Like most people, I find stories about law-abiding gun owners who vanquish low-life criminals to be riveting. What red-blooded American doesn’t enjoy genuine stories of self-reliance and self-defense?
With America’s love for adventure and justice, it is not surprising that concealed carry classes almost always include an individual that wants to know only one thing: when can a citizen legally shoot a criminal?
Obviously, it is extremely wise for gun owners to know exactly what the law says in their respective states concerning the legal use of deadly force. Ignorance of the law is not a legal defense for any crime — just ask single-mom Shaneen Allen from Pennsylvania, a concealed-carry-permit holder who made the honest mistake of bringing her legally owned firearm to New Jersey. The local prosecutor appears determined to make this woman suffer.
People need to understand that in addition to what the law says, a prosecutor ultimately decides whether charges will be filed. If he files charges, the prosecutor plans to fight vigorously for a conviction — and not every case is about justice. Allen’s case is just one example.
When it comes to a defensive shooting case, prosecutors have the luxury of far more time and far less stress than citizens are afforded in deciding whether pulling the trigger is justified. Additionally, every action and decision leading up to the moment of the shooting will be dissected and second guessed.
For instance, what is the reputation of the person claiming self-defense? Is there any evidence that might indicate this person did anything that could have instigated the conflict? If there is, the next fight for that individual’s life will likely be in a courtroom. If he survives the trial, he may be financially ruined with many other personal problems and life-altering issues in front of him. If he loses, the individual will be fighting for his life among predators in prison.
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Consequently, most self-defense instructors logically emphasize the importance or value in avoiding bad situations when possible. When an individual knows she has tried to avoid threats, but a threat refuses to avoid her, subsequent decisions are generally easier to make—especially if the individual is informed, trained, and has a plan. For instance, a bad plan would be to give up a safe or entrenched position only to go charging in to a gunslinger’s showdown—alone and unafraid—for a situation that is not worth one’s life. Those scenarios work best in Hollywood. In reality, however, why do police call for backup to clear buildings, and why do military tactics focus so much on teamwork, ambushes, and entrenched positions? Thinking often improves one’s chances of surviving.
On the other hand, in states that do not have some form of what is commonly known as Stand Your Ground (SYG), citizens actually have a legal duty to retreat (if the opportunity to escape exists). Obviously, that is quite a cumbersome mental maze to successfully navigate if someone suddenly finds himself the target of a dangerous criminal. Nevertheless, the duty to retreat is the legal hurdle that some law-abiding citizens face.
Regardless, even attempting to retreat before using deadly force may not protect an individual from malicious murder charges. This past April in Pennsylvania, prosecuting attorney David Maisch stated that video evidence and eyewitness statements made 16-year-old Flair Griggs’s claim of self-defense “as perfect a self-defense case as you can get.” Nevertheless, the kid still faced murder charges for nearly a year before he was allowed to plea to a lesser gun charge. Of course, if Griggs had depended on the government to protect him, he would be dead. Now, the government will provide for him for the next three to seven years in prison. Not surprisingly, civil rights charlatans never feigned outrage over this obvious miscarriage of justice for another black kid with a chaotic life who would have died if he did not have a gun to defend himself. (Read more about this case here: Stereotyping Injustice.)
Another legal issue people need to understand concerns their state’s law on lethal force in defense of property. In many states, shooting an unarmed burglar in the shed of a homeowner’s backyard could lead to a prison sentence if the prosecutor can convince a jury of random citizens that the homeowner’s life was not in danger. But even when the law permits a homeowner to use lethal force to stop a thief—as Texas law does—public opinion, gun-grabbing politicians, and the anti-gun media may try to ruin the individual’s life out of nothing more than mob-like vengeance and some fairytale of social justice.
Texan Joe Horn is a great example. After Horn voluntarily and justifiably shot and killed two criminals stealing his neighbors property, a mob of pseudo-civil-rights leaders, maniacal citizens, and the progressive media put tremendous pressure on the local prosecutor to send Mr. Horn to prison. Texas law clearly gave Mr. Horn the right to use deadly force, but the angry mob could not have cared less. Not surprisingly, death threats against Mr. Horn popped up. Thankfully, a grand jury refused to indict Mr. Horn, but the man went through hell when his life was never in danger until after using justified lethal force.
In the aftermath of this case, disappointed civil-rights leaders tried to pass legislation to change Texas’s Castle Doctrine because they believe the broad protection it gives Texas homeowners from criminals and prosecutors is racially motivated. Of course, normal people do not lose sleep over the death of criminals. Unfortunately, a lot of people in society consider themselves normal, but when cases like Joe Horn’s comes up, it is clear these people are lunatics with an ax to grind. Yet when actual injustices like Flair Griggs arise, these sanctimonious blowhards do nothing because cases like Griggs’s do not fit their delusional vision of some gunless, Utopian society.
Because of selectively self-righteous criminal supporters and anti-gun prosecutors, law-abiding citizens do themselves a favor by avoiding potential threats when reasonably possible. However, the moment a threat does not avoid an armed citizen, those who have knowledge, training, and planning have the best chances of surviving the threat and the aftermath.
In every other instance, meeting the local prosecutor could prove to be the greatest danger of one’s life. And, of course, those stories are much less inspiring.