Every two or three years I read in the newspaper that a homeowner shot an intruder. Typically, the homeowner hears a noise during the night, gets his gun and flashlight and goes downstairs with his wife hanging on his shoulder. He opens the door to the garage and sees a man trying to steal his new Cadillac and he blows him away.
The perpetrator is not armed, and the homeowner is now on trial for manslaughter, facing several years in jail. These scenarios happen all the time across the country because people think that they have a license to kill anyone in their home. Just last week, a local jerk told me: “If I shoot someone on my porch I will drag him in the house so I am covered.” A common misperception!
In North Carolina, we have a Castle Law that allows certain protections in your home, your place of business or in your vehicle. It includes the camper or tent you use when camping. The law makes the assumption that if someone is in the process of breaking into your home they are not doing so to sell you a bible. The law presumes there is an intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence, and you have a right to shoot them while they are in the process of breaking in, if you fear you will lose your life. Once the person is physically in your home the circumstances change. If the perpetrator is armed with anything that can cause serious physical harm or death, and you fear for your life, you can shoot them. However, if there is no sign that they are armed, and they are simply there to steal something, you may not shoot. You can use physical force to protect your property but not deadly physical force.
For example, you come home from shopping one evening, open your door, and you see two guys in your living room holding your new HD TV in their arms, about to walk out.
If there is no sign that they are armed, you may not shoot them. Remember, we have no death penalty for larceny or grand theft, regardless of the value of the item.
In any situation where an intruder is armed with anything that could kill you, even a screwdriver in his hand, you can shoot to protect your life. You must be able to state that you feared for your life and the facts must back up that statement.
In North Carolina there is no “Citizens Arrest.” There is no provision to shoot someone who decides to flee, armed or not. It will be difficult for you to explain exit wounds in the perpetrator’s chest, or why you shot an unarmed person. In this area, you would have to be nuts to break in to an occupied house because most homeowners have a gun for protection. It is the drugs that give the criminal the false courage to do so. The drugs also give the criminal a false sense of security. He believes you will not shoot him, especially if you are a woman, or are old, and very often they will charge at you to take your gun away. Warn them to stay back, and if they come at you, and you fear for your life, you may shoot to protect yourself. It takes eight hours to explain these laws in the Concealed Carry Pistol Permit classes. In any event where you may use a firearm to protect yourself there is a firm requirement that you understand the laws of self defense, whether or not you want a concealed carry pistol permit. The basic rule is that you must be in fear of losing your life!
NC Certified Firearms Instructor