A shooting over the weekend is putting a spotlight on North Carolina's gun laws known as the Castle Doctrine. It originated from English common law, asserting that a man's home is his castle, and he therefore has a right to defend that castle by any means necessary.

On Sunday, a man in Lewisville was assaulted during a home robbery. His neighbor then shot and killed one of the suspects as he fled the scene.

Charges have yet to be filed, but self-defense laws in the state are a tricky. To use lethal force, you've got to be innocent, in immediate danger, and acting reasonably. The force you use must be proportional, and you have to be engaged in avoidance in certain circumstances.

Wake Forest University Sociology Professor David Yamane, says it's a distinction that's often lost on both gun owners, and opponents. He spoke with WFDD's David Ford.

On the specifics behind the Castle Doctrine:

The Castle Doctrine really only speaks to the point about avoidance. Where it's in place [it] says that you do not have a duty to retreat in order to avoid the threat that's facing you, but the other four conditions of imminence, innocence, proportionality and reasonableness, still have to be met. This means [that] you can't just shoot someone simply because they happen to be in your home, and there are certainly cases in which people have been found guilty of homicide for shooting someone who happened to be in their home even with the Castle Doctrine in place.

On the potential legal ramifications of using lethal force:  

Even though the shooter has not been arrested at this point, it doesn't mean that after the investigation is completed that the police won't file charges and the District Attorney won't bring charges against this person. Sometimes it just takes time to gather all of the facts, and if the facts are similar to what's being reported in the newspaper, I wouldn't be surprised if charges were filed because some of the conditions that have been reported so far don't seem to align with the lawful use of lethal force in self-defense.  

On misunderstanding surrounding Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws:

Something that's misunderstood by both gun owners and proponents of more limits on gun ownership and use is that the conditions under which a person can use lethal force in self-defense are quite narrow. And the fact that that is misunderstood on both sides may create more of these types of situations where people feel like they're justified in using lethal force when really, they're not. The reality of Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground [is they] only specify one part of the many conditions that need to be met for the lawful use of lethal force in self-defense.


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