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Weapons Law Booklet
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hypothetical:

You're a customer in a store when two armed robbers walk in and announce a robbery. One has an AK-47 type gun, and the other has a semi-auto pistol.

They head to the cash register and say to the clerk: "We'll kill you all, everybody in this store, if you don't empty all the cash into a bag and give it to us right now!"

The clerk grabs a white shopping bag and pops the cash register open and starts scooping all the bills into the bag.

YOU, at this point, decide that you can shoot the robbers. The distance is only 30 feet to one and 40 feet to the other. You practice shooting those distances often at the range, and you can keep a good group. The robbers aren't paying attention to you. One of them has his back to you, and is aiming his AK-47 at a group of other patrons. He's yelling commands at them, and they're standing near him with their hands up. Then they start getting to their knees, and even the tallest one's head is only waist-level to the gunman with the AK.

The other bad guy is looking only at the clerk, not in your direction at all. There are other people near you, fellow customers, but nobody on your side of the store is moving, or talking. You're not on the radar, so to speak.

SO YOU DRAW YOUR GUN, take aim at the upper spine of the AK-47 robber, and shoot.

Your bullet his him a few inches left of his spine, at the 4th rib, and punctures the lower chamber of his heart. He grimaces and pulls the trigger on his AK.
You shoot him again, this time in the left shoulder, crippling that arm. He fires three more times in rapid succession as he spins around to face you, holding the AK with his right hand, as his left hand loses its grip.

The other robber, the one with the pistol, has already turned to face you. You see this, but you can't respond just yet. You're still busy with the AK guy. You don't see the clerk anymore. Unnoticed by you, this robber shot the clerk in the face at the sound of your first shot at his buddy, and the clerk is dead on the floor behind the counter.

Now, you know you need to drop that guy with the AK. You know you hit him twice, but he's shooting people and swinging that gun your way. You hold your gun extra tight and get the sights on his heart and do your best Mozambique drill. It works. Two in the heart and one in the forehead, and he's down for the count.

The pistol-wielding bad guy is shooting at you. You finally have a chance to bring your weapon to bear on him. Pew Pew Pew. He goes down.

No more shooting. It's over.

You expect to be treated like a hero, at first.
Then you notice 4 bodies on the floor. Two shot by the AK 47 guy, and two near you shot by the pistol guy. Later cops tell you about the 5th body--the clerk, dead below the counter by the cash register.

4 innocent people are wounded, one more is dead, along with the 2 dead armed robbers.

The families of the 5 innocent people sue you for negligence.

They say you had a duty of care, owed to them (people like them), NOT to provoke a gunfight with well-armed robbers in a crowded public place. They say your negligence in choosing to interrupt the robbery with your pistol was the direct and proximate legal cause of their injuries / death. It was foreseeable, they say, that things would turn out this way when you chose to start a gunfight against those odds
-- 2 against 1;
-- a pistol vs. both another pistol and a battle rifle;
-- bad guys guns already covering innocent people;
-- clerk and other patrons complying with their demands;
-- innocent people behind you and next to you before you made yourself a target.

So, do these plaintiffs have a case?
 

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Weapons Law Booklet
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
STIPULATION:

For this hypothetical, plaintiffs stipulate (agree, and announce to the judge) that your use of "deadly force" was lawful and justified under 16-3-21 and 16-3-23, and you committed NO CRIME of any sort in your actions.

However, they say it's still a TORT. Something for which you can and should be held accountable in a civil suit.

THE CRIMINAL IMMUNITY LAW:

The criminal immunity law found 16-3-24.2 doesn't apply, since nobody is charging you with a crime. Immunity from criminal prosecution is all that Code section deals with.

THE CIVIL IMMUNITY LAW:

Code section 51-11-9 says that if you legally use any of the self defense laws 16 -3-21 through 24, you "shall not be held liable to the person against whom the use of force was justified" or any "accomplice or assistant" to such person.

It doesn't grant immunity to you regarding third-party bystanders who were not presenting any threat to you at the time they got shot. There is no "transactional" immunity here, declaring that your actions cannot be the basis for any civil suit by anybody.
 

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Weapons Law Booklet
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Reminder: Your bullets didn't hit any innocent people. All your shots were hits and all stayed in the bad guys' bodies.
Your hits just weren't fast enough, or hard-hitting enough, to drop both the bad guys before they did some shooting of their own.

All the innocent victims were shot by the robbers.
 

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I watch the watchers
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My layman's answer and completely off the cuff is that the robbers were responsible for the homicides. Even if were my bullets from my gun, I'd want them held responsible the same way that in a LEO's bullet accidentally hits a civilian because a bad guy was involved in a felony it's the bad guy who is held responsible by the courts.

Which courts exactly I'm not sure, and cannot cite any cases aside from a vague feeling this happened in NYC some time ago.
 

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Man of Myth and Legend
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No liability. No improper targets hit by you. All injuries were from the hands and weapons of the criminals. You shot to prevent them from firing upon receipt of the cash and killing/wounding all the witnesses there.

You did all you truly believed was absolutely necessary to protect yourself from severe injuries/death and prevent the rest of the people in the store from severe injury or death.

You also initiated reasonable criminal punishment on them for the crimes they had committed.

And if that don't work a Chapter 7 with some prior planning ought to work out. The couple years it would take to get to trial should give sufficient time to get that in order.

Nemo
 

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I watch the watchers
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Chenin Duclos, wounded by bullets fired by the police in the Empire State Building shooting of Friday, August 24, 2012 filed a lawsuit in the NY Supreme Court against the responding officers for negligence and failing to follow proper procedures.

I'm not aware of the results of the lawsuit at this time.
 

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I watch the watchers
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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/n...tanders-shot-by-police-near-times-square.html

Glenn Broadnax, 35, of Brooklyn, created a disturbance on Sept. 14, wading into traffic at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue and throwing himself into the path of oncoming cars.

The unarmed, emotionally disturbed man shot at by the police as he was lurching around traffic near Times Square in September has been charged with assault, on the theory that he was responsible for bullet wounds suffered by two bystanders, according to an indictment unsealed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday.
 

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Weapons Law Booklet
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm thinking the potential liability is for causing another person to do a bad thing, even if it's an illegal thing that they have no right to do.

Just like cops and police departments can be held liable for engaging in high speed pursuits of criminals, when those criminals crash into innocent victims.

Do criminals have a right to flee cops? No, absolutely not. The law demands they pull over. Leading cops on a chase is a crime.

Can cops break the traffic laws while chasing criminals? Sure.
It's not illegal for cops to speed and run stop signs during a pursuit. No crime there.

So, if it's totally LEGAL for cops to chase robbers, and totally ILLEGAL for robbers to flee and refuse to pull over, AND illegal for the robbers to fail to maintain control of their vehicles and obey all traffic control devices and heed all applicable road signs...

how can it ever be a tort, committed by the cops, actionable in a civil suit, when the fleeing felon crosses the double yellow line and wipes out the Snodgrass family in their minivan?

Because it's foreseeable that some criminals will run, not surrender, AND it's further foreseeable that some of those that run will wreck.

That's the factual cause. The "proximate cause" comes from the risk/ reward analysis. Which course of conduct has the net benefit to society? WHich has the net negative outcome?
 

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Member Georgia Carry
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An armed robbery is a bad and unpredictable situation. You cannot predict the outcome and only have seconds to make a decision. Making a good faith decision to save lives absolves you of ANY liability. Who knows that if you had not acted, more lives would have been lost?
 

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30 feet is only 10 yards. EASY head shot. Shut off Mr. Ak like a light switch. Problem solved.
 

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THE CIVIL IMMUNITY LAW:

Code section 51-11-9 says that if you legally use any of the self defense laws 16 -3-21 through 24, you "shall not be held liable to the person against whom the use of force was justified" or any "accomplice or assistant" to such person.

It doesn't grant immunity to you regarding third-party bystanders who were not presenting any threat to you at the time they got shot. There is no "transactional" immunity here, declaring that your actions cannot be the basis for any civil suit by anybody.
This is the proper way to draft the statute. Otherwise, persons would be immune from liability for firing indiscriminately into a crowd, heedless of the consequences, simply because such force was justified against somebody in the crowd.
 

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On the theory that one should only take a life to save a life...something went terribly wrong.

On the hypothetical that one were to blame for the bullets used by criminals by mere existential presence -- that pretty well scarfs up the legal system.
 

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While not in the scope of the original post, if I may interject for a moment as a firearms instructor:

The scenario in the original post is an excellent critical thinking exercise and teaching point. Such scenarios are often presented in discussions of use of force; HOWEVER, they are typically only presented as shoot/no-shoot purely on the basis of whether or not the shooting would be justified under the law. The above scenario presents another part of the equation that just doesn't get discussed: pistol rounds suck at instantaneously stopping people.

At the instant you press the trigger, your actions may very well be legally justified, but your pressing of the trigger does not mean that situation will be instantly resolved. Just because the bullet hits where it was aimed doesn't mean it is going to instantly incapacitate the bad guy.
 

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One other interjection as a federally certified use of force instructor, and this is an explanation of "what is" not a "what you or I think should be":

SCOTUS has held that all uses of force by a person acting under the color of law are seizures under the 4th Amendment; HOWEVER, there have been cases in which the courts have held that an officer firing rounds that hit a bystander were not intended as a seizure of the bystander of that person. Therefore, 42 USC 1983 or Bivens would not apply. That does not mean that other civil or criminal action is barred.

-------------------------

As for the scenario, if the robbers were to survive their wounds, they could be charged with felony murder for each of the people killed as their felony is what led to the deaths.
 

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Just because the bullet hits where it was aimed doesn't mean it is going to instantly incapacitate the bad guy.
This is something I remind people of. It's always on my mind when involving these situations and is why I most likely will not draw unless there's no other option.

Odds are they will get a shot off if they have a gun. They could slash me or others if they have a knife.
 

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Weapons Law Booklet
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Oh, you never heard of a difference between practice groups and real life shooting-at-adversaries accuracy?
The OP hypothetical SAID that the armed citizen was a good shot st 30 or 40 feet.
So, was it NEGLIGENCE for him not to attemp a head shot, and to aim for the middle of the robber' back instead?
 

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Oh, you never heard of a difference between practice groups and real life shooting-at-adversaries accuracy?
The OP hypothetical SAID that the armed citizen was a good shot st 30 or 40 feet.
So, was it NEGLIGENCE for him not to attemp a head shot, and to aim for the middle of the robber' back instead?
Gotta throw this out there. See if you can recognize the voice at the end. ;)

 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Good shot!
 
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