If you’re a gun owner, you’ve probably heard many of the popular urban myths about self-defense. They’re usually just stupid, and often humorous. But some are downright dangerous, especially legally. In most cases, they are conveniently attributed to some absent 3rd party — “my uncle (cousin, brother-in-law) says…” — or worse, some anonymous blog.
There’s the old standby, “Just shoot ‘em on the front porch and drag ‘em inside.” Never mind that a lot of people don’t have a front porch. More to the point, CSI technicians will easily determine that you moved the body, which promotes you from the “victim” column to, at minimum, a “person of interest” and more likely, a “suspect.” But the fact that people repeat such a simple-minded statement is disturbing.
Another Self-Defense Myth
“As long as you’re in fear for your life, you can use deadly force.” Not actually a myth, just grossly incomplete. In reality, what you will have to do is convince a jury that if they were you and faced the threat that you faced, they too would have sincerely believed that the assailant (or assailants) had the ability to inflict serious bodily harm or death — and the intent to do so. Not so easy to do.
Be the King of the Castle, not the Fool
“If a guy’s in your house, you can shoot ‘em.” This overly simplistic statement gives the impression that merely because someone is in your house, all of the rules of self-defense have magically evaporated. But several recent cases where homeowners were sent to prison for acting as if their home was a “free-fire-zone” should have put this idea to rest. Unfortunately, it is likely to persist, usually defended by (incorrectly) referencing some sort of “Castle Doctrine” as justification.
But “Castle Doctrine” is not a specific law—it is a general term referring to those statutes or case laws covering what one can or cannot do in relation to using force in self-defense within one’s domicile. They vary in complexity and scope, but even the most victim-friendly laws usually have requirements such as limiting deadly force to the defense of “occupied property” only. Thus entering an unoccupied house (or garage) may disqualify you, as several homeowners recently learned the hard way.
No Coup de Grâce
Just last week, one of my friends (he works at a “big-box” store that sells guns) overheard another common myth:
Several customers were looking at handguns. One rather large fellow, openly carrying a .454 Casull, was suggesting various guns for his friend standing next to him. In the course of their conversation, the big-bore aficionado said, “Look man, if you ever have to shoot someone, especially in your house, make sure he’s dead. If he ain’t, shoot him again. That way he won’t be able to sue you.”
Stunningly stupid? Yes. Besides the obvious potential criminal charges, apparently, this dimwit hadn’t considered that the family of the deceased can, and likely will, sue. And when forensics reveals that he “executed” the victim, his chances of imprisonment (and losing everything he owns) jumps dramatically. Yet, amazingly, this is a popular myth.
There are many others, of course. But whatever you do, ignore them. And please, don’t be so stupid as to repeat them publicly, especially online! Instead, learn everything you can about what really happens in criminal and civil court. Especially how decisions based on “urban myths” can have devastating results for you and your family.