When Is It OK To Legally Use A Gun?

Friday, May 29th 2009, 4:49 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- During the past year, 3,600 people in Tulsa County have applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Earlier this week, an Oklahoma City pharmacist was charged with murder in the shooting death of a teenage robbery suspect.

The case has left many wondering when they can legally use a gun.

It's all about imminent danger. When you take a concealed carry class, you're told to never point or shoot your gun unless your life or the life of someone close to you is threatened, or someone is invading your home and you believe they are going to harm you or others in the home.

In three cases, all the men had permits, none had previous records but two were charged with a crime.

Kenneth Gumm, 67, shot and killed 48-year-old Dale Turney after a road-rage incident in 2007. Gumm said he feared for his life when Turney threatened and shoved him.

"And the first thing he said was 'you're history,'" Gumm said. "And I pulled my gun out and pointed it at him and I thought that would de-escalate the situation, but it didn't. He just kept coming."

Prosecutors charged Gumm, saying deadly force wasn't a justified response for what amounted to a misdemeanor assault.

Gumm pleaded guilty to manslaughter and got a five-year suspended sentence.

A more recent case happened in Broken Arrow where Josh Vaughn's neighbor, Tommy Loveall, came to Vaughn's house and threatened him.

Vaughn told Loveall repeatedly to leave, but he refused. Vaughn shot and killed Loveall.

Prosecutors charged him with first degree murder, partly because Vaughn fired six times.

The key to these shooting decisions is often whether the threat you're facing rise to the level of using deadly force and how much self defense is too much.

Experts say it's critical to think about these issues before the situation ever arises.

"You don't know until you're tested, but at that point of being tested, it's too late," gun instructor Don Roberts said. "You either react and follow through or choose another path."

A Tulsa man, Joseph, was not charged when he shot a robber who was holding a gun to a manager's head inside a grocery store in 2006. The robber survived.

"The only time you can use deadly force is when you believe a life is at stake, and my belief was that manager was about to be killed and I had to do something about it," Joseph said.

You cannot use deadly force to protect property, only life. And you can't shoot at someone running away unless you can argue you were in imminent danger at that moment.

Read guidelines for gun safety, shooting and handling.