Greg Ellifritz recently wrote a post about the phrase, “I’m in fear for my life.” In it he concluded that saying (which is not the same thing as being) you are in fear for your life is, “not a shortcut to provide some sort of instant justification for shooting someone.” I recently got a comment on one of my other blogs (the “gun blog”) that I’m going to talk about today because it is another great example – though a less common one – of ‘self-defense law folk lore.’
The comment read:
“Our home and vehicles are marked as ‘No guns allowed – no if, no but, no exception.’ But the way, if you violate – or if I believe you violate – that restriction I reserve the right to assert ‘stand your ground’ by whatever means are available and necessary. Period.”
I’d like to break that down a little bit. I’m not a lawyer, but you don’t need to be a lawyer to see the problems with a strategy like this one. The holes are just too big. It’s not my intent to take this particular commenter to task. However it does seem that he his looking for a “shortcut” to give him instant immunity for shooting someone.
Carry Permit ≠ LEO Credentials
First – outside of some extremely narrow circumstances – you can’t legally shoot someone for violating a law that does not pose a direct threat of death or serious bodily injury to you or your loved ones. There are example after example of concealed carriers shooting or pulling guns on shoplifters or shooting at fleeing car thieves. It doesn’t usually work out very well for them.
In this instance the “crime” (failing to respect the commenter’s ‘no guns’ sign) isn’t shoplifting, but it also isn’t a deadly force threat. Possessing a firearm in violation of a “no guns” sign is, in many jurisdictions, nothing more than a misdemeanor. In other states it is a felony, but regardless, it isn’t, in and of itself, a situation that represents the five elements of a self-defense claim: innocence, imminence, reasonableness, avoidance, and proportionality.
As lawful concealed carriers we aren’t cops, and we aren’t empowered to enforce laws at all, let alone with deadly force. You simply aren’t going to be justified in shooting someone because they were carrying a gun in a gun-free zone anymore than you’d be justified in shooting someone you caught red-handed in the act of embezzling money from your company.
Belief vs. Reality
The individual in question seems to want immunity if he “believes” someone is carrying a gun in a manner that contravenes his no-gun sign. “Officer, I, I believed he might be carrying a gun, possibly in violation of this ‘no guns’ sign. Case closed.” This is simply idiotic.
Again, even if you KNOW him to be violating that sign, if it doesn’t represent a threat that will pass the test of reasonableness, it doesn’t warrant deadly force. Also, this seems to me to be the part that tells the tale. This commenter doesn’t seem to want to be burdened with the responsibility to actually assess a threat. He seems to want to be able to blast anyone, even if they aren’t violating his ‘no gun’ sign, and say he ‘believed’ they were carrying. It’s guys like this that make us all look like a bunch of assholes.
Stand Your Ground vs Castle Doctrine
This strategy also only addresses incidents inside the commenter’s home and vehicles. In those instances Castle Doctrine – not stand your ground – would probably be more applicable. Castle doctrine is the ability to defend yourself inside your home (your “castle”) and its curtilage, and possibly within your own vehicles.
This comment also illustrates the gross misunderstanding of “stand your ground” in our society today. Sensationalists would have you believe it means what this guy wants it to mean: you can gun down anyone doing anything you don’t like. Fortunately for all of us it doesn’t mean that.
Not that the commenter cares, but so-called “stand your ground” would probably generally be better described as “no duty to retreat.” It is essentially the idea that if you are confronted with a deadly force threat, you are relieved of a requirement to attempt retreat before defending yourself with deadly force.
Posting Dubious Legal “Strategies” on the Internet
If you decide to stick with this strategy, you probably shouldn’t post about it on the internet. From where I’m sitting it looks like you’re just looking for a get-out-of-jail-free card for shooting whomever you like. If the prosecution is any good (and in this case I really hope they are. If you’re a “good guy” that shoots someone for violating your sign, you’re a bad guy.) they’ll find comments like these, and they will be used against you.
I get it, complexity is hard. Making complex decisions in the heat of an incredibly stressful moment is difficult. We all want a clear black and white answer. Don’t follow this idiot’s advice; it’s not the answer you seek. I recommend you get some actual legal training. Read Andrew Branca’s Law of Self Defense, or better yet, take his class. Take some force-on-force training, and do some sparring so you’re a little more comfortable with stress and able to process complexity and make decisions in the moment. To steal Greg’s quote, there are no “shortcut[s] to provide some sort of instant justification for shooting someone.”