Category Archives: 2A

U.S. Law Shield News Update: Judge Gorsuch Nomination

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Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Michele Byington talks about the pros and cons of Judge Neal Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Will he likely be a friend of the 2nd Amendment, or not? Click to watch the more-in-depth interview to find out.

What are your thoughts on President Trump’s Supreme Court pick?

Trump Touts Suppressors as ‘Safety Equipment’ for Gun Owners

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As Texas & U.S. Law Shield have previously reported, advocates of hearing protection want to pursue new legislation to make suppressors easier to buy, and a key backer is Donald Trump, Jr.

“It’s about safety,” Trump Jr. explains in the video interview above recorded last September with the founder of SilencerCo Joshua Waldron. “It’s a health issue, frankly.”

“Anyone who has ever worried about hearing loss from shooting might want to lend their ears to this cause!” said  Emily Taylor, an attorney at the Houston law firm of Walker & Byington.

Now the issue is advancing on several fronts.

On January 9, 2017, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC), co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), introduced H.R. 367 to remove suppressors from the National Firearms Act control and treat them the same as long guns, replacing the outdated federal transfer process with an instantaneous NICS background check.

The measure picked up 42 Republican co-sponsors, including fellow CSC member Congressman John Carter (R-TX), and one Democrat co-sponsor, CSC Co-Chair Gene Green (D-TX). The measure was immediately referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill, whose official title is “To provide that silencers be treated the same as long guns,” takes a public-health angle to safeguard the hearing of the nation’s 55 million gun owners.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introducted the similar Hearing Protection Act of 2017 (S. 59) in the Senate.

“This legislation will enable gun owners to have better access to hearing protection products and improve safety for the shooting sports by removing extensive wait times for burdensome paperwork processing that does not advance public safety,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “NSSF is appreciative of Sen. Crapo’s leadership on this firearms safety issue and his willingness to stand alongside lawful American gun owners, hunters, and shooting sports enthusiasts.”

An earlier measure with the same goal is H.R. 3799, known more widely as the Hearing Protection Act of 2015.

About all the bills, Taylor explained, “Currently, the manufacture, purchase, and possession of firearm silencers are regulated by the ATF and must comply with the requirements laid out in the National Firearms Act. Similar to a short-barreled rifle or shotgun, anyone who wants a firearm suppressor must first get approval from the ATF and pay the required tax. An extended waiting period comes along with the time it takes the ATF to process these requests.”

“The Hearing Protection Act seeks to amend the law so that firearm silencers are treated the same way as long guns,” Taylor added. “The bill would make it so that there is no longer a tax associated with the transfer of a firearm silencer, and anyone who pays a tax on a silencer after October 22, 2015 could receive a refund of such tax.

“Additionally, anyone who possessed a firearm silencer would be treated as meeting any registration and licensing requirements of the NFA. Lastly, the bill would preempt certain state laws that tried to impose taxes or registration requirements on firearm silencers.”

Missoula Gun Background Check Ordinance Illegal

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Montana’s Attorney General says Missoula’s gun background check ordinance violates Montana state law.


Originally reported January 26 by Taylor Winkel, NBC Montana


“Missoula’s ordinance is outside of its authority,” Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said. Fox issued an opinion saying state law does not allow cities to exercise any power that affects the right to bear arms.

Tim Fox
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox

The ordinance in question was passed in September 2016. It requires private sellers to complete a background check before selling a gun. That means if you’re a gun owner and want to sell your firearm to a friend or colleague, you’re required to run a background check on the buyer, which means the paperwork must be handled by a federally-licensed firearms dealer.

“If there’s going to be one more extra step for somebody to get a gun that can harm somebody, either on purpose or on accident, I think ‘why not’ and create a safer environment for everyone if possible,” Jack Dawson, a Missoula resident told NBC Montana. Missoula City Council member Bryan Von Lossberg sponsored the legislation. He said that he is not surprised by the Attorney General’s decision but does not see a “clear path of appeal.” Von Lossberg says he believes the ordinance is effective and necessary but expected the ruling as the Attorney General had made his position “clear” long before the AG’s ruling was issued.

Von Lossberg also said the council was advised the ordinance was within the law by the city attorney, Jim Nugent. “He absolutely was consulted and issued an opinion making it clear the city was absolutely in its rights to pass this,” explained Von Lossberg.

The attorney general didn’t directly comment on what the city of Missoula needs to do with the ordinance, but did say common sense would be to stop enforcing the ordinance. Right now, Von Lossberg says there’s no immediate plan to appeal the Attorney General’s opinion.

Fox noted Missoula does have certain powers as a charter city, saying it does have the authority to regulate the use and carrying of firearms under state law. However, Fox says state law doesn’t allow Missoula to have an ordinance “enforcing a local regulation or ordinance requiring background checks on firearm sales or transfers within its borders.”

Montana passed a state preemption law thirty years ago to prevent a patchwork of contradictory firearms laws from being enacted across the state. The state previously allowed cities to make their own laws regarding firearms sales, Fox wrote in his opinion, but a 1985 House bill repealed that section of the MCA and replaced it with new language that still is in place. “The purpose of HB 643 was clear — only the state should decide how firearm purchases, sales, and transfers should be regulated, if at all.”


Click here to read the full legal opinion from Attorney General Tim Fox.

U.S. Law Shield: Should You Protect Thy Neighbor?

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Every Member has to make the decision to intervene in a fight — or not — based on a host of tactical and safety issues. Member Ambassador Sherry Hale interviews Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Michele Byington to learn how Good Samaritans can stay out of legal trouble if faced with these dangerous situations.

Make sure to check your states laws on protecting yourself, and those around you. Every state is different. Some have clear-cut laws defining the shooters rights, some are vague, and some states have no laws on the books at all, but rather court cases by which to stand behind. Ohio is a rare case, where the shooter (person using deadly force to protect him/herself) must prove their justification for defending themselves.

Post in the comments what the law says in your state!

Gun store employees trade gunfire with fleeing men. Was it legal?

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James Hillin, owner of Full Armor Firearms, knows it is “my responsibility to make sure we are doing the right thing” when it comes to selling guns. Photo: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle Staff

Perhaps you heard what recently happened to our friends at Full Armor Firearms in Houston.

After 13 burglaries in five years, including one earlier this month, owner James Hillin asked two of his employees to stay overnight in the store.

During the night, two cars pulled into the parking lot. According to the Houston Chronicle, when the Full Armor workers stepped outside with their weapons, one of the five men, who were standing near the employees’ cars, shot at them. The employees were not injured, and gunfire was exchanged as the men drove away.

You can read the whole story, including an interview with owner James Hillin, the criminal backgrounds of the men who were detained, and the likelihood of the case being presented to a grand jury here:

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Gun-store-employees-trade-gunfire-with-fleeing-

We asked Michele Byington, an attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington, PLLC, and independent program attorney for Texas Law Shield, for her opinion on the situation and she says the employees were acting legally.

“Here in Texas, both burglary and theft during the night time are considered crimes against which a person may use deadly force. In fact, displaying a firearm to cause apprehension that you will use it if necessary, is considered force, rather than deadly force. So the employees, even though they potentially could have used deadly force, were just using force to stop this situation when they displayed their AR-15s.”

She went on to explain that, while there are very few circumstances where you can shoot a person who is fleeing (and even then, she added, it will be an uphill battle with a jury), the fact that the criminals shot at the employees while running away, justified the return fire by the employees.

“Any time a person has a reasonable belief they are in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury, they may use deadly force to defend themselves. And someone shooting at you definitely qualifies for that!”

Ultimately, Michele stated, the gun store employees acted well within the confines of the law.

Law Shield’s Top 10 Stories from 2016

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Before we get too far into 2017, let’s take a quick look back at the 10 most popular Texas & U.S. Law Shield blog entries from 2016. Gun-law attorneys get into the stickiest issues — restrictions about owning body armor in some states, when you can shoot attacking dogs, how to navigate the carry rules at your church — and pass along legal insights to keep you from having trouble with the legal system. Click each item’s headline to open the story and see what you missed.

1: The Legality of Body Armor (August 17)

2: Traffic Stop! (August 8)

3: Levi’s CEO: ‘You don’t need a gun to try on a pair of jeans’ (December 4)

4: The Fast and the Furious: the Law on Road Rage in Texas (September 19)

5: Bark, But Don’t Bite! Defending your Animals from Human Threats (April 12)

6: Trapped in a Demonstration? What Are Your Self-Defense Options? (November 21)

7: Warning Shot: Ticket to Prison? (March 2)

8: Want to Carry Your Gun to Christmas Service at Church? Know the Law First! (December 19)

9: Check Out This ‘Active Shooter’ Video Package (July 20)

10: Weapons in Texas Polling Places: What Is The Law? (November 2)

And if that’s not enough, here are a few more favorites to get  you rolling into 2017: Carrying Past a 30.06/30.07 Sign? Beware! (August 8, 2016); What Is The Law On Storing Firearms In Texas? (January 12); For or Against Constitutional Carry? Let Us Hear from You (December 19); and Don’t Jump the Gun! (December 5). — Texas & U.S. Law Shield Staff

A Legal Stunner in New Orleans!

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Original Article by: Michael Wisdom

New Orleans resident John Ford has the distinction of being the only private citizen with the right to carry a stun gun or TASER within the city limits. But even that right has been limited to just a 90-day period that began on December 14, 2016.

Louisiana law permits possession of stun guns for self-defense without the necessity of a permit, but municipalities are free to enact their own regulations. New Orleans has made the sale and possession of stun guns illegal with a city-wide ban on such devices.

Undeterred, Ford filed a federal lawsuit in U. S. District Court in November against the city and the police superintendent, asserting that the city’s ban violates his state and federal constitutional right to bear arms.  Ford is seeking an injunction against enforcement of the ban. He simply wants to keep a stun gun in his home for self-defense rather than having to resort to deadly force if ever confronted with a violent criminal attack.

In his suit, Ford states:

“(Ford) is aware of the potential legal, economic and psychological ramifications of even the justified use of deadly force to defend himself or his home against a violent criminal attack. (He) would prefer to minimize the likelihood that he would have to resort to deadly force in the event he was forced to defend himself or his home against a violent criminal attack.”

On Wednesday, December 14, the city and Ford reached an agreed stipulated order, granting him the sole right to purchase and possess a stun within the city limits of New Orleans. U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon ordered the stipulation to be adopted. The agreement staved off for now an injunction being sought by the suit. According to court records, New Orleans city officials “may” take a look at revising somewhat the municipal code section that bans the sale and possession of the non-lethal devices.

But for 90 days at least, Ford, and only Ford, can buy a stun gun and carry it “anywhere a firearm is allowed to be carried either openly or concealed.” without the city having to admit it’s violating state or federal law with the ban.

Attorneys for Ford indicate he will push for the injunction if the city does nothing or not enough to lift the ban.

So, for the next few months, John Ford will be the only private citizen in New Orleans with the legal right to shock you – with a stun gun, that is. –by Michael Wisdom, Senior Contributing Editor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield Blog

New World Record: 1000 Man Shoot

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Our good friend, 22plinkster, with Henry Repeating Arms, and Henry T.V., along with 999 other shooters, just participated in a world record breaking event in Phoenix, AZ.

Check out the video below of the record breaking shoot, featuring interviews with Tim, from the Military Arms Channel, and Matt, from Demolition Ranch as they participate in the largest simultaneous lever-action-shoot in history. A true testament to the Second Amendment, and an important event at the firing line.

U.S. Law Shield: Untraceable “Ghost Guns” On the Rise, But Are They Legal?

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Ghost Gun .(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Ghost Gun (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Gun enthusiasts and hobbyists have long been building their own firearms by purchasing lower receivers or kits and other parts needed to assemble a firearm.

The lower receiver is a small block of metal about the size of a deck of cards where the trigger mechanism is housed and where bullets pass through. A gun cannot function without it. A finished lower receiver is the piece of the firearm regulated by federal law and must contain a serial number stamped into it.

Technology today and the hundreds or even thousands of websites selling lower receivers, kits, and parts over the internet makes it even easier. There are no background checks required to purchase these lower receivers or kits.

There are no federal restrictions on an individual making a firearm for personal use, so long as it does not violate the National Firearms Act (NFA), according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

The ATF has long held that items such as receiver blanks, “castings” or “machined bodies” in which the fire-control cavity area is completely solid and un-machined have not reached the “stage of manufacture” which would result in the classification of a firearm per the Gun Control Act of 1934 (GCA). That stage is “80 percent complete.” ATF regulations hold that receiver blanks that do not meet the definition of a “firearm” are not subject to regulation under the GCA.

Furthermore, under federal law, no serial numbers are needed on firearms that are built for personal use, making them untraceable by law enforcement.

By leaving the lower receiver unfinished— meaning only partially drilled — it fails to meet the ATF’s requirement of being more than 80 percent complete and is therefore not considered a “firearm” subject to regulations. Buyers can finish the receivers at home by finishing the drilling.

The ATF refers to such guns as unfinished receivers, though they’re also called 80 percent receivers, home built firearms, or “ghost guns.”

And it’s all perfectly legal.

These self-assembled and untraceable “ghost guns” are becoming increasingly more popular amongst gun enthusiasts across the country and is becoming big business for parts manufacturers and for dealers selling kits.

Elite Custom Railing in Holly Hill, Florida, for example, specializes in unfinished lower receivers for a do-it-yourself AR-15. A company spokesperson said they sell between 100 and 150 lower receivers each day.

It is just one of six companies in Volusia County alone engaged in manufacturing and/or selling kits or unfinished receivers that allow buyers to assemble military-style, semi-automatic rifles at home.

Another Volusia County company, Stone Mountain Gold ‘n Guns in DeLand, will sell the “80% receivers” to a customer only in person and not over the internet as others in the county do. A manager said he will complete the sale only if he feels comfortable with the person buying the receiver. Stone Mountain sells about 20 a month, according to the manager.

The ATF and some law enforcement agencies have expressed a concern about these homemade firearms, believing that the availability of the untraceable receivers will encourage criminals and terrorists to start building their own weapons.

Port Orange Police Chief Thomas Grimaldi said in an interview in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “We’re making it easy for the criminals. I have a concern — a huge concern over that.”

Mary Salter, ATF Tampa Field Division public information officer, believes some criminals are purchasing non-serialized and therefore untraceable firearms because their intent is to commit crimes.

“ATF, and law enforcement, in general is seeing homemade firearms without serial numbers at crime scenes,” Salter said. “Tracing firearms found at crime scenes to the original purchaser is a valuable tool in law enforcement,” Salter added. “When a homemade firearm is found at a crime scene, investigators are left with a dead end, where a trace of a firearm may generate valuable investigative leads.”

“With advancements in technology in regards to 3D printers,” Salter said, “CNC milling machines, and the availability of receiver blanks, it has become much easier for a person to build a firearm. “When a “homemade firearm is found at a crime scene, it means investigators are virtually left with a dead end,” said Salter.

And in California, Graham Barlowe, resident agent in charge at the ATF’s Sacramento Field Office, said he started seeing crimes involving untraceable guns about two years ago. In November of this year, Barlowe’s undercover agents arrested eight men for manufacturing and selling illegal firearms, seizing about 90 un-serialized firearms out of the more than 230 illegal firearms found. His agents have also found electronic mills that carve a complete receiver in 12 minutes.

“It is one of the biggest problems in Northern California for our office, if not the biggest problem,” Barlowe says. He estimates that his office has seized about 500 un-serialized receivers since 2013.

The Santa Monica shooter, John Zawahri, used a rifle made from parts he purchased online to kill himself and five others on June 7, 2013.

atf-receiver-1
From ATF.

And in neighboring Arizona, between 2009 to 2011, ATF reported that it seized 191 of the 80 percent receivers in Tucson that were headed to Mexico to be assembled, possibly by cartels.

In Florida, law enforcement officials claim the unregistered guns can make it easy for criminals to arm themselves with untraceable weapons.

However, others disagree with that assessment, claiming the skill and equipment necessary to build the firearms is anything but easy and, therefore, makes this approach more costly and time-consuming than simply acquiring an already completed firearm. A milling machine (or at least a milling guide kit), for example, can cost around $1,500, and it could take weeks to complete an AR-15 kit.

And to complete an unfinished lower receiver, a person must carefully mill or drill out a portion of the inside of the receiver, which can take many painstaking hours. Without a properly milled lower received, a functioning firearm would be impossible to produce.

Many believe manufacturing a homemade weapon is generally too costly, too troublesome, and too expensive for criminals.

Furthermore, FBI statistics indicate semi-automatic weapons are used in less than one percent of crimes in the U.S. Most criminals use handguns, and most guns used in crimes are stolen. Criminals looking to buy a weapon can get them from private sales without a background check and do not have to go through the trouble and expense of building their own rifle.

Rob Dunaway, President of American Spirit Arms in Scottsdale, Arizona, says most of the customers who buy the incomplete receivers are people who like to personalize their semi-automatic rifle and or more worried about changes to the gun laws.

“Some people buy them to store them for potential future use,” Dunaway said.

Previous attempts to regulate “ghost guns” in California failed, when a bill that would have allowed the manufacture or assembly of homemade weapons but required the makers to first apply to the state Department of Justice for a serial number that would be given only after the applicants underwent a background check, was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014.

However, earlier this year, Gov. Brown did sign a bill requiring people who build guns from these 80% receivers to register them and get a serial number. That law takes full effect in 2019. — by Michael Wisdom, Senior Contributing Editor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield Blog

Do you believe “ghost guns” or the 80 percent receivers pose a serious problem? Should you have to undergo a background check to even buy an 80 percent receiver or kit before you are allowed to build your own firearm for your own personal use? Should you have to register a firearm you build yourself and obtain a serial number? Let us know what you think.

U.S. Law Shield: Trapped in a Demonstration? What Are Your Self-Defense Options?

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Originally written by Michael Wisdom, Senior Contributing Editor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield for the U.S. Law Shield Blog.

US Law Shield Logo x 72 ppiWe’ve all seen the news reports of the mob scenes and riots across the country following recent police shootings and now the election. We feel that it is important that you understand your rights should you find yourself unintentionally caught up in such a situation where an angry mob blocks the roadway.

As a real-life example, we received a call to the emergency hotline from a member who was traveling and found himself and his family confronted by angry rioters in a major city out west. With the threatening mob descending upon his vehicle, the member turned around to make a hasty exit. However, as he was trying to get his family out of harm’s way, one screaming rioter charged toward the member’s car and was struck, landing on the hood before rolling off. Fortunately, the member and his family safely escaped the melee.

To figure out if the member’s act of running into a rioter was legal, we turned to Texas & U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Michele Byington with the question: Are you justified in hitting or “running over” someone in this scenario?

protestors stop traffic
Those packages are going to be late…

“The answer? It depends!” Byington said. “Don’t you hate that answer?”

Let’s look at whether an act of running down a rioter would be lawful as a justified act of self-defense.

To begin the analysis, she said we treat this situation just as we would any other use of deadly force in self-defense. Let’s start with some general concepts, and then analyze how the specifics of the law will apply in these scenarios. The concepts to focus on are imminence, reasonableness, and not being the aggressor.

Imminence. Prosecutors love to attack the imminence prong. Does a group of people blocking a roadway pose an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to you inside of the vehicle? Blocking a roadway, normally, cannot cause death or serious bodily injury to those inside the vehicle, much less pose an imminent or immediate threat.  As a result, using a vehicle to “run them down,” or even to physically push them aside, is unlikely to be justified. However, if there is additional threatening conduct such as the protestors attempting to enter the vehicle, or say, charging toward you with a baseball bat, that is a completely different scenario. If you are placed in reasonable fear of imminent deadly force, you would be legally entitled to use deadly force in self-defense, including the use of your vehicle to neutralize the unlawful deadly force threat.

Reasonableness. What would be required to generate a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury? The key here is that it doesn’t matter what your personal beliefs are if a jury would not believe that your fear was reasonable under the circumstances. There are extremes where your conduct will almost always be viewed as reasonable, such as attempts to set your car on fire or flip it over. On the other hand, under many circumstances, it will be extremely difficult to convince a jury that you acted reasonably if you use deadly force against protestors. One example would be injuring or attempting to injure a group of peaceful protestors who are merely blocking a roadway. If the protestors attempt, or reasonably appear to attempt, to forcibly enter blockaded vehicles, you will gain a presumption of reasonableness under the laws of many, but not all, states. You will also have a much better argument that you had reasonable grounds to fear an imminent attack with deadly force. Such conduct could include the smashing of windows or attempts to open doors. Also, you do not necessarily need to wait until the protestors have turned violent against your vehicle if you see it happening to someone else. Remember, you must have a reasonable belief from what you are seeing and hearing around you and not merely speculating about what might occur.”

Byington also noted, “Keep in mind, here in Texas, you may also use deadly force to protect a third party as long as you would be justified in using deadly force to protect yourself in that same situation.

If you intend to use your vehicle against a rioter, it will almost always constitute the use of deadly force – that is, force capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. Deadly force can be used in self-defense to the extent the force with which you are threatened also constitutes deadly force. In other words, deadly force can be met with deadly force, she said. If you are faced with anything less than deadly force, you will face an uphill battle in arguing that your actions were reasonable. To make matters worse, if you respond to a threat that is non-deadly in nature with unlawful deadly force, it would allow the other person to lawfully respond in kind with deadly force against you.

Not the Aggressor. Is the person seeking justification for the use of deadly force in self-defense a victim, or is he the aggressor? State laws may vary, but generally, the defense of justification is not available to the individual who starts the fight and does not stop to convey to the other person their intention to stop the aggression.

So, how might this apply in a protest or riot situation? Byington noted, “Say you are stuck for an hour in the middle of a protest and decide to ‘nudge’ one of these folks with your vehicle so that you can get out of the traffic snarl. If the otherwise peaceful protestor then becomes violent, and you use deadly force to protect yourself, a prosecutor, judge, or jury could easily argue that you were the initial aggressor. You may lose a number of legal protections, and on top of that, appear like the aggressor during the investigation or trial.

Suppose you yell out “Sorry! Didn’t mean to bump you, it won’t happen again!” If the other person continues the assault after having been informed of your intention to stop, at that point you may regain the right of self-defense, although the protestor will almost certainly argue that he/she could not hear you due to the noise of the protest.

A Few Practical Tips:

So, what should you do if you come across such a mob?

STOP. Don’t go any farther. Do whatever is necessary to change this is a stop signdirection and get out of the area. If you are alert, hopefully you will see these masses of people far enough in advance so that you can completely avoid the situation, long before being surrounded.

Remember, you can’t legally run people over just because they are in the road. You may think the safest action to take in a situation like this is to keep moving, which may result in hitting people with your car to get them out of the way. That isn’t legal! It could easily be considered an aggravated assault, or worse! Even if people are illegally blocking the road, you will go to jail. It is that simple. Avoidance is key.

However, once the rioters attack you or attempt to enter the vehicle, the game changes, and your legal justification kicks in. With your vehicle surrounded so that you can’t escape and attackers trying to burn your car, flip it over, or attempt to drag you out of it, it is reasonable to assume that you will suffer imminent serious bodily injury or death. It is at this point you may use deadly force. In this moment of adrenaline and pure fear, you must keep your common sense. Do not get out and try to shoot your way out of the mob! You will quickly be overtaken and perhaps have your gun stripped from you. Instead, use your vehicle to get out of that situation by driving away from the surrounding rioters.

An additional point to remember is, should your vehicle come under attack, roll your windows down about half an inch. Experts say it is harder to break a window that is partly down than one that is fully closed. Turn off your ventilation system so you do not draw in any outside air in the event there is tear gas or smoke present. Further, if surrounded and moving slowly, you may want to take off your seat belt to allow a quick exit from the vehicle should it be overturned or set on fire.

“Once again, it is evident that your best course of action is to avoid these, often, pre-planned demonstrations altogether and drive away quickly should you come upon one,” she said.

The law is different in every state. For example, Texas has the “Castle Doctrine,” which gives a person the presumption of reasonableness if he or she uses deadly force against a person attempting to enter or entering their vehicle. Byington said, “It is a HUGE legal tool. Unfortunately, other states may not expand their Castle Doctrine to the vehicle [New Jersey]. With that in mind, I hope everyone can stay safe – and also stay legal! – if you find yourself in any protest or riot situation.”

To help Members in other states, we contacted U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorneys to get additional insights. Their comments appear below.

COLORADO

Independent Program Attorney Doug Richards offered this explanation on Colorado’s the law on self-defense. In the book Colorado Gun Law: Armed And Educated, co-authored by Richards, Stanley Marks, and Christopher Ferrero, Richards points out that “a person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and he may use a degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for that purpose.

“Importantly,” Richards adds, “a person is not justified in using any degree of physical force if he provokes the other person into the use of unlawful force with the intent of using that as a justification to cause the other person bodily injury or death.

Richards also points out that “[D]eadly physical force may be used only if a person reasonably believes that a lesser degree of force is inadequate, and he has reasonable grounds to believe, and does believe, that he or another person is in imminent danger of being killed or of receiving great bodily injury.”

For more specific information on this and other Colorado gun laws, click the Colorado Gun Law: Armed And Educated book link at the bottom of this post to order your copy.

VIRGINIA

For the law on self-defense in Virginia, we turned to U.S. Law Shield of Virginia Independent Program Attorneys Mitchell Wells and W. Edward Riley of Riley & Wells. In the upcoming book, Virginia Gun Law: Armed And Educated, co-authored by Riley and Wells, they point out that a person caught in a demonstration that’s turning violent must reasonably fear that they are in imminent danger of suffering serious bodily injury or death to be justified in the use of deadly force. For more specific information on this and other Virginia gun laws, look for the upcoming announcement as to when Virginia Gun Law: Armed And Educated will be published and available.

OKLAHOMA

Independent Program Attorney Robert Robles added “[T]hat the laws in Oklahoma regarding the use of deadly force in a self-defense situation are pretty well in line with the laws in the neighboring state to the south [Texas] and can be found in the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, Title 21, Oklahoma Statutes, Section 1290.1, et seq.”

“In Oklahoma, the law gives the presumption that a person held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm and therefore deadly force was necessary, if it is used against an individual who was unlawfully or forcibly in the process of entering or entered into an occupied vehicle; or is attempting to forcibly remove another against his or her will from an occupied vehicle. Deadly force is also presumed to be justified to prevent the commission or attempted commission of forcible felonies including murder, burglary, carjacking, and home invasion robberies,” he said.

“Furthermore,” Robles added, “if people are present in any place where they have a right to be, they have no duty to retreat and have the right to meet force with force, including deadly force, if they reasonably believe that it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to themselves or another, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

For more specific information on this and other Oklahoma gun laws, click the Oklahoma Gun Law: Armed And Educated book link at the bottom of this post to order your copy.

MISSOURI

Independent Program Attorney Deborah Alessi summarized Missouri’s law as, “A person cannot use deadly force upon another person unless he or she reasonably believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, or another against death, serious physical injury, or any forcible felony, and is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a vehicle lawfully occupied by such person.”

Alessi added that “a person does not have the duty to retreat from their occupied vehicle before using deadly force under the circumstances described, and these laws can be found in RSMo Chapter 563 Defense of Justification, Section 563.0031.1.”

GEORGIA
Independent Program Attorney Matt Kilgo expands upon the Texas law to explain how the law of self-defense would apply in Georgia under these circumstances.

  1. Innocence. Is the person seeking justification for the use of deadly force in self-defense an innocent victim, or is he or she the instigator of the confrontation? In Georgia an individual may not claim as justified a use of force against another when he or she initially provokes the initial force as an excuse to commit an act of force; at any time when committing (or attempting to commit) or fleeing the commission of a felony; or anytime he or she was the initial aggressor in a situation or was engaged in mutual “combat by agreement”, unless or until withdrawing from combat and making that decision known to the other individual. See O.C.G.A. §16-13-21(b). If the other party continues an assault after having been informed of your intention to stop, then you may “reacquire” the right of self-defense.
  2. Imminence. Does a group of people blocking the roadway pose an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to you inside your vehicle? Simply blocking a roadway cannot normally cause death or serious bodily harm to those inside a vehicle. As a result, using one’s vehicle to “run them down,” or even to physically push them aside, is unlikely to be legally justified unless there is some additional threatening conduct. But suppose the mob begins more direct threats or the use of actual force against you? If you are now placed in reasonable fear of an imminent deadly force attack, then you could be legally entitled to use deadly force in self-defense, including the use of your vehicle to neutralize the unlawful deadly force threat. Remember, the use of force is justified in Georgia when a party “reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force. . . .” Imminence is vitally important, especially when using a weapon as deadly as a car: the threat must be real and immediate.
  3. Proportionality. Keep in mind, however— should you intend to use your vehicle against anyone— this will almost certainly constitute deadly force, that force “which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm.” Deadly force may only be used to protect yourself or another person when “necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury. . . or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” O.C.G.A. §16-3-21(a). Should you respond to a threat that is non-deadly in nature with deadly force (or one that does not constitute a forcible felony, such as murder, rape, armed robbery, or aggravated assault; any felony that contains an element of force), it would allow the other person to respond in kind with deadly force against you. Additionally, you may be the one charged.
  4. Reasonableness. What action would be required of a mob or any of its members to generate a fear of death or great bodily injury that justifies the use of a weapon like a car in the eyes of police, prosecutors, judges, and juries? If the protestors attempt (or reasonably appear to attempt) to forcibly enter your vehicle or the vehicle of others, this could certainly constitute reasonable grounds to fear an imminent deadly force attack. Such conduct would include the smashing of windows or attempts to force open doors. The same applies to attempts to set vehicles on fire, or to flip vehicles over. Generally, a defender need not necessarily wait until the protestors have turned violent against his particular vehicle: If members of a mob have begun threatening or using deadly force against other blockaded vehicles, it could be considered reasonable to believe your own vehicle is likely to be next — you are, after all, legally entitled to defend yourself not just against the danger already occurring to you but also against the danger that is about to occur, that is imminent. But you must draw a reasonable belief from actual evidence around you, not merely speculate what might happen.

Kilgo went on to add, “If you find yourself in a mob situation, remember, you can’t just run anyone over with your car. It’s best to just keep moving, which may result in your bumping people out of the way with your car. However, this may be considered battery on your part, which is a crime. You may be arrested if you strike someone with your car, absent a legitimate threat to your life or the life of others. So it’s best to avoid those situations.”

“Perhaps most importantly,” Kilgo went on to say, “familiarize yourself with Georgia’s laws on the use of force, as well as such important legal concepts as the ‘Castle Doctrine’ and Georgia’s stand your ground law. The law can and does protect you in situations such as this, but you must be aware of what your rights are. While your best course of action is to avoid these often pre-planned demonstrations altogether and drive away quickly should you come upon one, knowing what you may legally do to protect yourself and your family in such a situation is your best protection.”

FLORIDA
Independent Program Attorneys David Katz and James Phillips offered this summary of the law regarding the use of deadly force in Florida.

“Under Florida Statute Chapter 776, Section 776.012(2),” says Katz, “A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

Phillips added, “If you use or threaten to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection, you do not have a duty to retreat and have the right to stand your ground, so long as you are not engaged in a criminal activity and are in a place where you have a right to be.”

“You are presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm if the other person was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered your occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove you against your will from your occupied vehicle,” Katz pointed out.

For more specific information on this and other Florida gun laws, click the Florida Gun Law: Armed And Educated book link at the bottom of this post to order your copy.

PENNSYLVANIA
According to Independent Program Attorney Justine McShane, the law of self-defense in the Keystone State is similar to the law in Texas, but different in significant ways.

“The Pennsylvania self-defense statute provides that use of force is ‘justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.’ 18 Pa.C.S. § 505.”

In fact, McShane has written a blog that addresses self-defense law in Pennsylvania. It can be found here.

For more specific information on this and other Pennsylvania gun laws, click the Pennsylvania Gun Law: Armed And Educated book link at the bottom of this post to order your copy.

To learn more, we also encourage you to attend a Gun Law Seminar  and get further instructions from our Independent Program Attorneys in your state. Click here to find a seminar in your state.

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