ROE stands for “Rules of Engagement” – I wanted to publish this in light of this thread here, as well as this new thread from Sebastian.  The debate was started because Sebastian and I both agree that lethal force should not be used to stop petty theft.

Pennsylvania law basically stipulates that you may use as much physical force as you require to recover or protect your property, or to remove a trespasser, but you may not use deadly force to do this.

PA law in this case forms a good guideline – however what we’re talking about is rules of engagement; or under what situations can you or should you use lethal force.  Please note, these are my opinions, and carry exactly as much as weight as you choose to lend them.

My life, or the life of my friends and family is more valuable than the life of a criminal.  That means that if anyone is clearly presenting the threat of lethal force or grave bodily harm (GBH) to myself, my family, or my friends, then I have no qualms about using lethal force to defend my life.  That’s rule number one.   Let’s look at shoot/no shoot situations with that in mind.  What I’m not going to do is role-play a bunch of hypothetical situations, these are general guidelines for general situations.

1.  Your home – From a legal standpoint, if you’re in a state like Indiana or another that has the Castle Doctrine, your home is a free engagement zone, essentially.  However, I won’t recommend carte blanche to go blasting people in your house.  In a home invasion situation, if I had the opportunity to allow the other guy to surrender, I would.  But he may not give me that chance, in which case lethal force is a go.  A furtive move, obvious weapons, failure to comply to instructions to lie down, all of those are triggers to move to lethal force.  However, you may not get that option, and you may encounter an intruder swinging a bat at your head.  In that case lethal force should be GO from the second you see a guy with a weapon.

2.  In the car – I’ll be blunt here; people who advocate dismounting a vehicle and engaging targets with a handgun are stupid.  If you are in a vehicle, and have the option to just drive away, then drive away.  The corollary to this is that your vehicle also makes an excellent weapon, if so needed.  A Toyota Camry is a much more efficient man-stopping projectile than a 9mm.

3.   Legal Obligation – Most jurisdictions require that if you use lethal force, you must have been in a situation where a reasonable person would have feared for their life/GBH.  This is a great guideline.  For example; were I being mugged on the street, I would reasonably be fearing for my life/GBH.  If I am being attacked in my home, same thing.  If I see some punk smashing the window of my car from 20 yards away and taking off with my iPod, then there is no fear of death or GBH, which makes it a “no shoot” situation.

When you get down to it; the law is a lot more important than your personal beliefs.  Even if you believe that stealing is “murder writ small”, the law says it isn’t, and if you use lethal force to prevent petty theft, then you’re a murderer in the eyes of the law.

When it comes to using lethal force, you actually have to be mentally prepared.  You have to decide now in which situations you’re willing to use lethal force, because when the balloon goes up, you will not be able to decide, and you will default to whatever you’ve trained your mind for.

When it comes to me, I’m not willing to kill over my property.  I’m willing to use force to protect my property, but not lethal force unless there is a credible threat to me or mine.


  1. What I’m worried about is antis taking this to mean “no force, ever” to stop theft; basically, the situation Britain is in.

    I know you did some posts previously on home defense (and, of course, recommend a firearm), but that focused on a lethal response. What about less-lethal responses to stop said car stereo thief?

    I wonder what the ballistic coefficient of a Toyota Camry is, anyway?

  2. The corollary to this is that your vehicle also makes an excellent weapon, if so needed. A Toyota Camry is a much more efficient man-stopping projectile than a 9mm.

    Something Massad Ayoob points out in “The Gravest Extreme”, is that your car is a weapon. Everyone should read that book if they haven’t already. It’s good, and a quick read.

  3. I am for using force to defend your property, but only legally appropriate levels of force – for example, if I catch someone with an armful of CDs from my car, I’m not going to whip out the blaster for that.

    On the flip side, if I catch someone smashing my car windows with a crowbar, and when I confront him he turns on me with said crowbar, then lethal force would be appropriate.

  4. Sage, sage advice Ahab.

    My view is simple: Most of my shit can be replaced. Most of my shit is, well, shit. The shit that’s not shit is well-guarded.

    Someone breaks into my house, I’m not going to shoot them for stealing my shit. I am, however, going to be inclined to view any action taken by them (other than throwing themselves on the ground and begging for mercy) as a hostility towards myself or my family and act appropriately.


    [magazine hitting floor]

    {BANG}{BANG}{BANG}{BANG}{BANG}{BANG}… (you get the idea…) 😉

  5. First, thanks for pushing this topic. It’s very important that every one of us consider carefully why and when we are willing to kill, or even threaten another person. Sometimes it gets easy to relax about carrying a weapon, just another item on the pre-departure checklist (keys, wallet, change, XD-9, handkerchef) and we forget the heavy responsibility we have as an armed citizen. Yes, we are properly concerned with protecting ourselves and our families, but we must also, at all times, be concerned about protecting everyone else around us. We are accepting responsibility for the person we might hit with a missed shot as well as the person we intended to hit. We are accepting responsibility for the lives we are trying to save if we interfere in an armed robbery or mass shooting, as well as if we choose not to interfere.
    There is no such thing as a “good” shooting. Justified, yes. Unavoidable, OK. But good, no. I don’t care how bad he was, or how hard he was trying to kill you or your friends or family, it’s never good to kill a man. Even so, I rehearse in my mind as many situations as I can think of – bad guy comming thru the door, bad guy at my car window, shooter in the mall, robbery at the grocery, and on and on. How is he armed? Alone, or multiple? Which to take down first? Try to take unshot? Shoot to wound? What about after? How hard is it going to be to convence the cops I’m a good guy? What if a bystander tries to pick up a weapon on the ground? All of us should have at least thought of all of these questions/situations and hundreds more like them, and tried to come up with an answer we can live with.

    Second, I am very pleased to see some serious thought expressed on the use of a weapon. The anti-gun crowd can scream “shoot-outs on the street”, but I know better, because I have read what my fellow carriers have to say. Thanks.


  6. If I find a guy in my car pulling the radio, I’m going to pull my gun and tell him to stay right where he his with his hands flat on the dash while I call 911. I’m not going to just shoot him. If he never offers violence, it’s not OK to shoot him.

  7. I recently ran across a blog comment that resonated with me, and if only I could find it back, I would attribute it correctly. It was something like this:

    As a rule of thumb, assume that use of a firearm on your part–brandishing in public, aiming at another person, and especially firing–will result in your incarceration (be it in a county jail or state prison). So before you draw or bring your weapon to bear, ask yourself “Is what [I think] I’m protecting worth going to prison for?”

    I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, as you can guess.

  8. I have a little sticker in the window of my home which is out in the country On it is a sillouette of a big huge dog and it says “I have one of these inside.” Next to that is a sillouette of a large handgun. It says “I also have one of these”.

    I think that probably deters more would be punk kids that want to break in and steal my TV than the Brinks sign.

    That and a few targets hanging up on the garage wall with a three inch center mass and center of the forhead blown clean though and not a mark elsewhere.

    But I’m a woman, and I’m alone. Whether they have my U2 tapes or a hammer, then get within 9 feet of me in my home and move in, they’re mine, for as for the size upper body strength thing, they get closer than that I lose all advantage and I’m theirs for the picking.

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