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If a street robber threatens to have a gun — but doesn’t show one — is it legal for me to shoot them?

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Deadly force in self-defense

Q: If I am approached by someone that informs me that they have a gun — but never shows the gun — and demands that I give my belongings such as wallet and cellphone, can I draw my firearm and shoot? — Andrew

A: Well, Andrew, you’re asking an incredibly important question when it comes to self-defense and the use of a firearm. I will simply start by saying this: The right to carry a firearm, whether it be concealed or not, is an awesome right in our nation and an awesome responsibility and I would really focus on the fact that, first of all, it’s an awesome responsibility. Anyone who chooses to carry a firearm, whether it be in your home or out on the street, or if you have a concealed carry permit, I really encourage you to be aware that it’s an awesome responsibility. I encourage anyone who chooses to do that to make sure you have really good training at the range and good classroom training about the scenario you’re describing. Unfortunately there’s not an easy answer to the question. Every instance of self-defense is very fact-specific and no matter what the scenario is, ultimately if a person uses a firearm, your local prosecutor will be the ultimate decision maker of whether that  was legal or not, whether self-defense applied, or that that person may potentially be charged with a crime. There’s no particular bright line. You generally have a right to self-defense, but what does that mean and how do you get there. The best answer I can give you is take a class, get some classroom training, get good range training and just be aware that you need to make good decisions and your local prosecutor will ultimately be the person who chooses whether or not a person’s charged in any instance of self-defense. Very long answer to your question, but that really is the legal status in Washington state.” — Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan