Gordon Gray carries a concealed weapon 24/7 to protect him, his family and home.
“The firearm itself just doesn’t make you safe. It can actually get you into a little more trouble by not having the proper foundation and understanding of how to use it," said Gray.
Gray has 32 years in law enforcement. He's a retired Stockton and Tracy police officer and he was on the Stockton Police Department SWAT team.
He’s owner of GrayOps, which is a firearms specialty training for civilians and officers. He also teaches a firearms course at San Joaquin Delta College.
Gray said using lethal force as a homeowner depends on three key elements.
“So the suspect, the perpetrator, the person that’s committing the crime has to have the means to harm you, the ability to harm you and there has to be that overt act towards harming you." said Gray. "If those three exist, then you can use lethal force to protect yourself."
Just this week, a homeowner in Turlock was sentenced to seven years in prison after he shot and killed a man stealing car batteries on his property. He believed he was in fear for his life when he shot the man with the rifle.
So the question is, when are you within the letter of the law to use lethal force to protect your home and property?
California is a "stand your ground" state meaning if you fear your life is in imminent danger, you can use deadly force to protect yourself or someone else.
“If someone is coming to your home to steal your newspaper, you can’t use violence," said attorney Armando Villapudua.
Villapudua is a Stockton criminal defense attorney and former San Joaquin County deputy district attorney. He’s defended several cases where a homeowner was accused of crossing the line using lethal force.
He said stealing alone isn’t justification for opening fire.
“But if someone is coming to beat you up or if somebody is coming to rob you, robbery is a use of force of fear to take something from you, then you can use physical violence," said Villapudua.
So when within your home or property is deadly force legal?
Well that answer is under California Law Penal Code 198.5, which states, if a defendant believes he or she was defending a home against someone who tried to commit an act of violence against a person inside then it's okay. It also says that the defendant needs to reasonably believe that the danger was imminent or the use of deadly force was necessary to defend against the danger. Finally, if the defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.
“And if you have a gun you should be prepared to use it. But you need to think clearly before you do it. And be sure the person just didn’t get the wrong house," said Villapudua.
Gordon Gray said be prepared, but also be smart
“The best thing to do is get law enforcement on its way. Call the police department, the sheriffs department, whatever the case may be," said Gray.