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Lethal force and the dealer.

When SI decided to provide ammunition to help the dealer stopgap the strongest attacks the "Windle Turley" breed of lawyer could throw at them, we went to the man the cops go to when they're being sued in gun cases: Massad Ayoob.

No police officer in whose defense he has testified has ever lost a criminal or civil trial.

Best known to the police as a leader of the "officer survival" training movement that began in the early 1970s, Ayoob is more familiar to you and your customers as the author of In the Gravest Extreme, the classic textbook on armed citizen self defense. He is generally considered the leading authority on the legal, ethical and tactical parameters of that critical subject. He serves on the national board of the Second Amendment Foundation, and is currently New Hampshire state champion in police combat and New England Regional champion in pin shooting. Ayoob is national director of Police Firearms Training for the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers (ASLET), and director of the Lethal Force institute (LFI), in Concord, New Hampshire.

Author of seven books and over 1,500 published articles, Ayoob will share with you how to make yourself, your staff, and your customers "court-resistant." When asked if he could do that in a way that improved dealer profit, the police captain with two degrees in management replied, "Of course. The first axiom of administration is, 'The better you take care of the customers and staff who rely on you, the better they take care of you.'

SI's senior editorial staff inaugurated this column out of awareness of the fact that the gun dealer is often an arbiter of public knowledge in reference to armed self defense. This is particularly true in jurisdictions where the issuing authorities are loathe to give carry permits and the cops from the Crime Prevention Bureau tell the citizens nasty guns will just get them killed. This is when the gun dealer becomes the primary source of self defense advice for the citizen who bought a firearm for personal protection.

The first thing to consider is that bad advice can trickbag the dealer and/or his employees. There is such a thing as vicarious liability in lawsuits that result from shootings.

Vicarious liability means that if one of the police officers under my command shoots a suspect, the suspect's attorney can sue not only the patrolman who fired, and not only the department and the municipality, but everyone in between. The chief, the captain (moi), and all the mid-level supervisors, plus the cop's instructor will likely be named jointly and severally in the lawsuit.

Similarly, in a civilian shooting that results in civil litigation, it is entirely possible for the plaintiff to sue anyone who "told the defendant to do what he did." That includes the salesman or dealer who gave advice to the defendant when he or she bought the gun, as well as any instructor who might have given the defendant a formal class in firearms safety or armed self defense.

It is axiomatic in our society that anyone can sue anyone for anything." That's how we wound up in a society that has more lawyers than cops. (If you doubt the last statement, ask the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the American Bar Association). That means you can sue me for ruining your morning coffee for writing this column, and I can sue you for not writing me a fan letter, "Thus predictable causing plaintiff emotional pain and suffering, and holding plaintiff up to humiliation by his peers."

Would either of us win such a BS lawsuit? Of course not. But either of us would have to hire lawyers to carry us all the way through trial at three figures per hour if we weren't able to beat the BS rap in a motion for summary judgement.

The purpose of this column will be showing the dealer and his staff how to insulate themselves from unmeritorious lawsuits resulting from poor advice given to the consumer at point of sale. This can be done in any number of ways that (a) enhance profitability for the dealer and his people, and (b) enhance the defensibility of the consumer himself

How do you do that? Well, knowledge is power. You can do for your customers, in a way, what I've done for the graduates of my 40-hour course in Judicious Use of Deadly Force at Lethal Force Institute (LFI). When opposing counsel is sniffing around trying to decide whether to push the suit or not, and they find out that the defendant has a competent gun expert on his behalf (that does not charge the $1,500 a day or so that the plaintiff must pay to hire a prostitute expert to articulate his side), it starts looking a lot more expensive and a lot less worthwhile to the guys who have to order special suits to hide their dorsal fins. In short, a best case scenario means the gun purchaser, with a competent dealer foursquare behind him, is less likely to have the case against him carried to trial. In a worst case scenario, that defendant is likely to win the trial.

By definition, if they're suing the defendant and the guy who sold them the gun, jointly and severally, for having done something stupid and the gun dealer proves that what the guy did wasn't stupid, (that it was righteous), then the gun dealer is most likely home free. It's kind of a symbiotic relationship, really.

How then, does the dealer make money by educating the customer? Simple. The more aware customer wants: (a) better guns, (b) more guns, (c) better ammo, (d) more ammo, (e) superior accessories like holsters, gun locks, etc., (f) more such accessories, (g) more books on the subject, (h) more videos on the subject, (i) more dealer-arranged training on the subject, and Q) all the above.

The easiest answer is (j) all the above." And what is our socially aware dealer prepared to sell that newly enlightened customer? "All the above." These things have a way of working themselves out, and altruism is served because both the dealer and the consumer benefit strongly.

The customer who comes to the dealer to buy a defense gun is making a very clear statement. Whether that statement is articulated the same way each time they're still saying, "I'm afraid, and you are the expert in these matters, and I want you to tell me what to buy to make me safer."

At that moment, we just went beyond the nice yuppie couple who walk into the furniture store and asked, "What's in these days?" We just entered a very savage land of moral responsibility.

It is the dealer's responsibility to live up to that trust. This includes increasing the customer's awareness of things like quality and practice and training. Because his word is gospel to the buyer in many cases, it brings the dealer to the realization that power and responsibility are commensurate. They, the seller and buyer, will share the responsibility for this transaction that transferred an instrument of power from one to the other. That bond will be shared for a lot longer than the time it takes the credit card charge to clear.

When both the power and the responsibility are lived up to, both seller and buyer profit, and sometimes the profit is measured in things far more precious than dollars.

As this column continues, we'll go more into the details of how to specifically achieve these goals.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:legal responsibility guidelines for gun dealers
Author:Ayoob, Massad
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:When to switch from selling to closing.
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