When you make the decision to carry a gun, you’ve taken responsibility for the safety of yourself and your loved ones back from the agents of the State. The decision to use your gun in the defense of your loved ones is a no-brainer. The tricky question is whether or not to intervene in a situation where strangers are involved. As recently as this past week, RF posted a video from the First Person Defender YouTube Series in which an armed citizen had to deal with a convenience store robbery. The decisions she made in both the first and second run throughs were thoroughly discussed in the comments section. One of the issues raised was the perennial theme of what duty either morally or legally an armed citizen has with respect to using their firearm to defend other people whose lives may be threatened . . .
Let’s get the one thing out of the way here first. A person who is not a sworn law enforcement person has no legal duty to defend another person and in fact, in some jurisdictions, making the decision to attempt a defense can leave you with a whole pot of legal pain. Note that this also applies to the military – even, I suspect members of the Military Police. Only sworn civilian law enforcement officers have any requirement or responsibility to involve themselves in third party confrontations and even there, according to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decision in Warren v. District of Columbia, police in fact have no duty to provide police services to individuals.
So, ordinary citizens who carry a gun have no legal obligation to assist others. What about the moral duty? Well, that is a tricky question. If you are single, have no dependents and the loss of your life, loss of much of your money (in a trial defense), and/or the loss of your freedom (from incarceration) is not a major factor, then your decision is considerably less complicated than the one of the person who could leave his or her kids without a father/mother or leave them financially crippled. You need to think about this now, not when the you-know-what hits the fan.
Let’s say that you decide to intervene. Do you really know the situation? Just because one person is holding a gun on another does not automatically classify them as bad guy and victim. It could be undercover cop and bad guy. Shoot the wrong person and you will be in big trouble. The First Person Defender Video above shows a couple of armed citizen scenarios and gives us something to think about.