Monday, May 18, 2009

Right to Protect vs Whether You Should

The right to protect ones self and property is very important to me. My view is that no one has the right to take something that I have worked hard for. It is also my belief that I have a right to keep them from taking my property by use of force if necessary.

What started off as yours truly forwarding an email joke to my friends, quickly turned into a long and somewhat heated email discussion and debate. It got so big that we decided to take it to the blog. I, however, failed miserably to get it up here in a reasonable time. My excuse is valid and I am traveling in Europe for work. So without further ado here is the discussion and I hope we can start it up again.

Sorry more ado, quick info on the players in this.
Warthog – Blogger, gun owner, veteran, conservative, constitutionalist.
Matt - New gun owner, liberal.
Mike – Knowledgeable and experienced gun owner, I believe a conservative.
James – Police officer, gun owner duh, Iraq War Veteran, conservative, constitutionalist.
*You will see that this debate is amongst conservative gun owners, this is not a left vs right convo.

Let’s start with the joke:

> George Phillips , an elderly man, from Meridian,
> Mississippi, was going up to bed, when his wife told him
> that he'd left the light on in the garden shed, which
> she could see from the bedroom window. George opened the
> back door to go turn off the light, but saw that there were
> people in the shed stealing things.
> He phoned the police, who asked "Is someone in your
> house?"
> He said "No," but some people are breaking into
> my garden shed and stealing from me.
> Then the police dispatcher said "All patrols are busy.
> You should lock your doors and an officer will be along when
> one is available."
> George said, "Okay."
> He hung up the phone and counted to 30.
> Then he phoned the police again.
> "Hello, I just called you a few seconds ago because
> there were people stealing things from my shed. Well, you
> don't have to worry about them now because I just shot
> them.." and he hung up.
> Within five minutes, six Police Cars, a SWAT Team, a
> Helicopter, two Fire Trucks, a Paramedic, and an Ambulance
> showed up at the Phillips' residence, and caught the
> burglars red-handed.
> One of the Policemen said to George, "I thought you
> said that you'd shot them!"
> George said, "I thought you said there was nobody
> available!"
> (True Story)
> Don't mess with old people

Then I was asked a question, which I answered after researching Arizona laws:

this made me think: What's the law on self-defense in a situation like this? If someone's breaking into a garage on property that is separate from the house?

Matt I hope you don’t mind me including everyone in your question. As citizens we have no right to kill in defense of our property. We do, however, have the right to threaten deadly force. So if the criminal act portrayed below was to happen to you, you have the right to confront the criminals at the point of a gun. You do not have the right to come out shooting.

Here are a couple of scenarios that could happen if you did decide to confront them by stepping out of your house and yelling freeze:

- They run away


- They attack you

In the first scenario, you have no right to do anything but let them go. Hell, if I understand the law correctly, they could laugh at you and continue stealing your stuff while you yell and threaten them.

Second scenario, you shoot them. At this point, the crime changes and so does the law. If you have the right to draw on someone and they continue to come at you, you are now in self defense. It does not matter what they have in the form of a weapon, it only matters that they are threatening, have means to carry out that threat, and you are in fear for your life.

If you are still hazy on that last bit let me explain further. You have ordered them to stop stealing your property by pointing a gun at them, they are now moving toward you (this is a threat), they have the means (they are right in front of you), they have the ability (they can take your gun and shoot you with it) and if you are human you are scared to death.

These are the four things you always have to have to be found justified in a shooting.

Threat - Ability - Means - Fear of Death

Someone yelling from a roof top that they are going to stab does not justify you shooting them. You have been threatened, they do not have the ability, they have the means, and you may be afraid, but you only have 3/4 of the requirements.


[Warthog], I totally agree with about half of you email. And I know its just personal preference, but perhaps in jury’s eyes would have provoked the criminals to attack you by yelling at them or even confronting them. I do agree that at that at the point when they are moving towards you, you do need to defend yourself. But look at what cost you are getting yourself in to, huge amounts of court trouble, taking someone’s life or losing yours. It’s all over some hedge trimmers and a lawn mower. Especially with a detached building you are in no direct danger until you put yourself in the middle of it all (intentionally). And I understand that they were stealing your stuff and a lot of people feel the need to stop them, but maybe you just committed a crime by pointing a gun at them. I know that doesn’t sound right but I have heard of criminals playing the court system to their advantage way worse than this. I believe that in almost all home defense situations you do not want to end up confronting someone in your home for a couple reasons.

1.) You are full of adrenaline and you might make a mistake and do something without thinking as long as you should.

2.) You are putting yourself into a uncontrollable situation. Most people don’t have the skill set to know how to clear a room properly, especially at night (myself included). What if the criminal hears you coming and ambushes you. That would be bad.
Why not sit and wait in a location that you are in control of. Perhaps in a bed room, or anywhere you can be in an “eyes and ears in one direction” kind of situation.

Also if someone persists to advance on you in that situation you did nothing but truly protect yourself. Honestly someone can take ever thing I own and I wouldn’t care as long as the ones I care about are ok. You don’t know if that person breaking into you tool shed is armed or not, but that is my point. I don’t care about stuff more than my life.

And remember this is just one situation; there are a million different things that could happen that would make me change my mind and act differently.

Just my two cents, agree with me or not. Just what I have learned in the past.


Hey, I stated facts not theory of what to do. If we want to have a discussion on what I would do that is for another email.

This email is by the law. I looked everything up in my handy Arizona Gun Owners Guide and I confirmed the Arizona statutes on the web. So everything I stated was what you can expect by the law, not whether you should do it.

James (Police Officer):

I normally don’t reply to these; however this one got me spun up. Not only do I believe a person has the legal right to confront an individual in this type of situation, I think you have a moral obligation. If more people did this and the media actually reported it maybe people would be deterred. I agree that you need a level of proficiency in order to do this. If you do not have this level, you should strive to obtain it as a responsible gun owner.

A side note……. I have first hand knowledge that the county attorney is very understanding in these situations. I have seen them decline to prosecute on several “grey area” type of incidents. The prosecutor can not go forward on any prosecution if he has no likely possibility of conviction. In this state that means he has to convince them to convict a law abiding homeowner who shot and killed a criminal.

If you were on the jury how would you decide?? And before you answer you would convict, remember that the whole jury (8 in this state) has to agree. I don’t see that ever happening.

I first want to say that I respect everyone’s opinion and experience and I’m glad we can have this debate because its stuff like this that causes all of use to reevaluate our situations and prepare mentally for these things.

My thoughts in my previous email were just my opinion like I said. But I’m also trying to build good practices that will keep me out of jail (courts included) and alive for my entire life (natural that is). I may not live in this state forever so I want to build practices that will always be described as Self Defense. Something we all need to think about is if someone is breaking into your tool shed, would you go out and confront them, would your significant other want you to, and would you want you significant other to do so. That being said I do agree that we have a right to try and stop crimes, perhaps a duty with violent crimes. But I don’t think we have an obligation to stop any crime that is not a violent crime (as a regular citizen), because we may be creating a violent crime, and take the brunt of the repercussions. As much as I would want to go any stop the scum that was taking my stuff that I paid hard money for, I have to think twice about it. There are so many situations that could arise from one wrong move, or perhaps a right move. And remember it’s not all about whether you do or do not get charged with a crime. You have to live with the fact that you took another humans life. Me personally I know I would pull the trigger, IF I had to. But I absolutely do not want to……Last Resort

I have a book on personal defense in the home written by the NRA. That anyone is more than welcome to borrow (Except for Steve and Byrd cuz they might disagree and light my book on fire…JK )

I just wanted to put a couple of paragraphs in here that I think make everyone’s points very valid.

“Even when its necessary and justified, shooting a violent criminal is not a pleasant experience. This should be realized and planned for as part of your mental training. The willingness to take life in self defense is very different form the desire to take a life. No responsible, decent person enjoys taking a life, no matter how depraved and malignant the assailant maybe. The willingness to use deadly force in self defense does not imply a devaluation of human life. In fact, those who include firearms in their personal protection plans are affirming the value of their own live and those of their family members, The ethical person does not ever want to use deadly force, but recognizes that there are times when it may be the only option to protect Innocent lives.”

I highlighted that last part because that is what deadly force should be used for. There is no way that my life is worth whatever someone will steal from me.

And let’s remember what a concealed weapons course should have taught us…..Firing in self defense is an option of last resort.

One last quote that I thought was good from that book and I will stop my long winded ramblings.

“The use of a firearm or other deadly weapon to protect your self should be an act of last resort, when no other option is available. It is always better to escape, evade, avoid or deter and attack than to resolve it through the use of force. By employing your powers of awareness you will be able to recognize threats in your environment early on, which in turn may enable you to escape or avoid them. If you fail to maintain a state of awareness, you are more likely to become a victim of an attack, or to have to use deadly force to defend yourself.”

I hope that we can all at least understand my stand point here. You don’t have to agree with it. I defiantly see everyone else’s views about the situations and again, respect every one of them. We have all had different encounters with this kind of stuff in our lives and that is what builds our responses to them.

The end.

James has not responded to the last comment and it might be because we decided to take it off email and go to the blog. So he may just be waiting for me to post this. I have not talked to him since I got to Europe so not sure.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Matt. I have never disagreed with anyones right to own weapons or to defend themselves in any situation. I have always been startled by the amout of enthusiasm there seems to be at times for when someone is "able" to shoot someone legally. Fully understanding that knowledge about the law is so very important, I fear that the adrenaline rush so many people chase due to the influence of popular culture in regards to shootouts may be followed by remorse that would change a man forever. Having said that, I would absolutly protect myself and my family with deadly force but would not risk bloodshed for the theft of my lawnmower. Circumstances of course would be different in times or war or famine.

Warthog said...

Thanks for the comment. Please provide an example of "enthusiasm" of people.

I am fully aware that their are people out their who are a bit too gung ho when it comes to talking about this stuff but bluster is different then action. A lot of times you have to read between the lines when people are talking about what they would do. The big talkers are usually the ones hiding under the bed.

You will never hear me say I am going to do this and this. I train and prepare to do something, but we can never know what we are going to do under fire. That is why I feel it is important to have the right mind set and properly prepare, so your body does what its supposed to when your brain is a tad to slow.

Mike said...

I have an example of "enthusiasm". I think it was recently that a man shot through a door because someone (a locksmith) was drilling his door. I see his view point in needing to stop the situation from escalating. But didn't he break one of the cardinal rules of any kind of shooting. "Know your target and what is beyond it" He didn't know either one of those things. He made a huge mistake in my book. Luckily no one was serioulsy hurt and he got off with no charges. What if that bullet that did hit the locksmith in the hand had hit something or heaven forbid someone else. Ill make this short but bottom line is you don't shoot unless you know your target, that is in the top three rules of any shooting sport.

Warthog said...

That is a good story and I want to tell everyone what happened. The house was being rented and the landlord forclosed on the home. No one told the renter and the bank sent a locksmith over to drill the old locks and replace them with new ones. The locksmith thought the home was abandond and started working at 4am in the morning. The home owner woke up to a drill going through his door. He ran to the door, not sure if he yelled but who can hear over a drill, then fired a round through the door hitting the locksmith in the hand. No charges filed against anyone in this case.

I agree that the guy broke cardinal rules. But I ask you is that enthusiasm or was the guy scared out of his mind? Was he eager to shoot or just untrained? Is anyone, woken up at 4am in a perfect state of mind? Do you think the guy broke the law? I do not. Do I think it was an unfortunate sircumstance? I truely do and am very glad no one died.

I do not believe the guy should have shot, but we have to put ourselves in this guys situation. 4am and someone is DRILLING through your door. Can we assume this guy was scared? I would say yes. Should he have called the police, screamed a challenge, and then covered the door? YES.

That is one of those tough situations where you just hope you have the training and the presence of mind to NOT pull the trigger.

Mike said...

Very True, I know I would have been scared out of my mind. I was once woken up at about 3 oclock to a window breaking (some of us have heard this story), before I realized it I was punching the code into my hand safe and had my hand inches away from my pistol. But I took a second to stop and listen. After that I realized that it was someone I knew, after a bad night of bar hoping. But my instincts took over and I didn't even think about what I needed to do. I could have easily ran to the front door and started firing before I got there. So perhaps enthusiasm to some, is the untrained person thinking life is a movie. People don't think they will hit something they don't intend to. I know I have seen it too many times, the untrained person picks up a gun finger goes to the trigger and sometimes they even pull it once or twice. Scary..... I do think that firearms training is the number one thing a gun owner can do to help them selfs and others in a lot of situations. Also running these scenarios through your head. as scary as they are helps a lot too.

James said...

I hate to admit it...but I agree with mike on this one. You must know what your shooting at. I can't imagine just shooting through a door. This defense was actually used by a dirt bag who shot a friend of mine while serving a search warrant. Luckily the round hit him in the hand and did no permenant damage. The defense argued that the dirt bag was in fear for his life and thought he was the victim of a home invasion. Granted, everybody was in uniform and it was daylight hours, but the principle is the same.

On the second part of your comment, Mike. All I can say is how about actually retrieving your weapon next time. The seconds it takes to finish the last step are critical. Obviously use good firearms discipline, low ready, finger along the frame..etc. I have seen you shoot and I am confident you posses the skills to handle a weapon in these circumstances safely.

The thing that I have been trying to make sure you understand is a deadly force encounter takes fractions of a second and because if you're the good guy, you will always be reacting to the threat. Meening the bad guy has made up his mind and has decided to harm you. Now he's way ahead of you, and you have to be able to react. And before I get us all riled up again.....I understand this is a personal decision/choice. I just thought I would give you my opinion.