Deadly Force&Disparity of Force

Recently, I read

Deadly Force Understanding Your Right to Self-defense by Massad. Ayoob

, and it’s (ahem) right on the money.

He clearly explains the three things that must be present to justify using Lethal Force to protect yourself or your loved ones in Michigan.

  1. Ability

  2. Opportunity

  3. Jeopardy / often called Intent

Massad devotes about ten pages to " Disparity of Force." which is one of the least understood principles in self-defense law.

This principle gives you the power to use Lethal Force against an unarmed attacker you believe has the ability to kill, cripple, or rape you or one of your loved ones.

The 7 Types of Disparity of Force

  • Force of numbers
  • Significant disparity in size and strength which favors the assailant
  • Male attacking female
  • Able-bodied attacking a disabled person
  • Position of disadvantage
  • Highly trained fighter versus an average person
  • Adult violently attacking a child.

The book also has two chapters on legal cases that relied on “Disparity of Force” to mount an effective legal defense.

If you have your Concealed Pistol License, then understanding “Disparity of Force.” could save you from going to prison after the smoke clears.

I highly recommend every CPL holder read this book.

Have you heard of the “Disparity of Force?”

Do you believe a person with a gun could be justified in shooting a person without a gun?


Great book. Explained a lot I didn’t know about…

Answering your question:
I do believe in good lawyer.


If a man physically attacked me, whether the intent was kidnapping, rape, or with just a need to expel his anger and aggression, and I, 5’3", 120# and late 50’s, shot him in my own defense, with fear of great bodily injury or death, whether he had a gun or not, would justify my use of my firearm and would qualify as disparity of force, would it not?


I’ll quote Tom Grieve here - it depends.
There are a lot of things that will be taken into consideration.

Were you an innocent party? (Did you start the situation or make it worse?)

Did you have the ability to defend yourself with something besides lethal force? (Are you an MMA fighter? 3rd degree black belt?)

The size of the attacker, what is known about the attacker by the victim (if I know someone is an MMA fighter, I know they can kill me with a punch; if I know someone is big and tall, but can’t run up a flight of stairs without having to stop half way up, I can outrun them), the ability of the victim to protect themselves… I could go on.

The general idea of disparity of force is that a weaker person is using a tool to equalize the force in a defensive situation against someone who is stronger.

The situation you describe, @Jane2, sounds like a disparity of force situation, but because every situation is different, I cannot say 100% it is.

Clear as mud, right? :confused:


There are other factors:

  • intoxication of either party; drugs and alcohol take away reason and restraint;
  • verbal altercation prior to physical;
  • children at the scene

I can imagine these can negate or give strength to any disparity of force arguments in court. Depends on the situation.


All these you’ve quoted are described it this book.

I strongly recommend for everyone to read this.
This book is not about how, but when and why to shoot. :ok_hand:


I love that book! I’ve read it more than once and I’ve taken a class from Massad. It’s eye opening!

(And yes, every time I write his name I have to make sure I’ve spelled it correctly.)


Yes. This book is like manual to life with firearm.


After seeing the detail you listed, I see my ‘disparity of detail’. We can’t know I’m an innocent, non-provoking party unless my fingers walk over those keys to say that I’m minding my own business, bothering no one. Thanks, point taken :slight_smile:


18 page interview PDF to wet your whistle a bit:


The immediate answer to any legal question by a lawyer, and also the most appropriate. This response should always be followed by tell me more!
I will admit that I view almost every interaction with a somewhat cynical eye having been in law enforcement or as an attorney since 1985. There is almost always more to every story someone tells you that they do not want to tell you.

The one thing I will say about the disparity of force is that your goal should not be equal force. If there is going to be a fight, you fight to win. If someone attacks me with a knife, they will get shot. If someone attacks me with pepper spray, they have the ability to disable me and they will be shot. If someone attacks me with a Taser, they have the ability to disable me and they will be shot. I have been cut, peppered and Tased and am very aware of the dangers each of these weapons present. The law generally recognizes the use of reasonable force. If the assailant has the ability to disable you and possibly disarm you, it has become a deadly force encounter.


This is the magic of the quote:
“If you reasonable believe that…”


That’s a good point. It doesn’t have to be a deadly weapon, a criminal may use pepper spray to subdue his victim, and this becomes life or death situation for the victim.


Definition of reason is sooo different among the people. Pepper spray? Why didn’t you just walk away? What, couldn’t leave your child? But the robbers were after your wallet, not after your child.
What was the case in NYC in the 80s – Barry or Barney someone. Self-defence against 4 aggressors, lost civil suit by one of them. I cannot recall the details, the verdict seemed like insanity.


This seems related to what we call ‘proportionality.’ That’s the idea that, for example, I shouldn’t use a missile to stop some boys from throwing rocks.

The grey area is when one party has significantly greater power in proportion to the other, which is still lethal. What if someone approaches me with a knife and I have a .50 caliber machine gun? Can I use it? Maybe. Is that heavy MG all I have to defend myself? Then I can use it. But if I have OC spray and a 9mm sidearm, I’d better respond with those first.

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