Did this Mall Vigilante Go Too Far?
The video of a man drawing his firearm and pointing it at the driver of a van full of shoplifted clothes has been viewed over 1 million times and that number is growing. Many people are leaving comments that go from supporting him taking action as a citizen, to calling him names that I will not repeat here. Many wonder if his actions were legal or justified.
What is alleged to have happened is a couple, male and female, walked quickly out of a J.C. Penney in a mall in Montana. When another mall visitor, a Marine veteran named James Newman, saw this, he felt compelled to act. He confronted the couple when they were standing behind their van and telling them he was making a “citizen’s arrest.” Mr. Newman did not observe the crime happen, and he did not know for a fact that they were shoplifting, but he took action anyway. In the video, as he is at the rear of the van, he drew his legally carried concealed firearm and pointed it at the driver. The van slowly backs up just a few feet and then drives off at a high rate of speed, as Mr. Newman fires six rounds at the vehicle while it flees.
Since the shooting, he has received a lot of very vocal comments over social media. Many are calling for his firearms license to be revoked, calling him an idiot or worse. Many are wondering why he has not been charged with a crime. Local police are saying that it is under investigation and any charges are still pending.
But what this incident and others like it bring up is a good point for all concealed and open firearms carriers. Why do you carry a firearm to begin with? Is it to use for protection of you and your family? Protection of those around you? Would you be willing to use it to protect property or get involved in something that does not involve immediate danger to a person? In some states like Texas, you are allowed to defend YOUR property with force up to and including deadly force if needed. But in most states, that is not the case.
Firearms carried for self-defense is a great idea, and I highly recommend it, but when should you or can you use your firearm to take police-style action? Should you use your firearm to stop what you think is a property crime? What if you’re wrong, should you be liable for your actions and anything that happens as a result of you taking action?
My suggestion comes from all my years in law enforcement and seeing what happens when citizens take action like this and get sued because of it. It’s not worth everything you own and all of your future earnings to stop a shoplifter. You fire your firearm at the fleeing “suspects” and hit an innocent bystander, then what? You get sued and lose everything.
My personal suggestion is to be a good witness, get a good description, video them with your cell phone, do whatever you think will help the police later. But do not use your firearm to stop a property crime that you are not the victim of or have no part in. Don’t become involved in something that you are not directly involved in that does not have a human victim. Stopping a rape? Absolutely! Stopping a vicious attack on someone? That’s different, of course take some action. But for a property crime like shoplifting? No thank you. Let the police earn their pay. Remember that your self-defense firearm is just that, a SELF-DEFENSE firearm, not a stop property crime firearm.