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Our founding fathers granted us the Second Amendment to ensure we always had the right to defend ourselves. Our nation has the distinct privilege of being one of the few countries in the world where private citizens are allowed access to firearms with relatively few restrictions.
However, as Stan Lee said, with great power comes great responsibility. There have been many times when a good guy or girl with a gun has saved the day, while other times a perfectly justified use of a weapon in self-defense resulted in the victim being tried for murder.
Act to save others
Most recently, the ordinary Hoosier Elisjsha Dicken chose to go towards the sound of gunfire to stop a mass shooter. In late July of 2022, the 22-year-old Dicken was walking with his girlfriend in the Greenwood Park Mall in Indianapolis when shots rang out from the food court. As panic erupted and crowds of screaming people began fleeing from the food court, Dicken drew his constitutionally legal concealed carry Glock and motioned for terrified mallgoers to get behind him.
Rule number 4 of firearms safety: be aware of your target and what’s behind it. Dicken knew that he could only fire if he had a clear shot, and he didn’t want to injure any innocent mallgoers.
As soon as he had a clear line of sight, he fired at the gunman from 40 yards away, and eight of his ten shots were on target. 15 seconds after the first shot was fired, the threat was eliminated. Putting aside the fact Dicken managed to pull this off under extreme pressure, it was truly amazing he managed to hit someone with 80% accuracy from what was nearly the maximum effective range for his weapon.
This tells us two things: 1) Elisjsha Dicken was trained and proficient with his weapon, 2) a good guy with a gun at the right place and the right time can respond much quicker than the police.
Also, consider the following facts: Dicken was utilizing Indiana’s constitutional carry law, which did not require him to obtain a license for his concealed carry weapon. He was also technically in violation of the mall’s gun-free zone law. However, after taking out the shooter, the mall was quick to ignore their own rule. The gun-free zones never worked, and they never will.
However, this was one of those times when the use of force laws perfectly aligned with the good guy’s actions. Sometimes the lines can become a little blurred.
Don’t shoot the unarmed
For example, in 2021, Delon Johnson was working as a clerk at a 7-11 in Dallas. Two guys walked into his store and stole four cases of beer. Johnson chased after them in the parking lot, weapon in hand, demanding they return the stolen beer. When the men got into their truck, Johnson opened fire, wounding one of the thieves and killing the other. For attempting to save his store, Johnson was arrested for murder.
Here’s the problem – even though Johnson was exercising his Second Amendment right to protect his employer’s property, the man used deadly force on people who were not on his property and who posed no threat to his own life since neither of them were armed. Should the two men have stolen a bunch of beer? No; should Johnson have opened fire on them for a $40 loss? Also no. One should always remember use of deadly force is only justified if your life or the life of others is in jeopardy.
If a person is walking towards you with a gun, a knife or any other object which can maim or injure and you believe he means to kill you, then you have a reasonable cause for opening fire.
Cover your bases
Sometimes, there are circumstances which complicate matters. In 2019, 72-year-old James Michael Meyer was woken up at 5am by a noise in his back yard. Meyers found someone with a pickaxe trying to break into his shed. He grabbed his gun and stepped outside to confront the suspect, warning him not to get any closer or else he would shoot.
Despite the warning, the suspect took several steps toward Meyers, which prompted him to fire. The suspect dropped the pickaxe and ran into a nearby park. Not knowing if he had hit the suspect, Meyers fired another round into the night and went back to bed. Two hours later, at 7am, he found the man’s body in the park. His wife called an attorney for advice before Meyer called 911, and for his trouble, he got charged with murder.
There are a few possible things that went wrong here:
Texas is a “Castle Doctrine” state, and the law states “a person is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force.”
The key word here is “reasonably.” It wouldn’t be reasonable use of force if say, you shot a person for assuming your mother’s nighttime occupation. In the same way, if someone spit on you, even if the act is technically defined as assault, it would be completely unreasonable to ventilate the man.
If a person attempts to enter your home, your car or your workplace by force or otherwise attempts to harm you at said home, car or workplace, then you can blow him away. The problem with Meyer’s case was someone was trying to break into his shed – ergo, not his house. Also, there was the fact he fired again as the suspect was running away – ergo, his life was no longer in danger.
In addition, Meyer went back to sleep immediately after he shot at someone instead of calling the police. A prosecutor could argue Meyer did not consider his life to be in immediate danger since he was relaxed enough to go back to bed. All these factors piled up against his argument of “self defense,” and the same could easily happen to you.
Because we exercise our second amendment, we should be responsible enough to ensure we have the correct training and knowledge to exercise it responsibly. We never know when we’ll be put into a scenario where we have to use our weapons on another person, and when it happens, we don’t want to hesitate or second guess ourselves.