Currently, only 17 states require would-be victims of violent crime to retreat before using force in self-defense. In its most basic form, these laws state that if you are threatened with deadly force you are not allowed to use force in self defense unless all other options (namely retreat) are unavailable. Rather than fight, you have to retreat to a place of safety if possible
Proponents of this law state that force should be your last option, and there is some moral truth to that idea. But in practice, the requirement to retreat is a tool used by aggressive prosecutors after the fact to convict the victims of violent crimes. That notion makes the law unfair, absurd and dangerous to law-abiding citizens because it is just another way to mince words and nitpick self-defense cases to favor the aggressor. Here’s why:
Retreating to a Place of Safety Makes No Sense
The law is not clear where or what a place of safety is. There are a myriad of settings, including one’s own home, where a person who believes they are in enough danger to use deadly force must determine what safety is for their situation and find the location. After figuring out why a place is safe, the victim has to get there. Expecting someone being threatened and on the verge of being victimized in some form to think rationally is unfair. Also, it is unfair because not everyone has the ability to flee to a place of safety. Additionally, most chosen places of safety are behind locked doors where people have an easy to use weapon to force a thief, murderer, rapist or a combination out of their house.
The Law Is Ripe For Abuse
The law is written perfectly for discrimination and selective application because it is impossible to enforce the Duty to Retreat Law consistently. You could be running from a young inner-city youth intent on committing an act of violence and find yourself unable to run and be forced to turn and fire. The media, protesters, politicians and courts could decide on a narrative that you could have kept running, but instead ended the life of a gentle giant that was going to church and worked 20 minutes in soup kitchen three years prior. This also makes a joke out of the court with a circus of a trial because gun grabbers would get their pound of flesh in criminal or civil court.
If your life is in danger, turning your back to the aggressor gives them the advantage to overtake you or use weapons against you. In other words, unless you are a track star, you are forced to give up a tactical advantage to defend yourself by an unfair legal doctrine. This idea is putting people at risk by disallowing them from selecting the most sensible option to guarantee their own safety. What’s worse, it incentivizes prosecutors to target otherwise law-abiding citizens if they do choose the tactically smart but legally less-defensible option.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – these are not just words; they are the foundation for our entire legal structure. The right to life necessarily includes the right to the preservation of life by whatever means necessary. You have the right to walk down the street and not be beaten or killed during a robbery. A woman has the right to jog or stay late after work without being raped. We all have the right to go about our business without being threatened, harmed or have dangerous mobs blocking the highways. No one has the right to impede your free and law-abiding movement with physical aggression or the threat of it. States that require would-be victims to retreat before using force do not properly protect the basic rights of individuals. As a society founded upon principles of liberty, we can do better than this.