Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy…..

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

During classes we make sure we cover a portion on mindset and we are always asked various questions that are mainly scenario-based These questions are a lot of, “What if “x” happens, what should I do?”

We try to give the best answer possible but there is not really one perfect answer on how one should respond to any certain threat. When we are faced with the decision on whether we can use a firearm in self-defense we need to answer three questions, possibly in the blink of an eye:

Does this attacker have the Ability, Opportunity, and Intent to cause me death or serious bodily harm? Today I want to cover those three factors a little deeper.


The question we need to answer in regards to ability is, “Does the attacker possess the means to cause a significant amount of injury or death?” A knife, club, and gun are obvious signs of ability to cause death or grave bodily harm. Disparity of force is also a factor that plays into ability. Disparity of force is a very vague concept in self-defense law. In Massad Ayoob’s book In The Gravest Extreme, he explains it this way, “The Disparity of force between the unarmed combatants is measured in one of two ways: it exists if the victim is attacked by one who is physically much stronger or younger than he or by two or more attackers of equal or similar size.” A 6 foot 250 pound unarmed man can obviously exert more force than a 5 foot 7 inch 110 pound unarmed woman thus proving the man has more ability to cause serious injury or death.


Does the attacker have the opportunity to use whatever ability they posses? The attacker must be in a position where they can carry out the attack. We go back to the words of Massad Ayoob, “THE ATTACKER MUST NOT MERELY HAVE MADE THE THREAT TO ATTACK, BUT MUST BE IN A POSTION WHERE HE IS OBVIOUSLY AND IMMEDIATELY CAPABLE OF CARRYING OUT THAT THREAT.” The scenario I like to use during class is an attacker with a knife standing three feet from you absolutely has the opportunity and ability to deal you death or serious bodily harm. Take the same attacker with the knife and put him on the other side of the Walmart parking lot. He still has the ability to do you harm because he has a knife but the opportunity isn’t there. He isn’t in the position to effectively put that knife to use.


In my opinion this is the most important of the three. Has the aggressor showed or expressed signs that would make a “reasonable and prudent person” think that they are in danger of death or serious bodily harm?  Everyday we walk past people who could potentially do us harm. In rural Ohio where I live it is less common to NOT carry a pocket knife, therefore I pass people on a regular basis who posses the ability and some get close enough to have the opportunity to do me harm. The one thing these people lack is the intent to do that harm. Separating what could be deemed “potentially dangerous” with something that is ACTUALLY DANGEROUS is how we answer the jeopardy question. We need to also keep in mind that the jeopardy to do you harm must be immediate. An unarmed man standing on the other side of the Walmart parking lot screaming “I’m going to kill you!!” is not considered an immediate threat. On the other hand a man standing in front of you with a gun pointed at your chest saying, “I am going to kill you” can be perceived as immediate.


All these questions must be considered and answered appropriately along with state laws and conditions when using a firearm in self-defense. You may save your life and come out the victor in a life or death battle on the street, but end up losing everything in the court of law. After the shoot you will need to be able to articulate the Ability, Opportunity, and jeopardy the attacker possessed and your actions need to be within the realm of what a reasonable and prudent person would have done. When we cover this in classes there is usually one person who says “this is a lot to think about” and my answer is usually not the one they want to hear, ‘Carrying a firearm is a great responsibility, and with responsibility comes accountability.” In the end you are accountable for your actions and if you cannot check all three boxes and articulate why then you will have a bad day in court. We will leave with another quote from the great Massad Ayoob, “ALTOGETHER, THE BEST RULE TO RESORT TO DEADLY FORCE ONLY WHEN LIFE AND LIMB ARE IN JEOPARDY.”

Let me know what you think. You can contact me by Facebook or on the contact form above. I love to hear from you. Be sure to share this with your friends and like minded individuals also.

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*Disclaimer: I do not confess this to be a professional interpretation of the law but merely to stimulate the reader in refreshing his knowledge in the use of self defense/deadly force. Or in other words I’m not a damn lawyer.
  1. […] not you still have to prove your actions were reasonable and prudent by fulfilling the elements of Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy (If you have taken your concealed handgun class and have never head of AOJ before you should go […]

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