The best way to win a fight is not to get into one.  That is true for gun-fights, fist-fights, and even verbal altercations. At the very least, you can be made to look a fool. You could find yourself or find yourself on the receiving end of a murder charge. And the very worst case scenario could very well end your life.

I believe the story of Brittany Jeffers  is one such case.

We don’t know the entire story yet, and probably never will. All we know is what’s published by the media. However, what I have read indicates that the Circleville mother of two could still be alive if she followed the rule of avoidance.

When I first heard the story, I thought it would be something I could point to in my classes as an example of why one would want to consider carrying a firearm all the time, even at one’s home. After reading it with a more critical eye, I think it will work better as an example of how avoiding confrontation is a better choice. Even if she were to have had a firearm and used successfully used it to defend her life, she may not have been found justified.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Concealed Carry Handbook points to a combination of case law and Ohio Revised Code with respect to justification of deadly force in self-defense and the defense of others.

It’s important that licensees understand self-defense is an “affirmative defense.” When you discharge your firearm in self-defense you are committing a felony. Self-defense is justification.

For self-defense to be justification, the shooter (defendant in the AG’s book) must meet three conditions:

1.       He must not be at fault.This means that he must not have caused or otherwise escalated the situation at hand. Previous unrelated situations cannot be used for justification.

 2.       He must have a reasonable and honest belief of danger. He must prove that, at the time, he had a real belief that he was in immediate danger of death or great bodily harm and that his use of deadly force was the only way to escape that danger. Bear in mind that deadly force may only be used to protect against serious bodily harm or death. Words alone do not justify deadly force.

In court cases, rape has been determined to be serious bodily harm, as has being attacked with scissors. Serious bodily harm also may result from being struck with an object that can cause damage, such as a baseball bat or a wooden club. The defendant’s belief that he is in immediate serious danger is important. The defendant’s belief must be reasonable, not purely speculative.

 3.       He must have met the duty to retreat. If he can do so safely, he must retreat or avoid danger by leaving or voicing his intention to leave and ending his participation in the confrontation. “Castle Doctrine” encompasses the idea that there is no duty to retreat inside one’s home.

A person may defend another only if the protected person would have had the right to use deadly force in self-defense himself. Under Ohio law, a person may defend family members, friends, or strangers. However, just as if he were protecting himself, a person cannot use any more force than is reasonable and necessary to prevent the harm threatened.

Now, let’s go back to the story of Ms Jeffers. What if she had a firearm? Would she have been justified using her firearm?

Did she start or escalate? Did she have a reasonable fear? Did she meet the duty to retreat?

The news accounts indicate she left the safety of her home to intervene in a fight in which her sister was involved. Once she was involved, the people her sister was fighting turned on her. From there, the situation went south in flash.

If she went out of her home to retrieve her sister and she were attacked, would she have been justified once they turned on her? Did her sister escalate? Why did her sister engage someone over a burglary?

One thing is certain. If Brittney and her sister were inside her home and their assailants were not, she may have never been beaten. If Brittney and her sister were inside her home when their assailants forced entry into her home, she may have been justified in using a firearm in self-defense. If she never left her home, she may be tucking her children in tonight.

No one ever deserves being kicked in the head while unconscious, like those people did Brittney. But ignoring how her actions put her at risk could possibly doom us to the same fate. Not only do we need to consider how our actions place us at risk to stay alive, but to also stay out of jail.

A gun on your hip changes things.

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