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Can I Shoot a Smash-and-Grab Robber?

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Ever found yourself in the middle of a smash-and-grab robbery? It’s an alarming situation, and knowing your rights is crucial.

William Kirk, President of Washington Gun Law, recently shed light on this very scenario.

“Today, we’re talking about smash-and-grab robberies,” Kirk began. He set up a scenario where you are innocently shopping in a fine jewelry store when suddenly, robbers with crowbars burst in and start smashing display cases, grabbing valuables.

It’s chaotic, but crucially, the robbers don’t seem to be threatening patrons or employees directly.

So, can you use lethal force?

Kirk explains the legal considerations: “For any Force no matter what whether it involves a fist or a firearm…has to be 1. Necessary 2. It has to be reasonable both objectively and subjectively speaking, and 3. It has to be proportional.”

In most states, lethal force is permissible under specific circumstances, such as imminent threat of serious injury or death.

However, he stressed that “in almost all jurisdictions in the United States lethal force is not allowable to defend only property.”

Kirk then examined whether the scenario justified lethal force, saying, “While we may think that this is a property crime…what we are witnessing right here is a violent felony. That’s right, it is the felony of robbery.”

More from Kirk on the matter:

That’s right, it is the felony of robbery. Okay, we call them smash-and-grab robberies. We don’t call them smash-and-grab thefts or anything like that because this is a robbery. What is a robbery? Every state has its own way of defining it, but in general, a robbery is going to be defined as the action of taking property unlawfully from a person or place by force or threat of force. Okay, so if we are taking the property of another by using force or threatening to use force, that is a robbery. And here’s the deal: that is a felony in every state. And here’s the deal: it’s a violent felony. Okay, which means the victims of this robbery are actually having a violent felony committed upon them. Now if they just stay put and really don’t get involved, the likelihood of them being injured is under this hypothetical not particularly great. And I want you to remember that when we circle back on that. But this is much more than than a property crime. This is a serious. This is no different than if you walked up and you saw that some old lady had two hoodlums, one holding a crowbar over her head while the other one was ripping the purse off of her. Okay, they haven’t actually physically harmed her yet, thank God, they have not hit her with the crowbar, but is she being robbed? She most definitely is.

Kirk urges caution and broader reflection on doing the “right” thing, not just what’s legally permissible.

“While you may have the right to take the shot, why on God’s green earth would you get yourself involved in that way?” he asks, highlighting the potential legal and personal risks of intervening in a situation where your life isn’t directly at risk.

The discussion doesn’t just stop at individual rights. Kirk emphasizes the importance of understanding local laws, as they can vary significantly by state.

“Part of being the lawful and responsible gun owner like we talk about all the time here is to know what the law is in every situation how it applies to you in any instance that you may find yourself,” he says.

Kirk’s final thoughts circle back to the principles of responsible gun ownership. It’s not just about having the right but doing what’s right, especially when others’ lives and your own are at stake.

How would you respond in this hypothetical smash-and-grab situation?

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