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3 Reasons To Rethink That Bumper Sticker

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“We Don’t Dial 911,” “Keep Honking, I’m Reloading,” “Home Security By Smith & Wesson.”

WWJCCW? | Image courtesy of Taylor Dahlin

You’ve seen them: bumper stickers, wooden signs posted over doors—all proclaiming that the person inside this car or inhabiting this home is armed and ready to meet a threat with lethal force. Although they’re generally meant to be funny, or to express one’s pro-gun sympathies in a tongue-in-cheek way, they can deliver a very different message to an audience you didn’t intend. While your friends and family might get nothing from them but the chuckle you intended, sometimes those bumper stickers and signs say something very different to others, such as:

“I Have Guns to Steal”

Criminals have no qualms about stealing your guns. | Image courtesy of Gabriel Hongsdusit/Reveal

For many thieves, finding a homeowner’s gun collection is like hitting the Powerball. Guns are prized on the black market, and are one of the few items that has a street value equal or better to the gun’s purchase price. You see, most stolen loot will only fetch a thief pennies on the dollar when compared to a given items’ actual worth. Not so with firearms. Portable, durable, infinitely resellable, stolen guns are quite valuable to criminals who wouldn’t be able to purchase one legally. That “We Don’t Dial 911” over your door tells a potential thief that there’s a likely jackpot of guns inside—he’ll just have to wait until nobody’s home to break in.

“I Wish a M*%#^~-F*^#{¥#% Would”

If you have this sign posted at home, it might be better to call your lawyer. | Image courtesy of etsy.com

Although it’s an unlikely scenario—the vast majority of defensive firearm use doesn’t involve a shot being fired—should the unthinkable happen and you are forced to shoot an aggressor, your sign or bumper sticker might be used against you in a court of law. In order to explain how your First Amendment right of expression might endanger your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, we have to delve into one of the precepts of lawful use of lethal force: the “reluctant participant” rule.

Although both the rules and the way they’re enforced vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, there are some general benchmarks for whether a defensive shooting passes muster as justifiable. One of them is that the shooter must be a “reluctant participant” in the event. In short, you cannot have started the conflict—and if you did, you had to have made a good-faith effort to de-escalate. What’s more, the “innocent until proven guilty” theory of law doesn’t apply here. That’s because a plea of justifiable homicide means that you are admitting to having committed homicide. The burden of proof is on you to prove that you had a valid reason to do so. The wrong prosecutor might just decide to use any signage you had posted to argue that you weren’t a reluctant participant—that in fact, you were just hoping something like this would happen.

“Better Bring a Gun of Your Own”

If a seasoned criminal knows what he is up against, he might have the advantage. | Image courtesy of acdt*s

There’s absolutely no question that legally armed citizens are a powerful deterrent to the average criminal. That said, advertising that you are armed may backfire when it comes to the most seasoned and dangerous of them. It negates the tactical advantage of forcing the criminal to guess who among his pool of potential victims might have the means to fight back…and alerts him that he’ll need to come prepared for a gunfight.

None of this is to say that it’s bad or wrong to express your belief in the Second Amendment. We’re just suggesting that you might want to give some extra thought to how you do that—and to make sure the wrong people don’t get the wrong message.

What’s your call, readers? Tell us in the comments!

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