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William Gene Muir (courtesy

The rules on justifiable homicide vary from state to state. Take the time to Google and read your state’s laws. Generally speaking, you are OK to shoot someone in self-defense if that person poses an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. But there are caveats. One of the most important . . .

You must not be the aggressor. If you start a fight, you’re not going to have an easy time convincing the police, prosecutor, DA, judge and/or jury that you acted in self-defense. That’s true even if your combatant escalates the conflict to a potentially lethal level. And it’s certainly not true if a fight ends and you re-engage. Like this [via]:

A Sevier County man has been charged with murder in a shooting that followed an apparent brawl.

William Gene Muir, 39, [above] was charged with murder Monday in 6th District Court in the death of David Rioja, 36. Rioja’s body was found after two 911 calls came into dispatchers on Nov. 22 — one reporting shots fired, and another reporting an assault.

In the second call, a man later identified as Muir “said he had been in a fight with a man with a baseball bat and that he had shot him.” . . .

[A witness] told officers Muir had come to the house looking like he had been assaulted and then left again. When he returned a second time, he was carrying a gun, court documents state.

The woman explained that Muir keeps the gun in his lunchbox, which was found open with ammunition nearby.

In all likelihood, Muir is going down. It’s important to note that the length of time between the initial fight and the second, lethal encounter makes no never mind. If a fight ceases even for a few seconds and you resume hostilities, you are presumed to be the aggressor. Which removes any credible claim of self-defense.

Again, a justifiable defensive gun uses requires an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. If the aggressor stops hostilities and then he or she resumes a potentially deadly or severely wounding conflict, you are within your rights to use deadly force to stop it.

Basically, don’t be aggressive. Whenever possible, don’t into fights. If you find yourself in one and have an opportunity to disengage, take it. Call the cops. And thank your lucky stars you didn’t have to use your firearm. [h/t PB]

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  1. Your neighbors decide your guilt/fate. Don’t let your neighbors (unilaterally and contrary to previously agreed and published criteria and procedures) pick your other neighbors.

  2. Not true.

    The right of self defense can be reclaimed even if you were the original aggressor. Depending on the circumstances.

    • That’s the point, just stated in reverse. For that to happen, the altercation would have to break off, and the person you originally agressed against would have to pick up the fight. Self-defense has to be self-defense.

    • If the initial assailant had been armed, and shot in self defense upon the second encounter, wouldn’t they have been entitled to claim self defense?

      • I don’t know if that’s a question for me, but the general principle is around who is the aggressor vs the defender in the particular altercation.

        Let’s say Al goes into a diner, pulls out a gun and shoves it in Billy’s face. “You come near my sister again and I’ll blow your head off!” Al reholsters, gives Billy a solid knock in the jaw, and stalks out. Billy stews there for a couple minutes, then runs out to the parking lot to his car, and gets his gun. And look, Al’s just leaning on his truck, yakking away with some buddies. This just pisses Billy off even more. With a roar he takes off across the parking lot towards Al, who looks up to see this psycho charging at him with a gun in his hand. Al draws and fires, killing Billy.

        Self-defense? Very probably. The altercation was over once Al walk out of the diner. Had Billy or someone else killed Al when he was threatening Billy, then it would have been self-defense or defense of others on their part. But the confrontation was over at that point, and Billy could have done a lot of things to avoid restarting it. For example, even if he felt he needed to get his gun (completely reasonable, considering), he could have called the police to report the assault with a deadly weapon that had just been committed upon him. He could have simply have driven away. Instead, he picked up the fight again and ended up dead for his troubles.

  3. I appreciate the posts and the opportunity to ponder different scenarios, better than deciding how to defend oneself in a vacuum.

    • If you’re defending yourself in a vacuum, it’s critical to not let your pressure suit be punctured.

  4. A lot left out here. The accused showed up uninvited, wouldn’t leave, resulting in a fight. The tressasser left only after the axe handle was used, returned with a gun and shot the victim dead where he stood. He then called 911 seeking help for his injury not for the victim who laid in his driveway dying until his parents found him. Never a case of self defense, never even close. An example of a trespassing coward giving responsible gun owners a bad name.

  5. Pretty much agree with the article–with the possible exception of a habitually-abused spouse shooting her husband while he’s asleep or shaving or some such. I seem to recall a case or two like that where the “self-defense” angle flew.

  6. Rember that avoiding stupid people, doing stupid things, in stupid places, at stupid times. This guy was obviously stupid and did a stupid thing, and returned to the place where he got his head smashed stupid. I didn’t see a time listed.

  7. What a fine looking fellow. I’m sure that Muir was on his way to a Mensa meeting at the time of this unfortunate incident.

  8. Don’t return to a conflict… pretty good advice. Treyvon doubled back through the shadows and alleys and jumped out attacking poor George….

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