There are many things that we can, or that we are legally permitted to, do that often aren’t the best idea. Riding a motorcycle without a helmet in some states. Eating 50 cookies in one sitting. Confronting a home intruder with a gun.
I can hear you now. “What??? I thought you were all for being able to defend yourself! Have you sold out? Did the lefty loons get to you?” No, I am still a staunch supporter in the right to defend yourself. I have not sold out and I am in no danger of taking up with the lefty loons. It’s about responsibility. With the right to defend yourself also comes a great amount of responsibility and if you’re going to accept your rights, you also must accept your responsibilities.
With all the talk recently surrounding the Zimmerman case and the Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine laws, this is a good time to talk about not only what you CAN do but what you SHOULD do. This isn’t a debate about Zimmerman. He’s not guilty and that has been tried and determined through our justice system. He’s no longer on trial in Florida and he’s not on trial in this blog either. I very much stand behind his right to defend himself. His innocence is not in question; however, his actions could be. We sometimes have to make split decisions, just as he did that night. There are many things which factor into these quick moments such as motivation, training, instinct, personal perception of circumstances…I’m really in no position to judge Mr. Zimmerman on any of those factors. I was not there and I’m not in his head. I may have done things a little differently and I may not have but it’s important for all of us to analyze, without judging since there but for the grace of God go we, how could that have played out differently?
I had a perfect opportunity for a “What Would I Do” test this morning. It was 7:30 AM on Sunday morning and I was awoken rudely and sharply by my alarm. Not the one by my bedside, but my home alarm. The mechanical lady who resides within the unit speaks, along with an ear-shattering, high-pitched blare. She told me it was my basement motion sensor which triggered the alarm. I live in a 2 story house with a basement and all the bedrooms are upstairs. I had my .45 right there by me, holstered, in the bed. My husband is out of town this weekend, so it’s been just me for a couple of days. And some dude who is in one of my Facebook groups was messaging me last night and kind of creeping me out, so that flittered through my mind at that moment. So, I got up, pulled my .45 within reach and answered my cellphone for the alarm monitoring company. She asked if I was in the house by myself and I told her that hopefully, yes, but that remains to be seen and she then asked if I wanted her to send police and I told her yes, please. So, I threw on my jeans and secured my .45 to my waist and waited at the top of the stairs on a bench under the front window so that I could simultaneously keep an eye on the stairwell and out the window for the police. When the patrol car pulled up, I carefully went down to the main level and opened the front door to greet him. He checked the outside perimeter first and then came back around the front and inside and into the basement.
Everything was secure. I still don’t know what tripped it. It’s pet-friendly up to 40 pounds and there were no spider webs around it. Perhaps a spider still crossed directly onto the sensor.
But let’s suppose someone had entered my home through my basement. Did I do the right thing? Did I really need to have a police officer clear my basement? After all, I’m armed, I’m good under pressure, I’m an NRA Instructor and I lead a local chapter of The Well Armed Woman which teaches women all about self-empowerment and being able to defend oneself. Couldn’t I have just taken care of it by myself? After all , isn’t that my right, which I am entitled to exercise?
In the hypothetical scenario that someone was in my house, yes, I absolutely had every right to confront him and shoot him. There’s really no gray area there as far as the letter of the law is concerned. However, the Zimmerman case is case and point that even when the law is on your side, your life could still be turned upend. Forever.
Now, I will not hesitate to use deadly force to defend my life but I don’t want to have to do that and I will avoid it until I am unable to. Then, I will kill you but only because there is no other option to ensure that I stay alive myself.
Is it because I’m weak or not confident in my abilities or rights? No, it’s because I happen to enjoy my life the way it is now and I’d prefer to not turn it on its ear.
What if I charged into the basement by myself and ended up shooting a neighborhood kid? What if I ended up shooting a woman in my neighborhood who entered my house in an attempt to hide from her abusive husband who was chasing her? What if it was my husband coming home early? We all like to think that we’d have the ability to discern before shooting but if the light is low and that other person moves their arm upwards in an attempt to motion me to stop and to me it looks like they’re reaching to their side for their own sidearm then I may determine in that split second that I don’t have any more time and I must pull the trigger NOW to save my own life.
I would completely be within my legal rights but I could still be wrong. I don’t want to live with a preventable death on my hands and my heart. No matter how stupid it may be of some idiot kid to enter my basement. No matter how bad of an idea it may be for that neighborhood wife to take refuge in my house to avoid her asshole husband. No matter how completely lame-brained it would be for my husband to come home earlier than expected without notifying me AND without disarming the alarm with his phone before entering the house. Does that mean that they should lose their lives and that I should be the one to take that life from them? Imagine yourself in any of those scenarios and if you still think that you’d be okay emotionally and psychologically, then you need to have a serious come-to-Jesus with God about personal conscience. And probably see a therapist.
And let’s not forget the possibility that the other person could get the drop on me. If he’s an armed robber I could end up dead. I’m a good shot and all but there are no guarantees in a gunfight. I’d be a complete jackass to assume that I’m going to be the one who comes out alive in that scenario. I feel that my chances would be good but cockiness kills.
Even without the moral implications and the weight around one’s conscience, there are still legal implications. Just because you’re innocent doesn’t mean you won’t be charged with anything. The legal system shows us that every day. George Zimmerman wasn’t even charged that fateful night. It was clear that he had violated no law the night he killed Trayvon in self defense. Yet, here he is a year and a half later with his life changed forever, having faced a long trial and fight for his freedom, more legal battles to face, his name dragged through the mud, his reputation forever in question, broke and slandered and persecuted. His life will NEVER be the same again. He will always be a polarizing figure wherever he goes and his life will always likely be in danger somewhat.
Do I want any of that? Hell no! Ain’t nobody got time for that! Someone is going to have to work hard to make me risk dying myself or losing control over my life for years. If someone had made their way up the stairs while I was waiting for the police, then I was in a position to see them before they saw me and I could assess them first and allow myself time to act after making a determination. This gives me a vantage point and helps lessen my chances of making an error in judgment. It gives me the ability to then move around the corner toward the laundry room so that if he continues up the next flight of stairs I’m then in a position to shoot him when he turns the corner since I’ve been able to determine without a doubt that I’m not only legally but also morally within my bounds to shoot him.
By having the police officer come and clear my home, I greatly lower my likelihood of having to make those life altering, split second decisions. I only have to make a decision on deadly force if an intruder puts me in a position to where I cannot avoid making such a decision. If the police officer shoots a kid or a neighborhood woman or my husband, he’s at a greater advantage than I am legally. It may not be fair, but it’s reality.
I believe that we are our own first line of self defense and that we are ultimately all responsible for our own protection but that doesn’t mean that the police are not a valuable resource. It’s not about holding them responsible for our safety but it is about using your resources wisely. I could have taken care of this myself and refused the police dispatch offered by my alarm company but had I done that, there’s a very real chance that instead of writing this blog post right now, that I could be shaking in a corner somewhere or being booked into jail or at the hospital with my husband or dead.
The actions which I took today are actions which I could have lived with and with a free conscience regardless of the outcome. And that’s what it’s ultimately about. Just because you have a right to certain actions doesn’t always mean you should take them.
Before you criticize my actions or respond with other actions you may have taken, consider them. I mean really think about them. Play that scenario all the way through to the end. Look at all the angles and then see if that changes your outlook. Because your actions aren’t just about what’s legal or constitutional. Your actions could have devastating effects on you and your entire family forever.