Letter Re: Some Technologies for Retreat Security

In regards to reader Erik’s setup of his “trap” gun: This setup is very very risky business [and an invitation] for a lot of very bad litigation. I am a law student at a top ten law school (yes, there are some of us who are not so elitist to think government will solve everything!) and know for a fact that trap setups are highly illegal [in most jurisdictions] and will subject you to 100% liability even if the injured of deceased trespasser was in the process of committing a felony–even murder! Traps cannot be used as recourse for a self-defense argument in any court in this country! Criminally, you can be charged with a multitude of very serious crimes–and as an afterthought, I really believe all of us “preppers” have a responsibility to not give our mentality of preparation a bad rap. I realize that in a post-TEOTWAWKI situation courts may not matter much. That being said, only utilize any trap setup when not a court exists in the land! Just thought I’d add that caveat to the letter. Thanks for your site! – J.B.

JWR Replies: I wholeheartedly agree. This bears re-emphasizing: The fact that a gun is remotely fired rather than set as a “trap gun” won’t mean much in the eyes of a jury. (Since Erik is in in Nevada, see: Nevada Statute NRS 202.255 “Setting spring gun or other deadly weapon:”) Most states have similar laws.

The average American jury will see it as vile, despicable, and perhaps nothing short of pre-meditated murder. Someone that lived through Rhodesia’s Bush War in the 1970s would probably consider a remotely-fired gun “clever”, and “a prudent precaution.” So would an Army or Marine Corps veteran that has recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. But unfortunately, your neighbors (and future jury members) will probably not be Rhodesian ex-pats, or prior service grunts that had an 11-series MOS. They’ll probably be just run-of-the-mill 21st Century American civilian suburbanites. These are people that have always led pampered if not downright sheltered lives. Most Americans have never been the victim of a truly violent crime nor have they ever seen combat. Many have never even seen a dead body, much less handled one, or God forbid created one. Oh, but they’ve seen thousands of actors “killed” on television, all very neatly killed, with hardly any blood or feces splattered about, no agonized screaming, no ringing ears,. (Some of of you are nodding your heads–you’ve been there and seen death and smelled it. I worked at a hospital emergency room and I can testify–violent death is remembered not just by sight of it, but also by sounds and smells. Have you ever smelled death in a nightmare? I have.) Some of you have probably just been offended by my words. See the difference? Keep this dichotomy in mind when making your preparations. The bottom line: Don’t break out the razor wire and tear gas grenades until times get really, really bad, and such defensive measures have become the norm. We live in an incredibly litigious society. Don’t do anything that will prompt someone to sue you. The last thing that you want to see is a plaintiff in a wheelchair, eyeballing you from the other side of the courtroom aisle. Living in these times in this country, such a lawsuit could leave you absolutely penniless. My readers in the suburbs of Mexico City who have presently have razor wire and rows of broken bottles jutting from the tops of their masonry courtyard walls are probably laughing at this discourse. But let me assure you: Things are different up here. You can get successfully sued for millions, for nothing more than having a slippery sidewalk.