Or rather – when you shouldn’t. The law in South Africa is fairly clear – your life or the life of someone you are trying to protect must be in immediate danger.
Let’s run through a few scenarios. You hear someone trying to break into your car at 2am. You grab your firearm, lean out of the window and blam! the perp goes down. In this country and in most others including the US, you would go directly to jail. Was your life in danger? No. What should you have done? Call the police and your security company. Try to get a good description of the alleged thief and be a good witness. Why was it wrong to shoot. 1. You were not sure of your target or what was beyond it. 2. This could easily have been a case of mistaken identity (more on that soon). 3. You want to execute someone for stealing your car? Really?
Let’s replay this scenario a couple of different ways. Firstly, let’s pretend your bank has messed up. Your last two car repayments didn’t go through and you’ve been too busy to check. The finance company tried to get hold of you but they have an out of date cell number. The guy you have just shot and killed was legally re-possessing your car. Oops. Enjoy jail for the next 20 years. Sadly there is one even worse than this – and this one is true. A well known rugby player was awoken by the sound of someone opening his car door at 4am. Macho man that he was, he did exactly what the scenario says. He leaned out his window, shot and killed the “perpetrator”.
Who turned out to be his daughter who had an early meeting with her boyfriend. His life is over in so many ways. http://mg.co.za/article/2004-05-24-rugby-player-shoots-and-kills-daughter-by-mistake
Scenario number 2 is more challenging. A lady at home hears someone enter the house at 1am. She grabs her firearm and shoots a rather unsavoury looking man coming in through the door, which she forgot to lock. Again, true story. The old man suffers from dementia and got confused about where he lived. He lived 3 houses down the road.
The thing is this – identify if the so-called attacker has a weapon. If you can, retreat into another room or out of the house altogether. Call the police, call security. Only when your back is literally against the wall. You have no way out and the attacker is clearly armed and clearly intends to do you harm, then shoot. Not a bloody warning shot (what a load of rubbish), but a proper shot, centre mass or Mozambique drill. Double tap chest, single to the head.
If you are out and about and witness someone being attacked by a man with a gun, what should you do? Draw your own and fire of course…NO! As happened recently the man with the gun was a plain clothes ATF agent who had just apprehended an armed robber. You are not a policeman! (unless you are of course). It is not your job to decide which is a lawful or an unlawful attack. In the scenario above the man was killed by an undercover policeman who had a negligent discharge while trying to apprehend the ATF agent! http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/nyregion/off-duty-atf-officer-is-killed-intervening-after-robbery.html?_r=1
The main point here is that if you are not 700% sure that this is an unlawful attack – you know the drill – back away, phone the police, be a good witness.
If you have a firearm, get good training, read some Jeff Cooper books http://www.jeffcooperbooks.com/and always use it as the absolute last resort. Try to think about how to get away first. Once that trigger is pulled you can’t recall that bullet. You are responsible for everything that it does until it comes to rest.
Be sure of your target (I hope these scenarios help you think about that) and what is beyond it.