The Usual "You Can't Shoot a Fleeing Burglar" Thread

Discussion in 'General Weapons Discussion' started by Bill Mattocks, Dec 14, 2016.

  1. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I've brought this up before, but not recently, so here goes:

    Arrested homeowner defends shooting at man she thought was a burglar


    "Arrested homeowner defends shooting at man she thought was a burglar

    POSTED 6:29 PM, DECEMBER 13, 2016, BY WEB STAFF

    KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. - A North Carolina woman has been arrested and charged after police say she shot a man who was running away from her home."

    So here is the deal. Generally speaking, and depending on jurisdiction, a person in the USA can defend themselves with a firearm from a person who breaks into their home. In many states, 'castle law' gives them the presumption that if a person breaks into their home illegally, it is presumed that the person is there to do them great bodily harm, and use of deadly force is not questioned.

    In other words, if someone busts into your house and you arm yourself and shoot them dead, depending on where you live, you will not be charged with a crime. Lots of caveats here. I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice. Different US states have different laws. Many countries other than the US have extremely different laws on gun ownership and self-defense using guns. Etc.

    However, in this case, the homeowner was arrested. And given the stated circumstances, this is understandable. It's the kind of thing I wish more gun owners paid attention to. But let's step through them.

    1) NO WARNING SHOTS! If you read the story, the woman claims she fired 'warning shots' when she saw two men running away from her home at high speed after she confronted them. The trouble is, she managed to shoot one of them in the leg. Some warning shot! But let's say that she had not shot one of the presumed bad guys. Let's say she fired in the air and the bullet hit some innocent person. Not really a good scenario. You can't control where a bullet goes after you fire it, and you can't call it back again. So if you don't have a target that needs shooting, don't shoot. Warning shots are stupid, wrong, and generally a bad idea.

    2) You don't often get to shoot people who have NOT BROKEN INTO your property yet. In this case, the woman heard a noise that she interpreted as someone pulling on the handle to her storage shed door. She went outside armed, confronted two men, and assumed they had been trying to break in. Well, I'd venture to guess that they might well have been doing so. However, the shed isn't her house, her life is not in danger if she doesn't go outside to confront them, and if you can't prove the men are breaking in, this whole shooting them thing becomes very dicey.

    3) You generally also don't get to shoot people who are RUNNING AWAY from your property. Castle laws and similar laws regarding the use of deadly force are intended to protect law-abiding citizens from serious threats to their lives, and in some cases, their property, but they all hinge on the idea that a person has the right to defend themselves, even by using deadly force, if there is a legitimate threat that can be clearly seen or (castle law) assumed. A person breaking into your outdoor shed? Doesn't pose a threat to your life. Running away when you catch them? Definitely not posing a threat to your life.

    So bottom line is this.

    If you have to shoot someone, shoot them. Warning shots are stupid in the extreme.

    If someone is running away, they typically cannot pose a threat to you anymore. Don't shoot them.

    I understand that the woman in this story sees herself as being in the right. She is convinced the men she shot at were trying to break into her property. I get that. They probably were, in my opinion. But she did not have the right to shoot them based on that, nor did she have the right to fire a so-called 'warning shot', which in this case resulted in one of the fleeing presumed bad guys being hit.

    She's lucky she didn't kill him. She'd be up on manslaughter charges.

    If you are going to keep weapons and are prepared to use them, you are responsible for learning the laws of self-defense and use of deadly force in the location where you live. If you can't figure it out on your own, pay for an attorney to explain it to you. Those are your options. If you choose not to inform yourself of your legal rights and responsibilities, you are menace to yourself and all those around you.
     
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  2. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Agreed on all points.
     
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  3. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    These are terrific words. Unfortunately, they aren't much connected with reality. Here in Texas, you are required to review the laws at a concealed carry class In order to get a license, but very few that I know pay much attention. I had quite an argument just a couple of months ago with a fellow who was complaining that he wasn't allowed to carry in night clubs. :)
     
  4. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    We had a woman a couple miles from my house shoot up a parking lot of a Home Depot because two shoplifters ran past her and jumped in their car to drive away. She had a lawful carry permit and had been through the training where she was taught when she could and could not draw and fire her concealed pistol. Shooting at shoplifters who are running away in a crowded parking lot seemed legit to her. She did manage to shoot one of the tires. Where the other bullets went, no one knows.

    When she was convicted, she made some bitter public statements about how she would never 'help anyone in trouble' again. She was convinced she was in the right.

    Worse, I read the comments in the local news stories. Don't ever read the comments. You'll become convinced that 90% of all humanity is dumber than a sack of hammers.
     
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  5. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I am already convinced of that. And that is being harsh on the hammers.
     
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  6. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    Unfortunate but true! :)
     

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