It is far easier to buy, load and carry a firearm today than it has ever been. Millions of Americans have chosen this route in the name of self preservation in an increasingly violent society. It is a rite that has seen broad support from the courts. In fact, however; comparatively few folks will ever rely on that firearm in a confrontation, a consideration that leads to complacency and a rather lackadaisical approach to strapping one on or dropping it in your purse. I thought it wise to offer just a little guidance relative to the use of a firearm to protect ourselves. Missouri is a “stand your ground state” meaning there is no obligation to retreat from a perceived threat. There are 37 states that offer some form of this doctrine. I am offering a peek at 5 considerations that come into play when the time comes to defend yourself. A little reflection now may save your bacon after a deadly confrontation.
1. Innocence. You cannot start the fight. Your provocation in a confrontation is NOT a justification for the use of deadly force. Such provocation will put you on the wrong side criminally and civilly. If you go looking for trouble, you will find a bag full of it when you shoot someone.
2. Imminence. The confrontation must be sudden. Vengeance is not a legal foundation for the use of deadly force. The threat must be imminent, or present in time and place.
3. Proportionality. This is sticky. Excellent judgement is in order here. In a hurry, you must decide whether the force should be deadly or not deadly. This is why this is a sticky proposition. There must be a discernible threat of death or serious personal injury to justify elevating the force to the lethal level. A firearm is a lethal consideration every time it comes out. If the threat isn’t deadly or necessary to prevent a rape or likely to cause serious injury, it is not justified. It is why police officers carry a variety of force options short of the pistol.
4. Avoidance. In the 13 states that that have a “duty to retreat” doctrine, you have a legal duty to run away from the encounter, when you can safely do so. Obviously, if your assailant is holding a gun on you and has threatened to shoot you, running away is not a viable option. Most states see the futility of this doctrine, however, it is always wise to avoid a potentially deadly confrontation when you can. If it can be demonstrated that you had an opportunity to avoid the confrontation , your defense is compromised. Remember this….
5. Reasonableness. Okay, this consideration seethes through all of the above elements and is going to be given a heavy weight in subsequent legal actions. Perfection is trumped by reasonableness. The totality of the circumstances will dictate the reasonableness of your action. As an example, you shoot someone and they fall to the ground, obviously incapacitated. It is not reasonable to empty the magazine of your pistol into the miscreant when he no longer presents a threat. The test of reasonableness will be applied in every encounter where lethal (deadly) force is employed.
When you made the decision to procure a firearm and carry or rely on it for self protection, you are assuming a potentially life altering responsibility. I think it wise to consider each of these points BEFORE you slide Ole Thunder out of your waistband to lend dignity to an otherwise undignified situation. In this piece, I have cracked the door open…….step through it before you make the decision to carry.
Have a great week!