On December 13, a 70 year old man had a very pissed off neighbor trying to break through his front door. After firing a warning shot that was ineffective at deterring the threat, the defender fired at least 3 rounds at his attacker, striking him at least once.

Mugshot of the defender, Charles Rickey Wolford

On it’s face, this looks like a pretty clear cut case of home defense. Proving you acted in self defense after someone kicks in your door should seem like a slam dunk.

What we have to understand is that there are no slam dunk cases when it comes to using force against another person. Using a gun to defend yourself is always risky from a legal perspective. Wolford is finding that out the hard way.

From the linked news story, we find out that this situation led to Wolford’s arrest, followed by a bond of $75,000. That bond was adjusted to allow Wolford to leave jail while the defense and prosecutor build their investigations. But Wolford doesn’t get to go home, he is required to live elsewhere due to his residence’s proximity to the ‘victim’. There is also a chance that the charges could be upgraded if the victim does not survive. On top of all that, the man he shot was his own nephew.

Wolford has no criminal history and while that may help with his bond situation, that doesn’t mean the prosecutor is just going to assume that he acted lawfully in self defense.

The usual response from people when they hear a story like Wolford’s is to point out that it’s not fair that you can act in self defense and then be the one to pay the legal price afterwards. The criminal justice system often doesn’t seem fair to us because we are not familiar with it. Unless you have spent time in or near this system, much of the way it works definitely looks unfair to us. We must remember that our perception of this system does not matter at all. Once we interact with this system, we have almost no control over it.

The legal risk of using a gun to defend ourselves should not scare us. But we should have a healthy respect for what is coming should the terrible moment come. The more I learn about this risk, the more it makes sense to me to have a plan for what comes after the shooting. I carry a gun not because I want to get into a shooting, but because if I cannot avoid the moment then I want to be ready. It is for the exact same reason that I am prepared legally by being a member of Firearms Legal Protection, and it is for the exact same reasons that I recommend that you do the same.

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