What timing.  Just last Sunday I put up a post exploring the question of “When can you legally use a gun against an unarmed person?”  In that post I explained that deadly force, such as a gun, can be used in lawful self-defense even against an “unarmed” attacker, where the “unarmed” attack nevertheless presents a threat of death or grave bodily harm.

Disparity of Force Can Justify Defensive Use of Gun Against Even “Unarmed” Attack

In determining whether a deadly force threat is presented by an attacker the law looks to see if there existed a deadly force disparity of force between the attacker and the defender, such that the defender would be unable to reasonably defend themselves without resort to a deadly force themselves (typically in the form of a firearm).

There are many circumstances in which a deadly-force disparity of force can exist.  One, of course, is where the attacker is himself armed with a deadly weapon, such as a gun or knife.

Such a deadly force disparity of force can also exist, however, even in the absence of an deadly force weapon wielded by the attacker. (It should be noted, of course, that anything can be a deadly weapon, if used in a manner likely to cause death or grave bodily harm–and this includes one’s hands/fists and feet.)

One of the most common deadly force disparity-of-force circumstances is where there is a disparity of numbers, such that the attackers substantially outnumber the defenders.

Another is disparity of gender, where the attacker is male and the defender female–a disparity further aggravated when the woman is dressed in a manner not conducive to physical self-defense (e.g., wearing heels and a dress).

In both cases, of course, before deadly force can be used in self-defense the defender’s must be facing an imminent threat of death or grave bodily harm.  Where such a threat exists, however, it may be defended against with deadly force, regardless of the weapons, or lack thereof, brought to bear by the attackers.

Caught on Video: Vicious Group Attack by Thugs on Young Couple

Missouri, that font of recent self-defense fodder, again delivers the goods, this time with surveillance video of an attack by a group of thugs on a young man and woman–Alex Vessey and Meredith Cole–out on a date in Springfield MO this past Friday (this attack was first brought to my attention in a post by Bob Owens at the always excellent Bearing Arms blog).  The video clearly illustrates both disparity of numbers–in this case an insurmountable six-to-one–as well as disparity of gender.

In addition, news reports (including the consistently superior British press–in this case, the Daily Mail, from which the video embedded below was obtained) report that both victims were treated for serious injuries, including both of them bleeding from the head, and the female victim suffering a broken ankle.

Such injuries are more than sufficient to meet the legal standard for “deadly force” attack, which requires that the attack be made with force “likely to cause death or serious bodily injury.”  It was only by good fortune that neither of the victims was killed or permanently maimed.

CAUTION: Some might find the video below to be graphic in its violence. There is little, if any, actual gore.

Clear Basis for Lawful Use of Deadly Force in Self-Defense

The video also demonstrates that the victims clearly met all five elements of self defense. Innocence: they were viciously attacked by behind, and were not the aggressors in the conflict. Imminence: the attack was actually occurring and continuing. Proportionality: they used no more force in self-defense then their attackers used on them.

Indeed, given their attacker’s deadly-force attack they would have been lawfully entitled to use deadly force in self-defense. Avoidance: There was never a safe avenue of retreat available to them, particularly with the female victim wearing high heels. Reasonableness: There was no way in which their conduct was unreasonable.

Further, because the attackers were acting as a coherent group in the attack, the defenders would have been equally justified in using deadly force in self-defense against each and every member of the attacking group, until the deadly force threat they presented had been neutralized.

Had either–or, ideally, both–of the victims here been lawfully armed and been sufficiently situationally aware to effectively bring those arms to bear, their attackers might have found that there can be a high cost, indeed, to launching vicious, deadly-force attacks upon innocent people.

Be careful out there, folks. Be alert, be prepared, and know the law.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


NOTE: It seems Amazon is running a “Kindle Countdown” on “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition.” Until 6PM today the Kindle version of the book is available for $4.99, half the usual price. 🙂  Also, if you’re in a position to do a quick review, now would be the time.

Apparently some “haters” decided to post several 1-star reviews, some of which Amazon has already taken down, given their clear malice.  Be nice to offset the remaining fake reviews with honest ones and maintain our >90% 4- and 5-star reviews. Reviews can be done at the same link, and needn’t be extensive–just honest. 🙂

Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He holds many state-specific Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and produces free online self-defense law educational video- and podcasts at the Law of Self Defense University.