In several countries,   the way murder is so frowned upon that even capital punishment is non-existent for the most grievous crime. Yet, in certain countries in the west, there are certain laws that actually allow you to legally kill people as an act of self-defense. One of these is “Castle Doctrine” which allows you to kill intruders in your home and the other one is “Stand your ground law” that allows you to shoot intruders even outside. Both of these laws exist in various countries in different forms and names, especially the “Castle Doctrine’ and they also exist in several USA states with variety to different degrees. However, there are certain common principles that prevail in any interpretation of these laws.

Understanding “Castle Doctrine”

Take, for example, you are sleeping in your bed, and then suddenly you hear someone downstairs. You take a gun and go there to check it out. You find out some individuals are going through your furniture. It’s dark and you can’t really see anything. But because they illegally broke into your home, you can shoot them and kill them for your own safety.

That is the basic principle of “Castle Doctrine”. Under this law, your house is your castle and you are authorized to defend your home from intruders. But what makes one an “intruder”, that’s a very difficult thing to determine. In certain US states such as North Carolina, any person that breaks into your house is an intruder with ill-intention; so you can use the law of “Castle Doctrine” and shoot that person. In contrast, states like Illinois only allow the use of this law if the person who breaks into your home shows a “violent, riotous or tumultuous manner”. Of course, how those manners are determined is always open to interpretation.

Understanding “Stand Your Ground” law

Unlike Castle Doctrine, this law actually allows you to shoot intruders outside the confines of your home. There’s already a standard procedure that exists for US citizens if they face threats outside, this procedures call for “duty to retreat”. Nearly half the US states follow this standard.  This procedure entails that if you face threat outside your home you should run and if the intruders chase after you; legally you are allowed to carry out necessary actions to ensure your safety.

Now, what the “Stand Your Ground” law does is that it removes the necessity for you to run. You don’t need to retreat first to carry out necessary actions for your safety. There is a certain logic behind this law. After all, if you decide to run from an intruder you can always expose yourself further and put yourself in bigger danger. On the other hand, if you stand your ground with a firearm you can prevent the danger from aggregating.

The biggest criticism of this law is that it encourages a “Shoot before asking” mentality. Under this law, if anybody feels threatened they can legally shoot people which has already caused controversial incidents. The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman caused a massive uproar when the perpetrator got away with this murder because of the “Stand Your Ground” law. There are various sides to this story but one thing that makes all fear is that this law may cause more death than prevent it.

Understanding both of these laws and using them appropriately is most crucial for all. The most common advice provided by legal experts suggests one not shoot any intruders if that intruder is surrendering, trying to explain himself, staying still, or just running away. It is advisable to shoot under this law if and only if, the intruders approach you or draw lethal weapons aimed at you. One should be most cautious about using deadly force because using any form of a firearm is a great responsibility and any sort of negligence on that part as always remains a punishable crime.

Recommended Reading

Castle Doctrine Overview: FindLaw:

Stand Your Ground Laws: FindLaw:

What happened the night Trayvon Martin died. (2012, 5 23): Greg Botelho: