The Blog

Hines v. Commonwealth, A Christmas Story

A merry Christmas from all of us to all of you, especially including a Norfolk citizen who lived in a five-year hell as a result of a legitimate self-defense shooting.  In Hines v. Commonwealth, the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed a Norfolk trial court’s outrageous manslaughter conviction of Mr. Hines.  In so doing, the Virginia Supreme Court showed that it still stands as a firewall between you and overzealous, anti-gun prosecutors and judges who will try to condemn even the legitimate use of firearms for self-defense.  The not so merry news is that it took the legal system a very long time to sort through it all and correct its horrendous mistake.

Blind Justice

The Virginia Supreme Court’s decision issued in October 2016, but the case is sufficiently frightening and enlightening with respect to the current state of our Virginia judicial system to be worthy of re-telling now.  This is especially true in the wake of this November’s election results, which will only further perpetuate the anti-gun predisposition in many of the Commonwealth Attorney’s offices, and promises additional appointments of radically anti-gun judges to Virginia’s courts.

What is The Legal Use of Firearms for Self-Defense (LOSD) Course?

Imagine this scenario:  You and your wife are minding your own business in your home.  Your neighbor stops by, inebriated, and very upset.  Next thing you know, he is in your living room, enraged and belligerent.  He pulls out a handgun and brandishes it in a threatening manner.  You go to your bedroom and retrieve your own handgun, mistakenly thinking that if you just show your neighbor that you are armed too, he will calm down.  When you return to your living room displaying your handgun, your neighbor shows no signs of calming down, and points his handgun at you.  Left with no alternative, you fire five times and kill him.  You are arrested and the Commonwealth Attorney charges you with first degree murder.  Never mind that when you went to retrieve your firearm, your wife was still in the living room with the belligerent, handgun-brandishing neighbor.  And never mind that Virginia law permits you to defend your wife with deadly force against the threat presented by the armed, angry neighbor.

Man in Jail National Firearms Law Institute

You waive a jury trial hoping to get a fair shake by trying the case to a judge instead of a jury.  Incredibly, the judge sides with the Commonwealth Attorney and convicts you of voluntary manslaughter and shooting another person in the commission of a felony.  Apparently anti-gun activism is not limited to prosecutors – it also infects the trial bench in sunny Norfolk, Virginia.  Your case winds its way through the appellate process and more than five years after you lawfully defended yourself and your wife, the Supreme Court reverses your conviction and rules that your resort to a firearm was justified and lawful.


That’s precisely what happened to Mr. Hines, as can be seen in the Virginia Supreme Court’s opinion issued in October 2016.  The Court probably gave the Hines family the best Christmas they’d had in five years, but the case stands as a big warning sign that the legal system in much of Virginia (especially in northern Virginia) is not friendly to the use of firearms for self-defense.

The law of self-defense courses we are presenting in northern Virginia specifically address the issues raised by the Hines case – Course I shows you when the defensive use of deadly force is permissible in Virginia, and Course II shows you critical steps you need to take to win and financially survive the legal battle that follows the defensive use of a firearm.  Give yourself the best holiday gift you ever got and sign up.

Sign Up: The Law of Self-Defense (LOSD) in Virginia Course

Stephen L. Sulzer
Mr. Sulzer has been practicing law in Washington, D.C., for 40 years and has been a partner at some of the city’s most prominent national law firms, including Steptoe & Johnson and, most recently, California-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. In fall 2013, Mr. Sulzer broke away from Big Law to found his own law firm, and after much planning and preparation, expanded his practice to encompass firearms-related matters. He is particularly focused on criminal and civil defense work for clients who have had to use firearms in self-defense. He has also expanded into matters involving federal and state firearms regulation, as well as Second Amendment-based litigation. Mr. Sulzer has an AV Preeminent Peer and Judicial Rating from Martindale Hubbell, the highest rating given by Martindale-Hubbell for legal skills and professional ethics. Mr. Sulzer is pleased to have been selected as a referral attorney for both the United States Concealed Carry Association and the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. Mr. Sulzer has developed a two-part training course entitled “The Legal Use of Firearms for Self-Defense in Virginia – When the Defensive Use of Firearms Is Permissible and How to Win the Legal Battle That Will Follow.” For the past five years, Mr. Sulzer has taught the course regularly in northern Virginia at the Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly and Fredericksburg (through Historic Arms Corp.’s Firearms Training Store), at Silver Eagle Group in Ashburn; at Fairfax Rod & Gun Club in Manassas; and at The Gun Dude in Falls Church. The course has received enthusiastic reviews from the northern Virginia shooting community and has become the gold standard for those who carry concealed or rely on firearms for home security and self-defense. Mr. Sulzer is now offering the course live online through the National Firearms Law Institute. He is also developing an online version of the course covering the law of self-defense in several mid-atlantic and southeastern states and will ultimately cover the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Mr. Sulzer has also expanded NFLI’s course offerings with a new course on Virginia’s 2020 gun control legislation and a short course on insurance coverage and other programs available to protect your finances if you are involved in a self-defense incident. Mr. Sulzer has been active in the shooting sports dating back to the mid-1990s, when he began shooting service rifles in competition against the Marine Corps Rifle Teams and the Army Marksmanship Unit. He began his competitive shooting career with the M1A and transitioned to the AR-15 in 2000. He competed in three position “across the course” iron sight matches at distances of 200, 300, and 600 yards, and has also competed at 1,000 yards. When Mr. Sulzer retired from competition in 2005, he was shooting Master level scores. He still shoots handguns (particularly M-1911s) avidly, has held a Virginia Concealed Carry Permit since the late 1990s, and is an NRA-certified pistol instructor.
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