By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
If you’re going to keep a gun for self-protection, it is incumbent on you to know what the law is regarding self-defense. You should know what your local/state laws are, and also be aware of some of the technical details involved.
Bear in mind that this isn’t legal advice and I am not a lawyer. This is a discussion of publicly available information and of ideas pertaining thereto.
For a more in-depth and comprehensive overview of self-defense laws, you should check out the works of Massad Ayoob on the topic – in particular his work “In The Gravest Extreme” – as well as those of Andrew Branca, who is an actual attorney, and his book “The Law Of Self Defense.”
An idea you should be aware of is what’s called a “perfect claim” of self-defense.
What it means is that there is no possible way that the events that transpired were anything but clear-cut self-defense.
For a person to have a perfect claim of self-defense, the person claiming it has to be beyond reproach. They didn’t contribute to the situation, and had literally no choice but to shoot and/or kill their attacker.
Here’s a hypothetical perfect claim of self-defense:
A hypothetical person is at home, doing the dishes or what have you. A home invader kicks the door in, and storms inside the home brandishing a machete. The hypothetical homeowner/resident runs to the bedroom, retrieves a gun and shoots the intruder in the face.
In this hypothetical situation, and situations like this do occur, the shooter didn’t contribute to the situation; they were in their home, where they had every right to be. The intruder wasn’t trying to sell them a set of encyclopedias; said hypothetical bad guy had a machete.
The choice was shoot or die or be maimed so badly that you either die or wish you had.
Here’s a great example:
In the incident in question, the attacker – one Twain Thomas, of Pocatello, Idaho – kicks his way through the door of his neighbor James Cvengros, also of Pocatello, wielding a machete. Cvengros shoots Thomas in the chest.
Thomas lived to be convicted of 2nd Degree Attempted Murder and aggravated assault, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2015. It also happened that Thomas was mentally ill, which was behind his maniacal actions, not that it exculpates him.
There isn’t a more perfect claim of self-defense. It’s on video, with audio. Thomas breaks down the door, is armed, and clearly intends to harm people.
However, plenty of other self-defense cases aren’t nearly as cut and dried.
Take the well-trodden George Zimmerman case for example.
It was certainly true that Zimmerman was being beaten when he pulled his handgun and shot Trayvon Martin, and may well have been killed or suffered grave injury if he hadn’t. That’s inarguable.
What critics have pointed out is that Zimmerman also put himself in the position where he had to. Had he stayed in his car, or just stayed home instead of going out on neighborhood watch, nothing would have happened and that was partially why charges were brought against him.
The point here is that in order for a person to claim self-defense or any permutation thereof such as “Stand Your Ground” or the castle doctrine, they can’t have put themselves in hot water.
Now, some people will probably repeat the old saw about “better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” On paper, sure, but it’s a false dilemma. It’s actually better to not have to be in that situation in the first place, and certainly better to not be bankrupted by paying for attorneys.
To sum up, it’s one thing if someone brings a fight to you. It’s another if you go looking for it.
Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.