Back when I was first learning about firearms and concealed carry, I came across a video – since removed, unfortunately – called “Your concealed carry permit is not a badge”, or something along those lines. And recently I’m reminded of that sentiment with a story out of Marysville, Washington:
Authorities say two men were surrounded by customers with guns while attempting to steal tools from a Washington store.
The Daily Herald reports the men, ages 22 and 23, allegedly took four nail guns, each worth more than $400, from the Coastal Farm & Ranch store Saturday in Marysville.
The men walked out of the store and got into a Honda Civic, only to be surrounded by about six customers with guns raised.
There is NOTHING under the law that gives anyone with a concealed carry permit the legal ability or privilege to stop a criminal fleeing a crime scene. Someone’s life being in danger, whether yours or someone else’s, is the only justifiable reason you have to pull your firearm.
A friend of mine shared the above story on his Facebook wall, and he said this in response to a comment where I said you should not (indeed, you cannot) use your firearm to stop property theft:
I agree this isn’t a situation for a firearm, but by the same token it can’t be easy to stand on the sidelines watching people doing this.
Which is certainly a sentiment I understand. I’ve written about it on this blog. But that is an instinct that must be fought. Since, as I said to the friend, sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is that doing nothing is often the best response to a situation.
You may want to help, but your desire to help could land you in hot water. You could misinterpret a situation, meaning you’re not responding to it appropriately, or even make it worse.
Let me give you an idea from my recent past. A couple months ago, while driving down Santa Fe Trail Drive through Lenexa, KS, we came upon a nasty car accident outside the Lenexa UPS sorting facility. SUV on its side in about the middle of the road, and another truck off on the side of the road. Head-on collision from the looks of things. I pull over and decide to offer help. Several other civilians were already on scene doing the same. 911 had already been called by the time I arrived.
We leave the truck occupant alone since we could not ascertain the degree of his injuries. He was not in any obvious immediate danger. Moving him would’ve been the worst thing to do. Lenexa Police arrived first. EMTs and Lenexa Fire followed not long thereafter.
But car accidents are an easy situation to ascertain: figure out who is injured, get everyone out of harm’s way if necessary, make sure anyone with severe injuries doesn’t move, and get the hell out of the way of EMTs when they arrive. What about a situation that isn’t so cut and dry?
In CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also known as “CSI: Las Vegas”), Season 3, episode 9 called “Blood Lust“, a taxi driver accidentally runs over a teenager who dies at the scene. The driver gets out to initially investigate, but then gets back into the car. A group of men see this and, thinking the driver is going to flee the scene, swarm the car, pull out the driver, and beat him to death.
There is one key detail the men didn’t slow down to actually consider: the taxi driver has a radio (episode aired in 2002, when cell phones weren’t yet as ubiquitous as they are now), and he was going to radio in to get an ambulance to his location.
What the men in Washington did was of similar vein to what is portrayed in the noted CSI episode. They saw something happen, and decided they needed to respond. Sure, no one died in the Washington incident. But that’s beside the point. A group of six men surrounded a car occupied and driven by fleeing thieves and drew their firearms. They saw fleeing thieves and used a threat of deadly force to detain suspects who, based on the immediate observable details, posed no threat to anyone.
So let’s drive the point home.
Your concealed carry permit is not a badge. It does not make you law enforcement, nor grant upon you any law enforcement authority, including the authority to detain a suspect at a scene.
Do not use your firearm to stop property theft. Do not use your firearm to prevent someone fleeing a crime scene. Do not attempt to pursue someone fleeing a crime scene.
Only employ and deploy your firearm when you can clearly see and articulate that you or someone is in danger of great bodily harm or death.
Unless you are law enforcement, you have zero authority under the law to use your firearm in any other manner. Taking the law into your own hands makes you a vigilante. And I have no respect for vigilantes.