Brandishing — how to go from victim to defendant in one easy step

By now, everyone on the planet has seen the pictures and video of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the affluent couple who stood defiantly outside their St. Louis home a few weeks ago armed with an AR and a handgun, after a mob of hundreds battered down an iron gate and gained access to their private community.

In some of the pictures you can clearly see Patricia McCloskey pointing her handgun at the protesters with her finger on the trigger. Her husband, too, appears to point his rifle at the mob on several occasions.

On Saturday morning we learned that St. Louis police served a search warrant at the couple’s home at the behest of local prosecutor Kimberly M. Gardner and seized the AR.

In my opinion, Gardner will likely soon file charges against the couple, since there’s no other reason to seize their weapons as evidence. After all, it is a crime to point a firearm at another person. In most jurisdictions it’s considered some type of aggravated assault — a serious felony to be sure.

There has been much speculation about the propriety of criminal charges based on the current divisive political climate, the couple’s background, whether they truly feared for their lives and the actual intent of the protesters.

Ultimately, that is a decision for the courts to make.

In my humble opinion, the real tragedy is how easily this entire mess could have been avoided.

This is a perfect example of the need for tactical training. In fact, if the McCloskeys had taken just one class, this incident would likely have never happened.

Here’s my takeaway:

As a civilian, I am not going to point a firearm at another person unless (and until) I am going to use deadly force. To do otherwise — to point a weapon at someone when you do not intend to shoot  — is brandishing, or aggravated assault, and it’s a felony.

Instead, I am going to keep my rifle in the low ready position: The rifle is held in the firing position, but the barrel is pointed down, allowing clear observation over the top of the weapon.

I can engage a target from low ready very quickly. All that’s required is to bring the weapon up, disengage the safety, acquire sight picture and pull the trigger. A good tactical trainer will show students this is possible to achieve in around a second or two.

To be clear, the low ready is an aggressive looking position. It sends a message to any would-be bad guys that you mean business. However, since the muzzle is pointed at the ground and not the bad guys, it does not meet the statutory definition of aggravated assault.

Therefore, the low ready position allows you to engage targets quickly if necessary, without committing a felony and going to jail if there is no need to use deadly force.

If the McCloskeys had been taught this, or received any tactical training, they could have safeguarded their property without becoming criminal defendants.

As one reader pointed out, what they did could have been morally right, but it was legally wrong.

I firmly believe we have a God-given right to self defense, but in today’s day and age, you’ve got to be smart about it.

Just my two cents,




About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. No, Gardner’s prosecutorial misconduct and agenda-driven actions only prove that even if the McCloskeys did everything right, they would still be prosecuted. Also, there were weapons being brandished by the mob that aren’t visible from photos taken from the perspective of people in the mob.

    Would the McCloskeys benefit from more training?? Of course. We all could. But Monday morning quarterbacking is easy and the cheap thing. The McCloskeys are above the dirt and their home isn’t reduced to cinders, which considering the massive threat that marched right up their drive, is quite a win.

  2. you are absolutely correct i can’t be sure but i would bet that she is one of the prosecutor’s that received millions of dollars from George the traitor Sorros. ‘s campaign funds just for this type of result we need to stop the flow of money in these elections

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