Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author alone and do not reflect the opinions and views of gunlove.com

“Duty to retreat” is defined as the obligation of a person to make a reasonable effort to avoid confronting an attacker either by de-escalation or by attempting to leave the area. If a person is prevented from fleeing or is otherwise physically incapable of escaping, then and only then may the use of deadly force be considered self-defense.

It’s important to note that the definition of “duty to retreat” changes from state to state. However, generally speaking, a person does not have the duty to retreat if their weapon of choice is non-lethal. In addition, according to the “castle doctrine” (i.e., where one’s home is considered one’s castle), there is also no duty to retreat within your own home. For example, if you are attacked in the second floor bedroom of your house in a duty to retreat state, you are not obligated to jump out of the window to avoid prosecution. Depending on the situation, you may defend yourself with lethal force if necessary. In some states, this extends to vehicles and workplaces as well.

In contrast to states which follow the “duty to retreat” law, some states opt to abide by the principle of “standing your ground” which dictates that a person can use force, or in some instances, deadly force, to defend themselves without attempting to retreat from imminent danger. There are 37 states with some form of “stand your ground” laws, however in some states the law isn’t as clear cut. In California, for example, there is no specific “stand your ground” law. However, the state still holds true to the castle doctrine, and grants its residents the right to use force within their own home if they have a “reasonable fear of imminent peril or great bodily harm.” Other states with similar laws include: Illinois, Iowa, Oregon, and Washington.

In this writer’s opinion, the “stand your ground” doctrine is grounded in basic common sense. If a criminal approaches a potential victim in the middle of the night and draws a weapon, be it a gun, knife, or baseball bat, the last thing an armed person will do is run. Situations like these require people to take action to stop the threat, and running away from a criminal advertises that a victim is unwilling to fight. Even worse, if the criminal has a firearm, there’s no outrunning bullets, and someone who chooses to retreat may likely get shot in the back.

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