Break-in Defense – Returning Fire

Break-in Defense FairnessIt’s impossible to discuss guns – even in the context of break-in defense – in any way without first acknowledging the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history, and the largest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by the tragic events in Orlando June 12.

We’re not going to say any more on the subject. The outrage and the wounds are too raw. But we’re going to remind you: Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. We don’t say this to be controversial or argumentative.

It’s our belief a firearm laying on a table is an inanimate object. It’s the same inanimate object when held in an individual’s hands. It only becomes something else when the individual holding it makes the decision to pull the trigger. THAT action and the intention of THAT action transforms it.


Every day, millions of people decide how they’re going to use a firearm. The good guys are at the shooting range getting to know their weapon better; whether it’s for hunting or protection. Or they’re teaching someone how to responsibly handle a firearm.

The bad guys, well … breaking into your home with a weapon is confirmation enough of their intent (for us). Why? Simply, you don’t aim a weapon at someone unless you’re prepared to take a life. As responsible gun owners, you know it. And as armed intruders/assailants, they know it, too. Heck, most people know it. So, why doesn’t the law recognize it??

It kind of does.

Hang on and hear us out before making a final decision about the fairness of having to be shot at before you can return fire as part of your break-in defense.

Duty to retreat

In some states, you have a duty to retreat, if possible. That means if an armed intruder illegally enters your domicile the burden of proof is on you to show you made every effort to escape. Who or what determines whether you had the opportunity to flee? Your guess is as good as ours.

Fail to retreat and fire first? You’ll likely face criminal charges.Is it fair? No; for so many reasons no. We’ve talked about implementing an emergency home defense plan and that should always be your first goal for the safety of you and your family. However, in some situations even the best laid plans aren’t always immediately operational.

Stand Your Ground

Other states observe stand your ground, which means you don’t have to retreat to claim self-defense. That’s the good news.The not-so good news – you can’t attack without cause. Who or what determines cause? Again, your guess is as good as ours.

We believe it’s cause enough when someone unlawfully enters your home brandishing a weapon with the intent to harm you, your family and anyone who gets in their way. Unfortunately, we don’t create or enforce the laws.

Castle Doctrine

Finally, there are some states where you can legally shoot an individual who breaks into home, business or vehicle. Hold off on the applause. This isn’t fool=proof protection in a self-defense shooting where you fire first.

Here are some pieces of the doctrine communities adopt:

  1. The intruder must be in your home/work/vehicle or be in the process of attempting to gain entry.
  2. You must reasonably believe your life/lives of others are in imminent danger. (What determines reasonable?)
  3. You haven’t provoked the intruder in any way.

Depending on where you live, you may be more safeguarded by the Castle Doctrine than other areas. Remember: in some instances, but not all, a homeowner may be protected from being sued in civil court by the intruder or the intruder’s family (yes, that’s a real thing. Intruders have sued homeowners after being shot breaking into their home).


It’s not ALWAYS laws that hang us up but an individual’s interpretation of it. Your home community or state may embrace our Second Amendment rights but when the case goes for review, you may find your fate in the hands of a prosecutor who doesn’t share those beliefs or who succumbs to political pressure. Yes, it happens. And no, it isn’t fair.

How is it you can do all the right things and still find yourself as the defendant? We don’t have an adequate answer but recognize our society is more willing to blame a weapon than the individual behind it. Until that changes, the victim(s) will continue to be victimized.

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About Bret Smith

I am a long-time lover of all things outdoors. Whether hunting, shooting, fishing or just hiking and camping, I take every opportunity to enjoy nature and share it with others.

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