At What Point is it a Deadly Weapon?

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

One of the tricky problems with self-defense is defining when it is truly self-defense and when it isn’t. We are all taught that we can use deadly force in self-defense; but there’s a huge caveat on that; the courts have to agree that it was self-defense after the fact. If someone starts shooting at you, it’s clear that they are using a deadly weapon and that you are justified in using the same level of force to defend yourself. But real life isn’t that cut and dried, and whether or not it is self-defense isn’t always so obvious.

I just recently read a report of a man shooting an intruder on his property who came at him with a hand saw. They weren’t in the house, which is normally one of the criteria used for determining self-defense. Rather, three intruders were heading for a second house on this couple’s property, which they used for storage. As they had recently been burglarized, the man went out to confront the intruders, taking his pistol with him.

At this time, there are few details about this case, other than one of the suspects having turned on the homeowner with that saw, who then shot him. I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt, but that doesn’t mean that the police will. They have to investigate the situation; it will probably have to go to court, and at some time, someone is going to have to decide whether his action was justified or not.

Is a saw a deadly weapon? I’ve worked with tools all my life (woodworking is my hobby) and I’ll have to give that a definite maybe. I certainly wouldn’t want someone coming after me with a hand saw, as it could clearly cut and hurt me if they hit me with it. But could they cause serious bodily harm? Would that fit the definition of “imminent risk of life and limb?” I’m not so sure. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to have to go into court and have to convince a judge or jury that I felt my life was at risk, because a guy came at me with a hand saw.

It’s actually not that I have to convince them that I thought my life was at risk, I’d have to convince them that any reasonable person would think so. That’s an even harder standard to meet.  If I can’t, then I would be guilty of a crime, as it would not be considered self-defense.

That’s why I always counsel prudence in the use of firearms. I carry a gun every day; but that gun is my last line of defense. I will try to do whatever else I can, before reaching for it; because when I reach for it, I’ll be shooting to kill.

That’s also why I think in terms of alternate weapons, allowing my gun to be my last line of defense. If someone came at me with a saw, I’d probably try to grab something I could block the saw with first. While that might not stop the assailant, I couldn’t be accused of using excessive force; and I always have my gun as a backup, if that stick or whatever isn’t enough.

The FBI just recently came out with their annual crime report. As per usual, there’s the usual flock of “experts” analyzing the FBI’s data and conclusions. One thing I’m seeing people talk about is the statistics on killings that are done with weapons other than guns.

I’m not going to get into any details, but there are the usual statistics about people being killed by knives, hammers and baseball bats, giving plenty of credence to the idea that you don’t need to have a gun to kill someone. But the real question for you and I is whether someone who appears to be coming at us to attack us is able to do us serious bodily harm with whatever is in their hand.

The thing is, that’s always a judgment call, up until the moment when they attempt to strike their first blow. Even then, there are many cases where it is still a judgment blow, as we don’t know their skill with that weapon and in some cases, like with this saw; we don’t know how seriously they can actually hurt us with it.

Prudence is necessary; but at the same time, it makes no sense allowing someone to hurt us seriously or even potentially kill us, just because we don’t know how much damage they might do with an unusual weapon they are wielding.

Stay alert, that’s the best defense, even better than your gun. And of course, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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