Conceal carry confusion: Some parks missing `no guns` signs

Illinois’ new concealed carry law has been in effect for several months now, but it appears there is still confusion over some of its requirements.

A ‘no guns allowed’ sign is posted in a tiny public park in Downers Grove attached to the larger park district sign.

Yet right next door in Lombard, there are no signs banning guns nor are there any signs up in Maywood’s public parks — a community that’s seen plenty of gun violence.

“If you were to look at the one common thread in this legislation, it’s confusion,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says. “It was messed up from day one and it still is today.”

Dart says the concealed carry bill passed by the state legislature last year is a mishmash of confusing language when it comes to requirements placed on municipalities and park districts.

“There’s wildly inconsistent behavior here as far as people not knowing what to do,” Dart says.

The statute includes a list of 23 places where concealed carry is prohibited, including public parks, playgrounds, libraries and schools.

The statute also requires ‘no guns’ signs be posted at those places. And while we found the signs at one public park in Homewood, the vast majority of parks we checked have no signs at all.

There is no enforcement mechanism in the law and no state agency to check whether the law is being followed. Nor is there any deadline to post the signs.

Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association says local park districts and other agencies are being made aware of the law through professional associations and questions whether all that signage is even needed.

Sheriff Dart is opposed to the bill, so he’s trying to pick it apart any way he can,” Pearson says.

“Every person that takes a concealed carry class has to go through that section and knows all the prohibited areas.”

Anyone with a concealed carry permit caught in those prohibited areas could lose their license and face a Class B misdemeanor.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Park District says they’ll begin putting up signs prohibiting guns in all public parks in the next few weeks.

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US Senate votes to ban plastic guns for 10 more years

The US Senate has approved a 10-year extension of a ban on plastic guns invisible to metal detectors but has rejected tougher restrictions called for by gun-control advocates.

The bill was approved by a Senate voice vote one week after it passed the House of Representatives.

Democrats had aimed to require a gun’s firing mechanism to contain at least one undetachable metal piece.

The ban has gained new relevance with the spread of at-home 3D printing.

‘Common sense’
The proposed 10-year extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act now goes to President Barack Obama for his approval.

Without further Congressional action, the 25-year-old law was scheduled to expire on Monday.

Senate Republicans failed to approve what Democratic Senator Chris Murphy described as a “common-sense” provision requiring plastic guns to contain a detectable metal component.

“If anybody in the Senate is so concerned about what they consider to be loopholes in the law, this obviously should have been done through hearings and the introduction of legislation long ago,” Republican Senator Charles Grassley subsequently told the media of the Democrat-led provision.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), America’s largest and most powerful gun lobby group, had issued a statement prior to the House vote on 3 December opposing any expansion of the law.

Analysts had previously said the NRA’s lobbying power left it unlikely the law would be broadened before next year’s mid-term election.

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Women and Shooting

It’s no secret that women are one of the fastest growing demographics when it comes to American gun ownership, but very often women in law enforcement don’t see the “fun” side of firearms, and that’s too bad. Yes, your on duty firearm(s) are tools designed to keep yourself and others safe, but that doesn’t mean practicing with them can’t be fun.

Unfortunately, so many of us have been issued a handgun or a shotgun (or both) that’s too big, too long, or just doesn’t fit right. Combine the “fit” issue with an instructor…male or female…that just doesn’t get it, and many women often dread going to the range. Poor scores and lousy instruction often lead to a lack of confidence, which is a disaster for a cop who finds herself in a gunfight.

Firearms issues are always a big discussion point at every “Winning Mind for Women” class we teach, and there are a number of things we recommend to remediate the problem, but I’ve never made the recommendation I’m about to make.

Join the National Rifle Association. There, I said it. I don’t like to recommend political groups, and I’ve not always agreed with the NRA’s stance on a number of issues, but they are definitely at the forefront of bringing shooting sports and firearms education to women. Sometimes you have to get a little outside of your comfort zone to make improvements, and that’s what I aim to do (pun intended). It’s also what I want you to do if you’re looking at improving your shooting.

The National Rifle Association has a law enforcement division that was established in 1960 to help provide police departments with a mechanism to certify their firearms instructors. So much has changed since then, but the NRA is very supportive of police training groups like the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI, the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) and the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA). They also support Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) and other law enforcement charities.

The NRA’s law enforcement division has great training and support for cops, but if you’re really looking to change the way you view shooting, reach out to the NRA’s Women on Target® program. Since 2008 participation in this civilian program has increased by almost 70 percent, and they offer information and training ranging from tactical to educational to political. Their programming is incredibly diverse, and it’s all geared toward women.

“We’re encouraged about the state of firearms in America by the increasing success and reach of our programs,” says Bill Poole, Managing Director of NRA’s Educational and Training Division. “Providing citizens with ways to safely exercise their Second Amendment rights helps them discover new interests and ensures our shooting traditions will be a lasting heritage passed on to future generations.”

So why turn to a group for “civilians” for firearms instruction? As several of my range instructors have told me, sometimes female police officers who have been less than successful shooters need to go back to the beginning, but that’s hard to do if you’re already a cop. People have certain expectations of you; they expect you to be a female Rambo, so even if you go to all female firearms training event outside of your own department…something I’m a big proponent of…you may not feel entirely comfortable.

The NRA offers Women on Target® Instructional Shooting Clinics throughout the United States. These training classes are where you’ll find everyone from teenagers to grandmothers learning not only how to operate a firearm, but how to safety clean and store it. Participants also learn to appreciate the sporting aspect of gun ownership as well as how to protect themselves and their loved ones. Think about finding one in your area (or one in a vacation spot you’ve always wanted to visit) and signing up. Take your daughter, your niece, your girlfriend, someone you trust and want to have some fun with. Yes, some of it will be incredibly basic for you, but this is the perfect first step to breaking some of those bad habits and learning about the “fun” side of firearms.

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Newcomerstown school district to let some employees carry guns

NEWCOMERSTOWN — An eastern Ohio school district will allow some employees to carry guns on school property beginning this fall.

The Newcomerstown Exempted Village School District board las month approved a policy authorizing employees designated by the board and superintendent to carry guns.

The district released few details of the plan that will go into effect in the coming school year. Board President Jerry Lahmers says it would be counterproductive if the general public knew how many people were authorized to carry weapons or in which buildings they worked.

But he tells Channel 3 News that could include principals, teachers or other employees.

Lahmers says the change is a reaction to the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut.

The Newcomerstown District has about 1,100 students in 4 buildings with 130 employees.

Only recently it adopted measures that are standard in many other schools.

Those include a buzz-in security system and requiring visitors to sign in at the door of school buildings.

The policy is being crafted with input from the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office, Newcomerstown’s Police Department and the Buckeye Firearms Association.

That group offered offered free firearms training to Ohio teachers and school personnel.

Those carrying guns must get tactical training and be recertified by the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Department annually. They also must have a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Schools officials say the policy should help keep students safe.

Lahmers said a parents’ group recommended the new gun policy.

But some students expressed reservations about the dangers of guns in schools to Channel 3 News.

At least one other school system in Ohio has adopted a policy of giving employees access to guns.

Sidney Schools, north of Dayton, are forming a response team of employees who will have be able to get to to handguns stored in safes in school buildings.

The Newcomerstown plan raises possible questions about insurance coverage.

Insurance providers in the state of Kansas have balked at covering school systems that arm employees.

Lahmers says discussion are continuing with Newcomerstown Schools’ insurance company.

He believes the firm is interested in and favorably views additional steps that increase security.

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MORE AIR PASSENGERS SHOW UP WITH GUNS

WASHINGTON (AP) — Several times every day, at airports across the country, passengers are trying to walk through security with loaded guns in their carry-on bags, purses or pockets, even in a boot. And, more than a decade after 9/11 raised consciousness about airline security, it’s happening a lot more often.

In the first six months of this year, Transportation Security Administration screeners found 894 guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags, a 30 percent increase over the same period last year. The TSA set a record in May for the most guns seized in one week — 65 in all, 45 of them loaded and 15 with bullets in the chamber and ready to be fired. That was 30 percent more than the previous record of 50 guns, set just two weeks earlier.

Last year TSA found 1,549 firearms on passengers attempting to go through screening, up 17 percent from the year before.

In response to a request from The Associated Press, the agency provided figures on the number of firearm incidents in 2011 and 2012 for all U.S. airports, as well as the number of passengers screened at each airport. The AP analyzed the data, as well as weekly blog reports from the agency on intercepted guns from this year and last year.

TSA didn’t keep statistics on guns intercepted before 2011, but officials have noticed an upward trend in recent years, said spokesman David Castelveter.

Some of the details make officials shake their heads.

As one passenger took off his jacket to go through screening in Sacramento, Calif., last year, TSA officers noticed he was wearing a shoulder holster, and in it was a loaded 9 mm pistol. The same passenger was found to have three more loaded pistols, 192 rounds of ammunition, two magazines and three knives.

Screeners elsewhere found a .45-caliber pistol and magazine hidden inside a cassette deck. Another .45-caliber pistol loaded with seven rounds, including a round in the chamber, was hidden under the lining of a carry-on bag in Charlotte, N.C. A passenger in Allentown, Pa., was carrying a pistol designed to look like a writing pen. At first the passenger said it was just a pen, but later acknowledged it was a gun, according to TSA.

A passenger in March at Bradley Hartford International Airport in Connecticut had a loaded .38-caliber pistol containing eight rounds strapped to his lower left leg. At Salt Lake City International Airport, a gun was found inside a passenger’s boot strapped to a prosthetic leg.

TSA doesn’t believe these gun-toting passengers are terrorists, but the agency can’t explain why so many passengers try to board planes with guns, either, Castelveter said. The most common excuse offered by passengers is “I forgot it was there.”

“We don’t analyze the behavioral traits of people who carry weapons. We’re looking for terrorists,” he said. “But sometimes you have to scratch your head and say, ‘Why?’”

Many passengers found to have guns by screeners are arrested, but not all. It depends on the gun laws where the airport is located. If the state or jurisdiction where the airport is located has tolerant gun laws, TSA screeners will frequently hand the gun back to the passenger and recommend locking it in a car or finding some other safe place for it. The government doesn’t track what happens to the people who are arrested.

Is it plausible that some people are so used to carrying guns that they simply forget that they have them, even when they’re at an airport about to walk through a scanner? Or do some people try to bring their guns with them when they fly because they think they won’t get caught?

Jimmy Taylor, a sociology professor at Ohio University-Zanesville and the author of several books on the nation’s gun culture, said some gun owners are so used to carrying concealed weapons that it’s no different to them than carrying keys or a wallet.

The most common reason people say they carry guns is for protection, so it also makes sense that most of the guns intercepted by TSA are loaded, Taylor said. Many gun owners keep their weapons loaded so they’re ready if needed, he said.

Even so, Taylor said he finds it hard to believe airline passengers forget they’re carrying guns.

“My wife and I check on things like eye drops and Chapstick to see if we’re allowed to take them on a plane, so it’s a little difficult to imagine that you aren’t checking the policies about your loaded firearm before you get to the airport,” he said.

Occasionally passengers stopped by TSA are people who are used to carrying guns because they work in law enforcement, security or the military, but that doesn’t appear to be the case most of the time.

Robert Spitzer, an expert on gun policy and gun rights, theorizes that for some, the “I forgot” answer is an excuse, “just like somebody who walks out of a store with an unpaid-for item in their pocket. The first thing that person will say is, ‘I forgot.’ Do people forget sometimes? Sure they do. But are there also people who try to shoplift to get away with something? Sure there are, and I think that’s no less true with guns.”

Eighty-five percent of the guns intercepted last year were loaded. The most common type of gun was a .38-caliber pistol.

Airports in the South and the West, where the American gun culture is strongest, had the greatest number of guns intercepted, according to TSA data.

Of the 12 airports with the most guns last year, five are in Texas: Dallas-Fort Worth International, 80 guns; George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, 52; Dallas Love Field, 37; William P. Hobby in Houston, 35, and Austin-Bergstrom International, 33. Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta had the most for any airport, at 96. Others include Phoenix Sky Harbor, 54; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in Florida, 42; Denver International, 39; Seattle-Tacoma International, 37; Orlando International Airport in Florida, 36, and Tampa International in Florida, 33.

When expressed as a proportion of airport traffic volume, small airports in the West and South led the way. The airport in Roswell, N.M., had 8.5 guns intercepted per 100,000 passengers last year; Cedar City, Utah, and Provo, Utah, both 6.5; Longview, Texas, 4.9; Dickinson, N.D., 4; Joplin, Mo., 3.8; Twin Falls, Idaho, 3.4; Fort Smith, Ark., 3.3, and Walla Walla, Wash., and Elko, Nev., both 2.9.

By contrast, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where TSA screened nearly 27 million passengers last year, there was a single passenger found to have a gun.

“There are some Americans who believe that there are no limits, that they not only have a constitutional but a God-given right to have a gun and ‘By gosh, if I want to bring a gun on a plane I’m going to do it,’” said Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York-Cortland.

TSA’s count of guns intercepted doesn’t include all the other kinds of prohibited “guns” that TSA screeners find, like flare guns, BB guns, air guns, spear guns, pellet guns and starter pistols. Screeners find half a dozen to several dozen stun guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags each week. Last December, screeners stopped a passenger in Boston with seven stun guns in his bag. He said they were Christmas presents. The same week, screeners spotted 26 stun guns in the carry-on bag of a passenger at JFK. TSA has found several stun guns disguised as smartphones, and one that looked like a package of cigarettes.

Passengers are allowed to take guns with them when they fly, but only as checked baggage. They are required to fill out a form declaring the weapons and to carry them in a hard-sided bag with a lock.

Most of those who are stopped with guns are reluctant to talk about it afterward. One who didn’t mind was Raymond Whitehead, 53, of Santa Fe, N.M., who was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey in May after screeners spotted 10 hollow-point bullets in his carry-on bag. Whitehead, who is completely blind, also had a .38 caliber Charter Arms revolver in his checked bag that he had failed to declare. He said in an interview with the AP that he was unaware of the specifics of the rules for checking guns, or that hollow-point bullets are illegal in New Jersey.

Whitehead acknowledged that it seems “counterintuitive” for a blind man to have a gun but said he keeps a loaded gun handy for protection from intruders. In such a situation, he said, he would call out a warning that he had a gun and spray bullets in the direction of the noise if the intruder didn’t leave.

“I have five shots, and if I fan it out I’m going to hit you,” said Whitehead, a National Rifle Association member who owns five guns.

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TN’s guns-in-trunks law, others start today

A measure that allows people with handgun carry permits to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked is among a number of new state laws that take effect today.

The gun law will go into effect despite questions about what it means for employment law in Tennessee — the measure allows workers to store guns in cars while parked in their employers’ parking lots.

The state attorney general said in a legal opinion released in May that under the law, employers still would be allowed to fire workers who violate gun bans.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey disagreed with the opinion, saying in a statement that the “General Assembly created a clear statutory right allowing permit holders to lawfully keep a firearm stored in their car while at work.”

“Any employer explicitly terminating a permit holder for keeping a gun locked in his car would violate the state’s clear public policy, opening himself or herself up to legal action,” the Blountville Republican said.

Joan Beruber, like other Middle Tennesseans, fear the repercussions the new law may bring.

“People love guns here, and there are just a lot of accidental shootings,” she said. “There is always going to be someone that can fly off the handle and just start shooting.”

Other measures taking effect include a law that allows school districts to let people with police training be armed in schools, and one that would require incoming students at public higher education institutions to show proof they’ve had meningitis shots.

The safety measure gives schools the option to hire retired law enforcement officers after they meet certain requirements, such as completing a 40-hour school security course.

It also makes information about which teachers are armed or which schools allow guns confidential to anyone but law enforcement.

Gov. Bill Haslam included $34 million in his budget for local government officials to use on their priorities, which could include additional security measures for schools.

Jim Wrye, chief lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association, said the new law will benefit financially strapped school districts, particularly those in rural areas.

“It’s a way that school systems can now determine ways to expand their security options,” he said. “And for our members across the state, that was an inherently good thing.”

The vaccination law is named after Middle Tennessee State University freshman Jacob Nunley, who died less than 24 hours after contracting meningococcal meningitis in 2012. The contagious disease is a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

Currently, MTSU and most other public colleges and universities in Tennessee recommend but don’t require the vaccination.

Chris Wilson, Nunley’s uncle, believes his nephew would be alive today had the law been in place.

“If MTSU had been a school that required it, there’s not a doubt in our minds that Jacob would still be here today,” he said.

Another new law will cut a weekly $15-per-child allowance that was going to Tennesseans drawing unemployment benefits.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development said the change will help bolster the state unemployment trust fund, which could lead to a reduction in unemployment taxes paid by businesses.

According to the department’s projections, ending the allowance for dependent children in the budget year beginning July 1 will save the state $40 million per year.

Lawmakers created the child allowance in 2009 in order to qualify for a nearly $142 million federal stimulus grant. Now that that money has been spent, the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year passed a bill to end the program.

Advocates for low-income families oppose the change.

“Over 150,000 kids in Tennessee live in a household where one or both parents are unemployed and looking for work,” said Chris Coleman, an attorney with the Tennessee Justice Center. “The Legislature’s decision to take money away from these children will only increase the financial strain on these already-struggling families. That’s not what I call family values.”

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Suburban Cook gun owners to face fines for not reporting stolen guns

Firearms owners in suburban Cook County will face fines up to $2,000 if they don’t report to police when their guns are lost, stolen or sold under an ordinance commissioners approved today.

The plan, pushed by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, will apply to all areas of the county where a similar law is not already on the books. It will not apply within the city of Chicago, which has its own firearms statutes.

The County Board approved the new rules by a voice vote with no opposition. The vote came just minutes after commissioners honored Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl whose fatal shooting last week has come to symbolize the epidemic of violence in Chicago

“This is not just a problem in the city, it’s a problem throughout the county,” Commissioner John Daley, D-Chicago, said while talking about Hadiya.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also is moving ahead with plans to toughen laws requiring people to report lost, stolen or transferred guns in Chicago. The mayor’s plan would include mandatory jail time, while the county version only allows for fines.

The new county gun ordinance will take effect in August. It requires gun owners to report the loss of their guns to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

Preckwinkle argues the new rules will help cut down on so-called “straw purchases,” in which people legally buy guns, then sell them to criminals.

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Thousands Rally Against Stricter Gun Control in US

Gun advocates — some with rifles slung across shoulders or pistols holstered at the hip — have rallied peacefully in state capitals nationwide against President Barack Obama’s sweeping federal gun-control proposals.

Summoned via social media for the “Guns Across America” event, participants gathered Saturday for protests large and small against stricter limits sought on firearms. Only a few dozen turned out in South Dakota and a few hundred in Boise, Idaho. Some 2,000 turned out in New York and large crowds also rallied in Connecticut, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington state.

The rallies came on a day in which accidental shootings at gun shows in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio left five people hurt. The wounded included two bystanders hit by shotgun pellets after a 12-gauge shotgun discharged at a show in Raleigh, N.C., as the owner unzipped its case for a law officer to check at a security entrance, authorities said. A retired deputy there also suffered a slight hand injury.

About 800 people gathered for the “Guns Across America” event in Austin, Texas, as speakers took to the microphone under a giant Texas flag stamped with one word: “Independent.”

“The thing that so angers me, and I think so angers you, is that this president is using children as a human shield to advance a very liberal agenda that will do nothing to protect them,” said state Rep. Steve Toth, referencing last month’s elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Obama recently announced the gun-control proposals in the wake of a Connecticut elementary school shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six educators last month.

Toth, a first-term Republican lawmaker from The Woodlands outside Houston, has introduced legislation to ban within Texas any future federal limits on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, though such a measure would violate the U.S. Constitution.

In Arizona, Oregon and Utah, some came with holstered handguns or rifles on their backs.

One man in Phoenix dressed as a Revolutionary War Minuteman, completing his outfit with an antique long rifle and a sign reading: “Tyrants Beware – 1776.”

“We’re out here because this country has some very wise founding fathers and they knew they were being oppressed when they were a British colony,” said another man at the Phoenix rally, Eric Cashman. “Had they not had their firearms … to stand up against the British, we’d still be a British colony.”

Rallies at statehouses nationwide were organized by Eric Reed, an airline captain from the Houston area who in November started a group called “More Gun Control (equals) More Crime.” Its Facebook page has been “liked” by more than 17,000 people.

At the New York state Capitol in Albany, about 2,000 people turned out for a chilly rally, where they chanted “We the People,” ”USA,” and “Freedom.” Many carried American flags and “Don’t Tread On Me” banners. The event took place four days after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the nation’s toughest assault weapon and magazine restrictions.

In Connecticut, where task forces created by the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy are considering changes to gun laws, police said about 1,000 people showed up on the Capitol grounds. One demonstrator at the rally in Maine, Joe Getchell of Pittsfield, said every law-abiding citizen has a right to bear arms.

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Alderman Suggests Requiring GPS Devices On All Guns

A South Side alderman is asking for City Council hearings on an unorthodox gun control measure that would allow for GPS tracking of firearms.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former police officer, has suggested that global positioning system chips be embedded in new guns, and retrofitted on existing firearms, so they could be located if they go missing.

“Just like if your car gets stolen, OnStar can tell you where your car is. If your gun gets stolen, and you report it, we should be able to find that gun,” he said.

Cochran has introduced a resolution asking the Committee on Public Safety to hold hearings to receive testimony on the matter. A Massachusetts state senator from Boston has been pushing a similar measure in that state.

Cochran acknowledged it might be expensive to install GPS chips on current and future firearms, but not as expensive as the cost of gun violence to society.

“Let’s measure what it costs in hospital costs, lost wages, deaths,” he said.

As for the privacy of gun owners who could be tracked with the GPS chips in their guns, Cochran said, “safety is … a much more important issue than is privacy.”

“It is extremely important that we look past this privacy issue, at this point, and understand how important it is for us to address the issue of safety,” he added.

The mayor wasn’t commenting on Cochran’s proposal.

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Self Defense: Are There Limits to the Amount of Force that May Be Used?

A Minnesota homeowner named Byron David Smith has stirred up a great deal of controversy for shooting and killing two unarmed intruders in his house. He supposedly shot Nicholas Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18 to death after they allegedly broke into Smith’s home on Thanksgiving. Smith is being charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

Smith apparently told the police that he shot the teenagers numerous times until they were dead. He also told the police that once the two teenagers were clearly wounded on the ground but still alive, he shot Brady in the face. He also shot Kifer from under her chin into her cranium. Moreover, Smith told the police that neither of the intruders had a weapon on them.

According to a source, if Smith had stopped shooting the intruders once they were on the ground, he wouldn’t be facing criminal charges. However, because he shot them to the point of death, he is being charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

How much force is too much force when defending yourself?

If faced with a situation where you need to defend yourself from unlawful force, you may either use deadly force or non-deadly force. Of course, the type of force that may be used depends on the situation.

You may use non-deadly force when it is reasonably necessary to protect yourself from unlawful force. You may use deadly force in self-defense if you are “confronted with unlawful force and are threatened with imminent death or great bodily harm.”

Can you use deadly force when defending your property?

You may never use to deadly force while defending your property.

Self-defense laws vary by state. For example, in Minnesota, homeowners are permitted to defend themselves and their property if they believe they are in danger. To learn more about self-defense laws in your state, contact a criminal law attorney today.

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