Self Defense in Today’s Society (Part 2)

With the large number of Illinois Concealed Carry applications in the last few years, it’s worth spending some time exploring the issues that go along with it. We looked at some of these issues in last week’s article. This week, I’d like to go a little deeper. 

But first, let’s address the elephant in the room. The biggest issue you have to consider (aside from the legality), is whether you’d be able to shoot someone if the need arose. That may sound harsh, but that’s really the bottom line. 

If you find that you don’t think you could do it, you shouldn’t be carrying a weapon. Don’t do it. But if you think that you could do it if you absolutely had no other choice, then you might consider concealed carry. But you need lots of training. You need to know you’re safe, and you need to know you can be effective.

You also need to know and clearly understand the law. In 720 ILCS 5., the Illinois statute basically says that you may use “deadly force” when you “reasonably believe”that you’re in “imminent danger” of “death or great bodily harm.” So if you’re forced to shoot someone in self defense, this would be called an affirmative defense. 

But there are a couple of standards that need to be met. First, you have to understand that “deadly force” is that force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another. It applies to the attack coming at you, but also to your response to that attack. This can be a little confusing. 

For example, being beaten about the head and body doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of “deadly force or great bodily harm” being used against you. But if you’re punched in the face, knocked to the ground, and mounted by your attacker, who is now raining down blows down upon your head, causing it to bounce off the pavement… it’s starting to get there. You might recall Zimmerman.

The key is, what would the “reasonable person” have done? Was it reasonable to believe you were about to be killed or greatly harmed? Some cases are so immediately obvious that the investigators will easily conclude that you didn’t have any choice but to fire your weapon to protect your life. 

Other cases might not be so clear cut. If it ever goes to court, a jury of your peers (presumed reasonable), will be asking themselves, “what would I have done in that situation?” If there was a grey area in any of it, you’d better hope that they would have done the same as you, were they in your shoes. 

The last issue is that of “imminent danger.” How immediate is the threat? In my concealed carry classes, I like to use this example. If I tell you, “I’m going to get in my car, drive back to town, and come over and kick your butt,” that doesn’t mean you can lie in wait for me at the edge of town and just plug me when you see me.

It’s not an immediate threat. It’s a future threat, and not all that deadly of one, either. But if I said I was “coming over to shoot your sorry a$$,” and 20 minutes later, you hear a violent banging on the door and my voice shouting similar threats outside, it’s getting more imminent, right? But if I come violently through the door in a “riotous manner,” well, that’s all she wrote. Bang. 

Of course that last example presents a couple of other affirmative defenses, but it makes the point pretty well. A reasonable person has to believe the threat is like, right now, and that you are about to be hurt really badly, or that someone else is. 

At that point, you better be ready to deal with it. You have to have already made the decision that you WILL deal with it. You have to have acquired the skills TO deal with it. And you have to know you CAN deal with it, safely and effectively. Safely, for you and those around you, and effectively, for the bad guy. 

This takes training. Lots of it. Please don’t underestimate this. It’s serious business. Make a commitment to prepare correctly. Train safe, and train often!

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