The law of self-defense holds that individuals can justifiably use lethal force in self-defense when they reasonably fear death or grave bodily harm/injury. Reasonableness here will of course be determined in the legal system, by a prosecutor, a grand jury, a judge, or if it goes that far, a jury.
Those who know — Massad Ayoob, Andrew Branca, Marty Hayes — stress the importance of being able to articulate why it was reasonable to fear death or grave bodily harm in a particular circumstance. The Ability-Opportunity-Jeopardy (AOJ) Triad is frequently invoked as a framework for understanding this reasonableness (I have mentioned it here and here and here).
I was reminded of how broad the “ability” criterion is this morning when I read that another soccer referee in the United States has died from being punched. I immediately recalled the case of the 17 year-old who killed a referee in Utah last year, with one punch to the head. And Andrew Young’s killer in Bournemouth, England (pictured above). And so on.
Although rare, these cases are reminders that fists are a weapon, too. The referee killers were not (to my knowledge) Delta Force operators or masters of Arnis. They were ordinary Americans with bad intentions and fists. That means alot of people have the “ability” to inflict death or grave bodily harm. In fact, as I have discussed previously, according to the FBI Crime data more people were killed in 2011 by “hands, fists, feet, etc.” (728) than by rifles (323) and shotguns (356) combined.
The good thing is that most of us, as we go about our daily lives, are unlikely to be killed by ANY of these weapons. And the fact that almost everyone is always “carrying” their hands, fists, and feet but not a rifle or shotgun means we might be more wary of a person with a long gun than than someone with hands, fists, or feet (or etcetera!). But the news this morning did remind me how broadly a “reasonable” person could define the “ability” component of the AOJ triad.
POSTSCRIPT: After writing this, I learned that way back in 2007 a “One Punch Can Kill” campaign was initiated by the government in Queensland, Australia to counter street violence, and a similar campaign called STOP. One Punch Can Kill exists in Victoria, Australia (they could ban guns but not fists!).