When Is It OK to Draw Your Firearm In Self Defense? When is it OK To Shoot in Self Defense?
This is another difficult question, but an extremely important one. It is a difficult question because it depends on a lot of different factors, and it is an important one because drawing when you shouldn’t could get your LTC and Guns taken away, and possibly jail time, and not drawing when you should could get you or someone else killed.
Drawing your firearm in self defense is something that we train for, hopefully frequently, but hope that we never have to do.Today I am going to go over a few scenarios and then go over if it is a good idea to draw or not.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, please research your local laws regarding the use of lethal self defense. For example in some states there are some laws called the castle doctrine or the stand your ground law, while other state do not have those laws. The first allows you to defend you home and property with lethal force, and the stand your ground law basically means you do not have to try and walk away from the fight you are allowed to stand your ground and defend yourself. For example Massachusetts does not have either of those laws, and you are only allowed to use lethal force if your life or the life of another is in immediate danger. You are not allowed to use lethal force to defend your property, and you are required to try and remove yourself from the situation if at all possible before using deadly force. So PLEASE research your own local laws before you even start to carry.
Generally speaking though you would be justified in drawing your firearm if you felt your life or the life of another was in immediate danger, or that you were in danger of severe bodily harm.
A person who is 30 years older than you,(let’s assume you are 30) and half your size says that he is going to kill you and is 30 feet away. What do you think? Draw or Don’t Draw?
In this case I would not draw. In this case I am bigger and most likely stronger, the person does not have any weapons that I can see, and because of the space between us I have time to react if things escalate.
A person who is 30 years younger than you (let’s assume you are 60) and twice your size says he is going to kill you and walks toward you in a threatening manner. What do you think? Draw or Don’t Draw?
In this case I would probably draw since you can reasonably say that you felt your life was in danger or thought that he could do severe bodily harm to you. Now just because you draw the firearm doesn’t mean you need to point it at him yet. I would draw the firearm keeping my finger off the trigger and the gun point down and yell “STOP”. More than likely this would be enough to get the person to stop in his tracks and either freeze or run. Either way you have stopped the immediate threat. If he does not stop and continues to advance I would continue to back up to give myself more distance, and then point the firearm at him once again yelling “STOP” and “I WILL SHOOT YOU”. If he is dumb enough to keep advancing at that point I would then, being extremely mindful of the entire picture of what is around me and behind him, pull the trigger to stop the threat.
For this scenario let’s go back to scenario 1 where a person who is twice our age and half our size is saying he is going to kill you and pulls a knife and starts walking towards you. What do you think? Draw or Don’t Draw?
In this case I would absolutely draw. When a weapon is shown the situation has escalated beyond threats. I would draw and point my gun at that point and issue commands “STOP” and “DROP THE KNIFE” I would continue to carefully step backwards to gain distance while looking and pointing my firearm at the advancing attacker while continuing to issue commands for him to stop and drop the knife. If he complies great! You have eliminated the threat. If he does not comply and continues to advance, then once again being extremely mindful of my environment I would pull the trigger until the threat was stopped.
3 or 4 people approach you and tell you they are going to kill you and start advancing towards you. What do you think? Draw or Don’t Draw?
In this case I would draw. You are outnumbered significantly, and there is a very good chance that you could be killed or badly injured. I would get my back to a wall so that I can not be surrounded and can maintain a good view of all the attackers. I would draw and point my firearm issuing commands to “STOP” If they comply great! If not the use of deadly force would be justified.
You accidentally cut someone off in your car and you both pull over, but no one exits their vehicles. The other driver rolls down their window and starts screaming at you! Saying “I'm going to kill you! What’s wrong with you!? Are you blind!? I will kill you!” But makes no move to exit their vehicle. What do you think? Draw or Don’t Draw?
In this case I would not draw. The other person is clearly angry, but because he is staying in his car and I am in my car I am reasonably safe and do not fear for my life.
What if he gets out and starts advancing towards my Car?
I still would not draw my firearm yet. Yes the situation has escalated, but I am not afraid for my life yet. At this point you can still try to deescalate the situation with communication.
What if he gets out with a passenger and they start banging on your windows and trying to open your door?
At this point I would feel justified in drawing my firearm and issuing commands for them to “STOP” and “GET AWAY”. If they continued I would not use deadly force unless or until they succeeded in breaking into the vehicle. At that point you are justified in using deadly force as you can reasonably be afraid for your life.
You are at home in bed, and you hear something in your house. What do you think? Draw or Don’t Draw?
In this case I would definitely have my firearm and have it drawn. I would be keeping it in a safe direction and with my finger off the trigger, but I would be ready.
Now let say you find someone in the house that shouldn’t be there. They are carrying your tv over towards the broken window. What do you think? Shoot or Don’t Shoot?
This is a case where your local laws make a huge difference, but honestly DON’T SHOOT! Tell him to stop and get down on the floor and then call the police. But what if he runs away!? DON’T SHOOT! Is a person who is running away from you a threat to you? NOOO.
What if he has a weapon!? Hammer, Crowbar, Knife? Well, is he using that item as a weapon or as a tool to break into your house. Is he coming towards you or is he listening to you? Did he drop the weapon after you told him to? The answer to these questions depends on how you should react. Rule of thumb is you should always give them the chance to listen to you or to run away, but if you feel like your life is in danger or your families life is in danger then use lethal force to eliminate the threat.
What if he has a gun!?
If he has a gun then that brings this to a whole other level. This is now not just a B&E, this is an armed home invasion. This allows you to use lethal force. For me, i would issue one warning with my firearm pointed right at the person. If he immediately complied and dropped the firearm I would carefully order him to the floor and call police securing the person's firearm if safe to do so. If he did not immediately comply or started to raise his firearm or turn towards me I would eliminate the threat.
What if he runs!?
If he is running out of your house and away from you your life is not in immediate danger any longer, and you shouldn’t shoot! What if he is running towards you children's rooms or towards your room where your wife is? In this case you can be reasonably worried about the safety of your family, and lethal force would be justified to eliminate the threat, BUT you better be very sure about what you are shooting at. If he is running towards you family and you are shooting at him YOU ARE SHOOTING TOWARDS YOUR FAMILY! So as always be mindful of your situation. Walls DO NOT stop bullets.
You are in a gas station grabbing some snacks or a cool refreshing slushy and all of the sudden you hear yelling at the cash register. You carefully look down the aisle and see someone pointing a gun at the clerk and demanding money and scratch tickets. What do you do!?
This is a very difficult scenario, and one where there is no real right or wrong answer.
Do you stay hidden and hope that the clerk just hands over the money and everyone goes home? If you choose this option I would draw my firearm and stay hidden ready to defend myself if needed. But what if while you are staying hidden he shoots the clerk?
Do you draw and confront the criminal? If you choose this option you want to try and stay behind some cover, (Keep in mind Cover is not the same thing as Concealment) and issue commands for the criminal to drop his weapon and get on the floor. Once you make this decision you are now committed, and if he doesn’t comply you may be forced to shoot him, whereas if you had stayed hidden he may have just run out with the money.
What if confronting the criminal causes him to panic and shoot the clerk or you?
This is real life, and in real life there are no do overs you have a split second to make a life and death decision that will affect you and countless others for the rest of your lives. If you choose to take on the responsibility of carrying a firearm these are things you must think about and be ready to handle.