By Jim Barrett
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.
Take a look at this video from the First Person Defender YouTube Series in which an armed citizen had to deal with a man holding a gun on a woman.
One of the issues that comes up is 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 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 some jurisdictions, making the decision to attempt a defense can leave you with a whole lot of legal pain.
Only sworn civilian law enforcement officers have any requirement or responsibility at all to involve in third party confrontations. And even there, according to the DC Court of Appeals decision in Warren v. District of Columbia, even law enforcement officers have no legal duty to provide police services to individuals.
So, ordinary citizens who carry a gun have no legal obligation to assist others. What about a moral duty?
That’s a stickier question. If you are single, have no dependents and the loss of your life, loss of much of your money (in legal fees), 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.
If you do nothing and the worst happens, will you be able to live with yourself, knowing that you could have intervened? You need to think about these things now, not when you find yourself in a potentially dangerous encounter.
Let’s say that you decide to intervene in a situation. Do you really know what’s going on in front of you? Just because one person is holding a gun on someone else doesn’t automatically classify them as bad guy and victim.
It could be an undercover cop and a drug dealer he’s arresting. Shoot the wrong person and you can find yourself in a world of hurt. While they’re only training scenarios, First Person Defender videos are a good way to begin thinking about how you’d react in a similar situation.