By Sifu Lawrence Hochobeb
IF you carry a weapon, especially a gun, you run the risk of over-reacting in some cases. You might misread a situation and become the aggressor.
Another important point to remember is that if you threaten an intruder with a weapon, he can disarm you and use the weapon against you. The chances are that you will end up more seriously injured or even killed than if no weapon was involved. Also take note of the laws of the country.
In Namibia, a person can legally own up to four firearms. These must each be of a different type and calibre and for a different purpose (self-defence, hunting, vermin control, etc). No one is allowed to privately own an automatic firearm. Firearm collectors may own more than four firearms but the licensing requirements are quite stringent. Also, only one of the four legally owned firearms must be for self-defence. The basic choice of a firearm for self-defence is between a pistol and a revolver. Each has its positive and negative aspects. Your choice of firearm will depend on factors like your proficiency in handling the specific type of firearm and its price.
By law, every individual has the right to private defence. Private defence is a term that includes the defence of your own interests as well as those of others.
The problem with private defence is that it is a justification ground that would exclude culpability.
By implication, if you have acted in self-defence, the onus will rest on you to prove that your action was justified under the specific circumstances. This is where the problem lies. You may not have witnesses and you could have misjudged the situation.
A simple example will illustrate what we mean: Say you and your family are asleep at night and you are woken up by some noise in the sitting room. You grab your firearm and go to investigate. You identify a silhouette of what looks like a man and challenge him loudly to “freeze”. The person is startled and runs. You shoot. When you switch on the lights you realise that you have shot your 16-year-old son who had sneaked out of the house and had just returned from where he and his friends were jiving.
You must agree that you will now have a serious problem at hand. The problem with private defence is that the attack on your person must have already begun or it must be imminent.
The attack must be unlawful. The defensive action must not exceed the force necessary to overcome the threat. In other words, if you could stop the attack by any other means other than shooting the person, the prosecutors will surely grill you.
The decision whether to use a firearm or not happens in a split second. A criminal case will be opened if anyone is wounded or killed. The police will investigate the case meticulously and the prosecutors will have all the time to build a case against you on the basis of what you should have done or what you should not have done.
My advice to people who own firearms is that they must be very, very sure before they use the firearm.
Acknowledgment and my gratitude go to former NamPol Commanding Officer: Public Relations and Liaison Division of the Namibian Police, for sharing his thoughts and legal knowledge with me.
Sifu Lawrence Hochobeb is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Namibia Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy.