Are You Tough Enough to Walk Away?

Do you live in a “stand your ground” state? Are you adamant that you will stand your ground because it is your right? Have you thought this through? Do you even know what you are talking about?

First up, “stand your ground” laws only remove your duty to retreat before employing deadly force. All the other requirements for the use of deadly force still apply. You must not be the instigator. You must reasonably believe that you are facing an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm. You must reasonably believe that no other action except the use of deadly force will protect you or another innocent party from death or great bodily harm. Once all those elements are met, the SYG laws simply lift your duty to retreat.

But I want you to consider retreating anyway.

Yep, even when you are “protected” by a SYG law, you should consider removing yourself from the situation before it escalates to gunfire. If you are doing something for the “principle” of the matter, well, that’s the wrong reason to let a situation escalate into a deadly force incident. You don’t have to walk away, but you should do so anyway.

There is one caveat: Only attempt to escape if you can do so safely. If you reasonably believe that your attempt to leave the area would put you at risk of attack, the choice seems to have been made for you. You have heard the old saying, “Don’t turn your back on a loaded gun.” Well, don’t turn your back on a guy who is threatening to harm you either. But if you can back away slowly and safely, being always alert and ready to repel an assault, I suggest you do so. I make this suggestion even if you are in the right. It comes back to something my father told me when I was learning to drive. Another driver made an illegal left turn in front of me while going through an intersection. I hesitated, swore and finally took evasive action as the illegally turning driver went on his way, oblivious to my car and me. Afterward, I uttered something about having the right-of-way, and my father correctly pointed out, “Even if you have the right-of-way, you should make every effort to avoid the accident. Nothing good comes from an accident, regardless of who is at fault.”

He was right. Even as a teen driver who thought he knew everything about everything, I could see that he was right. Had I not taken the evasive action, my car would have been damaged. Regardless of who was at fault, I would have been inconvenienced until it was fixed. Worse yet, I could have been hurt; even a finding of fault and a cash settlement would not have reduced the pain and possible problems associated with a long-term injury. Truly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I want you to imagine this scenario: You come out of a store to find a man bashing your brand-new car with a baseball bat. It’s a case of mistaken identity, but when you run up and tell the lunatic to stop, he turns his attention to you and begins threatening to beat you to death. You could draw your gun and legally shoot him to stop that threat. But that is not the end of the story.

Now, consider the aftermath: Police arrive. You are detained. Your gun is taken as evidence. Some witnesses tell a different story than yours, saying the guy didn’t appear to be attacking you. Now you need a lawyer. Your face is splashed on the news. You must deal with the trauma of taking a life. And maybe worst of all, friends of the guy you shot decide they need revenge. That’s just the short list of all the bad things that could happen even though you had the legal right to stand your ground.

On the other hand, consider the alternative outcome: From a distance, you yell at the guy to stop smashing your car, and he says, “So this is your car! I’m going to kill you!”

Yes, you should believe that he intends to kill you, but you still have the option to get away. You could simply leave and call police. If he chases you, you then have a very clear case of self-defense. You could draw your gun and tell him to leave you alone as you back up to relative safety.

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If you can bring an end to the situation without firing a shot, you should make every effort to do so. The problems don’t stop after the echo of the last gunshot. They are just beginning.

Avoid those problems if you can.

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Author: Kevin Michalowski


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