The following links and resources are heavily tilted toward my own home state of Washington. That’s simply because I’ve done most of my research into laws that affect me personally. If you believe that your state laws should be listed here, please send me your well-organized links and I’ll put them up for others to use. Thanks!
Throughout the United States
Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, a membership organization which is your first, best resource for information related to using deadly force in self defense. Why you should join: not only does the ACLDN provide solid information to its members about the current state of self defense laws and the realities of legal interactions, it also provides instant access to use-of-force experts immediately following a crisis. The ACLDN exists to educate members about the legalities of using deadly force for self-defense and how to interact with the criminal justice system after a shooting; create a nationwide network of attorneys and legal experts which the member can draw upon in the event of a self-defense shooting; and grant financial assistance from a separate non-profit foundation to members who are facing unmeritorious prosecution or civil action after a self-defense incident.
Handgun Law dot U.S. is an excellent site which provides links to law databases in all 50 states. The interface includes clickable maps and there’s an overall very visual feel to the site. It’s the best place to start your research about the laws in your particular state.
Gunlaws dot Com, in addition to providing links to various legal databases, also offers many different books for sale providing plain English summaries of state and national laws. Of particular interest are the state gun guides. While books like these are not available in every state, such a book can be a handy addition to the library if you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the covered states.
In the Gravest Extreme, a book written by Massad Ayoob, provides a solid foundation for understanding common laws governing the use of firearms in self-defense in the United States. While it does not provide information about specific state laws, it does an excellent job giving the reader a solid understanding and overview of lethal force as it is seen within the legal system throughout the United States. Armed with this book, readers learn many ways to protect themselves not just from criminals, but from a possible miscarriage of justice after a deadly force attack.
Law of Self Defense includes a blog that provides helpful commentary about legal issues pertaining to using deadly force to protect yourself or others. Fascinating reading.
Massad Ayoob Group offers classes throughout the United States which teach ordinary citizens all about the use of deadly force. Some of their classes are certified to provide continuing-education credits for lawyers through the ABA, so you know you can trust the information presented. Classes to consider:
- MAG-20. This is a classroom-only weekend course which provides a very intensive exploration of the legal, ethical, and moral parameters of defending oneself and others with lethal force. The two points of emphasis are “street survival” and “court survival.” Throughout, the thrust is on developing a mindset that allow you to cope with life-threatening stress while remaining totally defensible in a court of law. Judges and attorneys who’ve taken the class say that the deadly force training therein exceeds that taught in law school; police instructors who’ve taken this two-day, intensive weekend lecture-and-video program agree that it goes far beyond the police academy as well. Cost for this 20-hour class is $400 as of August 2006.
- MAG-40. Take the above intensive classroom experience, and then marry it to another very full weekend spent on the range learning physical skills and shooting techniques designed to help students avoid, or survive and prevail, a deadly force encounter. This total of 40 hours spent in the classroom and then on the range learning survival techniques provides the total package which makes up MAG-40.
Use of Force, written by Brandon Oto, provides an excellent online overview of the legal underpinnings of justifiable self-defense.
The NRA has nearly always been a good and reliable source for legal information.
- NRA-ILA provides information about federal and state firearms laws at this link, and is especially useful in researching hot-button political topics and fresh legislation.
Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) is another watchdog organization which is an especially good source of information about pending legislation.
The BATFE is the federal department which oversees federal firearms laws in the United States. If you have a question about federal law and cannot find an answer anywhere else, you can address your query to the BATFE. The BATFE website has an excellent resource page with links to federal and state laws at this link.
Washington State Gun Rights and Responsibilities, written by Dave Workman, is an excellent paper guide to the firearms laws and general legal climate in Washington. It can be purchased through D&D Gunleather.
Laws and Agency Rules — This page provides links to the State Constitution, RCWs (laws) and WACs (regulations), as well as information about current and pending legislation.
Search RCWs and other laws — this link goes to a flexible search engine which searches all current and pending legislation, administrative codes, and laws in Washington state.
RCW Washington — this is a table of contents for the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), which is the primary source of law in our state. RCW chapters 9 and 9A contain significant amounts of firearms-specific law.
WA Laws about self-defense:
RCW 9A.32 is the chapter which defines the different types of homicide in Washington law, including murder, murder by abuse, manslaughter, excusable homicide, or justifiable homicide. Excusable homicide and justifiable homicide are further discussed under RCW 9A.16.030, RCW 9A.16.040, and RCW 9A.16.050.
RCW 9A.16.030 defines the limits of excusable homicide. Excusable homicide could apply if a defendant accidentally kills an innocent person during an otherwise lawful attempt to defend herself. Horrible thought!
RCW 9A.16.050 defines justifiable homicide and explains when deadly force is justified for an ordinary citizen. This is a different and much broader standard than the one given in RCW 9A.16.040, which governs use of deadly force by police officers or people assisting the police.
RCW 9A.16.110 establishes that the state will pay the entire cost of the trial, private attorney’s fees and all, if your actions are found at trial to be justified by legitimate self-defense. The exact amount will be determined by the judge at the conclusion of the trial, and may be reduced if you were guilty of some sort of misbehavior that egged it on to begin with. You won’t get a dime if your case never goes to trial, no matter how much you spent on legal defense to avoid being charged in the first place.
WA Laws about firearms and firearms ownership:
RCW 9.41 is the statute which governs firearms ownership. It explains who may and who may not own a firearm, and which firearms are legal under state law.
WA Laws about concealed pistol licenses:
RCW 9.41.070 discusses the issuance of concealed pistol licenses, and defines which areas are off-limits to carry. Washington is a shall-issue state for persons 21 or over.