Perspectives on Personal Protection
December 1, 2021 | View PDF
The recent trial of Kyle Rittenhouse dominated the national news cycle. As usual, the event became highly politicized. I followed the trial closely as I carry a firearm, and was concerned the Rittenhouse verdict might impact Second Amendment rights. In the end, the jury acquitted Rittenhouse of wrongdoing, but that doesn’t mean the young man didn’t do anything wrong.
By “wrong” I mean error in judgement. Having been a concealed carrier of firearms most of my adult life, I understand that situational awareness is paramount in self-defense. My training tells me not to knowingly insert myself into potentially life-threatening situations unless there is no other option for defending life or preventing serious injury. Was it Rittenhouse’s right to carry a firearm into a riot? Yes. The decision to do so likely saved his life. But was it wise for an armed 17-year old to voluntarily enter such a situation in the first place? Arguably not.
In such cases, it’s important to understand that gun laws vary from state to state. So do laws pertaining to use of a firearm in self-defense, protection of home, and protection of others. Some states have “stand your ground” laws where you have no obligation to retreat from a threatening situation before using a gun in self-defense. Others have a “castle doctrine” where there is no obligation to retreat while “in a place of residence”, which includes hotel rooms, RVs and anywhere you legally lay your head at night. Nebraska self-defense laws are much stricter.
Nebraska law says it is legal to use deadly force with a firearm in only one of two places – your home and your workplace. To be certain I had this correct, I consulted our local sheriff and he confirmed it. When I questioned where one’s vehicle came into the equation, he said the duty to retreat aspect of Nebraska law came into effect. If accosted in one’s car, one must make an attempt to retreat before using deadly force. Outside of one’s home or workplace, Nebraska law requires that all reasonable attempts to escape be exhausted before a firearm is used on an aggressor. It’s likely the decision about whether or not this aspect of the law was satisfied in a shooting would ultimately fall to a jury of one’s peers in Nebraska.
“But Dan,” you say. “Doesn’t Nebraska law allow used of a firearm to protect others from death or personal injury?” Yes, in the home or workplace. In public that question opens a whole new can of worms. I’ll share a true story as an example.
A legally armed man was walking through a shopping center parking lot when he heard a woman screaming for help. He saw her in a vehicle, a man at the driver’s side with the door open, and the man was trying to drag the woman out of her car. She continued to shriek for help as he approached the situation. The armed man chose not to intervene and was very glad he didn’t. When the aggressor eventually pulled the woman from the car, he produced handcuffs and clapped them on her. Then he explained to those nearby that he was a plainclothes policeman arresting a person accused of serious shoplifting. What initially looked like a potential rape in progress was a cop performing his duty.
The choice to carry a gun comes with great personal responsibility and potential risks. I strongly encourage anyone who decides to do so to join a group like the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), which offers excellent training and legal counsel to members.