Self-Defense Requires Fear Of Death Or Serious Bodily Injury

By John Farnam

looking down the barrel of a gun
looking down the barrel of a gun
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-( Your Self-Defense Claim, Weak or Strong? Advice to Students of our Art:

The decision to “go armed” should not affect your normal routine. That is, you should not go anywhere, nor do anything while armed, that you would not go, nor do, while unarmed.

When I hear a student say, “Now that I’m armed, I’m less afraid to go to the ‘bad part of town,’” I advise him that he should not be going to the “ bad part of town” in any event, and that going armed should make him more cautious, not less!

This is a point all instructors need to stress. The way we sometimes put it:

“A Superior Gunman is best described as one who uses his superior judgement to keep him out of situations that would require a display of his superior skill!”

Second point:

Legitimate self-defense is generally well established when your decision to defend yourself with gunfire is motivated by fear of death or serious bodily injury to yourself or another innocent person, so long as your fears are authentic and reasonable.

Conversely, your contention of self-defense is always weakened when you are motivated by anger!

Of course, there will probably be a tinge of both emotions present, but, as a general statement:

Shooting because you’re afraid is okay. Shooting because you’re angry is not!

The second point is underscored when a person, ostensibly defending himself with gunfire, continues to fire at the VCA (violent criminal actor) after the threat he may have earlier represented is clearly gone. An example is when a person fires at a suspect who may have once represented a threat, but is now fleeing.

Police officers may sometimes be justified in employing deadly force against “fleeing felons”

However, for non-police, acting strictly in self-defense, there is little question. When all he apparently wants to do is run away, we will let him!

As Charleston, SC’s events illustrate, deadly danger is present in every place and at every time. Who go armed, thus need to be adequately trained, and we must know and understand the behavior expected of us by our criminal justice system.

When the Test comes, there will be no time to “get ready,” and some things, once done, can never be “undone!”

“I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird, and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.” ~ FDR


About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit:

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Chris Elting

I am 50/50 in agreement when it comes to a criminal who is fleeing and the threat that once was present is no longer and you’re not a cop. I feel that if that person was a home invader or robber of any sort and tries to flee it could still fall under the category of self defense of another, because by you letting them flee they could still then attack another person or persons. So I feel you’d be doing your duty removing a menace to society and saving future victims from being harmed.


I kept firing I thought he was still coming towards me.

Rich Starkey

This is probably the best article I’ve read from you guys yet. As a pistol instructor I have made every one of these points myself within the past few weeks on my posts. I would like to say thank you for doing such a good job at getting this kind of information out there. You are able to reach a lot further than guys like me ever could. Keep up the good work.