When analyzing the many self-defense incidents that occur any given year within the United States, certain trends become apparent in terms of armed citizens getting themselves into legal trouble. Excessive force, the pre-mature drawing of guns, and other such circumstances occur over and over again. One repeated phenomenon that dooms many well-intentioned self-defenders, especially related to home defense, is a tendency among many to go outside. A significant tactical and legal principle that all self-defenders should realize is that the door proves a physical and, as importantly, a legal barrier against danger.
There have been several incidents in the past several years that are quite high-profile, and they all involve a similar trait; the homeowner/self-defender goes outside when it is completely unnecessary to do so. Rather than remain inside, call law enforcement, and take a defensive position to protect the home, many individuals seem prone to go outside of the home to confront the perceived threat directly. It is a natural human reaction to protect what is ours, and our property falls well within that inclination. Many would argue that criminals have no business being on your land, and you should have every right to go out to confront them and get rid of them, no matter what. While many understand the sentiment, we live in a world in which action is confined within legal boundaries.
Going outside to confront a threat exposes the self-defender to far greater physical and legal risk than would be if they remain in the home, behind locked doors. There have been examples of people going outside to confront mobs crossing their property, confront violent ex-partners, or stop car thieves or other property theft, etc., in all such circumstances, most people feel quite sympathetic to the home defender, arguing that one should have every right to venture forth and defend their property. However, such sentiment dismisses the very real physical and legal danger that such an inclination imposes.
The Tactical Dangers of Going Outside
A lot of armed citizens think quite highly of their own abilities, and this author has found that the more training an individual has, the more they seek to avoid violence at all costs. No matter how skilled you are, chance is always involved in violent conflict. An individual who leaves the significant advantage of staying being closed and locked doors to venture into an unknown situation and confront adversaries has no understanding of even basic tactical strategy. If reacting to a commotion outside, in the dark, and walking out into the night to investigate and deal with the issue, you expose yourself to extreme danger. How many adversaries are there? Where are they? If you remain inside, then adversaries must come to you through portals, giving you every advantage. When venturing out to confront, you give up all advantages.
There was, in the past few years, a situation in which an armed homeowner went out to stop his car from being stolen. The situation ended with the death of a teenage car thief. Again, many will feel no sympathy for the thug, teenager or not, but that is not the point of this discussion. Killing an individual to protect property is a legal no-go and should be an ethical no-go as well. But the point of raising this example, within this context, is to exemplify the absurd increase in physical and legal peril that one embraces when venturing outside of the home to respond. Is a car that is unoccupied worth facing your own possible death over? When walking out into the night, how do you know you have a visual on all of the bad guys? When confronting the thug at the vehicle, what guarantee is there that a fellow criminal, hiding in the darkness, does not shoot you in the back? Before even considering the tremendous legal risk, consider the tremendous physical risk of leaving the home to confront.
The Legal Risk
If you go outside the home to confront an adversary, you take on a legal risk that is higher than if you stay inside by an order of magnitude. You may sacrifice the legal protections of castle doctrine, and you may fail a duty to retreat, depending on the state and circumstances. By forcing a criminal threat to break down a door to access you and your household, you force a very clear manifestation of intent on the part of the criminal actor. It is well acknowledged by most that breaking a portal to illegally enter a residence indicates a nefarious intent on the part of the intruder. By leaving the protection of that door and entering a potentially violent situation, you introduce the danger of any number of legal ramifications.
Even if you go outside to face a situation that turns violent but is ruled justified, you still incur a life-changing experience. If you are prosecuted and go to trial, even if acquitted, it is hardly a win for your life or the lives of your family. Stress and financial ruin are side effects that most likely can be avoided if you simply stay inside, barricade and arm, and call the police.
The armed citizen must condition themselves to take the tactical and legal advantage of a locked door. The impulse to protect what is yours beyond the walls of the house is strong, as it is, indeed, your property. However, there is simply no legal justification to use lethal force to defend property, nor is there a compelling reason to risk your own life to do so. If a family member is outside of your abode and in trouble, that alone would warrant venturing forth. Otherwise, stay in the home, behind a locked door, call the authorities, and use the force necessary only if the threat enters your home.