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Can you shoot an unarmed person? Should you?

Can you shoot an unarmed person? Should you?


The Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin cases centered around the outrage many people felt that someone could justifiable shoot an unarmed person. How valid is that outrage?

There are a lot of confusing topics when we start talking about the justifiable use of lethal force. The legalities of things like warning shots, citizens arrests, taking someone at gunpoint, coming to the aid of others with your firearm, shooting fleeing suspects, and more are sometimes a little hard to understand.

Add to that list the subject of shooting an unarmed attacker.

Some people want to believe that the only time one should be allowed to shoot another human being is if that other person is likewise armed with a gun. How many times have you heard the relative of someone who was shot (by police or a private citizen) say “he only had a knife?” Even the edged weapon, which is held to be a lethal implement in most (if not all) jurisdictions, isn’t seen as a reason to allow someone to employ a firearm (which is also a lethal implement. Odd, isn’t it?)

If the general public can’t seem to understand the danger posed by a switchblade, they sure aren’t going to understand the danger posed by a group of thugs attacking a single person; a large attacker against a smaller defender; a strong, fit ex-con against a frail victim; the young gang member against the octogenarian; or the able-bodied mugger against a handicapped target. In all of these examples, the chances of death or grave bodily harm to the victim are much higher than if the antagonists were evenly matched.

These examples illustrate a legal concept that lies behind both the Brown and Martin cases, and a concept that’s vital for you to understand as well: disparity of force. Massad Ayoob has written extensively about the concept, and he covers it in-depth in his classes. I highly recommend that you study up on the topic, because it will be a factor in any defensive gun use you have.


-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On January 21, 2015

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