Last week, we sent an email demonstrating how difficult and and dangerous a self defense encounter can be.
This week we’re going to look at some legal myths that are common in the Concealed Carry world.
Edgar and I have had nearly 100,000 students come through our Free Concealed Carry Classes, and we have heard every variation of these myths when students ask questions. Today we are going to tackle these common myths.
Myth 1 – Warning Shots are ok when you think it might work to scare away an attacker.
While it is true that some bad guys may be deterred by a warning shot, it is in fact not lawful to use warning shots against an attacker in Colorado. Using a firearm in a threatening manner, or even threatening the use of deadly force when you don’t even have a gun, is only lawful when the attacker has presented an imminent threat of death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual assault. A lesser threat does not justify introducing deadly force into the encounter. And warning shots are still considered deadly force under the law.
In addition to that, while you might think bad guys are stupid for attacking someone who has pulled a gun, you’d be surprised how motivated an attacker can be. We do not shoot to scare the threat, we shoot to stop the threat. In a dynamic critical incident, the best place to shoot in order to stop the threat tends to be in the high center chest or the head. Yes, it is possible the bad guy may die, and the more you shoot them the higher that likelihood that it will result in the death of the bad guy. This is why it is so critical to develop other skills and tools. The firearm is the last resort, in part because of the high potential of death to the attacker.
Myth 2 – Castle Law protects me legally if I shoot anyone in my home.
While it is true that in Colorado the Defense Against Intruders law (C.R.S. 18-1-704.5) does provide that deadly force is justified against a lower level of threat inside the home than outside the home, there is still nuance to that.
The Defense Against Intruder law in Colorado (commonly referred to as Castle Law) says that lethal force is justified when three factors are present:
- Unlawful Entry into a dwelling, and
- Reason to believe a crime has been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed on top of the unlawful entry, and
- Reason to fear for the safety of the occupants of the dwelling from any threat by the intruder, no matter how slight.
The most notable part of the law in this myth is the unlawful entry. The bad guy can’t be a family member who is allowed to be in the dwelling, it can’t be an invited guest, it can’t be someone who had permission to be there. Now we must state that the occupants still have the right to defend themselves from a deadly threat, no matter where it happens. But the lower threshold of threat that castle law provides for only applies to intruders.
There are other myths about castle law that we will cover in the future. But for now, we will move on to other myths.
Myth 3 – If you shoot someone, you better kill them because if you don’t they will sue you, testify against you, etc.
We shoot to stop a threat, period. Morally and legally this is the only justified use of deadly force. Once the threat stops being a threat, deadly force is no longer legally defensible. That’s the short answer.
The longer answer involves a small mountain of contextual information about the tactics of shooting an attacker, physiology, psychology, ballistics, criminal and civil law and more. But I will attempt a simple summary. Shooting someone tends to cause life threatening wounds and many people who are shot die. It’s a common outcome. But a surprising number of people who are shot, especially with handguns, do survive. Most of them stop fighting once they have been shot. If your goal is to save the lives of yourself and your loved ones, then once the bad guys stops fighting you have accomplished your goal.
The hard reality is that the legal fallout from a defensive shooting will ALWAYS be unpredictable and fraught with legal and civil peril.
If that bad guy survives, it is absolutely true that he may testify against you, sue you, or otherwise make your life miserable. That is the reality of the world we live in. It’s better than you being dead. This is one of the reasons it is critical to have a legal plan in place if you keep a gun for self defense. The hard reality is that the legal fallout from a defensive shooting will ALWAYS be unpredictable and fraught with legal and civil peril. Ensuring that the bad guy doesn’t survive by putting a couple extra rounds into him has just as much a likelihood of landing you in legal trouble as him surviving and testifying against you. You don’t win just because he’s dead.
Another real complication is that in A GREAT MANY CASES, the good guy may not mentally process that the threat has stopped in time to stop shooting. Good guys are likely to fire more rounds than absolutely necessary. Even though it is a normal neuro-physiological response to the stress, a prosecutor may very well use that against you in court. This is another reason I emphasize that the legal aftermath is so unpredictable.
These are just a few legal myths when it comes to deadly force, and there are more. I strongly encourage you to take the chance to train for actual defensive scenarios. More training and education is always the best answer to these tough questions. Join us for an upcoming class and build the skills that may save your life!