DR GO: "The Unarmed Assailant—A Deadly Threat"
I was linked to this post authored by Doctors For Responsible Gun Ownership (specifically, by Robert A. Margulies, MD, MPH), in which he makes the argument that even bare hands can cause death or grave bodily injury. Dr. Margulies is writing from a medical perspective, naturally, and from that medical perspective everything he writes strikes me as entirely correct--from a medical perspective. My legal perspective, however, is quite different.
Before continuing I urge you to click over and read his post--it's not very long, and genuinely useful medical information--then I've added my legal perspective below (initially posted on Facebook).
All done? OK, my response, written from a legal perspective, naturally. :-)
[Quoting the DR GO post:] "I propose that hands, feet, knees, elbows, and even an assailant’s head are potentially deadly weapons."
This is of course a true statement--they are POTENTIALLY deadly weapons. Some more so than others--a shod foot to the head will almost always be treated as a deadly force threat.
Mere hands, however, so rarely actually result in death or grave bodily harm that the courts simply will not treat them as such by default.
Keep in mind, the overwhelming majority of bare hand attacks the courts see are NOT good-guy cases of self-defense, but rather drunks getting into fights at bars. From the court's perspective, if they allow good guy defenders to escalate what starts as a simple fist fight into a gun fight, they're necessarily allowing the same when two jackasses get into each other's faces and start throwing punches. They simply will not do that, absent some aggravating factor (e.g., substantial disparity in size/strength/fighting ability, disparity of numbers, some disability of the defender, etc.).