Outlined below are five common myths about defending yourself with a firearm.
Myth #1: It’s Okay to Fire Warning Shots
In a situation where lethal force is not justified, neither is firing a “warning shot” near an individual. In other words, if you are not in a situation where you would be justified shooting a person dead, you should not be discharging your firearm at all. Firing a warning shot in a situation that does not justify the use of lethal force will end in a felony conviction.
Myth #2: You Should Drag the Body Inside
There’s a common, but mistaken, school of thought that says if you kill an intruder outside your home you should drag the body inside in order to make it look like they were inside your home when the shooting took place. This is a terrible idea for reasons that should be obvious. Even if you were justified in killing the person, you could be charged with tampering with evidence if you move the body at all. And, as advanced as forensics has become, chances are the police are going to know you’ve moved it. There are plenty of situations where killing someone outside your home is justified. If you’re in the right, you don’t have to move the body inside to avoid conviction.
Myth #3: It’s Legal to Shoot a Trespasser
In spite of all the signs that say something along the lines of “trespassers will be shot”, shooting someone for trespassing will land you in prison for a very long time. Some people feel that the Castle Doctrine gives them the right to shoot someone who is unlawfully entering their property, but the Castle Doctrine only applies to your habitation. If someone is breaking into your home, you have the right to shoot them. If they hop a gate onto your property, you better avoid discharging your firearm at all unless they are presenting a threat to you — such as wielding a firearm of their own.
Myth #4: It’s Better if You Shoot to Wound
Some people feel if they shoot to wound rather than shooting to kill, then the legal ramifications will be less severe. The truth is, though, if you are in a situation where shooting to wound is even an option, then you probably shouldn’t be discharging your weapon at all. Whether you shoot a person in the leg, head, or anywhere else, it is going to be seen as the use of lethal force. If your life is in danger, shoot to kill. If your life is not in danger, don’t shoot at all.
Myth #5: Modifications Make Convictions More Likely
Many people will avoid using hollow point rounds, extended magazines, and other modifications because they feel as if making their weapon more lethal will make them more likely to be convicted. The truth is, though, that as long as the modifications themselves are legal, they will play almost no role in determining whether or not lethal force was justified. If lethal force is justified, it doesn’t matter what weapon or ammo you use. Likewise, if lethal force is not justified, you’re going to prison regardless of whether you shoot someone with single shot .22 or decked out AR-15.