Teaching folks to defend themselves with a firearm goes way beyond the mechanics of shooting. And, while I’m not a lawyer and don’t have expertise in the details of the law in every jurisdiction, I also teach general principles of self-defense.
Sadly, some people have a poor understanding of the legal issues related to the use of deadly force or have fallen prey to myths and urban legends. Here are some of them, with advice – my opinion- on how they should be handled.
The Issue: Recently, I was told the law in a certain state allowed you to shoot anyone who had crossed the threshold into your home, with the advice if you were to shoot someone on the porch you should drag them into the house.
This is like the common misconception that arises from the idea you’re better off shooting someone in, rather than outside the home, and should rearrange the scene of the shooting to support this. The truth is, if you’re justified in defending yourself, why are you messing with the crime scene? That’s exactly the way the police will view it–a crimes scene–and any changes will cast doubt upon your innocence and destroy your credibility.
The issue: The Castle Doctrine allows me to shoot anyone in my home (or on my property).
No, you cannot. Merely being in your home or on your property does not justify responding with deadly force. There must be a deadly threat about which you can articulate the need for deadly force: He had a gun, he said he would kill me, I knew if I didn’t act I would die.
The issue: If I shoot someone, it’s best to empty the gun into them. Dead men tell no tales.
If you’re justified in using deadly force, you may do so only until you have ended the threat. Once your assailant ceases to be a threat you must stop shooting. “Finishing them off” all but assures you will land in prison and turns what may have been a legal use of self -defense into murder.
Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t know the laws where you live it’s your responsibility as an armed citizen to learn the law and act within it. Make an appointment to visit with a criminal defense attorney who can answer your questions and brief you on how self-defense matters are handled where you live. While you’re at it, you should establish a professional relationship.
As the boxing referee says, “Protect yourself at all times.” For us, that means before, during and after a deadly force encounter. You don’t want to wind up living in a cement room making new friends.