Understanding Self Defense & Stand Your Ground Law in Washington

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Understanding Self Defense & Stand Your Ground Law in Washington

If you’ve been taking handgun classes in Seattle, then part of your responsibility in training how to use a firearm is understanding how self defense laws work in Washington State. When is it lawful to use a gun in self defense, and what sort of scenarios would require you to do so? Different factors can alter what’s appropriate in a given situation, so it’s very important to read up on the most current laws so that you understand what is appropriate. Today, we’ll be taking a look through what the laws in Washington say so that you can better prepare yourself should you need to take action.

Self Defense in Washington State: An Overview

If we’re talking about self defense, we’ve got to first clear up the point of how “stand your ground laws” work in Washington state. Stand your ground laws establish a right to self defense without a duty to retreat in public, and, generally speaking, if you feel that a threat posed to you has reached the level where it is immediate and imminent, you may respond with force. Many states have adopted stand-your-ground through specific legislation, like Florida, Alabama, and Utah. Washington, however, is not such a state, and instead “stand your ground in practice,” meaning that while there is no legislation enabling stand your ground, previous case law has set a precedence for the practice.

So what’s on the books when it comes to self defense in Washington state? For starters, there’s RCW 9A.16.020, the “Lawful Use of Force” section of Washington’s Revised Code. According to the code, the use of force is allowable for those who are not officers of the law in the following scenarios:

  • Whenever used by a party about to be injured, or by another lawfully aiding him or her, in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against his or her person, or a malicious trespass, or other malicious interference with real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession, in case the force is not more than is necessary.
  • Whenever reasonably used by a person to detain someone who enters or remains unlawfully in a building or on real property lawfully in the possession of such person, so long as such detention is reasonable in duration and manner to investigate the reason for the detained person’s presence on the premises, and so long as the premises in question did not reasonably appear to be intended to be open to members of the public.
  • Whenever used by a carrier of passengers or the carrier’s authorized agent or servant, or other person assisting them at their request in expelling from a carriage, railway car, vessel, or other vehicle, a passenger who refuses to obey a lawful and reasonable regulation prescribed for the conduct of passengers, if such vehicle has first been stopped and the force used is not more than is necessary to expel the offender with reasonable regard to the offender’s personal safety.
  • Whenever used by any person to prevent a mentally ill, mentally incompetent, or mentally disabled person from committing an act dangerous to any person, or in enforcing necessary restraint for the protection or restoration to health of the person, during such period only as is necessary to obtain legal authority for the restraint or custody of the person.

The aforementioned section of the Washington Revised Code is important, but it’s not the only one you should keep in mind in regards to using force in self defense, as there’s also RCW 9A.16.030 and RCW 9A.16.050, which cover Excusable Homicide and Justifiable Homicide (in other words, when it is permissible to take a life). According to the state laws, homicide is excusable “when committed by accident or misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means, without criminal negligence, or without any unlawful intent,” and justifiable in the following scenarios:

  • In lawful defense of yourself, your spouse, parent, child, sibling, or other person in your presence when it’s reasonable to assume that the person you’ve killed was planning to commit a felony or cause great personal injury to you or the others mentioned above; or
  • While resisting someone committing a felony upon you, in your presence, or upon a home you’re in.

Make sense? As you can see, there are several reasons in the state of Washington where force, even lethal force, is justifiable. All that is for naught, though, if you have no clue about how to use your firearm in self defense situations. Next, we’ll be going over how you can acquire the knowledge you need to defend yourself, and how to put the training you’ve gained over numerous home defense classes to good use if you need it.

Learning Self Defense at the Shooting Range

Now that you’re a bit more familiar with how the self defense laws work in Washington, you might be wondering where you should go to gain more experience with using your weapon. The answer is simple — head to the shooting range, then brush up on all the finer points of your technique while preparing yourself with the knowledge you need to effectively use your gun (if, and only if, that becomes necessary).

Speaking specifically, Bellevue Gun Club’s firearms courses, like Advanced Level Handgun 103, lay out all the information you need to know. This is a self defense course that provides you with the general knowledge needed to use a weapon, pushing your skills “to the limit and taking your training to a whole new level.” Within such courses, you’ll learn important skills, like how to defend against takedowns and how weapons can be useful in face-to-face combat.

Then there are specific home defense classes, like Armed Home Defense 100, which cover how to keep your home secure, how to defend your family from danger, and how to navigate the aftermath — legal and otherwise — of using force to protect yourself.

Wrapping Up

Self defense is a serious matter, and it’s important that you understand all of the legal ramifications that come along with using force to defend yourself. Be sure to read up on the laws, understand what situations require a self defense response (along with which ones don’t), and stay safe when you’re out and about.

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