Don’t do stupid things, and don’t talk to the media. And never do both at the same time!

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From Toledo, OH comes the story of a homeowner who did something stupid: she took her .357 and confronted a petty thief who her boyfriend reportedly caught stealing a bicycle from her front porch. Why is this stupid? Because the thief’s actions did not rise to the level that justifies the threat of lethal force.

In general, lethal force can only be used when the defender is in immediate and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm through the actions of another. In this case there was no apparent lethal threat; the suspect was simply stealing a bicycle. Yes, I know that’s a crime but it’s not one which justifies the use of a firearm!

The woman held the suspect at gunpoint and threatened to shoot him if he didn’t submit. What if he had decided not to comply? Would she have pulled the trigger? Had she done so she most certainly would have faced criminal charges, and quite likely have been convicted. She used the threat of lethal force (the gun) when it wasn’t warranted and when she was not herself in grave danger from the petty thief.

Had she not fired at the non-compliant subject, the threat of force would have been proven hollow and might have resulted in her gun being taken from her by a suspect who suddenly understood she wasn’t actually prepared to shoot him. A criminal with a stolen handgun standing in front of a disarmed female is never a good scenario.

I know the indignation she must have felt being a burglary victim, and I understand the elation we all experience when one of these guys is caught by a courageous homeowner. At the same time, responsible gun ownership demands that we behave within the law and more importantly think through the consequences of our actions. Her misplaced bravado could have quickly turned tragic had she either shot the suspect or had he gotten control of her gun. I can’t think of a reputable trainer who would recommend this course of action.

What makes her situation worse is that she went on camera for the local news show and re-enacted the incident. Now, should she ever actually shoot someone, the prosecution has evidence of prior lapses in judgement. I’ve said before that a shooting isn’t “clean” until a judge or jury says it is; this video might likely convince someone on a jury that she doesn’t understand the proper and legitimate use of lethal force, and resorts to it too quickly when it isn’t justified.

I believe it was John Farnam who famously counseled “don’t go to stupid places and do stupid things with stupid people.” To that I will add: don’t re-enact those stupid things for the media.

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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