Local law enforcement authorities and an attorney offered their advice about safety and gun laws Tuesday at a Del Norte Tea Party Patriots forum titled “Surviving in a Violent World.”
Crescent City Police Chief Doug Plack, sheriff’s Commander Tim Athey and attorney Darren McElfresh were on hand to answer questions regarding gun ownership, personal attacks, car theft and burglary, as well as fielding questions from an audience of more than 100 people.
The panel began by explaining that any gun not falling on the banned list from the California Department of Justice is legal to own.
Then came questions regarding concealed weapons permits.
People can apply for a permit at the Sheriff’s Office by filling out an application packet, paying $160 for various fees, taking a gun class offered by the Sheriff’s Office and then meeting personally with Sheriff Dean Wilson, Athey said.
“It’s a simple process,” said Athey.
Panel member went on to explain who is excluded from having a concealed weapons permit: those people with active restraining orders against them, people convicted of felonies, people who have been convicted of certain violence-related misdemeanors or domestic dispute crimes, and anyone who has been ordered for a mental health commitment.
“Those are the main ones that deal with your past criminal history,” said Athey.
Then came questions about when it is legally justifiable to shoot someone burglarizing a home.
Panel members said every situation is weighed differently, but offered guidelines.
“The law is this, you can protect your property by reasonable force,” said McElfresh. “What does reasonable really mean? In my world, the trial world, it’s about what 12 jurors will think.”
Violence has to occur in the home and the person should not be a family member for a shooting to be justified, McElfresh said.
Athey expounded on McElfresh’s point by stating that it could be considered justifiable when a person reasonably fears for his or her life, and that a homeowner must believe an intruder is there to commit a felony.
It was stated that a person can use as much force as the attacker, but the force must stop once the threat is quelled. For instance, if someone attacks another person, and then decides to leave, it is not justifiable to continue a counter-attack.
One of the questions from the crowd came from county Supervisor Roger Gitlin, who asked about shooting an intruder in the back.
“The courts are going to look at that as being not reasonable,” said Plack.
Even if a person said he or she was going to be back with a gun, it wouldn’t be justifiable to shoot them, McElfresh added.
There are many variables, and it is best to try escape a situation rather then escalate it, the panel members said.
“Sometimes it’s best to take a step away and call 911,” said Plack.
And while defending against an attack on property or person may take drastic action, the best way to stop a crime is to prevent it, they said.
Ways to deter crime include maintaining hedges around a residence to prevent criminals from hiding around them, getting to know neighbors and looking out for them, keeping car doors locked when in the driveway and garage doors closed even if the owner is home, they said.