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.