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By Larry Pratt

February 5, 2004

I was forcefully taught a lesson during my defensive handgun training at Thunder Ranch in Texas: it matters a lot what you say when you are under attack.

And the decision about whether you used reasonable force defending yourself will be made in the air-conditioned comfort of a well lit courtroom, not in the shadows of a terrifying nighttime attack. Your words will be weighed in the calm of your trial for assault.

Consider this situation which looked terrifying at the time to the victims, but an English judge twisted it all around based on a few words uttered by a frightened and terrified father.

A group of over 20 alcohol-fueled thugs swarmed the house of David Hudson. They descended upon Hudson's garden, then knocked on his door and challenged him to a fight. They threatened to burn Hudson's car. Some of the punks were throwing rocks at the windows of his house.

Hudson told them to go away, but neighbors testified that the situation escalated for another 10 minutes with the drunken louts banging on Hudson's windows. Hudson's children were screaming in terror.

The police had been called, but the situation was continuing to get out of hand - with no police in sight.

Finally, Hudson grabbed the pole of a patio umbrella and whacked one of the punks on his front porch on the head.

Although the judge did allow that the 15-year old "victim's" behavior left something to be desired, he thought that Hudson should have locked the door and waited for the police. The judge did not say how long the police should have needed, nor what would have transpired while awaiting their arrival.

Because Hudson said that "he had had enough," the judge found Hudson guilty of assault. Those were not the words of someone concerned solely with protecting their family and property in the considered wisdom of the judge.

The judge did not have to explain how he would rule if a woman, being sexually assaulted, were to get hold of a crowbar, and just before whacking her assailant screamed, "I've had enough." Would the judge find the woman guilty of assault? After all, could she not have locked herself in a room with her crowbar and waited for the police to arrive?

Before we conclude that the British are alone in this kind of vicious Monday-morning quarterbacking, consider that the police chief of Wilmette, IL asked the same question of a homeowner who shot a burglar in his house. Despite being confronted by the homeowner, the burglar had continued to run further into the house. But according to the police chief, the homeowner should have gathered his family in a locked room and waited for the police to arrive.

I don't have the rap sheet of the English punks, but the Wilmette burglar had 30 raps on his sheet in three states with lots of early releases and outstanding warrants. As the Wilmette homeowner said, "I did what the police could not."

Perhaps that is what really bugged the English judge and the Wilmette police chief - socialists do not like any competition for their government monopoly.

At Thunder Ranch we were drilled to shout at an attacker, "Stop or I'll shoot." It would be preferable to repeat that, if time permits. Then, if a witness were to tell the judge what you said, you would be quoted as having been on the defensive. Victims are not supposed to be exasperated with being victimized. In the view of the English judge, and many friends of criminals in the U.S., anything you say - even while in fear for your life - can and will be used against you.

� 2004 Larry Pratt - All Rights Reserved

Larry Pratt has been Executive Director of Gun Owners of America for 27 years. GOA is a national membership organization of 300,000 Americans dedicated to promoting their second amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.

GOA lobbies for the pro-gun position in Washington and is involved in firearm issues in the states. GOA's work includes providing legal assistance to those involved in lawsuits with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal firearms law enforcement agency.

Pratt has appeared on numerous national radio and TV programs such as NBC's Today Show, CBS' Good Morning America, CNN's Crossfire and Larry King Live, Fox's Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC's Phil Donahue show and many others. He has debated Congressmen James Traficant, Jr. (D-OH), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Vice President Al Gore, among others. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country.

He published a book, Armed People Victorious, in 1990 and was editor of a book, Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Militias, 1995. His latest book, On the Firing Line: Essays in the Defense of Liberty was published in 2001.

Pratt has held elective office in the state legislature of Virginia, serving in the House of Delegates. Pratt directs a number of other public interest organizations and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The GOA web site is: Pratt's weekly talk show Live Fire is archived there at:   E-Mail: [email protected]








"The judge did not have to explain how he would rule if a woman, being sexually assaulted, were to get hold of a crowbar, and just before whacking her assailant screamed, "I've had enough." Would the judge find the woman guilty of assault?"