Can/should I hold someone at gunpoint?” A common question when the topic of guns and defensive use of deadly force is discussed. The questioner’s “gunpoint” hypothetical usually poses a home invasion, robbery attempt of the questioner, or “in progress” interdiction of someone committing a property crime, or a violent crime against the questioner or another person. The question is another one to which I respond with my smart aleck lawyer’s answer: “I don’t know, can/should you?” It lends itself to analysis similar to what I discussed in prior MSW posts on the use of deadly force – my paradigm:
CAN / MAY / SHOULD / MUST
For the purpose of this post, holding someone “at gunpoint” is not necessarily muzzling the threatened person(s), openly holding an exposed firearm in any specific “ready” position, or a mode of “display” permitted or prohibited by a state “brandishing” statute. I use the phrase here to mean the display of a firearm coupled with the express or implied threat that a failure to obey commands will result in the use of deadly force, that is, the gunpointer WILL shoot. (If unprivileged, usually considered a serious felony, such as an armed assault or assault with/by deadly weapon). Consider the following for your analysis of the SHOULD element of the paradigm.
The CAN: Yes, it has been done. By the aged and frail, even when outnumbered. You can find the stories on the internet. Surprisingly, stories on gunpoint failures are absent. (The embarrassed don’t admit, and the dead don’t speak). Reality check: Anything beyond a brief taking of someone at gunpoint and then allowing/urging them to make a hasty retreat is rather complicated. It requires command presence/confidence for an extended period of time, advanced tactical skills (CQB, firearm, improvisation, less lethal), and most important – in-hand firearm retention training. Gunpointing is difficult at best against one adversary, and almost impossible to effect solo over multiple adversaries. (Unless one or both are incapacitated — see example here). Your hypothesized home invader and robber are not likely first time rodeo attendees. He/she/they may have planned in advance to implement a response (you can bet it is ugly) if caught in the act or resisted by an uncommitted homeowner/victim. Questions to ask yourself: Do you know the experience, skill, or mindset of the adversary? Does he/she have a second/concealed weapon? Does your adversary know that action usually beats reaction? Can you multitask with a gun and phone in hand to secure family members or other innocents, handle possible criminal confederates, admit/direct responding LEOs? Does your gunpoint position give you overwatch on avenues of ingress? What is the adversary willing to risk? What are you? Are the interests of other innocents simultaneously at stake? Do you feel lucky?