I recently read an article discussing a group of men who stood outside of the Republican National Convention with their guns in holsters on their hips. The men took this action to draw attention to their Constitutional right to carry a gun, show that guns could be handled responsibly and in case they needed to act in self-defense. Self-defense is a concept constantly discussed in television shows, movies and throughout the media. However, my guess would be that many people do not completely understand the specifics of their state’s self-defense laws.
For example, if one of the men discussed in the previous paragraph would have shot someone who stole a purse from an elderly woman, the man could have been prosecuted criminally for his actions even if he was trying to defend the elderly woman. This is because the doctrine of self-defense only allows “reasonable” or “equal” force to be used when a person is protecting themselves or someone else. “Reasonable” means that a reasonable person in the same situation would have observed the immediate threat of physical harm. “Equal” or “proportional” mean the self-defense can only match the level of the threat in question. For example, if the threat is not going to kill someone or create great bodily harm, then a person cannot use deadly force and claim self-defense. Additionally, for self-defense to apply, the threat must be imminent and the intended victim must believe they are at risk of immediate physical harm. Moreover, deadly force should never be used for the sole purpose of regaining possession of stolen property. Additionally, while many states have done away with this requirement, certain states have a duty to retreat when violence can be avoided. In contrast to the duty to retreat, many states have a stand your ground or castle doctrine, which remove the duty to retreat completely or in certain instances. However, it is important for a person to understand the self-defense laws in the state they are in, especially if they own a gun or other weapons for the purpose of protecting themselves and their loved ones.