A large majority of gun shoppers that we ship to are buying their guns to protect their homes. The ability to protect one’s own family and property is one of those things that most Americans have a natural urge to obtain. Many states adopted a series of laws called Castle Doctrine to give ordinary citizens protection from the law so that they can protect themselves by using means that equal up to and including deadly force. The term derives from the historic English common law dictum that “an Englishman’s home is his castle.” Colonists later carried this law to the new world, where they eventually removed “Englishman” from the phrase, which thereby became simply the Castle Doctrine. Every state is different in the way they incorporate castle doctrine into their laws. Differences include where the doctrine actually applies. In some states, your home is your castle, but not elsewhere, including your car.
- An intruder must be attempting an unlawful or forcible entry into an occupied residence, business, or vehicle.
- The intruder must be acting illegally—for example, the Castle Doctrine does not give the right to use force against officers of the law acting in the course of their legal duties.
- The occupants of the home must reasonably believe the intruder intends to inflict serious bodily harm or death upon an occupant of the home.
- Additionally, some states apply the Castle Doctrine if the occupants of the home reasonably believe the intruder intends to commit a lesser felony such as arson or burglary.
The occupants of the home must not have provoked or instigated an intrusion, or provoked or instigated an intruder to threaten or use deadly force. Whatever the case may be, the occupants must be there legally. A person does not have the right to defend a place where they are committing crimes.
Some states imposed a duty to retreat. This law requires someone to attempt to retreat from the situation, and only use deadly force if retreating would cause him or her harm. In contrast, stand your ground laws remove this requirement and allow the use of deadly force in defense of someone who is in a place that he or she has a right to be.
Effect on Crime Rates
There is a great deal of dispute about the law’s effect on crime rates between supporters and critics of the law. The third edition of More Guns, Less Crime, (University of Chicago Press, 2010) by John Lott provides the only published, refereed academic study on these laws. The research shows that states adopting Stand Your Ground or Castle Doctrine laws reduced murder rates by 9% and overall violent crime by 11%. Furthermore, this occurs even after accounting for a range of other factors such as national crime trends, law enforcement variables, income and poverty measures, demographic changes, and the national average changes in crime rates from year-to-year as well as average differences across states.
Before you buy a gun for home defense, always check your state and local laws. Why this may or may not change the way you defend your home, it is always better to know what to expect should you ever have to use deadly force.