Blast from the Past: My Class Certificate from LFI-I


So, this week I moved into new (and very nice, corner office) office space, in historic Concord MA. In that process I ended up going through some old, poorly labelled boxes of "stuff." Most of the contents were readily discardable, but I did come across a few pieces of gold.

One of these was this: My class certificate from Mas Ayoob's Lethal Force Institute class (LFI-I). From May 19, 1996. That's right: '96. Oofah.

At this point I'd already been practicing law for 5 years, and been carrying a concealed firearm (yes, lawfully under Massachusetts law) for about the same period of time.  I was also an active competitive shooter (although I hadn't yet learned how to properly shoot a handgun), and a member of the gun community, and increasingly frustrated at the lack of good information available on self-defense law.

625x475 2 Mas Ayoob certificate May 19, 1996

In three years of law school we hadn't covered so much as three minutes of self-defense law, and there were no particularly good reference books on the subject even for attorneys.

Mas' LFI-I class was a mind-exploder, on a great many levels.  Of course anybody's who has heard Mas knows what an engaging and compelling speaker he is.  Plus, he provided an intellectual framework around what had been a foggy morass of legal concepts that collectively made up self-defense law.

Of course, much of LFI-I wasn't the law, per se, but also other aspects of using force in self-defense.  A good part of that class was shooting instruction, for example, as well as defensive tactics, exposure to images of wounds caused by various types of weapons, the moral and ethical dynamics of using force in self-defense, and lots more.  In all, the class was something in excess of 40 hours in length over several days.  Yeah, we were pretty tired there at the end.

In addition, Mas naturally brought his own perspective to his class, meaning a career in law enforcement and as a use-of-force expert witness in trials.  He also gave his courses all over the country, and of course in each jurisdiction the laws varied--not tremendously, but enough that one had to either choose to really dig into the differences to achieve the fullest understanding of each state's laws or stick to general principles that would reasonably apply across many jurisdictions.

Mas, given his background, training, and experience, prudently adopted the latter, more general, approach, and it's stood him in good stead through a career still going strong.  Today he lives in Florida, not New Hampshire, and he teaches as the Massad Ayoob Group, not Lethal Force Institute.  It's still great stuff, of course, and I urge everyone reading this to take advantage of a MAG course before Mas does something silly like retire. And don't forget his many great books, particularly the still timely "In the Gravest Extreme" and his just published "Deadly Force."

As useful as the general legal principles were, however, as a lawyer I hungered for the nitty-gritty detail.  I wanted to know exactly what the statutes, court cases, and jury instructions were that governed the use of force in self-defense in every state.  And I figured other people might like to know, as well Nobody, to my knowledge, had yet undertaken that task, and so inspired by LFI-I I set out to do exactly that.

The result was "The Law of Self Defense," my first book on the subject, published in 1997, the year after I attended LFI-I, followed shortly thereafter by an invitation to start teaching at the (then-called) Sig Arms Academy (now the Sig Sauer Academy, where I'm currently a guest instructor), and things have just kept progressing since then.

In 2013 I published an entirely written, and vastly superior, "The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition," and for the first time began to make use of the capabilities of the internet to more efficiently get this desperately needed information out to armed citizens.

And not only the internet had changed, of course.  Concealed carry laws had been adopted across the nation, and tens of millions of Americans with relatively sparse, if any, training were suddenly walking around in public armed.  Demand for the expertise we could provide was strong, especially exploding after the Zimmerman trial (see "The Zimmerman Files: Aggregated day-by-day live coverage & analysis").

Today we offer not only the book, but also live state-specific Law of Self Defense Seminars held all over the country, CLE instruction to teach other lawyer self-defense law, online/on-demand classes, legal consults, weekly law reports of interesting self-defense cases, and more.

Without a doubt, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Massad Ayoob, and Lethal Force Institute-I, in May 1996.  Indeed, I stand upon the shoulders of giants.

Thanks, Mas! (And, yes, I still have my class notes sealed up in a self-addressed-stamped-envelope, postmarked September 20, 1996.  Heck, I can prove it:

650x475 3 LFI-1 notes sealed 1996