Misunderstanding Intent and "Shooting to Stop"


October 22, 2013, 09:07 PM
This issue has cropped up again so maybe we need to reexamine it. I think a lot of folks have misunderstood the familiar mantra of "shoot to stop, not to kill." It's a way of reminding ourselves that the INSTANT the threat is no longer sufficient to justify deadly force, deadly force MUST cease. You cannot shoot the unconscious burglar in the head to finish him off---as happened in a case last year IIRC.

Therefore, shoot to stop, not to kill.

This does not mean you must shoot with a clean heart or without any subjective intent to kill. Your subjective intent is not relevant. Objective circumstances control here. You can be a pure hearted nun and be barred from SD or be an evil hearted scumbag and use the defense successfully. Of course, subjective intent can come into the case in other ways. For example if you really hated this dude from way back, the police may be skeptical and accuse you of setting him up. But at the moment of shooting, there's no law saying you must avert your inner thoughts from killing. I have no idea where people got that idea. Your inner thoughts are your own.

Saying "I didn't intend to kill him" afterwards is really stupid. It sounds like you accidentally shot him. Don't do it. Talk to your lawyer.

Nor is there a rule that you must only use deadly force if there's a small chance of survival. For example if there is a man lunging at me with a knife unlawfully and screaming for my death, and I have a choice of either shooting in his direction with a handgun or a 30mm cannon, I will choose the cannon (other considerations aside). Even though there is a 100% chance of the cannon killing him, and only a 75% chance of the handgun killing him. Deadly force is, as the name suggests, deadly. Never use it unless you ASSUME death will result. If it doesn't, and the attack ceases, great. But never pull the trigger assuming you won't kill. Or to cite one of the rules--assume you will indeed DESTROY the target. These are not stopping weapons. There are such things, but firearms are not among them.

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October 22, 2013, 09:23 PM
We do have a few threads on this:

Probably the most direct -- in fact, exactly the same question: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=637996

And for the most alarming practical example, the final thread on the Jerome Ersland incident: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=594815

Frank Ettin
October 22, 2013, 09:52 PM
I agree with Sam that this is a pretty well explored topic. We can keep it open for a bit to see if anyone has any new insights.

The bottom lines are:

Shooting to stop is the legal limit on your justified use of lethal force. If you have stopped the threat, you are not justified in continuing to use lethal force against the [former] aggressor, even if he is still breathing. If your mindset is that your aggressor is going to die, and you act on it and finish him off, you have committed murder.

Effectively stopping an assailant who has manifest the intent and ability to cause you death or great bodily injury will most likely require that you use a degree of force likely to cause death or great bodily injury. But that is not the same thing as intending to kill.

So if you use your handgun in a way best calculated to effectively stop a threat, there is an excellent chance that the aggressor will die. But the desired result is that he stop, not that he dies.

October 22, 2013, 10:12 PM
Your subjective intent is not relevant.It is relevant.

First of all, intent tends to drive actions. That can cause 2 problems. First of all, the intent to kill can cause a defender to tend overstep the legal bounds of self-defense if he is not careful. Second, even if he stays within the legal boundaries spelled out by the law, the intent to kill may cause him to expose himself to more danger than is necessary.

Finally, people tend to talk. If a "defender" has made or makes statements demonstrating intent, for example, on a public forum, and that intent can be shown to be inconsistent with the general principles of self-defense, that could severely complicate any legal defense.

October 22, 2013, 10:20 PM
dead people can't sue. survivors of perps may sue, but a dead person is worth less than a live person in determining claims.

October 22, 2013, 10:30 PM
And let's hope, for your sake, that one gets deleted. I'm sure you'd be proud to have them read that at your trial if you ever have to use deadly force in self-defense, but your lawyer sure won't like it...

October 22, 2013, 10:35 PM
Oh for the love of Mike. We are done here. Didn't take too long for this to get just downright ignorant.

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