In the last couple of weeks a few instances of…well, idiocy is the best description I can proffer at the moment…made semi-national news. They are excellent examples of what The Tactical Professor would call “Negative Outcomes” that result from people who made the decision to keep a firearm handy but apparently did not bother to make the same effort to educate themselves about the law. Or, one could argue, apply any common sense.
Firearms are lethal force. The law in every state and territory in our Union regards the firearm as a deadly instrument. Because when used properly or improperly, it can kill people.
As a society we generally regard the act of justifiably killing another human being to be a last resort. An extreme action warrantable in answer to only the most serious of criminal threats.
Multiple armed men forcibly entering your home is one of those serious criminal threats. Had the residents of that house opened fire on the armed men busting through the front door and killed every one, it would have been a justifiable homicide in every jurisdiction in the United States. The threat to life is clear, as the unfortunate outcome of this criminal assault makes plain.
One cannot say the same for shoplifting. In Michigan a woman in a Home Depot parking lot saw a man running with a cart full of stolen power tools. As he got into a getaway car, she opened fire on the car.
“According to officials, Duva-Rodriguez wasn’t trying to hit or kill the shoplifters, but rather to disable their car. But that didn’t stop prosecutors from filing the misdemeanor charge against her. The Auburn Hills Police Department suggested Duva-Rodriguez could face 90 days in jail or a fine.”
If you do not intend to kill someone, a firearm is the wrong tool to have in your hand.
Guns are lethal force. Period. Police do sometimes shoot at vehicles but only in the most extreme of circumstances where there is a continuing threat to the community…not when the car has unarmed shoplifters in it. Even when the police shoot to disable the car of a fleeing armed felon it is a use of lethal force.
To justifiably use your firearm you have to be faced with a circumstance where a criminal assault is placing someone (You, for instance) at significant risk of death or grievous injury. (Broken bones, paralysis, maimed for life, etc) Two dudes stealing a grand worth of Home Depot’s power tools does not place anyone in immediate danger of death or grievous injury…therefore your handgun is absolutely the wrong tool for that job. The smart phone in your pocket or purse is a much better tool for that situation.
Then, of course, we have the incident in Waco where a woman fired a shot at a fleeing purse snatcher. Here again we see no immediate danger to life or limb, but she’s got her gun out and when the bad guy takes off running with no evidence of armed aggression toward anyone she pops a shot at the guy.
You need not be a Harvard Law alumni to understand this. Common sense (which may not actually be all that common, when you think about it…) would dictate that since guns kill, it is only justifiable to use them when we are prepared to actually end another human being on the spot.
Guns are not magic. They are a relatively simple machine that launches a projectile. Pulling one out in inappropriate circumstances will not make the situation better for you. Quite the opposite, I’m afraid.
Feeling the sensation of fear is not enough to justify pulling your gun or actually firing it. You cannot be unsure about the threat when you pull the trigger. It cannot be a situation of “I’m afraid of what this guy might do!” The time to pull the trigger is when you know that you or some other innocent person is likely to die or be seriously injured if you don’t. It’s a last resort, when other reasonable options are no longer available to you.