A: MCL 780.972 states: “Use of deadly force by individual not engaged in commission of crime; conditions.
(1) An individual who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses deadly force may use deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if either of the following applies:
(a) The individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another individual.
(b) The individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent sexual assault of himself or herself or of another individual.
(2) An individual who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses force other than deadly force may use force other than deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if he or she honestly and reasonably believes that the use of that force is necessary to defend himself or herself or another individual from the imminent unlawful use of force by another individual.”
It is very clearly worded. It is not, as some commentators have suggested, a “hunting license for humans,” or a “shoot first” law. The statute above, which was enacted in 2006, simply did away with the dangerous and confusing “duty to retreat” that existed prior to the change.
Note: When the statute refers to “honestly and reasonably,” it is laying out what we lawyers call a “two-prong test.” Which means that the citizen who defends himself or herself must actually believe that what is being prevented is death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault. And, furthermore, that belief must be objectively reasonable under the circumstance. Meaning that if a jury hears all the relevant facts and determines that if they were in the same situation, they would also honestly believe that deadly force was an appropriate, proportional response to the threat, then the second prong of the test is met.
It is also worth mentioning that responsible instructors and trainers speak with one voice when they say that a citizen is always better off not firing a gun in self-defense unless absolutely necessary. Squeezing the trigger of a loaded gun in such a situation means that your life will be forever changed in a variety of ways: legally, financially and psychologically. As one of our leading national self-defense authors, Massad Ayoob, says in the title of one his best-known works, a gun is to be used only “In The Gravest Extreme.”
This common-sense law is currently under attack in the legislature. HB 5644, sponsored by Timothy Bledsoe and other members of the Michigan House, would repeal the statute above and return us to the days when law-abiding citizens who were forced into defending themselves on the street, could be second-guessed by prosecutors and forced to defend themselves again in court because they didn't turn their backs on a deadly threat, something that I was warned against specifically during Infantry training at Fort Benning.
Steve Dulan (www.StevenWDulan.com) is a member of the Board of Directors of the MCRGO and the MCRGO Foundation, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the MCRGO Foundation. He is an attorney in private practice in East Lansing and Adjunct Professor of firearms law at The Thomas M. Cooley Law School. as well as an Endowment Member of the NRA.
The Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Formed from just eight people in 1996, we now have thousands of members and numerous affiliated clubs across the state. We're growing larger and more effective every day.
Our mission statement is: “Promoting safe use and ownership of firearms through education, litigation, and legislation” Visit: www.mcrgo.org