Updated: Feb 15, 2021
Gun mods – What are we talking about? We are talking about altering a firearm from factory specifications that might make firing a firearm easier, faster or more accurate. Some examples of these modifications could be:
- trigger size or shape
- reducing amount of trigger pull
- reducing trigger travel
- safety changes
- slide springs
- magazine release buttons
These are certainly not an all-inclusive list, but representative of alterations that could negatively affect a self-defense case.
Note: You will notice that there is no mention of modifications that are only cosmetic like color, texture, grip color, etc. Those type modifications do not really influence how the firearm functions so are not thought to be significant legal problems.
So, how could these functional modifications affect the aftermath of your attempt to protect yourself or family. Bottom line, it gives a prosecutor ammunition to attack your attitudes and/or motivations when it comes to using deadly force.
In a case where your use of deadly force against another person was totally justified, police and prosecutors can and will decline any prosecution. That is great! You followed the law and all your actions are seen as justified and any results of the use of deadly force are legally excused.
However, what if there is a feeling by authorities that you somehow made a mistake or there is something “borderline” about your case. In that case, a prosecutor could decide to file charges and take you to court - that happens every day. Sadly, even if your defensive actions look justified, an aggressive prosecutor could file charges anyway for political reasons or just to make you an example. Prosecutors are allowed to do just about anything they want. Their judicial discretion is very broad.
After police respond to your self-defense incident, your firearm will most likely be seized until the investigation is completed. If charges are filed, here is what is likely to happen. Your firearm held as evidence will be examined closely. It will end up in a crime lab and an expert will do a lot of testing. The results will be compared to factory specifications for your firearm. Any variances (like the above list) will be sent to the prosecutor in a detailed report.
If the firearm you used to defend yourself has any of the above modifications (or others), the prosecutor can use the mods against you. I can hear the prosecutor make his case to the jury now. He might say something like:
“Members of the jury, this defendant not only shot the victim, he planned to do it. Buying a handgun for self-protection is one thing, but that wasn’t good enough. He altered his handgun to make it work better, faster, and more deadly. He took a gun fully capable of inflicting deadly force and made into a more deadly killing machine. This defendant was looking for a fight. He planned on getting into a confrontation and when he did, he made sure to have a gun that made it easier to kill a victim - that is not self-defense”.
Wow! Can you imagine you or your attorney trying to make a comeback from devastating comments like that? Even though all you did was try to defend yourself, you may very well look like the devil to the jury. The above may seem like a perfectly ridiculous position for a prosecutor to take, but it could easily happen in certain jurisdictions.
It is true, an experienced attorney could explain the mods and why they were done in a way that could mitigate some of the damage. But, think about it. How many of the jury own a firearm? How many really understand how they work? How many are scared to death of a gun? You are said to get a jury of your peers. What you actually get is a jury of fellow citizens with all their feelings, emotions, and prejudices. You will not get a jury of fellow gun owners!
I know, I know! We make gun mods so the weapon fits our own way of shooting, our personal touch, hands, vision, etc. – nothing wrong or illegal with that. So, if we make any of these modifications, how do we deal with situations like above so we don’t invite more legal trouble?
If you want to alter a firearm, do it to the gun you take to the range. Or, do mods to the gun you use for competitive shooting. You can have fun with the modified gun and have an enjoyable day at the range. Leave your everyday carry gun in factory delivered condition. Your range gun and carry gun can be the same manufacturer and model to reduce significant differences. Practice with both.
Note: There is an additional feature about your everyday carry handgun that could carry with it similar problems to above – using self or otherwise reloaded ammunition. Prosecutors could make arguments similar to above about the ammunition you use if it differs from most factory specifications.
Think about it. In today’s environment and the possibility of running into judicial activism, why take the risk of carrying a modified gun or ammunition? Will it really be worth it in the long run? If your case ever gets to court, you have to win! Don’t let the presence of gun mods be the factor that sinks your case.
Note, this is not a personal opinion. This information comes from defense attorneys who work in the self-defense field and see these cases in their practice. They warn about the increased risk. Their advice – don’t carry guns with any significant modifications.
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