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It seems like we are inundated with reports of violent crime in the media. We regularly hear about someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This kind if news once took days to spread, but today it spreads in a matter of hours, if not minutes…and then the misinformation follows in its wake.

People begin to believe that they are the next victim because it seems to be happening all around them.

People’s perceptions of danger can be distorted if they are repeatedly exposed to reports of violent events. What are the effects of having “Am I next?” constantly in the back of your mind? Would they be tempted to prematurely use deadly force as a result of that fear?

As a society, we hear about people being brutally assaulted and killed without warning. For instance . . .

From . . .

Three men were shot, two of them killed, during a home invasion Friday morning in Prince William County, Virginia, police say.

Two suspects forced their way into a home on Renegade Court in Dale City about 11:30 a.m., and then there was a shootout, police said.

Two men were killed, police said. Police believe one of the victims lived at the home and the other is a suspect. The third man who was shot is a contractor who was working at the home at the time, authorities said.

Or this one from . . .

Southfield Police said a man was shot late Monday night when he was carjacked of his Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Police said they were called to the area of Lincoln and Southfield Road a little after 10 p.m. to a report of a shooting. The victim told police his 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee was stolen and he had been shot.

He told police two suspects, both younger black men wearing ski masks, carjacked him at a gas station at the intersection.

When the man tried to resist, he was shot in the hand, forearm, and back. Police said he’s listed in stable condition at the hospital.

Despite these very real situations, people may subconsciously perceive a threat as more serious or imminent than it really is. The difference between surviving or dying can come down to a fraction of a second. Could the prevalence of these reports contribute to more deadly responses by victims?

We have all said things we regret because we were angry. But it’s too late once the words come out. As the saying goes, you can’t unring a bell. Once something has been done, you have to live with the consequences as it can’t be undone. Saying something you regret can be difficult and embarrassing. Employing deadly force too quickly can ruin your life.

Most of us are familiar with the “reasonable” person standard which asks what an ordinary, reasonable individual would do under similar circumstances. Some applicable self defense laws use vague language such as . . .

“threats or perceived threats,”

“reasonable fear of an imminent threat to his life or serious bodily harm,”

“imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death,”

“use of deadly force was necessary to defend against the danger”

If people constantly see reports of crime becoming more frequent and violent, then their definition of words like ‘perceived’, ‘reasonable’, ‘imminent’, and ‘danger’ might change.

Subconsciously, individuals may judge the potential threat they face based on current events. Does that become the new “normal” if enough people have the same fears? If enough people worry about and fear the same things, does that then become the new standard by which we are judged?

Could someone’s actions could be defended and justified based on the outside influences of what they are hearing and reading in the news?

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I was with a friend of mine who’s a criminal defense attorney. When I brought that thought up, he just gave me a look. It turned into an interesting topic, especially since we both live in Illinois, where the governor recently signed HB-3653, which basically abolishes bail in the state. Abd we’ve seen too often how well that works.

Many laws refer to what a “reasonable person” would do in similar circumstances. If we move the bar of what is considered reasonable, then logically, the burden of proof may change, too…given enough time.

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  1. That’s why jury selection is so important. The lawyers and judges, in effect, determine who a “reasonable” person is.

  2. I think any changes will be gradual. You may end up with a case study 20 years from now on how juries side with or against individuals in claimed self defense cases. Of course, you could do the same thing now comparing cases from this year with older cases. I think it’s pretty obvious that what the average person would perceive as a reasonable use of force today is different than it used to be. Seems fairly obvious that it’ll be different in the future too

  3. Video says one perp was deceased in the house. That usually means identifying those who ran off is highly probable. That’s the good news. The bad news is anyone who lives in a house can be subjected to a home invasion. And of course those that try to invade should be subjected to some Hornady Critical Defense 00 Buck among other means of giving the impromptu visitors a welcoming shower of hot lead.

  4. “….what an ordinary, reasonable individual would do under similar circumstances.” Ordinary and reasonable don’t fit well in the same sentence in today’s screwed up society. When faced with a life and death threat in today’s society, an ordinary person will cower in fear as a victim-in-waiting. A reasonable person would be armed and practiced to the level capable of dealing out swift effective defensive action to protect themselves/loved ones. Big difference.

  5. Generally I know that the masked man pointing a gun at me demanding I get out of my car is a carjacker, and don’t need news reports of previous carjackings to convince me of that.

    Same goes double for people kicking in my door and attacking me in my home.

  6. The MSM has quickly become little more than “White Noise”. To the majority of Citizens. With their Mostly peaceful reporting of the BLM/Antifa Rioters. The Rittenhouse Trial and now the Holiday Parade Attack they won’t even Speak of. Along with trying to Econosplain the Biden Economic Meltdown. The Honest Hard Working Citizens of Our Nation have finally Woken Up to the Media’s Ideological Agenda Indoctrination. Nothing explains that more than the 100’s of Thousands of New Firearms Owners. Along with the complete rejection of Liberal Democrat Agenda in Virginia and other elections across the nation. Especially in Local and School Board elections. The Tide is Once again turning in Our Nation. Liberal/Progressive Democrats have read to much of their own press and believed they had Won the War. In doing so they went All In on to many fronts. The best thing We can do at this point is something I remember from reading ‘The Art of War’. “Never interrupt your enemy when they are making a mistake”. Liberal/Progressive Democrats have become their Own worst enemy and Wokeism is the Tool that is not only Tearing them Down,but Apart. Time to Pop some Corn.

    • The media are no longer impartial observers reporting on both sides of an event. Through bias, distortion, exaggeration, and even out-and-out lies they have become partisan participants.

      Since the doctrine of fairness was abandoned the media have gone full into projecting their narrative. On gun issues, doubly so.

      • On all issues. I believe One of the Eventual downfalls of the Liberal Media is and has been the 24 Hour News cycle. It has left them with so much time to fill. They inevitably had to go to their Opinions for Time filler. Which only emboldened them to Show who they really were/are. Thus showing the World their disdain for All thing Honest Hard Working Citizens believe in and rely on to be successful, raise a family and live secure in their communities. In the end their own egos and the Need to project who they really are. Is leading to their eventual downfall along with fake News and covering Up what everyone can clearly see is happening before their eyes. even if they won’t admit it. Publicly or even to Themselves. Especially when the realization hits that everything you’ve believed in Has Been a Lie.

      • The doctrine of fairness and objectivity is a lie. Always was. The news media has *never* been a neutral observer or an unfiltered conduit for factual reporting.

        Newspaper reporting used to be a free-for-all; there were as many slants on the news as there were publishers, and there were a LOT of publishers. (The big ones openly pushed policy and started wars, too; cf. the Spanish-American War). In the 1850s, for example, an ancestor of mine ran a newspaper with “neutral in nothing, truthful in everything” as its masthead. His paper told the truth as he saw it, and that was crystal clear.

        As the TV news era began and big corporations began to dominate, they adopted Edward R. Murrow’s mantra of neutrality…as a public facade. They cloaked themselves in the dead skin mask of Murrow’s ideals because it helped them amass power and influence, but in truth they were always (as you say) “partisan participants…projecting their narrative.”

        The so-called doctrine of fairness (meaning the leftist establishment decided what was fair, and their voice was the only one the public heard) only broke down because blogging and social media forced it to.

        Now we’re in a kind of free-for-all again, with social media and independent/alternative/conservative blogs and news sites playing a similar role to the radical pamphleteers of the American Revolution…and the sclerotic, leftist legacy media playing the role of King George.

  7. I think that people wearing ski masks approaching my car affect my perception of threat much more than the news.

    Kicking in my door?……. fughettaboutit!

    Don’t be a shit-ass, people are less likely to shoot you.

  8. Sign up ahead:

    Attention Travelers.
    You have entered the Twilight Zone.
    Destination: Bellum Ominum Contra Omnes

  9. “Could Media Reports of More Violent Crime Create a Different Standard of Proof in Self-Defense Cases?”

    Today its also about how many can be persuaded by the narrative in an unstructured society. For example, the anti-gun/gun-control freaks and media hammered the narrative that Rttenhouse is a “racists white guy who purposely purchased a rifle to intentionally hunt and murder blacks at a peaceful BLM protest and shot three black guys killing two of them’ and with the way its portrayed you get the mental image of some barbaric ritual where Rittenhouse is bathing in the blood of his three black victims. There are still people today who believe that narrative, and anti-gun people still call him a murderer that went free ’cause some way or another self-defense is a secret code for ‘white guys have a selective right to kill at will”. But the jury participated in a structured system of the court and heard the true narrative and followed the law and its justifiable self-defense.

    Its not just the media and reports of violent crime. The standard of proof in Self-Defense cases has always changed with the times by the narrative.

    For example, in the 1800’s to early 1900’s its was self-defense for a ‘morally upstanding’ woman to use a hat pin for defense but not a gun in many jurisdictions unless she was in her home because it was not considered morally ‘lady like’ for a woman to carry a gun even though many probably did. But a hat pin used on an alleged or actual male attacker was automatically self defense for a ‘morally upstanding’ woman and most never saw a court and when they did it was “I’m a frail woman and needed to stop this beast. What else was I to do?” while the all male jury went “Yes, quite so” because women were the ‘weaker sex’ and needed to be ‘protected’ and ’cause morals need to be upheld. But if a woman was not considered a ‘morally upstanding’ woman (e.g. a barmaid) and used a hatpin to ward off an attacker she was likely to get convicted of some crime and jailed. But in either case in most jurisdictions a women was not legally permitted to defend themselves against violence from their husbands because women were considered ‘chattel’.

    The standard of proof in Self-Defense cases has always changed with the times, and its mostly changed because of how the narrative was framed.

  10. Author is coming around to see things the way gun control supporters do. Gun owners are paranoid, trigger happy self-appointed police just like the goons who murdered Ahmaud Arbery and actually believe they are justified in doing so.

  11. At the risk of stating the obvious, I do not foresee any “standards” changing with respect to obvious, violent, and dangerous surprise attacks such as armed robbery, carjackings, home invasions, and rape.

    What might very well be changing is public perception of what I will describe as “soft threats”. Think of “soft threats” along the lines of three or more guys who are belligerent, not visibly armed, and clearly coming at you although they have not yet vocally threatened to harm you. Another example could be a single aggressor who is holding an object (such as a skateboard) which could instantly become a deadly bludgeon, is clearly coming at you, and has an angry facial expression. Years ago, the general public may have rejected the idea that such “soft threats” justified the use of deadly force. Given recent events, the general public may be warming up to the idea that such “soft threats” do justify the use of deadly force.

  12. I do not think it is a stretch to say that society is declining. The large uptick in murders over the last year support such an assertion. Other factors (beyond the scope of a brief comment on this site) logically explain a general decline in society as well.

    If society is declining, more and more people will try their hand at crime which, in aggregate, becomes a serious threat to society. Thus, while it may have been wise historically to reserve legal deadly force for all but the most obvious and imminent violent attacks, society may soon decide that the best way to preserve society is to allow deadly force on less obvious and less imminent attacks. I suppose time will tell.

    • Rather than relaxing the legal standard to justifiably use deadly force, I would like to see a different change to legal standards: make it legally justifiable to “brandish” or potentially even draw and point without shooting during less obvious and less imminent threats.

      I have had two separate encounters where that standard would have been righteous in my opinion. In one case for example I purchased something at a store and was walking to my car across a large empty parking lot at dusk. Out of nowhere, some guy wearing a COVID mask and a hooded sweatshirt (with the hood up and both of his hands in both of his sweatshirt’s pockets) starts walking straight at me from about 40 yards away. He asks me for something while closing the distance. I respond with a very loud and unfriendly, “No!”. The guy kept coming at me–hands still in his sweatshirt pockets–and asked for something again. I responded again with a very loud and unfriendly, “No!”. The guy kept coming at me and had closed the distance to about 20 yards.

      At that point in that encounter, I believe I should have been legally justified to draw my handgun without necessarily pointing it at him and definitely without shooting at him. Alas that was not “legal”. Not having that option, instead I quickly moved around my car (to put my car between me and him) and moved my hand to my hip–ready to draw and making it obvious that I was probably armed. He immediately changed direction and began circling back to where he had come from.

      I am 98% convinced that encounter was going to be an attempted armed robbery. A relaxed legal standard allowing me to brandish and possibly even point at him without shooting would have been very helpful to me. I can only wonder if society sees that sort of behavior the same way and will relax the legal standard for self-defense.

      • “A relaxed legal standard allowing me to brandish and possibly even point at him without shooting would have been very helpful to me.”

        “…and moved my hand to my hip–ready to draw and making it obvious that I was probably armed.”

        Your act of putting your hand on the grip of your holstered weapon seems to have had a result you were looking for, no?

      • “…make it legally justifiable to “brandish” or potentially even draw and point without shooting during less obvious and less imminent threats.”

        “brandishing” already is legally justifiable as self-defense in certain situations, if the threat will become imminent if its not warned off.

        We’ve had many cases of this locally, its also considered self-defense to warn or ward off a threat that you reasonably believe would become imminent if its not stopped from progressing.

        Generally, If you can legally use your firearm for self defense you are allowed to brandish your firearm when its reasonable to believe the threat will become imminent if its not stopped before it reaches you. For example, you pull up in front of a store intending to do some shopping and get out of the car and a group of people across the street starts yelling at you and demanding your money then starts walking towards you. There is a legitimate reasonable belief they will become imminent causing you to fear for your life making it legal to use your firearm to protect yourself but the threat is not really imminent yet because its still, in this case, further away so brandishing could be used to warn them off (and show preparedness to defend and resist). Of course there are other things that go into it, even in stand your ground/no duty to retreat, one thing considered is escape, for example in the shopping example, could you have simply gotten in your car and driven off or escaped some other way leaving the not clearly defined yet imminent threat behind. People generally think that if they were to draw their firearm the threat must be right there on top of you if the threat is imminent, and there is truth to that, but if you are permitted to use a firearm for self-defense I do not know of any law that says it can only be self-defense if you pull the trigger.

        • “… leaving the not clearly defined yet imminent threat behind…”

          should have been

          …leaving the not clearly defined not yet imminent threat behind…

          note here also, even in stand your ground/no duty to retreat you may still in situations have an obligation to ensure the amount of force used is commensurate with the threat – so check and understand your state laws beyond a simple reading of text because its not uncommon for a simple reading understanding to not be the actual application in practice. So if brandishing if proper or not is something you will need to determine and there is no specific guideline to go by.

  13. I don’t think we need to wait an indeterminate number of years to observe changes in the applicable standards for legal self defense, especially with a deadly weapon. All we need do is research legal consequences of self defense in various states/ locales in our country. Does anyone remember the story of Harold Fish? That travesty of justice happened in Arizona, a (mostly) gun rights friendly state. Ask yourself how Kyle Rittenhouse might have fared in Los Angeles, Chicago, or Boston, to name but a few places not known for supporting the right to defend oneself.

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