Employee Spotlight: Martha

Here at U.S. & Texas LawShield, we care about the communities we serve because we are your neighbors, your friends, and your family members.


Previously working as a paralegal and writer, Martha’s love for hunting made her the perfect fit for the U.S. & Texas LawShield family. On an average day, Martha is busy creating content for the HunterShield blog, organizing events, and educating others on the benefits of HunterShield.

With over 15 years of experience as a paralegal, Martha comes with a deep understanding of how the law affects people on a daily basis. She has always loved helping people and working for U.S. & Texas LawShield allows her to carry that mission to further lengths.

She shares, “I couldn’t imagine a more important thing to be doing than being a part of an organization that helps others in the aftermath of exercising their rights. I’m super proud of being a member and even more proud that I get to work for such a purposeful company. I love educating others and I’m looking forward to creating great educational materials for hunters.”

When she’s not on the job, Martha is a passionate hunter and a strong advocate for the protection of our Second Amendment Rights. She loves the educational aspect of hunting and the opportunity to teach newcomers all about the sport.


Because of her day-to-day involvement with recreational hunting and daily conceal carry, Martha finds the protection that she gets as a member of U.S. & Texas LawShield is a very necessary part of her life. As a paralegal, she knows how difficult it is to find a good attorney who is available and willing to assist you in your time of need.

Martha enjoys using different types of guns, but her absolute favorite is a shotgun, because of its many uses. Her first pistol was a Kimber Crimson Carry and her very first rifle was a Sako 7mm Rem. mag. The best advice she can give to a gunowner is to shoot often, get training, and get a U.S. & Texas LawShield membership.

The best self-defense strategy begins with self-awareness! Martha can never stress the importance of self-defense enough to the people around her, as she is a survivor of violent crime. Do not become a victim by being unaware of your surroundings. ALWAYS be on high alert.

Thanks to leaders like Martha, we here at U.S. & Texas LawShield are better equipped to support, educate, and protect responsible gunowners. Find out more about our HunterShield program and how to sign up for your own LawShield membership today.

Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

Employee Spotlight: Jonathan Rowley

Jonathan Rowley, Veteran, Active Military Duty

Here at U.S. LawShield, we care about the communities we serve because we are your neighbors, your friends, and your family members. Take a look behind the scenes and meet Jonathan Rowley, Lead Web Developer and First Aid for GunShot Wounds Certification Program Instructor at U.S. LawShield.

Before beginning his career with us, Jonathan found a passion for problem-solving and troubleshooting from over 10 years of experience in medical rescue. Since then, he has shifted his career and focus to his computer skills and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity.

Jonathan first joined the U.S. LawShield family in March 2016 as Lead Web Developer, with over 10 years of applied experience in the industry. As U.S. LawShield has grown within the states and continues to offer even greater service to its members, Jonathan maintains all current systems within the company as a Subject Matter Expert; contributing feedback and working alongside the development team to create all new websites and portals.

In addition to working at U.S. LawShield, Jonathan currently serves in the Army National Guard, having first begun his service in 2007, and previously served in the Marine Corps for 4 years. With 15 total years dedicated to this great country, Jonathan plans to retire from active military duty soon but will continue to serve his countrymen as one of the lead instructors in U.S. LawShield’s First Aid for Gunshot Wounds Certification Program.

Jonathan is no stranger to guns. His first gun was a Taurus 911 9mm and his current favorite is his AR-15, as it reminds him of competition shooting in the Marines. As a gun owner and a veteran, he advises all to respect your gun as you respect yourself. If you are in need of self-defense tips, Jonathan recommends getting distance, seeking cover if possible, and shooting straight.

We thank Jonathan for his service and work here at U.S. LawShield, as his problem-solving and first-hand medical expertise refines the U.S. LawShield member experience.


Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

Staying at an AirBnB. Can They Prohibit My Gun in Texas?

Summer is in full swing and many members are taking vacations. While looking for a place to stay, many are turning to Airbnb as an alternative to hotels. But a question has risen—can an AirBnB owner prohibit my gun? Watch Independent Program Attorney Edwin Walker explain the law in Texas.

You may be thinking that you would rather spend your summer vacation at a quiet private residence rather than a crowded hotel, and are surfing through the available Airbnb or VRBO listings online. The issue of whether or not you can possess a firearm in another person’s house is a generally a matter of private contract law since nearly every state allows a private person to possess a firearm in a structure that is serving as their dwelling even for a short period. Be sure to review your short-term rental agreement closely to see if it restricts the possession of firearms. Further, individuals who use Airbnb are “required to provide notice of and obtain consent for any secured weapons prior to booking, and should use the messaging feature to do so.” In the event that a property owner does not want firearms brought into their homes, the host may cancel the reservation without penalty.

In some circumstances, a person’s possession of firearms on private property could be criminalized. In Texas, if a private property owner does not want an LTC holder to bring in their handgun onto the property, they must provide adequate TPC 30.06 and/or 30.07 criminal trespass notice, this could written into the rental agreement or it could be a posted sign.

Whenever and wherever you are with a firearm always be mindful of the rules and regulations of safe handling and safe storage. Be very mindful to prevent accidental discharges because of the certainty that another’s property will be damaged. Further, whether you are in Texas or another state, most of them have laws prohibiting the reckless storage of firearms where there is the possibility that children may handle them unsupervised.

Finally, one of the most common problems we hear about are folks who have accidentally forgotten to bring home their firearm after a weekend stay. Nothing causes that sinking feeling in your stomach more than a lost firearm. Even if your firearm is found by an honest person who turns it in, it is highly likely that you will have to return to the local of your vacation and prove ownership to the local police in order to have it returned.

Want to learn more information about traveling with your firearm? Download our Travel Guide now. Texas LawShield wishes you safe travels wherever and whenever you may go.

Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

How Texas LawShield Protected Me from my Neighbor

One Texas LawShield member found out what one of his neighbors would do after a neighborhood dispute turned into a violent road rage incident. Jerry N. was driving out of his neighborhood when a neighbor suddenly pulled in front of him and got out of his truck threatening to kill him. Watch our video to find out what happened next and how Texas LawShield was able to help Jerry through the legal aftermath.  

Self-defense incidents occur every day. Most of the time, you’ll have to defend yourself against people you know. Will you be prepared like Jerry? Become a member of U.S. and Texas LawShield, the legal defense for self-defense today.

Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

5 Tips to Navigating the Attorney Answered Emergency Hotline

One of the best benefits of being a U.S. LawShield member is the 24/7 attorney-answered emergency hotline. This number is located in red type on the back of your membership card. The number isn’t answered by a computer, a menu system, service or a call center. The first voice you hear will be an independent program attorney like myself. As one of the attorneys who regularly answers this hotline, I want to give you some tips and tricks to make this phone call as easy as possible.

One of the best benefits of being a U.S. LawShield member is the 24/7 attorney-answered emergency hotline. This number is located in red type on the back of your membership card. The number isn’t answered by a computer, a menu system, service or a call center. The first voice you hear will be an independent program attorney like myself. As one of the attorneys who regularly answers this hotline, I want to give you some tips and tricks to make this phone call as easy as possible.

  1. Tip #1: Treat the emergency hotline like 911. It is for emergency situations, generally ones in which law enforcement is already involved or will be involved shortly. Just like 911, we have to keep the emergency hotline clear for true emergencies and active, ongoing incidents. If you were involved in an incident last week, or just have a question about a situation, call the business line and ask to speak to your independent program attorney.
  2. Tip #2: Be patient. To ensure that the hotline is always answered by an attorney, even if there are many people calling at once with emergencies, the hotline is set up to roll to a list of available attorneys. Don’t get frustrated and hang up! The call WILL be answered by an attorney.
  3. Tip #3: Get to a private place and have your information ready. The purpose behind having an attorney answer the hotline directly is to establish attorney-client privilege right off the bat. Everything you say to the hotline attorney is confidential, so long as there isn’t a third party listening. If someone standing close by overhears you telling your story to the hotline attorney, that person can be called to testify about what you said. Try your best to get to a place where you can speak freely without being overheard. Then, be ready to give your name, location, LawShield member number, and callback number to the attorney on the other end of the line.
  4. Tip #4: Relax and let the independent program attorney steer the boat. The hotline attorney has been trained to take control of the situation. You have just had one of the worst days of your life, we don’t expect you to have a coherent statement ready for us. We will ask you the important questions to help make your first statement to law enforcement your best statement.
  5. Tip #5: Trust your attorney. Every case is different. Often, rushing an attorney to the scene is the right call to make. In other cases, an attorney on scene is going to provoke officers and make the situation worse, or possibly draw an extra level of scrutiny on your case. Sometimes, the best course of action is for you to hand the hotline over to officers so the attorney can speak to them directly upon their arrival. It all depends on your unique situation. The hotline attorney will use his or her knowledge of the law, your situation, and particular police agency to decide the best course of action. Trust them and heed the advice they have given.
Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

The Domino Effect of Banning Bump Stocks

On Saturday, March 10th, the Department of Justice released a new statement that carries with it drastic consequences for gun owners around America. The statement reads as follows:

“To the Office of Management and Budget a notice of a proposed regulation to clarify that the definition of machine gun in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act includes bump stock type devices, and that federal law accordingly prohibits the possession, sale, or manufacture of such devices.”

Under the current National Firearms Act, the term machine gun is defined as “Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” In other words, if you hold the trigger and rounds keep going, you have a machine gun.

Currently, a bump stock does not make your gun a machine gun as you still must pull the trigger for each round. While the bump stock does utilize the kick of your gun to fire more quickly, it doesn’t touch the high rate of fire or ease of use that many machine guns possess.

With the new definition of machine gun possibly being added to the NFA, it is unclear what else will be banned. Would it extend to working on triggers to have a lighter pull, a shorter reset, or using a binary trigger? Each of these, just like the bump stock, would increase your rate of fire, so would these be banned as well? At this time we don’t know, but all of us are asking the questions and wondering where the line will be drawn.

How Are Gun Owners Reacting?

Gun owners across the country are preparing for the regulation changes. Many have been caught off guard or are misinterpreting what the changes mean. Jesse B., a Texas gun owner who owns a bump stock, is one of the many gun owners caught off guard by the proposed changes.

“Well I heard they were trying to ban bump stocks, even Trump was talking about it. I’m just glad I already have mine so I’m grandfathered into the old system. It’s not like I use my [bump stock] all that often, but I’d never let the government take it from me,” said Jesse.

Unfortunately, the changes are not that simple. The new regulations would not grandfather existing bump stock owners.  If this law passes, existing bump stock owners would be forced to destroy their legally-purchased bump stocks without compensation, or they would have an illegal machine gun on their hands.

So, what does this mean for Jesse, and the many others like him?

Potentially, a lot.

Changing the definition of a machine gun will make many legal gun owners, just like Jesse, felons because they now possess an illegal firearm, which also happens to be an illegal machine gun!

Under federal law, possession of an illegal machine gun imposes a fine up to $250,000 and jail time not to exceed 10 years. With limited options, most gun owners would have to return or destroy their now “machine gun device” with no compensation.

“How is it even legal that the government can force me to destroy something that I bought legally without compensation,” Jesse asked. “That just doesn’t make any sense.”

Jesse is not the only gun owner who feels that way. Many Florida residents are in agreement and are taking legal action.

A case has already been filed in the Leon County Circuit Court of Florida, asking a judge to certify a class-action lawsuit and order full compensation for what the plaintiffs’ attorneys estimate are tens of thousands of dollars for Florida residents who own bump stocks or any other device that will become illegal under the new proposed law.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys argue this is a regulatory taking of lawfully-owned property from people, which would make them entitled to compensation.

Gun Stores Scared of the Unknown

While very few gun stores depend solely on the sale of bump stocks to stay in business, this potential change in law has many gun store owners terrified. With this proposed legislation, the government can make a completely legal item a felony to own. If the government continues down this road of banning firearm accessories or attachments, many gun stores or manufacturers could lose everything.

Jon El of Phantom Tactical told us he doesn’t even sell bump stocks at his store as he personally considers them to be “novelties” vs. combat effective but is understandably worried about the change in law. Saying “it’s terrifying they are going to make you destroy your bump stock with possibly no compensation. The precedence this law would set is terrible for all gun owners.”

Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

Gun Industry Takes Another Hit as Bank of America Cuts Ties

The dominos are continuing to fall as more and more businesses are attacking gun rights by changing their business practices to place restrictions on businesses associated with firearms.

In our last newsletter, we reported on Citigroup changing their policies to force gun manufacturers and gun retailers to follow their policies and not the law.

Now, what appears to be a growing movement in the financial industry to effect gun control by imposing restrictions on businesses engaged in manufacturing or selling firearms and accessories is continuing.

Bank of America, the nation’s second-largest banking institution, has announced it will stop lending money to business clients that manufacture “military-style” weapons for civilian use.

“We want to contribute in any way we can to reduce these mass shootings,” Anne Finucane, vice chairman of the Charlotte, N.C.-based banking giant, said during a Bloomberg TV interview on April 10.

“We have just a handful of manufacturers. They know what our intentions are,” Finucane told Bloomberg. “It’s our intention not to finance these military-style firearms for civilian use.”

Manufacturers with financing through Bank of America include, Vista Outdoors Inc. and Remington.

Finucane did seem to divert from adopting a policy similar to Citigroup for the present future, telling Bloomburg a move against retailers selling “military-style” assault weapons would be a long way off and would get into issues involving “civil liberties and the Second Amendment.”

Other Dominoes Teetering?

While Citigroup and Bank of America have now made their intentions clear, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have remained mostly silent.

During a first-quarter earnings report on Friday, April 13, JPMorgan Chase’s Chief Financial Officer Mariane Lake told reporters JP Morgan’s business relations with gunmakers “have come down significantly and are pretty limited.”

Lake would not commit to any policy changes when dealing with gun manufacturers or retailers, but also gave no indications they would not occur.

“We do have robust risk management practices and policies associated with this, and we have had (them) for a number of years,” said Lake. “We continue to always refine them and work on them.”

In a separate conference call with reporters, Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry said the bank has no immediate plans to end its business dealings with its gunmaker clients.

“This requires a legislative solution,” Shrewsberry said.” “We’re not currently setting policy in our extensions of credit.”


NOTE: As an update to our previous reporting, sixteen Republicans in Congress have asked the General Service Administration (GSA) to reevaluate a $700 billion contract with Citibank as a result of its attack on the Second Amendment.  On April 11, the congressmen sent the financial giant a letter outlining their contempt with regards to the recently announced Citigroup policy towards guns:

“This flagrant attempt to undermine our fundamental rights by caving to radicals should not be endorsed by our federal government. The federal government should instead do business with companies that respect all of our constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment. GSA should take all necessary steps to review and terminate its contract with Citibank unless they rescind their guidelines, and rebid the SmartPay 3 contract.”

We will have to wait and see what Citigroup does in response.

Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

The Animals Aren’t the Only Thing to Fear, Know the Law to Survive an Animal Attack – Select U.S. States and Federal Law

In our last newsletter, we shared three real-life stories of people fighting off a wild bear attack. These scenarios beg the question: How can a person legally defend themselves against an attacking animal?


Arkansas does not have a specific statute that provides legal justification for killing an animal in self-defense, but the laws of the state do provide a defense. One such defense can be found in the state’s game and fish code.

For example, it is illegal to kill a game animal out of season or without a permit. However, there is an exception if the killing was done in self-defense.



In connection with any action alleging a violation of a Commission regulation, any person claiming the benefit of any exception or permit under this Code shall have the burden of proving that the exception or permit is applicable and was valid and in force at the time of the alleged violation.

Any person asserting self-defense as justification for violation of a Commission regulation shall have the burden of proving that he acted under a good faith belief that he was protecting himself or other persons from imminent bodily harm or serious injury.

For one such hunter, the law was on his side.

A few years ago, Douglas Ramer of Bastrop, Louisiana was legally deer hunting on private property in Arkansas when a 128-pound mountain lion approached his deer stand. Feeling threatened, Ramer shot and killed the animal. Ramer notified Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (GFC) of the shooting and no charges were filed following an investigation.

One caveat to the regulation is that according to a press release from officials at GFC, “non-game wildlife (except migratory birds and endangered species) that present reasonable threat to people or property may be shot during the daylight hours or trapped without a depredation permit.”

New Jersey

According to the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW), there about 2,400 bears in New Jersey and can be found in every county in the state, leading to an increased possibility of an encounter between a human and a bear. In fact, the DFW reported 146 dangerous black bear encounters in 2015. Though rare, such an encounter can turn deadly as happened to one hiker a few years ago that came upon a bear while out hiking in the woods with four of his friends. All five young men ran away, splitting off into different directions. Unfortunately for 22-year-old Darsh Patel, the 300-pound bear chose him to chase. Patel was unprepared to defend himself and was mauled to death.

What if an animal attacks a human in the Garden State? What are the protections the law allows in the use of force in self-defense in those situations?

New Jersey, like most states, does not have a specific statute that addresses using deadly force in self-defense against an animal attack, but it does have relatively strong animal cruelty laws that may come into play.

The laws that protect animals are contained primarily within Title 4 of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated (NJSA 4:22-10 to 4:22-60).

In summary, the law prohibits the needless killing of a living animal or the inflicting of unnecessary cruelty, either directly or indirectly.

A person found to be in violation of a cruelty statute is guilty of a disorderly persons offense, subject to a fine between $250 to $2,000, or imprisonment for up to six months, or both. The only exceptions spelled out in the statutes are for scientific experiments and for legal hunting. There are no exemptions stated for legal self-defense actions.

Nonetheless, under New Jersey law, you are entitled to defend yourself against injuries caused by animal attacks. Under NJSA Section 2C 3:4, the use of force is justified as self-defense in circumstances where a person is protecting themselves or others against the threat of bodily harm and death, and this includes using deadly force. There are, however, limitations on when such use of deadly force is justified. You cannot avail yourself of the protections of the law if you taunted the animal or provoked the attack or if there was another more reasonable way to protect yourself other than by using deadly force.

In 2015, a 24-year-old deer hunter was in a tree stand when he realized a small, 100-pound black bear was climbing the tree towards his stand. Shouted to scare the bear away to no avail. It kept climbing. As it got within three feet of the tree stand, the hunter fired his shotgun, killing the bear. The young man reported the shooting to Fish & Wildlife authorities who conducted an investigation and determined the physical evidence supported the hunter’s claim he shot in self-defense, even though the agents declined to classify the incident as an attack because  “we’re not sure if the bear understood what was in the tree, but you could call it an aggressive bear,” said a Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson.

In this case, the shooting was deemed justified.

Then there is the case of Bob Ehling of Sparta, NJ. In October of 2014, the 76-year-old man was in bed reading while his wife was enjoying breakfast in the kitchen. She screamed when she was a 300-pound mama bear on the other side of the sliding glass balcony door. Bob jumped out of bed, grabbed his shotgun, and went out a side door onto the balcony and found himself about 5 feet from the bear. Fearing for his safety, he shot and killed the bear. At that point, he realized one of the bear cubs was climbing up the post to reach its mama. As it reached the deck, the bear turned its attention to Bob, so Bob dispatched the young bear as well.

Upset, Bob went inside and sat down at the table to calm down when he heard a growl and looked out the door and saw a second bear cub heading his way. He shot and killed it, too.

The police arrived and were sympathetic to Bob’s plight. Run-ins with bears were not uncommon for the local police. However, when agents from Fish and Wildlife showed up, things turned bad for Bob.

The agents took 57 color photos of the scene, one of which depicted a bag of sunflower seed inside the sliding door that the agents proffered the bear was after.

A few weeks after the agents left, Ehling got four summonses in the mail to appear for trial in Municipal Court. Three counts were for hunting bears out of season, and the fourth was for discharging a firearm within 450 feet of a residence. (We’ve told you before how strict New Jersey gun laws are!) Each had a fine of about $100.

Bob decided he would fight the charges in court and assert self-defense. The judge did not buy the defense, stating there was no evidence Bob was being threatened and his actions were more like those of a vigilante. After a day and a half of trial, Judge James Devine found Bob guilty and ordered him to pay more than $4,000 in penalties.

Bob appealed his conviction to the Superior Court in Sussex County where he had a somewhat better outcome. Judge William McGovern affirmed the charges of shooting the cubs but rejected the state’s argument that self-defense is not a valid argument against the charge of hunting out of season.  The bear was “reasonably perceived as posing a risk of harm to his wife,” said McGovern. He added further that the “concern that perhaps the bear would use its muscle power and force and its weight break through the sliding glass door, I don’t think that was fantasy.”

This is an example of what can happen if you use deadly force in self-defense against an attacking animal. You will have to establish your actions were reasonable under the circumstances. As can be seen in Bob’s case, two different judges had very different takes on what was reasonable under those circumstances.

South Carolina

Had the stories of the bear attacks happened in the Palmetto State, things might have gotten messy for the victims of the attacks.

That’s because there is no law that specifically provides for the killing of an animal in self-defense. So, if you are out camping and a bear attacks you, you could face legal troubles for killing the bear.

The current law makes it a misdemeanor to kill a bear or elk or deer out of season. Violations can result in up to a $2,500 fine and imprisonment for up to 30 days for killing a deer and up to 60 days for killing a bear. (See South Carolina Code Sections 50-11-340, 360, and 430(E)(1) and (F)(1)-(2))

The law is not clear when it comes to self-defense against animal attacks, though such attacks are unusual.

One such case involved a deer-stand hunter who shot a bear climbing the tree to the stand. In that particular case, the Department of Natural Resources chose not to prosecute, although it could have.

That is why State Senator George “Chip” Campsen, III,  (R-Isle of Palms), filed S.21 on December 13, 2016, which amends the Code to provide that a person may use a firearm to kill any animal or alligator any time of year in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of domestic animals.

The bill, if passed, would require a person who uses deadly force against a big game animal or alligator to report the incident to the Department of Natural Resources so it can recover the carcass. Failure to report the incident or to keep the carcass would be a misdemeanor subject to a fine up to $1,000.

Interestingly, the bill specifically states a person cannot claim self-defense in the killing of a deer.

The bill was introduced and read the first time in the Senate on January 10, 2017, and immediately referred to the Committee on Fish, Game and Forestry where it still languishes.

Sen. Campsen, who just so happens to be the Chairman of that committee, said his bill would codify what the practice of the DNR is in cases like that of the deer-stand hunter. He hopes his bill can gain some traction this legislative session.


Until recently, the Volunteer State did not have a self-defense law to protect a person from potential legal consequences for killing a threatening animal.

But that changed in 2015 when two state lawmakers had personal connections with individuals that faced fines for killing an animal (or in one case, a snake) in self-defense.

State Representative Jeremy Faison (R-Crosby) had a friend that killed a copperhead snake with a shovel after the reptile neared his children that were playing in his backyard back in 2013.

“You are not allowed to kill an animal in Tennessee. Period,” Faison told News 2, “Unless you have a license to kill it. If we have laws that say I can kill a human being if I am threatened by danger, then we ought to be able to at least take the life of an animal if my family or my life is in danger.”

Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) recalls a similar story about a family friend that faced a fine from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) after shooting a threatening bear that came upon him while he was out boar hunting.

“Asking some prosecutors, I discovered Tennessee does not have a self-defense law to protect against you against threatening animals,” said Niceley.

These incidents spurred the two lawmakers to introduce companion bills in their respective legislative chambers that would provide protection to those individuals that have to take the life of an animal that posed a threat to themselves or to others.

The measures, House Bil 0135 and Senate Bill 0205 were introduced in 2015. The Senate adopted HB 0135 in place of its own bill, and the measure passed both chambers in April of 2015. The Governor signed HB 135, and it became law effective July 1, 2015.

In Tennessee, the law provides a person is legally justified in killing or injuring a threatening wild animal when the person reasonably believes the action is necessary to protect themselves or another person against an imminent attack that would likely result in serious bodily injury or death.

The law also requires that a person notify TWRA within 24 hours if they kill or seriously injure a big game animal, provided it is reasonable to contact the agency within that time period.

The law went a step further in making it a defense to criminal prosecution to kill or injure a threatening wild animal to protect a person’s property, including agricultural products, livestock, and domestic animals, from imminent harm. It does not make it a legal justification to kill a wild animal to protect property, merely a defense that can be raised at trial.

The law, however, is not absolute. You are not justified in killing a threatening wild animal if you can safely retreat, except if the animal is in your house, tent, camper, or other occupied living structure. Nor are you afforded the protection of the law if you knowingly or recklessly provoke or attract the wild animal.

In summation, you are justified in killing a wild animal that is threatening you or another person, so long as you cannot safely retreat and you did not provoke the attack. While it is not a legal justification to kill a wild animal to protect property, it is a defense that can be raised in a criminal prosecution.


Utah law is spelled out in R657-63-3, the self-defense statute. The law provides

(1)  A person is legally justified in killing or seriously injuring a threatening wild animal when the person reasonably believes such action is necessary to protect them self, another person, or a domestic animal against an imminent attack by the wild animal that will likely result in severe bodily injury or death to the victim.

(2)  In determining imminence or reasonableness under Subsection (1), the trier of fact may consider, but is not limited to, any of the following factors:

(a) the nature of the danger;
(b) the immediacy of the danger;
(c) the probability that the threatening wild animal will attack;
(d) the probability that the attack will result in death or serious bodily injury;
(e) the ability to safely retreat;
(f) the fault of the person in creating the encounter; and
(g) any previous pattern of aggressive or threatening behavior by the individual wild animal which was known to the person claiming self-defense.

(3)  (a) A person shall notify the division within 12 hours after killing or wounding a wild animal under Subsection (1). (b) No wild animal killed pursuant to Subsection (1) or the parts thereof may be removed from the site, repositioned, retained, sold, or transferred without written authorization from the division.

(4)  (a) A person is not legally justified in killing or seriously injuring a threatening wild animal under the circumstances specified in Subsection (1) if the person:

(i) has the ability to safely retreat from the threatening animal and fails to do so, except when the animal enters a home, tent, camper, or other permanent or temporary living structure occupied at the time by the person or another person; or
(ii) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly provokes or attracts the wild animal into a situation in which it is probable it will threaten the person, another person, or a domestic animal.

As you can see, Utah requires a person to retreat first if it can be safely done before resorting to deadly force, provided the attacking beast hasn’t entered your occupied home, camper, tent or other living structure. That’s a whole different ballgame.


Alaska has a specific statute that allows for the taking of a game animal in self-defense.

The law provides in pertinent part:

Nothing prohibits a person from taking game in defense of life or property if the necessity for the taking is not brought about by harassment or provocation of the animal, or by an unreasonable invasion of the animal’s habitat, or is not brought about by the improper disposal of garbage or a similar attractive nuisance; and all other practicable means to protect life and property are exhausted before the game is taken.” (See 5AAC 92.410(a)((1)-(3).

Game taken in defense of life or property is the property of the state, and anyone taking such game is required to immediately salvage the meat, (or skull and hide of a bear, wolf, wolverine, or coyote) and surrender the meat or hide to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

One such incident happened to a young 14-year-old deer hunter, Kavin Roberts, in October  2015 when he was attacked by a charging Kodiak Brown Bear. The bear was within 15 yards when Kavin was able to bring down the animal with his deer rifle. Having never killed a bear before, Kavin had to recruit help from locals and Wildlife Troopers to properly skin and salvage the bear.

And like all government bureaucracies, the State requires the person killing a game animal in self-defense to complete a report and submit it to the Department of Fish and Game.


We can look to the Montana Constitution for guidance.

“All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights. They include the right to a clean and healthful environment and the rights of pursuing life’s basic necessities, enjoying and defending their lives and liberties, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and seeking their safety and happiness in all lawful ways. In enjoying these rights, all persons recognize corresponding responsibilities.” MONT.CONST. art. II, § 3

Do the protections afforded by the Montana Constitution extend to protecting oneself from an animal attack?

The short answer is “yes,” but with restrictions.

If a black or grizzly bear or mountain lion attacks, and if you have a firearm and know how to use it safely and effectively, Montana law allows you to kill the animal to defend yourself, another person or a domestic dog. If you do kill an animal in self-defense, you must report it to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) within 72 hours.

A pheasant hunter had a close encounter of the bear kind and lived to tell about it. He had just shot a bird when a 900-pound female grizzly bear came charging at him. The 69-year-old hunter yelled and fired a warning shot into the air, but it had no effect on the beast. It kept coming at him. Feeling he had no choice, the hunter shot and killed the bear as it got within ten feet of him.

Wildlife officials from FWP conducted an investigation and determined the shooting to be a justifiable case of self-defense.

A West Yellowstone man had an elk carcass in his garage that apparently attracted the interest of a grizzly that wandered in to investigate. As the bear made its way up the front porch, the homeowner shot and killed the grizzly. After an investigation, FWP determined that the shooting was in self-defense and no charges were filed.

But for one camper and his family, things turned out differently. Shalako Katzer and his brother observed a grizzly in their campground. The brother fired two rounds from his rifle and the bear retreated. Katzer, thinking the bear might return, decided he and his brother would track it down.

They came upon the bear and Katzer killed it with a round from his .45 caliber pistol.

Katzer was convicted of violating the Endangered Species Act for knowingly taking a threatened species. He was sentenced to six months incarceration and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution. Grizzlies in Montana outside the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are still on the endangered species list and protected by federal law.

Obviously, grizzly bears can pose a safety risk to humans, but that risk can be diminished or eliminated through proper precautions and appropriate behavior, argued the United States Attorney Mike Cotter in his prosecution of Katzer.

“It (the sentence) tells them that the Department of Justice takes enforcement of federal wildlife protection laws seriously and that individuals who seek to harass and kill these protected animals, not out of self-defense, but apparently for sport, will pay the consequences,” Cotter said.

That was also the case of a 75-year-old man, Everett Skunkcap, who shot and killed a grizzly sow and her two young cubs that had wandered within 100 feet of him and his grandchildren. His claim of self-defense did not hold up, and he agreed to a plea agreement for killing one of the bears in exchange for dropping charges for killing the other two bears.

Apparently, Skunkcap had bragged to wildlife officials months before the shootings that he had shot and killed another grizzly that had wandered onto his property and that he would do it again rather than call the Fish and Wildlife Service for assistance in managing the bears.

He was ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution and had a six-month jail sentenced suspended if he made the restitution payment.

Lesson to be learned here is that his prior conduct and words were used against him.


The grizzly bear was as recently as 1974 considered to be an endangered species. Through careful management, the population of bears has grown to a level that allowed it to be removed from the endangered species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem list a year ago. The numbers have reached such a level that Wyoming is considering establishing a hunting season for the grizzly bear as early as the fall of 2018. Bad news bear.

As a result of the increased bear population, there has been more and more contact between humans and grizzlies to such a degree that humans are the number one agent of death for the grizzly, averaging about 10 killings a year predominantly for self-defense.

A report issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, though incomplete, indicated that between 2004 and 2014 there were 112 hunter-killed grizzlies. An analysis of the records revealed that since 2008, 61 of 86 grizzly killings were done in self-defense.

Wyoming recognizes the grizzly bear as a federally protected species and anytime one is killed, an investigation is conducted to determine if the killing was justified. Sometimes it wasn’t.

One such justified shooting occurred when a couple of elk hunters encountered a grizzly that had dragged off the carcass of an elk they had shot. The bear charged at the hunters and got within ten feet before the men were able to draw their handguns and fatally shoot the animal four times. Law enforcement investigators determined the shooting was done in self-defense.

“The wound tracks and their entry locations matched the story told,” the investigation report said. “The bear was facing them when it was shot.”

However, for a hunting guide, the result was not as favorable.

A few years ago, a nuisance bear had been coming into the outfitter’s camp on a daily basis but was scared away by the hunter’s dog. On one occasion, however, the bear ignored the dog and continued on into the camp. The guide ran to his tent and grabbed a shotgun, and yelled at the bear one more time to scare it away. When the bear did not move, the guide shot and killed the bear as it stood there.

In this case, the investigators determined that the guide was not in imminent danger at the time he pulled the trigger. As a result, he was found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined $1,000.

And then there’s the case of Stephen Westmoreland, who was convicted of killing a grizzly without a license just north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming a few years ago.

Westmoreland had been deer hunting when he came upon a grizzly feeding on a moose carcass. Westmoreland, covered in blood from a deer he had killed, field dressed, and carrying its head, felt he had no choice but to shoot the bear.

The bear was less than 40 yards away when it noticed Westmoreland. He knew the bear could be upon him in three or four seconds, giving him no time to flee. Further, he reasoned that if he waited till the bear charged him, shooting a moving target would be more difficult. He chose to shoot the bear where it stood.

At his trial, the prosecution put on evidence that refuted his self-defense claim, including testimony from a Wyoming Fish and Game bear management supervisor, Mark Bruscino. Bruscino pointed out that Westmoreland was not carrying any bear spray and could have simply pointed his rifle at the bear and waited to see if it charged.

Additionally, Bruscino described a continuum of bear behavior. A grizzly that encounters a human will flee 99 percent of the time, he said. After that, bear behavior might include disinterest in a human, curiosity followed by a retreat, stress behaviors such as excessive salivation and panting, bluff behavior such as false charges and finally an attack.

In his defense, Westmoreland stated he did not have time to go through that analysis. He felt the threat was immediate.

The jury disagreed and found him guilty of killing a grizzly bear without a license. He was fined $500. The charge could have brought a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

How many of you could have calmly waited till the bear rushed at you or gone through all the progressions described by Bruscino like an NFL quarterback looking for an open receiver?

Wyoming law does not impose a duty to retreat before resorting to deadly force if you are in your home. However, if outside your home, the duty to retreat still applied if retreat could be done safely. Prosecutors could argue that a defendant was not acting in self-defense if they failed to leave a situation that a reasonable person would have before acting against a potential attacker.

Fortunately, at the end of March 2018, a bill was passed that changed the law making it no longer necessary to retreat before using deadly force when in a public place.

The laws can be tricky and in a stressful situation, even more confusing. At what point does the threat become imminent? The reasonableness of your actions will be determined by a jury.

As an aside, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted that the .44 magnum handgun is apparently the weapon of choice when it comes to protection against bear attacks, having been used in over 25% of all self-defense shootings.

Federal Law

Until now, we have been talking about various state laws. What about federal law?

The federal law has actually had the foresight to specifically provide that a person may kill an endangered animal in self-defense, such as the regulations concerning the Red Wolf in 50.C.F.R. Sec. 17.84(c)(4)(i), the Mexican Wolf in 50 C.F.R. Sec. 17.84(k)(7)(i), or the Grizzly Bear in 50 C.F.R. Sec. 17.40(b)(i)(B).

Specifically, with regards to grizzly bears, the law provides:

(b) Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) – (1) Prohibitions. The following prohibitions apply to the grizzly bear:


(A) Except as provided in paragraphs (b)(1)(i)(B) through (F) of this section, no person shall take any grizzly bear in the 48 conterminous states of the United States.

(B) Grizzly bears may be taken in self-defense or in defense of others, but such taking shall be reported by the individual who has taken the bear or his designee within 5 days of occurrence . . .

50 C.F.R. Sec. 17.40(b)(i)(B)

For instance, there is the case of a hiker in Glacier National Park in Montana a few years ago. Brian Murphy came upon a grizzly bear that became aggressive and attacked him. Bear spray had no effect on the bear. Fortunately, Brian was armed with a .357 Magnum revolver and was able to defend himself when the bear was within ten feet. Wounded, the bear ran away. And so did Brian.

He immediately reported the shooting to park rangers and cooperated with their investigation. After the investigation was completed, Brian was charged with illegally discharging a firearm inside a national park under 36 CFR 2.4 (a) (1) (iii), which makes it illegal to use a firearm in a national park. Brian’s attorney was able to convince the judge that the shooting was done in self-defense and therefore a legal exception under the law. The judge agreed and dismissed the case.

Under the federal Endangered Species Act, the law is a little more succinct and provides:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, no civil penalty shall be imposed if it can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed an act based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual from bodily harm, from any endangered or threatened species. 16 U.S. Code § 1540(a)(3).

However, like almost every law, there are exceptions and a gray area.

What if a bald eagle swoops down and starts to attack me?

With regards to the bald eagle, the law can be very complex.  In 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list, but that doesn’t mean it is open season to kill one, even in self-defense.

The bald eagle is still protected by specific federal laws: the Lacey Act of 1900, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Essentially, federal law prohibits anyone without a proper federal permit from:

“… knowingly, or with wanton disregard for the consequences of his act take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or in any manner any bald eagle commonly known as the American eagle or any golden eagle, alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof…” 16 U.S. Code § 668(a)

Violation of this provision can result in up to a civil penalty of $5,000 fine, imprisonment for up to one year, or both, for a first offense. A felony conviction can result in up to a $250,000 fine and up to two years in prison. Penalties increase for subsequent violations.

However, 16 U.S. Code § 668a allows for the “taking” of bald eagles under certain circumstance, provided that the individual first has obtained a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior, which may be issued after review of an application in compliance with 50 CFR § 22.23.

The application requires you to provide a detailed description of the damage or injury you are experiencing, and economic damages you have sustained before you can submit the application. The permit, if issued, is intended to provide short-term relief until long-term, nonlethal control techniques can be implemented.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helps to enforce the law and manages permits.

For a Virginia man, he learned his lesson the hard way.  This past October,  Smithfield resident Allen Thacker was sentenced to house arrest and fined for shooting a bald eagle he considered a menace without first obtaining a federal permit.

Unlike some state statutes, like Texas statutes, federal law is more clear and comprehensible (with the possible exception of bald eagles).  Therefore, if you are carrying your concealed handgun in a national park and you find yourself face to face with an aggressive Grizzly Bear, you can use your gun to protect your life.

To View the law for defense against animals in other states click on the state names below:









Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

The Animals Aren’t the Only Thing to Fear, Know the Law to Survive an Animal Attack – Colorado

In our last newsletter, we shared three real-life stories of people fighting off a wild bear attack. These scenarios beg the question: How can a person legally defend themselves against an attacking animal?

We asked your Independent Program Attorney to answer this question for you, so you will know what to do if you are attacked by an animal.

C.R.S. 33-3-106 provides some clarity regarding when use of force is lawful against certain wildlife and dogs.  Under this statute, it is lawful to trap, kill, or otherwise dispose of bears, mountain lions, or dogs without a permit in situations when it is necessary to prevent them from inflicting death, damage, or injury to livestock, real property, a motor vehicle, or human life.  Real property means land and generally anything affixed to the owner’s land such as buildings.  Further, force, including deadly force, may be used against dogs when it is necessary to prevent them from inflicting death or injury to big game and to small game, birds, and mammals.  Note, this statute does not make it lawful to use deadly force against these animals to protect private or personal property.  Pets are considered private property in Colorado and deadly force to protect the family dog or cat may not be justified.  Further, while dogs are mammals, the protections of this statute apply to damage caused by “wildlife” which would likely not include dogs.  However, this statute does clarify that deadly force used against any of these animals to protect human life is justified.

C.R.S. 33-6-107(9) provides additional guidance regarding use of force, including deadly force against wildlife on private property.  Under this statute, it is lawful, without a permit, to hunt, trap, or take black-billed magpies, common crows, starlings, English or house sparrows, common pigeons, coyotes, bobcats, red foxes, raccoons, jackrabbits, badgers, marmots, prairie dogs, pocket gophers, Richardson’s ground squirrels, rock squirrels, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, porcupines, crayfish, tiger, salamanders, muskrats, beavers, exotic wildlife, and common snapping turtles on lands owned or leased by a person but only when such wildlife is causing damage to crops, real or personal property, or livestock.  Further, any person may kill skunks or rattlesnakes when necessary to protect life or property.

The more common question for U.S. LawShield members poses the question when is it justified to use force, including deadly force, against a dog that is attacking their family pet?  Unfortunately, Colorado law provides virtually no guidance for these types of scenarios.  Use of force statutes in Colorado discuss situations where force is justified against “another person.”  Therefore, we are forced to speculate whether Colorado’s use of force laws apply to animal attacks as the legislature has not addressed this issue.  With that said, the following offers a discussion regarding the laws that have been enacted and how they may apply in these types of situations.  Ultimately, prosecutors are given broad discretion to determine when to seek criminal charges in cases involving use of force against animals.

Under C.R.S. 18-1-704, a person is justified in using deadly physical force against another person if he/she reasonably believes a lesser degree of force is inadequate and reasonably believes he/she is in imminent danger of being killed or receiving great bodily injury.  In conjunction with C.R.S. 33-3-106, it is likely lawful to use deadly force against an attacking animal to prevent or stop an attack by any animal that presents a serious threat to human life.

Under C.R.S. 18-1-706, a person is justified in using reasonable and appropriate physical force upon another person when he/she reasonably believes it necessary to prevent damage to his/her property.  The use of physical force in this situation must be reasonable and appropriate given the circumstances.  Further, the use of deadly force is not justified to protect personal property.  Though many consider pets part of their family, they are considered private property in Colorado.  Thus, this statute would make it unlawful to use deadly force to protect a family pet against an attacking dog.

However, Colorado provides an affirmative defense called “choice of evils” whereby conduct that would otherwise constitute an offense is not criminal when that conduct is necessary as an emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury which is about to occur.  The emergency may not have been created by the actor and the desirability and urgency of avoiding the injury must clearly outweigh the desirability of avoiding the injury sought to be prevented.  Again, this defense is typically raised in situations involving conduct used against other people and it is unclear whether a court would permit this defense for conduct used against animals.

A prosecutor may elect to charge a person with animal cruelty that used deadly force against an animal.  It is a class six felony for a person to needlessly kill an animal.  It is a class one misdemeanor to recklessly or with criminal negligence needlessly kill an animal.  The term “needlessly” is not defined by statute and would be left to jury’s interpretation.  A prosecutor could also pursue charges including prohibited use of weapon, a class two misdemeanor, or illegal discharge of a firearm, a class five felony, if a firearm was fired inside of a dwelling, building, occupied structure, or motor vehicle.

In any case, your actions will be evaluated against those of a reasonable person.  That is, the law will look at all of the circumstances surrounding the use of your firearm to see if a reasonable person would have acted the same way.  So long as a reasonable person would have used deadly force to stop the attack, you should not be criminally liable for your actions.

Until now, we have been talking about Colorado law. What about federal law? The federal law has actually had the foresight to specifically provide that a person may kill an endangered animal in self-defense, such as the regulations concerning the Mexican Wolf in 50 C.F.R. Sec. 17.84(k)(3)(xii), or the Grizzly Bear in 50 C.F.R. Sec. 17.40(b)(i)(B).  Unlike the Colorado statutes, this makes the federal law clear and comprehendible.  Therefore, if you are carrying your concealed handgun in a national park and you find yourself face to face with a Grizzly Bear, you can use your gun without fear of federal prosecution.

To View the law for defense against animals in other states click on the state names below:








Select U.S. States and Federal Law 

Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

The Animals Aren’t the Only Thing to Fear, Know the Law to Survive an Animal Attack – Texas

In our last newsletter, we shared three real-life stories of people fighting off a wild bear attack. These scenarios beg the question: How can a person legally defend themselves against an attacking animal?

We asked your Independent Program Attorney to answer this question for you, so you will know what to do if you are attacked by an animal.

These sort of vicious animal attacks happen every day in the Lone Star State, so what can you do to stop them? The answer, from a legal perspective, is more complicated than you would think.

If you look through the Texas statutes, there is no one place to find a comprehensive man vs. animal answer.  Animals, both domestic and wild, are discussed in various places in the Penal Code, the Health & Safety Code, and the Parks & Wildlife Code.  It would be nice if the legislature had written one clear and comprehensive statute addressing the issue of use of force against animals, but as it now stands we must look to the hodgepodge of animal laws for guidance.

Texas law allows deadly force against animals classified as “dangerous wild animals” in Texas Health & Safety Code Sec. 822.101.  This provision lists the following animals (or any of their hybrids) as “dangerous wild animals”: lions, tigers, ocelots, cougars, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, bobcats, lynx, servals, caracals, hyenas, bears, coyotes, jackals, baboons, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas.  This list is very important because these are the only animals for which a specific justification of self-defense of a person is statutorily authorized.  The legislature has addressed using a firearm as self-defense against these specific animals by making it a defense to the crime of disorderly conduct by discharging a firearm in a public place or across a public road if “that person who discharged the firearm had a reasonable fear of bodily injury to the person or to another by a dangerous wild animal as defined by Section 822.101.”  Killing these specific animals is also a defense to the charge of cruelty to animals as written in Texas Penal Code Sec. 42.092(d) which states, “It is a defense to prosecution under this section that: the actor had a reasonable fear of bodily injury to the actor or to another person by a dangerous wild animal as defined by Section 822.101, Health and Safety Code.”

You may be asking yourself, “why cougars and bears, and gorillas?”  The answer lies in the purpose of Chapter 822 of the Health and Safety Code, which governs the ownership of wild animals for entertainment, exhibition, or profit.  This list is comprised of animals which are not traditionally domesticated animals but are in some cases allowed to be kept in captivity.  So, if you are out and about and are confronted by one of the animals listed in Section 822.101 which has escaped from confinement, and you have a reasonable fear of bodily injury, you may shoot without fear of prosecution for disorderly conduct or cruelty to animals.  This list is conspicuously short and does not cover every non-native wild animal which may be held by a zoo, circus, or safari park.

It is not likely that we will ever have the opportunity to be confronted with a deadly scenario dealing with a “dangerous wild animal” or other non-native wild animal, however, the real possibility exists that we could be in a position to face a dangerous domestic animal or an angry livestock animal. What happens in this situation? Well, there is no statute that provides you the specific authorization to defend yourself or another person from an attacking animal that is not a “dangerous wild animal.”  However, Texas law does recognize a very broad justification to potential criminal liability called “Necessity” which is defined in Texas Penal Code Sec. 9.22:

Conduct is justified if (1) the actor reasonably believes the conduct is immediately necessary to avoid imminent harm, (2) the desirability and urgency of avoiding the harm clearly outweigh, according to ordinary standards of reasonableness, the harm sought to be prevented by the law prescribing the conduct and (3) a legislative purpose to exclude the justification claimed for the conduct does not otherwise plainly appear.

Since self-defense is not specifically excluded from any of the Texas laws regarding human interaction with animals, “necessity” would appear to be available as a defense in any animal killing prosecution case.  As with any self-defense case involving humans, your actions will be evaluated against those of a reasonable person.  That is, the law will look at all of the circumstances surrounding the use of your firearm to see if a reasonable person would have acted the same way. So long as a reasonable person would have used deadly force to stop the attack, you should not be criminally liable for your actions.

Until now, we have been talking about Texas law. What about federal law? The federal law has actually had the foresight to specifically provide that a person may kill an endangered animal in self-defense, such as the regulations concerning the Mexican Wolf in 50 C.F.R. Sec. 17.84(k)(3)(xii), or the Grizzly Bear in 50 C.F.R. Sec. 17.40(b)(i)(B).  Unlike the Texas statutes, this makes the federal law clear and comprehendible.  Therefore, if you are carrying your concealed handgun in a national park and you find yourself face to face with a Grizzly Bear, you can use your gun without fear of federal prosecution.

To View the law for defense against animals in other states click on the state names below:








Select U.S. States and Federal Law 

Get Certified–First Aid for Gunshot Wounds