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July 25, 2013

Interview With The Law of Self Defense Author Andrew Branca

Yesterday evening I sat down with The Law of Self Defense author Andrew Branca to bullshit about guns and self-defense over a pint interview him about the second edition of his book, the Zimmerman trial, and related topics.

The following is a condensed version of the conversation:

HQ: It seems like your book is really taking off, but I notice it's the second edition. Was this something you updated for the Zimmerman trial, or was that just a coincidence?

AB: I put out the first version of the book about 15 years ago, but it was written in a way that wasn't very user-friendly unless you were an attorney. For example, I'd refer to the Castle Doctrine generally and depend on the reader to know that Castle Doctrine laws are particular to a jurisdiction and that the case in question may have relied on that jurisdiction's interpretations or precedents. So, about a year and a half ago, I began revising the book to make it more accessible for the layman.

HQ: I just started the book, and it seems like a lot of work went into the tables covering the laws in all 50 states. Having lived in several states, I find that to be one of the most helpful parts.

AB: Yes, a lot of work went into that, and it's one of the big updates in the second edition. It's really necessary, though, to make the book as useful as possible for everyone no matter where they live.

HQ: Shifting to the Zimmerman trial, your reporting on it at Legal Insurrection and Twitter was indispensable. What did you think of Zimmerman's chances for acquittal when you first noticed the case?

AB: You know, I really didn't pay much attention to the case until the trial was about to start and the pre-trial motions were being reported on. When the prosecution basically led off with trying to get experts in to testify about whose voice was on the 911 call, I thought, "wow, these guys have nothing". So I kept watching and they never did present much of a case ... certainly not enough to convict on, or really even charge, second degree murder.

HQ: One thing you stress in the book is that the best self-defense weapon a person has is his brain and that it's always important to think a few steps ahead tactically, especially if you're carrying a firearm. What'd you think of Zimmerman's tactical thinking?

AB: Well he certainly put himself in a bad position. If you go by his version of events and the best evidence at trial, he lost sight of a person who wound up jumping him and getting him pinned. That didn't have to happen, but once it did, you know, he's a survivor. And he survived his brush with the legal system too, which threw all it could at him.

HQ: There's a new case out of Houston where a woman shot a man who was harassing her and it's caught on camera. In the left's war on "stand your ground" it looks like she may be the next one they go after. Have you seen that video?

AB: Sure. I wrote a piece about it earlier today at Legal Insurrection and explained why I don't think it's going to be a stand-your-ground case. Of course additional facts could come out to change things, but what I see on tape looks like traditional self-defense. Her actions after the shooting - leaving the scene, not calling the police, etc. - don't go in her favor, but that's not dispositive either way.

HQ: We were discussing guns on Twitter over the weekend and are both fans of the 1911, and your bio's filled with a pretty extensive background in handgun shooting. Any tips or tricks you'd like to pass along to our readers.

AB: I grew up with long guns, and living in New York I never had much of an opportunity to fire handguns. Surprisingly, when I moved to Massachusetts I found it much easier to get a concealed carry permit. I started participating in IPSC and IDPA matches, but it really took me a while to get the hang of it. Everybody says "look at the front sight" and I was doing that - or thought so anyway - until one instructor, George Harris at the Sig Sauer Academy in NH, pointed out what seemed like a small mechanical issue with my follow-through that really made a huge difference. As far as tips go, I guess it would be just that having a good instructor can make a world of difference, especially for a new shooter so they don't ever even develop bad habits, and that if you're going to carry a concealed weapon, no matter what you carry you need to be as familiar with it as possible. You don't want to even need to think about how to take the safety off if your life's on the line, for example.

HQ: In your experience, what's the biggest misconception people have about concealed carry?

AB: I'd say the biggest misconception is that if you're carrying a gun you get to take shit from fewer people. The reality is exactly opposite. When you're carrying a gun you have to take shit from everybody. Except, of course, the guy actually trying to kill you. You can shoot him. That's the tradeoff. The gun gives you the practical means to end the life of anybody in your immediate vicinity. In exchange for that power it is your moral and legal responsibility to conduct yourself in such a way as to make that outcome as unlikely as possible. The last thing you want to do if you're carrying is to be the one who even inadvertently escalates a non-deadly encounter to a deadly one. Confronting the drunk loudmouth who's making a scene at the table next to you in a restaurant, for example, may be seen as a potentially very bad idea if you think a few steps down the line. Best to just let it go, and just go, leave. One of my primary tactical rules of self-defense is to vacate the area at the first sign of a red flag. Let the bad stuff go down while you're safely somewhere else

HQ: Thanks for your time. Other than "buy the book!" is there anything else you'd like me to pass along to our readers?

AB: Well, first, thanks to the HQ for mentioning it and don't forget the discount offer. But also, I've been doing seminars too, and if your readers' gun clubs or whatever are interested in hosting a seminar, they can contact me at for details on making that work.


I'm in the middle of the book now, and it's excellent. If you carry a concealed firearm (or are thinking of doing so), you should get a copy and think of it as the owner's manual for your concealed carry permit.

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posted by Andy at 04:56 PM

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