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Written by Rob Geiger. 

Activate your U.S. LawShield membership now and get the peace of mind you need during these uncertain times.

Even if criminals are given leeway during the COVID-19 outbreak, vigilance with restraint is advised for U.S. LawShield members…

Many municipalities are limiting police calls for minor crimes until emergency measures surrounding COVID-19 are lifted. Armed with this knowledge, should law-abiding gun owners be prepared to step up their interaction with criminal elements?

U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor urges restraint, even in these extraordinary times, while also pointing out the constant need to be prepared.

“This unprecedented time will hopefully serve as a wake-up call that you really can’t rely on law enforcement to be right there in an emergency,” Taylor said. “People need to know their rights and take personal protection into their own hands.

“In general, while life and death can happen in seconds, the police are usually minutes away. People are just starting to realize that true protection is up to them. When someone is pointing a knife or a gun at you, the police generally aren’t hanging out ready to help.”

The viral videos of criminals openly looting stores in places like Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Philadelphia are certainly shocking to watch, and they also expose the need to differentiate between crimes that demand a gun owner’s interaction and ones where they shouldn’t get involved.

“I understand limiting a police officer’s exposure with the public but it’s causing the unintended consequences of criminals knowing they can get away with certain crimes,” said U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney Richard Hayes.

“Some states heighten penalties during a state-of-emergency so a crime that may normally be a misdemeanor may become a felony. This could lead to people thinking they’re defending themselves against a felony so they can use deadly force. But they need to think about what a jury may say about using deadly force to defend property. It’s generally a very bad idea.”

Added Taylor, “Even where it’s legally permissible by the black letter of the law, a jury has the option to decide that your actions were not ‘reasonable’ or ‘immediately necessary.'”

However, if during the commission of a lesser offense, the criminal changes the circumstances, then the rules can also change in a hurry.

“A property crime can turn into a crime against the person in an instant, in which case your right to defend yourself is legally recognized,” Hayes said. “Members will ask if they can shoot someone breaking in their car. The answer is ‘no’ in most jurisdictions. Then they’ll add, ‘but my kid is in the back seat.’ Well, that’s a completely different scenario.

“Most situations are very fluid and can change very quickly. If you walk outside and someone is stealing your lawn flamingo, you shouldn’t shoot them, but if they turn towards you and they are armed, then the situation just changed quite drastically.

“Using deadly force should always be a last resort but it’s important to have that option.”