The Importance of Understanding Firearm Laws
Sadly, criminals have rights, too! Hence the importance of understanding firearm laws during home defense situations.
While many U.S. citizens own guns for the purpose of sport, such as hunting and shooting competitions, many homeowners own guns for the sole purpose of defending their homes should the need arise. But there's a significant difference between owning a gun and actually having to use it to defend yourself or your family during a home invasion or other home crime. This is why it's important for all gun owners to understand the firearm laws governed by their state, as well as what justifies the use of deadly force.
In a recent report released by NBCDFW.com, in Dallas, Texas, a local homeowner shot an intruder during a home invasion. For the homeowner, it was a usual Sunday morning. The man was at home with his wife and one-year-old son when he heard a knock on the door. He then saw a man run towards the door and heard a loud thud. Feeling threatened, the homeowner ran for his gun. Seconds later, two men broke down the door, and when the first intruder entered, the homeowner opened fire and shot the intruder in the shoulder. The second intruder immediately fled the scene. According to the report, the homeowner told the police that "he feared for his family's safety when he fired the gun."
While the homeowner in the above story may have been within his rights when he opened fire on the intruder the moment he set foot through the door, the same may not have held true for a resident in another state. This is why it's important for all homeowners who keep a firearm in their home to understand the firearm laws that govern their state.
When is Deadly Force Justified?
In general, deadly force is defined as any physical force that a person knows, or should know, to pose a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm to another person if used.
While police officers are permitted to use deadly force in certain circumstances when attempting to enforce the law, it is illegal for private citizens to use deadly force unless it meets the specific requirements set out by their state in circumstances of self-defense or defense of another person.
While these laws can vary from state to state, in general, most laws are designed around what is considered "reasonable and necessary" force. This is usually judged on what the state deems what a reasonable person would do under the same circumstances. In situations of self-defense, some states allow deadly force only when the aggressor engages in deadly force towards the victim.
Whereas many states allow the use of deadly force when there is reasonable fear of death or grave injury, others don't allow citizens to use deadly force to defend their property, especially in cases where the burglar is unarmed. This means that, in some states, shooting a burglar who does not have a weapon of any kind on his person can put you at risk of having criminal charges brought against you.
But that's not all you have to worry about.
You've probably heard of intruders suing homeowners for physical injury inflicted upon them when they were shot by the very same people they were victimizing. As ludicrous as it sounds, it happens. While many of these court cases get thrown out, there are many that have gone to trial. Even when the homeowner is deemed not guilty by a jury, the stress and expense of the entire ordeal can leave the defendant feeling victimized all over again.
Professional firearms instructor, Leon S. Adams, of Superior Security Concepts, in Atlanta, Georgia, knows firsthand the importance of understanding your state's firearm laws. "As a Professional Firearms Instructor, I stress the importance of receiving PROPER and PROFESSIONAL training to clientele, friends and family alike on a daily basis. Not just the physical skill and dexterity required to safely and efficiently deploy a firearm to defend yourself or a loved one, but also knowing the legal parameters that justify you using that level of force (or any other level of force) and the possible associated liability so you are not on the wrong side of the law!" says Leon.
"Castle Doctrine" Bills
In the last several years, some states have adopted "castle doctrine" bills to help better define and protect our right to defend ourselves when someone illegally enters our home.
In general, a castle doctrine usually contains one of the following protective provisions:
- It removes the requirement to "retreat" from an aggressor under certain circumstances as set forth by the state.
- It provides a person who uses legal force, including deadly force, with "immunity" from criminal prosecution and civil action.
- It allows any person who is not engaged in illegal activity to stand their ground and "meet force with force" when attacked in ANY place they have a right to be.
- It provides a legal presumption for when a person is justified in using force against an intruder. Some states even presume that any person that illegally or forcefully enters another person's dwelling (including an occupied vehicle) is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit a crime that involves force or violence.
Gun Ownership Laws in the United States
While the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution protects our rights to keep and bear arms, the laws that govern the sale, possession, and use of a gun are established by each individual state. This means that not only must gun owners follow the firearm laws of their state of residence; they must also follow the gun laws of any state they visit. For example, if you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in your state of residence, your permit may or may not be recognized in another state. This is why it's important to familiarize yourself with the laws of any state you plan to travel into with a firearm.
The same is true for gun owners who move to another state. While some states don't require residents to register their guns, some states do. For example, in the state of California, new residents are required to register all handguns with the Department of Justice's Automated Firearm System within 60 days. In the state of Texas, gun laws are much more lenient. While the sale of firearms within Texas requires a purchase permit, current and new residents are not required to register the firearms they purchase or bring into the state.
The Decision to Own a Gun
If you’re considering the purchase of a firearm for the purpose of home defense, I strongly encourage you to seek the advice a certified gun instructor prior to making any final decisions. Not only will this allow you the opportunity to get your questions about gun ownership and operation answered by a professional, a certified gun instructor can help you choose the right firearm for you.
Equally important is taking the time to educate yourself on the safety and proper use of a firearm in self-defense. This is where firearm self-defense courses can be very helpful. These courses are specifically designed to teach gun owners the necessary safety and manipulation skills needed to confidently defend themselves and the lives of others against armed robbers, home invasions, and other crimes. A thorough course will also include information about the legal justifications for the use of deadly force in your state.
Firearm self-defense classes can be easily found by performing an online search for providers in or near your city. In addition to firearm courses, many of these same organizations offer a variety of other self-defense courses, including rape prevention, pepper spray use, TASER certification, and more.
Gun Ownership is Your Responsibility
Owning a gun for the purpose of home defense carries with it a great deal of responsibility. In the majority of jurisdictions across the United States, the use of deadly force is justified as a last resort under extreme conditions.
If you are going to keep a firearm in your home for the purpose of defending you and your family in the case of an extreme emergency, be wise and take the time to educate yourself on your state's laws, as well as acquire the necessary skills to ensure the safe and proper use of your firearm.
Jordan Frankel, commonly known as The Security Sensei develops revolutionary security products and solutions that protect both lives & property. Countless agencies and corporations such as NASDAQ, the US Military, and law enforcement entrust Mr. Frankel with their security and safety. Jordan Frankel is also frequent media guest addressing the personal and financial consequences associated with home invasions, burglaries and other serious threats. In addition, Mr. Frankel's security products & inventions have been featured on Oprah, FOX news and in countless publications. Jordan's ability to outsmart the proverbial bad guys - coupled with his commitment to making security an affordable reality for everyone is the key to Global Security Experts Inc success. Mr. Frankel (The Security Sensei) is available for media interviews by appointment only.
Mr. Frankel is a proud member of:
The American Society for Industrial Security.
The International Association for Counter Terrorism & Security.
The Society of Professional Locksmiths.