“Stand Your Ground” laws provide honest citizens the ability to remain in any area they have the right to be. Such laws remove the requirement to retreat in the face of an aggressor. This makes sense. Why should you have to leave the park because some jerk is threatening you?

It’s a good idea—in theory. But in practice, you need to ask yourself some very important questions.

You see, there are three things you can do when you are involved in any confrontation: comply, escalate, or disengage. Those are your options. Your choices are limited if a guy walks up to you and says “Gimme your wallet!” When someone says that, the question becomes, “Or what?”

Are you willing to participate in the “Or what?” portion of this interaction? You see, when someone demands your wallet, what he or she typically means is, “Gimme your wallet or I am going to take it by force.” I ask you again; are you willing to participate? If you comply, you might be allowed to disengage. You could simply run away. That is absolute disengagement. Or you could stand your ground and be willing to escalate.

This is an utterly personal decision that you must make on your own. Every person is different. Every situation is different. I cannot possibly comprehend all the reasons why you might choose to fight or flee. I can tell you this: to fight is to risk death. I can also tell you that the brave man dies but once, while the coward dies a thousand deaths. You might fight and die for your wallet. You might fight and win, thus preventing this criminal from ever victimizing anyone ever again. The choice is yours. The choice will change you.

What you need to know about Stand Your Ground laws is simultaneously simple and complex. The laws, as I said, remove your duty to retreat. Some states actually have it written into their codified laws that, when faced with the threat of violence, a person must attempt to retreat before using force in self-defense. Stand Your Ground eliminates that element of the legal quagmire.

What Stand Your Ground laws do not eliminate are all the other legal concepts that revolve around self-defense in a deadly force situation. You are not “protected” by a Stand Your Ground law. That law is very simply one more element in the case. It allows you to stay where you are. It does not give you any more legal right to use force. In order to use force, all the other legal elements must still apply.

I would encourage you to avoid violent confrontation if at all possible. At the same time, I would never tell you to turn your back on a loaded gun and try to outrun a bullet. If you cannot escape safely, you will likely be better off fighting. But if you choose to fight, you had better win. Remember, the person you will be fighting against very likely has plenty of experience using violence to get what he wants.

Stand Your Ground is not a panacea. It is one small piece of a very big puzzle. You need to make sure all your puzzle pieces are in place when it comes to self-defense and the laws surrounding your defensive actions.