I grew up doing the necessary labor on the family farm, and formally learned to be a farrier and a drywaller. The amount of pain and sweat involved in those labors soon led me to believe that college might be a very good idea! By shoeing horses, taping drywall, bartending and bouncing at bars, I managed to put myself through 10 years of college. I have a Bachelor of Arts in biology, a Master of Science in forensic biology, and, of course, a Juris Doctorate degree. I played four years of college football as a defensive lineman and “defense“ has remained important to me throughout my life.
After law school, I prosecuted cases (and tried over 50 small criminal cases before juries while doing so) in central Illinois for two years before I relocated to the great state of Arizona. I founded my own law firm in Phoenix in 1995 and despite humble beginnings have managed to successfully continue that practice now for going on 30 years. I have been a pro tem Judge in Arizona for nearly 15 years and presided over approximately two dozen jury trials in that capacity.
I have been an avid hunter and shooter since before moving to Arizona. To this day, I compete multiple times per month in the competitive disciplines of International Defensive Pistol Association (expert rating), United States Practical Shooting Association (master rating), Glock Sport Shooting Federation (master rating), three gun (master rating), Precision Rifle Competition and Sporting Clays (both rated as “atrocious”). I am a shooter who became a lawyer. I am not a lawyer who fancies himself a “gun lawyer.“ It is in my DNA.
Actual knowledge of legitimate issues, such as reaction time, draw time, split times between shots, etc., make me better able to understand, and to explain to juries, the actual hard truths of defensive uses of weapons. Knowledge of ballistics, be it internal, external or terminal, hours spent in labs looking through stereo-microscopes comparing lands and grooves on bullets, actually doing gunshot residue tests, etc. made me better able to represent the hundreds if not thousands of clients and I have represented in nearly one-third of a century. I have even had the pleasure of serving as an armorer on an independent film set (and I am proud to say that no one was injured during my tenure in that endeavor)!
In 1995 I began teaching the law and legal portion of the then 16-hour Arizona CCW program. In 1996 I obtained my instructor’s certifications from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the National Rifle Association and have taught the entire course ever since. To this day, I teach three—five concealed weapons courses every month both privately and at the prestigious Scottsdale Gun Club. I have had the pleasure of helping thousands of good people better understand the laws of self-defense and the consequences of same as they go out in the world better prepared to protect those they love.
I have served on the Board of Legal Advisors for the United States Concealed Carry Association, the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association and the Arizona State Rifle & Pistol Association. I was a captain in the Maricopa County Sheriffs Armed Posse (qualified in handgun, shotgun and carbine) for over 10 years and I am currently a firearms instructor with the Arizona Rangers. I have taken suspects into custody, handcuffed them and transported them to jail on multiple occasions. I have multiple diplomas from classes at Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, Haley Strategic, Lethal Force Institute and Massad Ayoob Group, among many others. I continue to practice what I preach— namely, to strive every day to expand my knowledge base and my abilities so that I am less likely to screw up in an emergency.
As any married man will attest, it is far, far better to stay out of trouble than to try to get out of trouble. And if you think this is true in a marriage, remember to apply that same logic to our criminal justice system! Many people are unaware of the fact that Arizona has mandatory sentencing requirements. For most firearms-involved felonies, you are looking at a minimum honest-to-God sentence of five years. Many maximum sentences range north of 30 years. And we are not even talking about murder.
In short, we all face a tremendous dilemma: the most efficient and safe way to stop a threat to human life, within the limits of our current technology, is a firearm. This is an indisputable (even if unpopular in some circles) fact. The flipside of that coin, however, is that any mistakes, or even perceived mistakes, made with that firearm during your effort to save lives can wind you up in prison for a very, very long time. What to do? Simply put, do everything you can to insulate yourself from the bad side of that coin, while maximizing the benefits of the good side.
Good teachers know that there are four levels of understanding or learning: first is “unconscious incompetence”— you have no idea how to do something and you’re not even aware of that fact; second is “conscious incompetence”–this is when you do not know how to do something but you are fully aware of that fact; next in line is “conscious competence”–you’re doing something right, at least most of the time, but you have to think about it in order to do so; the last level, and the most desired, is “unconscious competence.” This is when you know how to do a task and you do not have to actively think about it as you do it. Most of us (with a few of our friends who are secretly exceptions!) drive most of the time while unconsciously competent. You do not have to think about stepping on the brake or putting on your turn signal. You simply accomplish those tasks, quite sufficiently, without having to actively think about them. It is this last level of learning that we constantly seek – particularly in the arena of armed self-defense. You need to tend to, handle, draw and, usually, shoot your defensive firearm competently without the need to think about each step as it is accomplished. You are on that path now—congratulations!
Over 30 years of experience carrying guns daily, studying about and teaching all aspects of firearms science and competing with guns multiple times per month, while also representing hundreds of people involved in crimes involving firearms and the use of force, make me uniquely able to reach into both of those “trick bags“ to help my clients. I have shot (and reloaded) millions of rounds in competitions, arrested people, prosecuted people, sentenced people and defended people.
There is a staggering amount of misinformation, so-called “old wives‘ tales,“ that have infused the way most of us understand the legalities of lethal force. How many of us were taught “you shoot to kill?“ No, you do not. Ever. If you shoot someone with the express intent of killing them, that is called murder. You always, without exception, instead, shoot “to stop the threat.“ Then there is always this gem: “after you shoot the bad guy, make sure you drag his body up onto the porch before you call the sheriff’s office.“ That was the word of God according to my own father. I wonder if any of you heard the same advice? Pretty unlikely that you would ever actually be in reasonable, imminent fear for your life from someone who was not even yet on your porch. And I expect that even the worst investigator on the planet would likely notice those bloody drag marks leading up the steps to the body. Yet, it is a rare CCW class where one of my students does not announce this as gospel even today.
Hollywood bears a lot of the blame for this. How many times do you see someone shot with a handgun in a movie or television show where they practically do a backwards somersault, smash through a wall and hit the ground not only dead but apparently already embalmed? Anyone who has actually seen the effect of a rifle (approximately ten times more powerful than most defensive handguns) on a whitetail deer, where the perfectly shot 180-pound mammal takes off running, understands that this is mythical. Portrayed only for its dramatic value and damn the torpedoes of truth.
In fielding thousands of questions from hundreds of classes for nearly three decades, it has become abundantly clear to me that far too many people actually believe what they see on the screen. This, sadly, includes a lot of police officers, prosecutors and judges, not to mention jurors.
As an attorney representing people accused of horrible crimes who actually acted as reasonably as possible under horrible circumstances, it is often my job to, literally, teach the jury the truth of physics, ballistics, reaction times, etc. I have found that once reasonably intelligent people have something explained to them carefully and thoroughly, they often make the right decision. Thank God. That is what my firm can bring to your problem in the event you ever find yourself in such a horrific situation. I have taken shooting classes. Even taught several. I have attended legal seminars. Even taught several. Lots of folks have done either. Few have done both. I have.
The Safehouse Defense Program is a culmination of my many years of experience teaching, training and developing skills that I hope to never use have to use. Our program exists to help arm our members with the knowledge, the mindset, the local legal resources and the on-going training and education focused on avoiding the pitfalls of self-protection and home defense. If the unavoidable does happen to you, you’ll have the training and legal resources of a trusted local law firm ready should you need us.