT YOU DEPLOYED A WEAPON BECAUSE YOU FEARED FOR YOUR LIFE AND SAFETY OR THAT OF OTHERS. Remember that the 911 recording is the first piece of evidence that will be introduced in the investigation and in any criminal or civil court proceedings. IF THERE WAS NOT A CLEAR THREAT TO LIFE AND SAFETY, YOU SHOULD HAVE KEPT YOUR GUN IN THE HOLSTER. If there are bystanders or witnesses, ask them to remain and NOT to approach any of those involved or any evidence. You do not want some clown walking off with the gun or knife the mugger used to threaten you, putting your actions in doubt. If you have shot one or more suspects, you can render first aid as you see fit, but don’t endanger yourself further in doing so. The best action may be to keep your weapon trained on the downed suspect(s) from a distance until police arrive. When the first officers arrive, display your hands clearly in an “I surrender” gesture. Comply with instructions with NO ARGUMENT. You will likely be told to place any weapon on the ground and go to your knees or belly. Do it. Don’t whine “why?” or say “I am the good guy!” That will be sorted out in time. Remember that the officer rolling up on your scene has no idea who you are or what has happened, save for the sketchy initial report from the dispatcher, who has probably also received several more calls from witnesses telling of “some guy with a gun running around shooting people.” I have seen some on gun forums say “clam/lawyer up.” I disagree. Police officers have a pretty good sense of who is being honest and who is lying, and they know that a truly innocent victim is going to tell a clear story. Tell it without embellishment, repeating that you were in fear of your life and safety. (This of course is subject to local conditions; in a very liberal anti-gun place I would probably lawyer up too!) Realize you will be questioned at least once at the scene by uniformed officers and again downtown by detectives and perhaps a prosecutor. Keep your account simple and clear and consistent and DO NOT LIE OR EMBELLISH. Remember that there are surveillance cameras everywhere, and that someone may have been recording your actions on a cell phone, so tell the simple truth. The last thing you need is to say “I stood my ground” when the parking lot camera shows you running 90 feet after a suspect and shooting him. Also, stay off all social media and refrain from any public comments, including to friends, until your case is fully disposed of. You do not need some lawyer displaying a screen shot of you saying “I shot the sorry lowlife!” in a million dollar lawsuit. If you are confident that you acted well within the law, you should expect your case to be handled and disposed of promptly. If there are delays that concern you, that may be the time to consult an attorney to push for action. You do not want to be left hanging indefinitely in legal limbo, which would make you more susceptible to a civil lawsuit. Assuming you are cleared of any criminal liability, be thankful and go on with your life, with the realization that your thoughts and attitudes will likely never be the same. I have known many cops who had to take a life and not one was unchanged by the experience.