Gun owners question their rights after recent burglary turns deadly

Know your gun laws

South Carolina and Georgia both recognize the "stand your ground" law. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 10, 2012)

News 12 First at Five / Friday, Aug. 10, 2012

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. -- After a recent burglary at a gun and ammo store in Aiken County turned deadly, many gun owners are questioning what their rights are if a thief breaks in.

Rick Riley has been a firearm instructor for years and helped shed some light on the question, saying, "You do not have to wait for somebody to shoot at you before you shoot at them."

He says he's noticed more and more people are buying guns lately.

"Everybody that comes to my class, I ask them why they're there, and about 99 percent of them say, 'I would like to be able to protect myself in the event I am assaulted," he said.

He says students are always asking, "What rights do I have to defend myself?"

In South Carolina, there are three requirements for you to exercise deadly force and be able to claim self defense:
1. You have to be absent of fault.
2. You have to be in imminent danger.
3. You must exercise a reasonable amount of force, depending on the assault.

"Probably the most difficult of those to define is reasonable amount of force, because there are a lot of elements that go into it," Riley said.

It's also difficult to define because experts say when you are in a deadly situation, things get foggy.

"Adrenaline kicks in and everything else goes away; you defend yourself," Riley said.

Those three rules also apply in Georgia, along with three others, including:
1. Defense from a forcible felony
2. Defense of habitation
3. Defense of property

However, Riley says, neither state approves deadly force for defense of property alone. You must reach those three main requirements as well.

The "stand your ground" law also applies in South Carolina and Georgia.

Riley clarified that law, saying, "Anywhere I am and have a right to be, I can stand my ground and defend myself."


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