Although having a firearm for self-defense is a good idea, hopefully, you’ll never have to actually use it against someone. Having to pull the trigger on an intruder can lead to tragedy, with some homeowners going to jail for killing people who broke in.
It’s easy to think that your right to defend your family and property is the most important issue of all, but if you shoot at criminals indiscriminately, you could end up being classed as a criminal, too.
The moment when you decide to invest in a gun and a gun safe for your home is also the time to look into the laws and issues surrounding the use of a firearm for self-defense purposes.
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The Facts About Self-Defense
Self-defense is when you use a reasonable amount of force when faced with danger to you or your family. If you can prove that you acted in self-defense, then in most parts of the world you will be acquitted of any wrong-doing even if you kill the person who broke into your home.
However, this isn’t as clear-cut an issue as you might think. Plenty of people who have claimed to be acting in self-defense have gone to prison because they couldn’t prove that they used reasonable force or that they needed to shoot the intruders, as we saw recently in a case in Washington.
Imagine a group of burglars, each armed and clearly looking for trouble. In this case, you would expect to be justified in using force for your own protection. On the other hand, if they are unarmed or give themselves up, then you will find it difficult to justify your actions.
Of course, even if you use self-defense in a justified way, you’ll still need to convince the authorities it was justified, as well as live with the consequences of your actions.
When There is No Other Option
To put it simply, there may be times when you feel that there is no other option but to stand up for yourself and shoot an intruder. Perhaps they have a gun or some other weapon that they are brandishing in a threatening way.
This is the sort of example of self-defense that is most likely to see you escape a criminal charge. If you are put into a situation in which there is no other way to ensure you and your family’s safety, then you would expect the law to look on you kindly.
A good idea here is to look at a few precedents in the state where you live. If there have been cases where homeowners have gone to prison for defending themselves then you will want to see what kind of situation tends to get punished.
When It Isn’t Planned or Pre-Meditated
It might seem strange to consider the shooting of an intruder as being planned or pre-meditated. After all, it is the other person who has broken into your home that has planned it all.
However, there have been a few newsworthy cases in recent times around this exact subject. For instance, you may have seen the hugely controversial case where a man in Minnesota was accused of baiting his home to tempt repeat burglars back in.
You may have seen signs and doormats that say things like “We Don’t Dial 911” or “Due To Price Increase On Ammo, Do Not Expect a Warning Shot.” These signs are funny, but beware of putting them up because a lawyer could argue that they’re evidence you were looking for an excuse to shoot someone.
If there is any hint that you have set a trap for burglars, then you run the risk of being painted as the person at fault, rather than them. It might sound incredibly harsh, but it is worth recalling that the case in Minnesota ended with the homeowner being sentenced to life in prison on charges of first and second-degree murder.
What About the Castle Doctrine?
For those people who live in the United States, probably the biggest difference in how their case will be treated will come down to whether or not their state adheres to the legal stance that is called the castle doctrine or castle law.
This is what determines the duty of a householder to retreat to safety or their right to stand their ground. So, if your state’s laws give you the right to stand your ground, then you can protect yourself without the need to look for a place of safety as your first option.
Despite this, there have been cases in which someone living in a state that adheres to this stance has still been convicted of murder for standing their ground. This means that there is really no simple way to know what the legal outcome will be if you shoot an intruder.
Again, it is vital that you take a look at the way these sorts of cases have been dealt with in the place where you live, as that will let you see the kind the kind of approach that is typically taken there.
Having a gun at home gives you a huge responsibility to use it wisely in difficult moments. If you wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of someone breaking in, then your heart is sure to start racing while you try to work out what to do.
By doing some advance research into the legal matters, and considering your own moral stance on this issue, you can feel ready to face up this challenging moment if it ever arrives. Don’t wait until the heat of the moment before you think about your rights and responsibilities as a gun owner.