Monday, December 06, 2004

Self Defense

Instapundit has a story on British legislation "which calls for the public to be given an unqualified right to self defense against intruders in their own homes." He links to this opinion piece in the Telegraph.

The US does not have any such law on the federal level. Some states do and they are often referred to as Castle acts. I believe this comes from the saying "a man's home is his castle." I live in Delaware though so around here it could be named after Mike Castle, former governor and current House Rep. I hear this used generically for all states however, so I don't think this is the case.

I digress... In self defense law, most states require you to run away from a threat. Delaware has the clause "if you can do it safely/reasonably" in there, but not all states do. In states where you are required to run away all the time, you can literally run yourself into a corner and then be legally required submit to being attacked, rather than respond with violence to defend yourself. The reasonable clause means that if he has a gun, you don't have to run away and let him shoot you in the back. You can shoot him in the front with your own gun (should you have one). I prefer this system.

States with castle laws exempt your home and, in some states, your place of business from requirements to withdraw from a threat. The logic is that you are supposed to be safe in those locations. Your are supposed to run to your home or office so you are not legally required to run from it.

Careful though, this does not mean you can shoot any intruder. You can always defend yourself, but you probably have to worry about appropriate levels of force. So if he has a knife, you can usually shoot him. (Most states have a 7 yard requirement, but within the home you are almost always within 7 yards.) If he is unarmed, lethal violence would still be considered legally excessive and you could wind up in prison.

I'm using a lot of "probably", "could", and "mights" because each state is different. It pays to know your state laws. is a good place to start.

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