WILKES-BARRE – Wilkes-Barre's Crime Watch Coalition hosted a follow-up firearms safety seminar Wednesday night to answer questions asked at a safety seminar last month about using firearms for protection.
Leading the discussion with about 60 citizens from across the county, Luzerne County Community College firearms instructor Randy Shaw stressed the importance of knowledge.
"This is serious stuff," Shaw said. "As gun owners, as homeowners, you have to have the knowledge of what you can and cannot do."
Shaw, assisted by Luzerne County Detective Chaz Balogh, explained Pennsylvania's "Castle Doctrine," which states, in summary, that citizens have the right to stand their ground and resort to deadly force if they fear their life is in danger or if they feel the threat of serious bodily injury.
Before its revision last year, the law stated that a citizen had a duty to flee before resorting to force.
The duo fielded questions from the audience and identified situations that justify using deadly force, and a few that do not.
They said that a burglar simply standing in someone's home, regardless of whether he is there illegally or not, poses no threat to the resident's health, and cannot be shot.
However, if the intruder moves aggressively toward the resident, circumstances will have changed and may require force be used.
Repeatedly through the seminar, Shaw asked residents to consider if they would be able to explain the event to an officer should they use deadly force.
He said that when it's all said and done, and someone is dead, the ability to articulately justify a decision could be what keeps a person out of jail.
"Just like a police officer cannot use excessive force in the line of duty, a citizen has to abide by the same rules," he said.