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Letter Re: Rules of Engagement and Escalation of Force for the Armed Citizen

Recently Fox News published an article about a Hew Hampshire man being arrested on reckless endangerment for discharging a firearm into the ground as a warning shot to stop a burglar. Reading that article got me thinking about what rules of engagement and escalation of force would look like for civilians. As a former infantry officer and combat veteran of the U.S. Army, I am familiar with the Army’s rules of engagement (ROE) and the use of escalation of force (EOF).

Soldiers have a clearly defined set of rules of engagement and escalation of force for different scenarios from peace-time guard duty to combat operations. I believe responsible armed citizens should have them as well. What I would recommend for each firearm owner is to determine what your top 2 to 3 most likely scenarios for dealing with a possibly armed and dangerous individual would be, researching the state and local laws regarding self defense and the defense of others, then developing your
own rules of engagement (ROE) and escalation of force (EOF) for each of those scenarios. One set of ROE and EOF may be all you need or a couple of them may be necessary. Personally, I prefer to keep it simple so I only have one set of ROE and EOF.

A useful model of rules of engagement to base your own off of is the U.S. Army’s ROE for guard duty. The acronym RAMP may help you develop your own ROE:
• R – Return Fire with Aimed Fire. Return force with force. You always have the right to repel hostile acts with necessary force.
• A – Anticipate Attack. Use force if, but only if, you see clear indicators of hostile intent.
• M – Measure the amount of force that you use, if time and circumstances permit. Use only the amount of force necessary to protect lives and accomplish the mission.
• P – Protect with deadly force only human life and property designated by your commander. Stop short of deadly force when protecting other property.

Remember, this is a base model and should be modified for your specific scenarios. I would argue that there is little property that you may have that a jury would deem worthy of protection by the use of deadly force. Therefore, my personal ROE excludes the use of deadly force to protect my personal property and property of others as I do not wish to face an arrest and/or conviction over stuff that can be replaced. Develop your own ROE with what you are comfortable with that is in accordance with state and local laws. State and local laws vary greatly on the use of deadly force to protect personal property so make sure you check the applicable laws in your area before adding that to your ROE and actually using deadly force to protect your property or the property of others. The use of a firearm against another individual, whether they survive or not, may be considered using deadly force.

Next is your escalation of force or EOF for short. The U.S. Army model for EOF is below:
• SHOUT – verbal warning to halt.
• SHOVE – nonlethal physical force.
• SHOW – intent to use weapon.
• SHOOT – deliberately aimed shots until threat no longer exists.
Warning shots are not permitted.

It should be noted that military installations are generally around a populated area and the most likely scenario they will face is a protest and/or riot so the guard duty ROE and EOF do not allow for warning shots in order to prevent collateral damage and unintended civilian casualties.

For my own personal EOF guide I have removed the Shove step as a bad guy within range of physical contact is too close and would leave precious little time to anticipate an attack. Therefore my personal EOF guide is Shout, Show, Shoot. In the case of the New Hampshire man who fired a warning shot, checking state and local laws regarding warning shots could possibly have saved him from the ensuing legal battle he was faced with. Again, be absolutely certain to check your state and local laws before adding warning shots to your EOF and/or actually firing a warning shot. Ignorance is not a valid defense and you should not turn yourself into a criminal by firing a warning shot if they are not permitted in your locale.

Another great place to learn about state and local laws for the use of a firearm for self defense is a state approved concealed carry course. Some states, such as Florida, do not require a course if you can prove you are proficient in the use of firearms (such as a DD-214 discharge document from the military). If your state does not require a course, attending an NRA or other licensed instructor course for concealed carry will educate you on where you can and can not carry as well as provide you with different scenarios on when to use force. Each year the NRA also publishes the Traveler’s Guide to Firearms Laws of the Fifty States which will inform you as to what states recognize other state’s permits. Remember, that publication is only a resource and should not be substituted for checking with state and local laws on where you intend to carry.

By having a thought out and planned set of Rules of Engagement and Escalation of Force guide you will be better prepared to react to adverse situations and will have a better defense against criminal prosecution if you use that level of force only which is necessary to neutralize the threat and/or diffuse the situation. Sincerely, – B.K.


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SurvivalBlog.com on 20 April 2012

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