Fred Causley

I begin this column with a caveat: I am not, nor do I pretend to be an attorney familiar with gun laws. I’m not even an authority on the subject, but I can push buttons on a keyboard and do a bit of research.

So here goes:

Most people I have asked are not aware Oklahoma has a “Castle Doctrine.”

Some are aware of “stand-your-ground” laws.

The two are close in what they outline, though many folks think they simply refer to the right of an individual to protect their own life, their family or their property.

The Castle Doctrine is a common law recognized by 46 states. It designates a person’s abode “or any place legally occupied, ie., workplace, automobile, etc.” as one’s “castle.”

Further, it says an individual has no duty to retreat from such place when confronted with threat of life or bodily harm or loss of property. An individual may use reasonable force, including deadly force, for protection.

Compare this with “stand-your-ground” laws, recognized by 24 states. Essentially, it indicates that an individual may confront the above threats with deadly force without the obligation to retreat, if 1) the person has a legal right to be at the location, and 2) if the person is not engaged in illegal activity.

Being aware of such laws and going down a checklist prior to shooting an armed intruder are two different animals. One should be aware, and one should think ahead. At the same time, we shouldn’t have to live in paranoia. It boils down to the fact that we should all be good citizens and we should be able to trust our state laws.

A young woman defending her home and babies from two intruders a few years ago in rural Oklahoma didn’t care about fool laws. She wanted to live unharmed and she wanted her children unharmed. She left one dead, draped over the couch she used to barricade the door. The other was arrested while seeking medical attention for gunshot wounds. Good for her.

No matter what you believe about the case, George Zimmerman would likely have been worse off if he had killed Trayvon Martin in Oklahoma. That is because our stand-your-ground law is not as permissive as that in Florida.

Conversely, Oklahoma City pharmacist Jerome Ersland very likely would have fared better in Florida for the same reason. Here, Ersland was considered a hero for stopping a robbery, until he returned and killed a helpless robber lying wounded on the floor. He received a life sentence for doing that.

You are probably more confused now than when you began this column. The important thing to remember is: Be a good citizen.

In an emergency, fight to control decisions fueled by adrenaline.

Remember, you can’t use deadly force unless you have reason to believe your life is threatened or that you may suffer great bodily harm.

You cannot unring a bell. And you cannot unpull a trigger.

Fred Causley is a former OSU Agriculture Communications employee and a longtime Stillwater resident and NRA member. Send him questions or feedback to

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