A good portion of my concealed carry class deals with the proper use of force, more specifically, the proper use of deadly force. I believe very strongly that if you carry a deadly weapon for your protection, you must have a good understanding of the law as it pertains to employing that deadly weapon. We as American’s believe very strongly in the sanctity of human life. The taking of a life is a very serious thing and once it has occurred, there is no going back.
I am always surprised at the differing opinions people have when you ask them when the use of deadly force is justified. Generally people error on the side of NOT utilizing deadly force, such as when a bad guy is not armed with what would traditionally be classified as a weapon. For instance, many people don’t think that it is ever justified to shot an unarmed person, even if that person is on top of you and smashing your head into the pavement. Generally I can explain to them what disparity of force is and why deadly force can be justified, even if the assailant is unarmed. Usually after some discussion they come around and agree that the presence of a weapon is not always required. But, the harder argument to win is when discussing when deadly force is authorized should you find yourself the victim of an intruder in your own home.
My students, almost to a person believe that should anybody enter you home without permission, they have the right to shot them. This is simply not true. The same elements must exist whether you are in your home or in the parking lot of the local shopping center.
“A person my use deadly force to protect themselves or others from what they reasonably believe to be an immediate threat of death or grave bodily harm.”
Legal definitions vary from state to state, but essentially the above is the gist of what most states consider the only time when a person, be it a police officer or a civilian may utilize deadly force against another.
So, with the above definition in mind, if a person breaks into your house to steal your television expecting you to be gone, and upon seeing the home is occupied, flees out the back door, would it be legal to shot them as they leave? The answer is obviously no. Deadly force is NOT authorized in the defense of property. A human life, even if that human life belongs to a really bad guy is more valuable than your television, or your computer, or you grandmothers diamond ring.
Let’s take a minute and delve briefly into the criminal mind. There are generally two kinds of people, type “A” and type “B”. The former is more of the aggressive, go getter type with the latter being the more passive, laid back type. A type “A” criminal would be the kind that doesn’t shy away from confrontation. This type of person would most like commit crimes against the person such as robbery, rape or murder. A type “B” criminal doesn’t want contact with another person and thus picks crimes generally involving property like theft or fraud type crimes.
Understanding the type of criminal you are dealing with is critical to your use of force decision making. A person who is interested in stealing your television isn’t likely to break into your home when you are home because he isn’t interested in human contact. Many burglars are non-violent types who will wait for you to go to work before entering you home.
A person who would break into your home when you are there is a whole different kind of person. In fact, the crime he is committing is different. If you are home when the break-in occurs, even if they are only after your property, they are still committing a robbery because the property they are taking is under your control. It makes no difference if the property is a television hanging on your wall or the wallet in your pocket. Now, some would argue that just because a person is home when their home is broken into doesn’t mean a robbery has occurred. It is true that a robbery is the taking of property from a person through threats, violence or intimidation. I suppose a person could come into your living room and take the television off your wall without displaying a weapon or uttering a word, but the very act of entering the home of another while they are home, I would argue, is a threat of violence or at the very least intimidation. I cannot see any issues with somebody being able to articulate fear should this occur.
With the above examples of the differences between certain types of criminals, I believe that it is easier to articulate why you became in fear for your life and that of your family should you find yourself confronted by an intruder in your home. An intruder entering your home knowing it is likely occupied has no fear of confrontation making it likely that they are a type “A” personality with a propensity for violence. Most of the time, at least in my experience investigating home invasions, the assailant or assailants (Almost all home invasion involve multiple bad guys.) are armed. In fact, while I am writing this article, I cannot recall a time when I had a case in which the bad guys were not armed with a deadly weapon. Once in the confined space of your home, there aren’t any third party witnesses and there is very little likelihood that somebody will happen upon the crime that is being committed. In other words, the bad guys have virtually an unlimited amount of time upon entering your home and gaining control. A lot can happen with an unlimited amount of time and no witnesses.
So to conclude, understand that the same legal standards apply when employing deadly force in your home and outside. Deadly force cannot be utilized in defense of property, but know that if you find yourself the victim of a home invasion, that is, your home is broken into while you are there, there is a very strong possibility that a violent act will be perpetrated against you or a member of your family. Take the appropriate measures and be prepared to defend your actions.
Don’t just survive, thrive!
Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility. You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life. It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun. Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.