A Look at Self Defense Gun Laws
Fail to act in accordance with what’s legal in your state, and you could find yourself in prison. So let’s take a look at self-defense gun laws.
Centuries of legal precedent have established that individuals have the right to resist attempts to kill to cause them bodily harm. For this reason, it is rare that someone who engages in an act of self-defense, even one involving a firearm, will face prosecution.
There have been exceptions, of course. Much depends on the political climate in which the person lives. Legal systems regarding self-defense gun laws in urban, northeastern, or west coast areas are more likely to pursue action against persons claiming self-defense than ones in rural communities in the south or Midwest. In general, however, the following principles apply to such situations:
A homeowner or renter is considered justified in using deadly force against someone who forcibly enters his or her dwelling. This so-called “castle doctrine” has received support from legislatures in recent years. Additionally, many states have extended a person’s “safe zone” to include their vehicle and workplace.
If the incident involving defensive force occurred in a public area, then local authorities might look a bit harder into the exact circumstances. This is especially true if the state requires a person in danger to flee before resorting to force. This is known as a “duty to retreat.” On the other hand, many states have created “stand your ground” laws, in which the duty to retreat is specifically refuted.
If the gun owner started the incident that led to the threat on his or her life or well-being, then he or she is at far greater risk of facing charges. For example, let’s say that Joe Smith decides to hurl insults at Bob Taylor, who is playing a game of pool twenty feet away. Infuriated, Bob charges at Joe with his cue stick in hand, and Joe responds by drawing a pistol and shooting Bob, killing him. Even though Joe was defending himself against an armed assault, it’s very likely that he could face homicide charges, since he provoked Bob’s reaction.
- In order for a claim of self-defense to be credible, the assailant must have had the ability and opportunity to cause the gun owner either death or grave physical harm.
To illustrate: let’s say that Sue is walking home at night, when she is approached by a man wielding a knife and demanding money. She responds by drawing her handgun and shooting him. The fact that the assailant had the ability (because of the knife) and the opportunity (was in physical proximity to Sue) to cause her harm means that she was reasonable in responding with force.
On the other hand, let’s say that Sue’s neighbor, an 80 year old woman in a wheelchair, calls her on the phone and threatens to “come over there and mess you up.” Sue responds by going to her neighbor’s home and killing her with a 12-gauge shotgun. In this case, Sue’s self-defense claim is extremely weak, since her neighbor had neither the ability nor opportunity to carry out her threat.
Important: While the principles discussed in this article apply to most US jurisdictions, specific cases vary, and the reader is encouraged to consult with legal experts in their state for specific self-defense gun laws.
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