If SHTF, Could You and Would You Shoot Someone?

Gaye Levy, Contributing Writer
Activist Post

For most of us, our home is our refuge.  There is even an old proverb: a man’s home is his castle.  But what happens if there is an intruder?  Or worse, an intruder whose intent is bodily harm toward you or your family members regardless of the reason?  How would you defend yourself and, more specifically, would you shoot someone?  Could you shoot someone?

I have struggled with the answer to these questions and more, because, if there were a collapse of society – a true SHTF situation – there is a strong likelihood that I would be placed in a position to defend myself, my homestead and my stuff.  And therein lies the problem.  I am not at all sure I could shoot someone.  As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure I could not.

There, I said it.  For in spite of the fact that we have shopped for a suitable weapon for someone of my size and gender, and in spite of the fact I have researched classes and shooting ranges where I could practice and become proficient, I personally do not think I could do it.

And you know what?  My informal poll of others – both men and women – has told me that about 50% of us – if we dig down deep – feel the same way.  I could not shoot with the intent to harm.

Sure, I know that shooting someone is not the question.  The question really is “Can you safely defend yourself and your family against a life threatening situation or attack?” And if the answer is “I don’t know” or even “No”, then you have a problem. I know I do.

From the way I see it, we have three basic issues:

  • What are the circumstances where we should use extreme force to defend ourselves?
  • Will I end up in jail or prison for exercising my right to defend myself and my family?
  • How do I defend myself especially if I am uncomfortable around guns?
What are the circumstances where we should use extreme force to defend ourselves?

In my mind, you are justified in using force – lethal or otherwise – against another human being if, and only if, there is immediate and unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to an innocent person.  So by my definition, someone stealing my stuff does not qualify.  Neither would revenge for something that happened yesterday.

Breaking this down, this means that the threat would have to be now, not yesterday and not tomorrow.  “I am going to come and get you tomorrow” would not qualify by my definition.

Will I end up in jail or prison for exercising my right to defend myself and my family?

Good question.  The answer is maybe.  There is something called the Castle Doctrine that dictates, on a state by state basis, the circumstances where you can legally defend yourself from bodily harm.

Notice that I said bodily harm and not destruction or theft of property.

Castle Doctrine derives from English Common Law, and broadly affirms that the lawful occupants of a dwelling has the right to use force, up to and including deadly force, to protect against attack.

Depending on individual state law, Castle Doctrine generally applies only if you have a “reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm” to yourself or to others.

Like I said, Castle Doctrine varies from state to state and some states have something called “Stand Your Ground” instead.  Still, as a generalization, protections offered include the following:

Reinforced right to use deadly force:  You have the right to use deadly force if you have an immediate and reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm. In some cases, the “reasonable fear” is presumed if someone attempts to make a forcible and unlawful entry into your residence or, in some states, vehicle.

No duty to retreat:  The laws generally reinforce your right to “stand your ground” when attacked, rather than having to attempt to flee, provided you reasonably believe force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury and provided you are lawfully in the place you occupy.

Immunity from criminal prosecution: In cases of justifiable use of deadly force, police or other law enforcement authorities may generally investigate but not arrest you unless they find probable cause that the force used was unlawful.

Immunity from civil action: In cases of justifiable use of deadly force, a plaintiff (e.g. the family of the perpetrator) is barred from civil action and may be required to pay attorney’s fees and court costs from bringing such action against you.

How do I defend myself especially if I am uncomfortable around guns?

Okay, here are the choices that I have come up with in no particular order:

  • Chemical Sprays (pepper spray , bear spray, wasp killer)
  • Martial arts
  • Firearms (shotgun, rifle, pistol)
  • Battering devices (batons, fireplace pokers, baseball bats)
  • Stun Guns
  • Knives
  • Avoidance (hiding, running away)

I do want to note that most self defense instructors will say that avoiding, or running away or even hiding from the danger or confrontation is by far the best thing to do.  Unfortunately, that may not always be a viable and safe option.

For me, having a combination of these self-defense mechanisms is best.  This will allow both Survival Husband and myself to choose the very best option particular to the threat and our personal comfort lever (again “to shoot” or “not to shoot”).


Ask yourself if you are ready for the chaos created by SHTF, in whatever form it might take.  Also think about putting together a “SHTF Self Defense and Intruder Safety Plan”.

Here are some tips to get started:

1. The first step is to talk to your spouse, partner and/or other family members about your individual feelings a toward guns, knives and other self defense weapons.  This is not the time for BS.  It is best to be honest with yourself now, before the need to defend yourself is called in to action.

2. Examine some what-if scenarios and think about what additional information you need in order to become comfortable with your plan and with a possible “shoot” or don’t shoot” decision.

3. Invest in the gear and the skills you know you will use and then learn how to use them.  The gear and skills that you select for one family member may be different than those chosen for another family member.  One may choose a firearm and the other may choose a combination of chemical sprays and martial arts.

4. Respect the skills and mindset of your family members or others in your household.  There is no right and no wrong.

5. Educate yourself regarding the Castle Doctrine Laws in your state and use them as a guideline in formulating your plan.  Keep in mind, however, that if there is a SHTF situation, there may no longer be a government so any existing laws or rules may not apply.

The Final Word

The more you think about these things in advance, the more confident you will become in your ability to make a good decision under stress when defending yourself and your loved ones is the only choice your have.

To learn more about the Castle Doctrine Laws specific to your state, visit this link:  The Castle Doctrine.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation! 

Gaye Levy, the SurvivalWoman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable, self-reliant and stylish lifestyle through emergency preparation and disaster planning through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. SurvivalWoman speaks her mind and delivers her message with optimism and grace, regardless of mayhem swirling around us.  Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation! 

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