As Kenny Rogers says, “You Got to Know When to Walk Away and When to Run!”
In recent years, there are two laws has taken center stage in the self defense debate. There is the infamous, “Stand Your Ground Law.” And “The Castle Doctrine.” Not all states subscribe to either of these laws. You should check with your local Police or Sheriff for your states laws. The “Stand Your Ground Law” became famous several years in Florida. In this case, George Zimmerman shot a young man named Travon Martin. In reality, “Stand your ground” had nothing to do with the case. All stand your ground means is, “If you are legally in a public or private place, you are NOT required by law to retreat if you are threatened”. Standing your ground may not always be the wisest thing to do.
Example: You are walking to your car after leaving work. You are not committing any crime. In the parking lot, you see three rough looking characters standing outside a car which is parked near your car. You feel confident; after all, you are carrying your new 45 caliber pistol with seven rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, plus seven more hollow points in your spare magazine. You have practiced shooting at the range and you always hit your target. As you come nearer to your car and the three rough looking men, a chill runs down your spine. You hear one of the rough looking men say, “Here comes the little sissy now, this is going to be as easy as taking candy from a baby!”
The above scenario leaves you with several choices, not all of which may be legal. A) Confront the criminals with your gun drawn and demand they back off. B) Walk straight towards your car and wait for them to make the first move. C) When one of them pulls out a tire iron and comes toward you, you pull your gun and order him to back off. D) Walk straight back to the entrance to the building and a secure place, away from the threat.
Now let’s remember, you have a right to be there. You are not the one that is a criminal. Why should you retreat? Why should you ignore them and walk or run away? We could “what if” this scenario until the cows come home. But, in reality, you only have two options. One option is to avoid this situation any way possible. The other option is to stand your ground and reap the consequences. And just what will the consequences be if you defend yourself with your gun, against a deadly attack? I’ll bet if you ask George Zimmerman, who shot Travon Martin, who was slamming his head into the concrete, “Do you wish you had done something different”? He would most likely say, “I wish I had stayed in my truck and waited for the police”. Mr. Zimmerman was found innocent by reason of self defense. But over the next several years, his nightmare went on and on. I happen to agree with the jury. Mr. Zimmerman was in fear for his life. His head was being beat against the concrete sidewalk. He paid for his choice to leave the safety of his truck. He went through the horror of being tried in the media and the courts. He was threatened by people who decided he was guilty, even though they did not know the facts. His family was torn apart, and finally, Mr. Zimmerman moved away from his home town.
“The Castle Doctrine” originates from “old common law” from countries where our ancestors migrated from. “Castle Doctrine” means you have a right to defend yourself in your home if someone enters your home uninvited. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, not always. Some states decided that the poor criminal, who as a child was denied some or all of the things you work so hard for, should not be killed for trying to take your stuff! When I was first a Deputy Sheriff, back in the 70’s, the law required a home owner to retreat if at all possible!
Example: You come home one evening and enter through your carport door. You see two men doing a “Reverse Santa Clause”. Hint: Rather than leaving gifts under your tree, they are loading up your stuff in their bag. In a “Non Castle Doctrine State, you are required to retreat out the door you came in, rather that confront the criminals. Did I say anywhere that your were threatened? Did the bad guys have a weapon? The Castle Doctrine, in most states now says, “You can use deadly force against an intruder.” With the Castle Doctrine, the criminal act of entering your CASTLE is a threat to your life and you have a legal reason to use deadly force to stop the threat. As I wrote above, using deadly force is a life changing event. A decision to keep a gun for self defense is a serious one. Is killing someone justified to prevent the theft of your new sixty Inch TV? Do you know for a fact the TV is all the bad guys want? Should you assume the bad guys are going to let you escape so you can call the police? Use your worst imagination and you might come up with the answers.
I thank the LORD I never had to shoot anyone when I was a cop in Florida. But, I came real close to it a couple of times. On TV, a cop shoots someone, blows the smoke out of the barrel and life goes on like nothing happened. Real life doesn’t always happen like on TV. I personally know several Law Enforcement Officers who did use justified deadly force in the line of duty. Their life took on catastrophic changes.
Outside of your Castle, the use of deadly force is only justified when you are threatened with death or great bodily harm. When I am teaching my firearms classes, I spend a good bit of time on self defense as well as the safe and proper use of firearms. If you have a gun for self defense, get properly trained. There is a whole lot more to shooting a firearm than just pulling the trigger.