A History of Self-Defense Shootings in Times of Widespread Emergency
by Massad Ayoob
Chatter around the cracker barrel or on the Internet indicates many people believe that in times of such disaster, law is somehow suspended just because the cops can’t be there. Nothing is further from the truth. The rules governing justifiable deadly force are the same.
History shows that such situations in this country will inevitably run their course and society will rebuild. Police will inevitably investigate shootings that occurred during the disaster. To make matters worse, if a justified shooting has occurred during the disaster in a community run by anti-gun politicians, they might feel a need to pillory honest citizens who did the right thing by making it look as if they became “self-appointed vigilantes.”
Self-Defense Shootings Case No.1: “A Rage of Fear”
Case One took place in the Miami area after one of Florida’s devastating hurricanes. A wealthy young professional man bought a gun “for protection” but didn’t bother with training and never even fired his new revolver, a Smith & Wesson Model 640. Shaken by the storm, which had caused significant damage to his home, he called in repairmen to fix the damage.
Early one morning, he was awakened when a vehicle pulled up in front of his home. In the pre-dawn light, he saw through his window someone coming toward his house, holding an object. Panicking, he assumed it was armed looters and grabbed his gun. He fired out the window and shot one of the workmen he had forgotten he had summoned to come to repair the damage. The .38 Special bullet permanently injured the victim.
Shooter Avoids Charges
Somehow, the shooter managed to avoid being indicted criminally. He was, however, sued. In pre-trial deposition, he said he had fired in “a rage of fear.” He admitted that he had never fired his new revolver until the moment in question and had never sought firearms training in any way, shape or form. In fact, he became indignant about it, saying in effect that, after all, it wasn’t as if he was going to go hunting or anything. He claimed he had meant the round he fired to be a warning shot, but admitted he never aimed the gun in a safe direction, just pulled the trigger.
After the deposition, his disheartened attorneys advised him to settle the case. They did. The amount of the settlement, I’m told, was huge and would have bankrupted most people.
Lessons from Case One? Don’t let panic override common sense. Identify the target positively as a threat before you drop the hammer! Another lesson: Wishful thinking does not guide a bullet! Even among people who have been trained in unaimed fire, point shooting has a spotty record in the field. If you can’t see where the bullet is going to go, hold your fire! Finally, Case One illustrates the dangers of people who don’t know what they’re doing with guns. In times of disaster, your non-gun-owning friends will very likely ask to borrow a gun from you. Do both of you a favor, and even if it may be legal to do so in your particular jurisdiction, don’t lend them a deadly weapon unless you know they’re competent with such and are cool-headed in emergencies.
Click here to read the entire article at PersonalDefenseWorld.com.