When Citizens Shoot for Defense, ‘Reasonable’ is the Law

By Paige Browning

When a citizen uses deadly force against another person, their actions are reviewed through the scope of Washington state law. Part of Washington law explains when it is justifiable for a person to commit homicide. Deputy Travis Pendell at the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office says it’s important people know the law in terms of protecting their safety.

He teaches two citizen’s academies a year.
 
Pendell: “You need to be in reasonable fear for yourself or another, and the amount of force that you use need to be reasonable. That you understand what are your bounds, what is important, you wouldn't shoot someone for taking your TV, for example.”
 
If someone shoots another person, Washington code lists punishment anywhere from a gross misdemeanor to a 1st degree murder felony. But, there are exceptions based on self defense.
 
The law says homicide is justifiable when there is reasonable ground the other person may do great injury to someone, or there is imminent danger from them. At the end of the day, a court of law has the final say in whether force was justifiable.
 
Washington does not require people to undergo any education to own a firearm. Instead, buyers must pass a background check, and provide additional personal information to obtain a concealed carry permit. Hunters need to undergo a hunter education course to obtain a license.
 
The Washington code on homicide can be found at: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9A.16.050
 
Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio
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