What Is Self-Defense? – Foreman’s Forum

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

There are volumes of books and legal texts arguing about the Second Amendment. For today’s forum, I am sticking to fact that the Second Amendment says the PEOPLE have the right to own guns for self-defense. The Second Amendment does not grant the “right.” It says the “right” shall not be infringed!

When can citizens defend themselves? Self-defense is NOT getting even with someone who wronged you. Self-defense is not stopping someone from stealing your son’s or daughter’s bicycle. Even if someone threatens you, self-defense is NOT going back later and getting even with them.

When I was a deputy sheriff in Southwest Florida, I saw a number of cases where someone used deadly force long after the threat had passed. Here is an example of what I mean:
Two men were arguing. One man, let’s call him Fred, orders the other guy to “get off my property or I’ll get my gun.” John, the second man, runs back across the street to his home and gets his shotgun. John comes back outside with the shotgun and a box of 00 buckshot, and begins loading the gun while standing just inside his front gate.

Meanwhile, Fred, fearing for his life, gets his rifle ready, but he stays on his own front porch. Can you see what is happening here in this true story? John was safe at home, but went back outside and could be seen by Fred loading a shotgun. Fred did NOT pursue John. John was pursuing Fred who was standing on his own front porch. John fired one blast of 00 buckshot toward Fred from about 75 feet away. The shot missed but Fred was not going to wait and see if the next shot was any better. Fred fired one round from his 30-30, hitting John just about the waist. John went down but got back up and ran into his house where he laid down on his bed and died.

When I got there, along with another deputy, Fred was plenty scared. At first he did not want to leave his gun and come out to talk to us. The other deputy who was with me convinced Fred to come outside, so we would not have to go in to get him. At this point, we didn’t know what had happened prior to our arrival. Across the street, I could see the opened box of shotgun shells laying near the gate. I could also see a huge amount of blood leaving a trail up to the front door. An elderly lady was sitting just inside. She pointed to the shotgun lying on the couch. I asked her, “Where is John?” She replied, “He is lying across his bed; I think he is dead.”

The investigation found that Fred acted in self-defense. He did initially threaten John, but had no weapon with him at the time of the threat. He feared for his life when he saw John coming back out with a shotgun. John was dead, but his own grandmother turned out to be a very credible witness to the entire event. The Grand Jury cleared Fred, and he was not charged with any crime.
If you are going to own a firearm for self-defense, you absolutely must understand what self-defense is.
1. Innocence: You cannot be the aggressor. You cannot start a fight, then because you are losing, shoot somebody and claim self-defense.
2. The threat must be immediate, right now, not something that happened earlier.
3. The act of defending yourself must be proportional to the threat. You cannot use deadly force unless you are threatened with a weapon or by someone who could cause great bodily harm or death.
4. Avoidance: If there is a safe retreat, you must use it (not in a stand-your-ground state such as Alabama) BUT, retreat may be the best and wisest thing to do.
5. These elements must be present to claim self-defense.
Disparity of force means that a weaker person, such as an elderly person, is being attacked, and even though the attacker has no deadly weapon, or there are multiple attackers, the victim is in fear of great bodily harm or death if he does not defend himself or herself with deadly force.

By the time this Forum is published, I will be back in Athens and firearms classes will resume.
Paul Foreman is a retired deputy sheriff from Lee County Florida. Paul is an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor. For firearms training Paul can be reached through his web site, www.Paulforeman.com, E-Mail at Captureman@PaulForeman.com