If Someone Threatens to Kill You, Can You Legally Respond With Force?

Man driving car shaking fist

Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Gordon Cooper says that words alone are not enough to justify use of force or deadly force in an escalating situation. However, when coupled with a threatening action, it’s a whole different ballgame. Click to watch the video:

Have you ever been concerned over a road rage incident or threatening language? Share your experiences in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (22)

  1. Threaten to kill me and I will take offense. Threaten to kill me while displaying a weapon and I will take action. It’s that simple for me.

  2. Even in a state (Colorado) like mine where open carry is legal and people in Wal-Mart often are carrying openly on their hip,there is difference between simply carrying openly and displaying (as a threat). Like many laws there is If a person was in a heated argument for example with open carry person and the open carry person said “You see what’s on my hip!”, this could be construed as a threat and even felony menacing.We must realize that the law may be exactly identical (state law) in all counties, However, the way a given county enforces that law may differ widely. Obviously if you are pointing a gun at someone is an actionable threat. and could be felony menacing given the circumstances, it might not be. Now look at it in reverse a person points a gun at you and you draw and shoot him. This is likely lawful. This because a reasonable man would feel his life in imminent danger that was unavoidable. Even with a CCW if you open your coat to pull up your shirt to expose your weapon to someone you are arguing with heatedly,( even if open carry is legal,) this is very likely going to be seen as felony menacing.You would have to prove that a reasonable person would have thought he was in imminent danger of death or serious injury and that was why you showed your gun to deter the actionability of said threat or counter it before it could be actualized. Laws are interpreted to each individual case by judges and district attorneys


  3. The best thing to do, is to read and heed their local Policy on Use of Deadly/Lethal Force. This may vary by state or local community. In a lot of Jurisdictions, BEFORE one can use such force One Must have at least TWO out of THREE things….Motive, Capability, and Opportunity…..Communicating a threat( i.e. saying “I am going to Kill You!”) is not enough UNLESS they have the means to carry out the threat,. IN SOME states…..One must RUN or distance themselves AWAY FROM THE THREAT….AGAIN ONE MUST KNOW THEIR LOCAL USE OF FORCE LAWS AND ABIDE BY THEM…..ALL WAYS USE THE MININMAL FORCE REQUIRED TO STOP THE THREAT!!! KNOWING the USE OF FORCE/ Deadly / Lethal Force in your state, area, can and WILL make the difference between you being in a Justified shooting OR you being Prosecuted for Murder. You have to decide that by knowing what the law/Rules are in your area and abide by them as best you can and being able to survive such situations

  4. Did anyone happen to notice the disclaimer at the end of the video? That says it all. The attorney in the video was talking about Texas law but his talk is only in general and doesn’t apply to every situation in other words, it is only a general talk. Your own individual situation may not fall within his the subject matter of his talk. In addition, his talk only applies to Texas and Texas law as it is written today. Next year it may be different. If you are in Arkansas and tell the judge, “Well, in Texas the law is . . .” he really doesn’t care because you are in Arkansas and Texas law has absolutely zero application in Arkansas or any other state in the union. In my experience, too many people think they know what the law in their particular state is but they have never read the applicable statutes. Before you start to blather on about what the law is in your particular state, I would recommend that you actually read the applicable statute. You might be quite surprised.

  5. This is for Payton don’t apologize for people being touchy a lot readers knew what you where getting at. Today everyone has a gun but we as human beings have become dumber an lost out moral compass… just look at who our illegitimate president is… the real threat is out Republican Party who puts party over country. Now we have bills being passed that lets corporations dump waste into our clean water an rivers cuz who needs clean drinking water or bathing water, or now we have oil companies being able to take bribes an so on… if anything or one is a threat it’s our Republican Party an our do nothing Democratic Party, the Party of pussies!!!!! Just remember we are all Americans an have a responsibility to keep our only planet that all of us live on to protect for our children to have better lives… we need to stop hating one another an remember we are all brothers an sisters…. please lets all wake up before it’s too late we have a right to life an clean livable planet our lives matter just as much as a rich person.. it’s time we let the rich an major corporations, an the Republican an week Democratic Party know that our GOP works for us not an not the money that the lobbyists throw at our politicians!!!!!! God bless

    1. @ only the dumb
      .iIlegitimate pres lol he won easily with 303 electoral votes wtf you talking about respect our GOP pres or become a dem liberal whiner we can do without so called repubs like you HRC go the least electoral votes since carter lol what planet you on you watch CNN as well?

  6. I have carried over 20 yrs daily and have served in the US ARMY cavalry .Luckily and thank god i have never had to pull my pistol and fire on a civilian. But if i had to i would rather be judged by 12 then carried by six and i hope that day never comes .Pulling the trigger is not the hard part as i learned in service it is dealing with after the fact that changes ya life 4 ever i have always taught my son there are 2 things you cannot take back in court or in custody and life son ,bullets fired from a gun and words from your mouth use common sense when using either but if you have to fire do not hesitate you will die . If you carry a handgun or any other weapon for self defense let me offer a little advice .Join the USCCA and get insured civil court and legally ,you will need them both .If the perp lives he can sue you in civil court and probably will ,if he does not his family can sue you and most likely will the United states concealed carry association protects you from that on both sides and a small price to pay if you ever have to use lethal force with any weapon including a firearm . You’re life will change drastically after lethal force is used and without insurance you could be bankrupt and stuck with a lousy lawyer and wind up in prison .and more .Also if you carry train ,train ,and train on using the firearm and ammo you plan to carry .The USCCA sends a monthly mag packed with current laws,training practices and damn good advice on when and when not to use lethal force . and current changes to carrying a firearm legally and using it to defend you or anyone else . @ Peyton the story about the liquor store and what happened after law enforcement arrives does not make sense to me at all maybe things are diff where you live but up here you will go to jail ,you will be charged and held for bail , then the prosecutor will review the shooting report and choose to charge or release but you will face a charge until he makes that decision that you had no choice and never ever say anything more then he was the perp i am the defender of my life and buisness after that the only words said should be not until i see my attorney on the card i handed you at the scene from the USCCA and never say anything on the phone to 911 dispatchers but there has been a shooting send police and medics now we need help then stop talking it is recorded and can be used against you in court if you admit to anything before you see an attorney about the incident let the police do their job and just surrender the weapon and shut up right then . I have to ? that story just a bit the way it was told by you and what i know about shootings in self defense in today’s america and courts. WORDS CAN COST YOU YRS IN PRISON and shooting a guy 9 times could be considered you wanted to kill someone because you have been robbed before that can send you to prison in a court with a prick of an ADA or prosecutor real fast the point and law is stop the threat once stopped you do not have to empty the clip they may say in court. it is a risk i would not take but once he is down unless he moves you are done by law and up to you to try n get him medical help and police on the scene immediately just like the guy that says let em bleed out before dialing 911 that can be considered a crime and no attorney would go along with that there will only be 1 to tell the story crap trust me on this 1 and carry smart and be smart .

  7. I owned a liquor store in the country but it was near two entrance ramps to the state hiway (I 25).This made it attractive for armed robbers. Having has 5 armed robberies I only shot one of them. (9mm JHP 115 grain, 9 shots nine hits distance 10 feet). The other guys had their sawed off shotguns already on me so I choose cooperation as my best survival strategy The one casualty did not have his shotgun out when he came through the door but was raising it from under his coat where he had sling on it. Of course I knew I was in immediate danger of death and fired at once.(Steyr GM 9nn,pistol 18 rd clip).. He feel and the last two rounds hit him in the throat and head. He was killed before he hit the floor I am pretty sure. I called the police and identified what looked like and what I was wearing so as not to be shot by accident.The cops covered themselves very well when they arrived. I surrendered my weapon to them by laying it on the counter and pointing to it. The one cop almost threw up at the sight of the dead guy.,it was quite graphic. I went to the police station was interviewed by detectives and let go the same night.The deceased with no neighbors for miles.I was awaken by something and was totally alert. Form combat experience I knew that was because something was really happening and I had lily been raised to the final stage of alertness from sleep.I crawled out on my deck out side my bedroom which overlooked the ground below where I heard the sounds come from. I saw man with a large rock over his head about to throw it threw my downstairs office sliding glass door. I had armed myself with an M1 to my bed. I knew he was not aware I was above him I realized a man who works on the property and isa friend was there and he was holding his SW 4″bbl ,357 on the guy.he said ‘just put the rock down slowly’. I could see the guys pants were wet to over his knees and he had waded across the shallow creel/river that bounds the west end of my property. After looking for any confederates of the rock guy and seeing none I called to my friend from above as calmly as I could “Mike do not shoot him unless he forces it, bring him inside. Mikle did I saw from his clothes,the way they were worn and his hands that he was working cowhand..I had him put both of his plams flat on wide oak railing and ordered him to keep them right there.. He did have a sheath knife on his belt, but really I knew that was very common in his line of work.I asked him why he was breaking into my home” he explained in adrenal effceted voice that he had rolled his truck and his 15 year old passenger was trapped underneath it.Those FRS radios had just come out and gave one to Mikle and said go there report back what you see. and gave him one of the radios. His voice came back “There’s kid under here,sucking chest wound, I don’t think he’s going to make it” My ‘prisoner’ heard this over the radio and nearly collapsed. But the kid’s Guardian Angle must have been on duty. I called for a flight for life chopper and there was one already in flight going back from the hospital. I was then hearing chopper blades and talking to the pilot which surprised me. I have talked in choppers before and we communicated very well. I had Mike put his jeep lights on the accident and wanted the pilot about the low hanging power lines.The kid was rescued by being cut out of the truck and a year later his parents told me he was trying out for the football team.

  8. Some of these laws, or parts of them, are absolutely ridiculous, and will get you beaten, robbed, and killed. They’re written by ignorant, sheltered people living in safe areas who have never found themselves in a dangerous situation, and been verbally and/or physically threatened. Today there are more violent punks, thugs, drunks, druggers, crazies, and monsters from hell than ever. I am not going to wait till one gets within a certain number of feet from me and my family before I draw my gun and warn him to get back and get on the ground, while my wife, kids, or I call 911. If he refuses to get back and on the ground, and keeps advancing, I will shoot him. Waiting too long will get you beaten, robbed, and killed. These laws need to be changed according to reality.

  9. I’ve had someone come up to my car in a threatening manner. The fact my revolver was in my lap when he approached was enough to diffuse the situation. no threat on my part, only the sign I was ready to respond with deadly force if attacked.

  10. The threat must be immediate, actionable by the bad guy otherwise unavoidable. Verbal threats are not legally enough to justify any violent action. In fact, even displaying a weapon as a deterrent can likely get you charged with Felony Menacing. A conviction of any felony denies you the right to own any firearm. The guy in the truck with the tire iron was most certainly not legal cause to even display a gun or other weapon.Look at simply if the guy says to you I am going to blow your brains out’ but both his hands are empty an visible, then his threat is not yet actionable and no drawing of weapon is legal. If his hand then dives into his clothing as to draw a weapon, then he has actualized the threat and drawing may be accepted as justified by a court. If you have CCW and do not understand this then you should not have CCW.

    1. Peyton, please read and don’t put comments and actions into my comment that are not there. No I didn’t show him the gun, please reread and see if I said I displayed the weapon, I simply accessed it where if he forced me off of the road I could get to it easier. Also he was using his truck as a weapon in trying to force me off of the road, I got lucky because this was before CCW (again please read) and/or cell phones and I was by myself against a drunken road rage idiot in a vehicle that out massed mine by quite a bit. I now have a CCW and frankly hope you are never on a jury if something happens because you injected into comments something that wasn’t there.

    2. My apologies Shawn if my post was so misunderstood. I was simply stating common law and did not mean it as a response to you ‘personally’. I acknowledge your post is exactly what you said in the follow up post. I simply wanted others to realize they must know the law well if they chose to carry and have CCW.

    3. The key words are IMMENENT THREAT TO DEATH OR SERIOUS BODILY INJURY to justify lethal force and yes just showing the gun is enough to be charged in most states .

    4. Some states have Open Carry laws. Showing a weapon is not a crime. While your advice may pertain to your states, it doesn’t to mine. The main point is to know what your state requires AND what the states that you visit/travel through require.

  11. Not Texas, but Oklahoma, a few years back and no ‘Stand Your Ground Law,’ as of yet. Old woman ran a stop sign, nearly hit me. I honked at her. She went into a rage, screaming, yelling, flipping me off. I drove around her and parked across from a café, where I intended to eat breakfast. Not out of my truck good, 3 cars pulled in behind me, blocking my escape. The old woman and her 2 sons, that she had called. All 3 got out of the cars, menacing me. Son; “I’m gonna beat you ass, for disrespecting my momma.’ “Yea,” the other son said. Pulled my .38 cal. revolver, for which I had a CCW, didn’t point it. Told them; “Try and I will stop you. Now move! “you haven’t got the balls,” one said. I leveled the revolver, center mass. “Move!” I said again. They did, I left to go some where else, still wanted to eat. One followed me. Minutes later a cop pulled me over. U had my driver’s license & CCW out. I told him what had happened. He asked for my revolver. I unloaded it and handed it to him. He talked to the one that had followed me. He argued loudly with the cop. Didn’t hear what he said, but heard what the cop said; “The man has ever right to defend himself. He could have killed all of you and considering the circumstances, nothing would have happened to him.’ The bozo argued loudly this time, “You’re not gonna do nuthin.” “Yea,” the cop replied, “Arrest you, if you don’t get in you vehicle and go.” He left, cursing. Cop handed me my revolver, I loaded it in front of him. He just gave me a strange look. “Just be careful, there’s a bunch of nuts out there,” he told me. He left, I left. Learned later through a newspaper, this bunch had pulled the crap on someone else, all 3 had been killed.

  12. In order to claim self-defense the person MUST present a life-threatening presence. If someone has a baseball bat raised up over his shoulder and within say 10″ of you and states he is going to kill you, then you can shoot and kill him. If he is outside of say 20′ or simply leaning on the bat, you cannot kill him until he makes a move that is an immediate threat. If possible you MUST retreat unless you are in a ‘Stand your ground State’ and even then it is much better that you leave.

  13. When driving from Houston back home I crossed the Angelina River on Hwy 59 right before closing time for the beer Depots and liquor stores closed and a guy came out of one of them almost hitting me and going into the center section. I thought I was lucky, but apparently I had made him mad by existing and he came out of the center section and weaving all over the road gave chase to me. That part of Hwy 59 isn’t lighted and way too dark for a high speed chase, however that is what he wanted. When he finally got his truck up beside my car he had a tire tool in his hand and had his windows open and wanted me to pull over. This was before Texas passed its carry permit and I had a gun in the car with me, finally realizing this idiot was a. drunk & b. completely out of control. just as I was deciding what to do he put himself into the center lane and after the heavy rains of that week he was stuck. This was before cell phones were something that were huge and very expensive so I wasn’t able to call the police. I got lucky if forced off of the road by him, I had already made up my mind that I was going to defend myself and it was not going well for him.

    1. Thanks Bob, yes it was, I have a prayer that as good as I am with a firearm and even though I carry one that it can be said at my funeral that I never had to kill anyone. Really don’t want to do it, but have been put into enough situations over the years that if I had to use it I would without hesitation, however I have been around enough people to know the guilt that they feel even when it was completely justified.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.