The Use of Deadly Force in Self-Defense

When you carry a gun you are in fact carrying a tool that is lethal if used, same as if you used a car, knife, baseball bat or rock. All can be lethal. Interestingly even though most items we use daily are not required to be permitted to carry one with us such as our car or a knife yet for some reason states require permits to carry a gun. My guess is that it is perceived to stop or reduce crime however I believe the records clearly show that laws only keep the law abiding from breaking them. Criminals by their very nature commit crimes.

There is a wide disparity of gun laws throughout America today, somewhere in excess of 27,000 yet it appears to not have stopped the criminals.

Many states are referred to as gun friendly or anti-gun. I live in a state that is considered by many to be the most anti-gun in the country, yet I carry a gun daily as do more and more people here do every day.

I teach Concealed Carry and in that class we spend a fair amount of time on the use of deadly force in self-defense. Because I’m in CA I often wondered what other states have as their self-defense laws. Upon looking through the penal codes of 34 different states what I found is the law concerning the use of deadly force in self-defense is almost uniform throughout America regardless of their pro or anti gun stances.

In CA the legal defense of self-defense in California law means that you can’t be found guilty of a violent crime that you committed in order to protect yourself, as long as your conduct was reasonable under the circumstances.

For purposes of the self-defense legal defense, “reasonable under the circumstances” means that you need to have:

  1. Reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of being killed, injured, or touched unlawfully,
  2. Reasonably believed that you needed to use force to prevent that from happening, and
  3. Used no more force than was necessary to prevent that from happening.

Pretty simple really, if the person attacking you or another has the ability to cause you grave bodily injury AND has the opportunity to employ that ability AND has shown the intent to do so you may use whatever force is available to you to stop that threat. That force is not restricted to your carry gun; you could use your rifle, truck, knife, fish billy . . . whatever tool you have that would stop the threat.

Okay so that is the most anti-gun in the nation’s self-defense laws. What about one of the most pro-gun states in the country, Arizona.

13-405. Justification; use of deadly physical force

  1. A person is justified in threatening or using deadly physical force against another:
  2. If such person would be justified in threatening or using physical force against the other under section 13-404, and
  3. When and to the degree a reasonable person would believe that deadly physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly physical force.
  4. A person has no duty to retreat before threatening or using deadly physical force pursuant to this section if the person is in a place where the person may legally be and is not engaged in an unlawful act.

Again pretty cut and dried, amazingly similar to the gun hating state of California. Notice also there is NO mention anywhere of what force can be used.

Well we all know Michigan has very strict carry laws so obviously there would be no right of self-defense . . . wrong.

780.972 Use of deadly force by individual not engaged in commission of crime; conditions.
Sec. 2.

(1) An individual who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses deadly force may use deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if either of the following applies:

(a) The individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another individual.

(b) The individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent sexual assault of himself or herself or of another individual.

(2) An individual who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses force other than deadly force may use force other than deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if he or she honestly and reasonably believes that the use of that force is necessary to defend himself or herself or another individual from the imminent unlawful use of force by another individual.

Oh my, that looks almost exactly like California law. Well there has to be at least one anti-gun state that won’t let you shoot someone who is attempting to kill you . . . let’s see, hmmm how about New York, it has to be the worst state.

1. A person may, subject to the provisions of subdivision two, use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person, unless: (a) The latter’s conduct was provoked by the actor with intent to cause physical injury to another person; or (b) The actor was the initial aggressor; except that in such case the use of physical force is nevertheless justifiable if the actor has withdrawn from the encounter and effectively communicated such withdrawal to such other person but the latter persists in continuing the incident by the use or threatened imminent use of unlawful physical force; or (c) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.

Well, I cannot seem to find a single state that will not let you defend yourself, so much for differences in the law. Please note though it is practically impossible to legally carry in many places. Carrying does nothing more than place on your person a tool that could be very effective in stopping a bad person from harming you or others. You can use your car, your knife or your baseball bat or golf club. In certain areas of Sacramento I see older men walking their dogs or their wives while carrying a golf club and I can guarantee it is not so they can stop by the driving range on the way home.

Some things to remember, if you can get away and don’t, regardless of the law people will ask why you shot when you could have safely escaped. I do not know of a single state that requires you to retreat but I believe if you can and do not, you have a good chance of being prosecuted because if you can escape the threat is not imminent.

Additionally, it is important to understand that the majority of cases where self-defense is proclaimed often you are looking at two bad players, perhaps doing a drug deal and one of them pulled out a gun to rob the other. Honest citizens seldom if ever have to go to court as Zimmerman did and had there not been meddling in that case he would have never gone to court.

Any tool will do to stop a deadly threat.

Be calm . . . and Carry, all the time.

Liberty Firearms Training


 

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