A reader (and attendee at one of last year's legal seminars) writes to ask about whether the Great Black Rifle Buying Spree of recent years has removed the stigma possibly associated with using an AR-15 in a self-defense scenario.
This is a good question to ask in Northern Virginia, since one of the few instances of using an automatic weapon (yes, I know that AR-15's are not fully automatic, but bear with me) in self-defense happened in Fairfax County a little over 25 years ago. Gary Fadden used an AC556, the select-fire version of the Ruger Mini-14, to defend himself against a belligerent assailant that chased Fadden and Fadden's fiancee until they had nowhere else to retreat to. Massad Ayoob's excellent write-up is here.
Fadden believes that if he had used a pump-action shotgun to kill his attacker, then he wouldn't have been prosecuted.
So, is it unwise to put your AR in the closet as a tool to use against home invaders?
Two things to note on this issue.
First, ANY gun can be demonized by a prosecutor to allege that the defendant acted outside the bounds of self-defense or was otherwise up to no good. Harold Fish was walking a trail in Arizona in an area where mountain lions roam, armed with a 10mm loaded with hollowpoint ammunition. If you were to ask me what gun to carry for mountain lion, I would tell you to carry what Fish had. Yet when he killed a man who charged him on the trail with (presumably) murderous intent, the prosecutor railed on about what an overpowered gun Fish had and how the bullets he carried would violate the Hague Regulations (not the Geneva Conventions, a popular misconception) if used on the battlefield. Never mind that the cops in Arizona (and everywhere else in America) carry hollowpoints for the same reasons Fish did.
Second, there is no solid answer as to whether your particular choice of carry gun or home defense longarm will strike a jury as evidence of murderous intent. Harold Fish was demonized as a vigilante and convicted of murder in Arizona, not San Francisco. The jury selection process makes a big difference in this regard, and you never know what you're going to get. I suspect that the concealed carry revolution of the 1990's and two Supreme Court decisions supporting a right to keep and bear arms for self-defense move the general direction of public support in favor of self-defense claims, but I also suspect that the urbanization of Northern Virginia makes it less gun-friendly than the rest of the Commonwealth.
If I decide to put a longarm (shotgun or black rifle) under the bed or in the closet, I'll use one of the action locks that GunVault produces: AR and shotgun versions available. And I'd put a light on it.
What are your thoughts on using an AR for self-defense?
By the way, I've scheduled two legal seminars for Saturday, October 23rd. If you want to get certified for a Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit, let me know and we can do range time afterwards, meeting the requirements for your permit AND giving you a good legal education on self-defense in the Commonwealth. Contact me if interested.