The Law

Self-Defense and Carrying Laws: What is legal?

Everyone has a right to protect themselves. Fortunately, the law agrees with this, and anyone charged of a violent crime can plea for self-defense. However, the legality of self-defense is not quite as black and white as, “I felt in danger.” There are varying levels to this legal term, and understanding them is important so that you do not find yourself in a situation where you are on the wrong side of the law.

The Type of Force Matters

The laws around self defense indicate that the force used to protect yourself must be equivalent to the force being directed towards you. So if someone is pushing you around and you stab them with a knife, it might be hard to justify a self-defense claim, especially if there is witness testimony that the person pushing did not have more violent intentions. Again, there is some ambiguity here, but the important thing is to react appropriately to the situation.

If you’re carrying a weapon, be very careful about this particular aspect of self-defense. The use of a firearm is considered to be an application of lethal force, and as such, you will need to prove your life was in danger. Additionally, many states require you to attempt to retreat before applying lethal force, although others do not, as seen by the controversial “stand your ground” laws passed around the country. Either way, it is important to know the laws in your state and to be very careful about overreacting. An attempt at self-defense could turn into criminal charges if you’re not smart about how you act.

Threats Must Be Imminent and Reasonable

Two key features of self-defense are when the threat was carried out and its extent. First, the threat must be immediate, meaning the person who may do you harm needs to be in the immediate area. If you are afraid someone who is not nearby may do you harm, contact the authorities. Seeking that person out and doing them harm will not qualify as a self-defense and could result in criminal charges.

Additionally, self-defense claims rest on the idea that a “reasonable person” would agree there was in fact a threat. If someone walks near your property lost and looking for directions and you shoot them, it might be hard to invoke self-defense (although some states have some really relaxed laws), yet if someone in the street comes at you with a knife demanding you give him or her money, it’s pretty safe to assume you would be covered under the self-defense definition.

Carrying Firearms and Self-Defense

Many people site self-defense as the reason for purchasing a gun. While this is valid, the rules surrounding this depend heavily on the state in which you live. Some states allow you to carry a concealed weapon, others require you to have it exposed and others prohibit having firearms outside of private property or designated shooting areas. Being well-versed on these rules will help you stay out of trouble and will make sure you do not do something illegal under the assumption you are protected by the law.

Do you have any experience with self-defense? What advice would you give to others so that they can stay within the law?


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