A three-judge panel of the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a homeowner has every right to come to their door holding a firearm. Furthermore, doing so was not automatically justification for police to utilize deadly force against the homeowner.

The case, Knibbs v. Momphard, stemmed from an April 29, 2018 incident where Michael Knibbs was shot and killed by a North Carolina sheriff’s deputy who failed to properly identify him self both verbally and to allow visual confirmation of his office.

The lawman tried to make contact with the Knibbs household while investigating a potential misdemeanor crime. At the front door, as he knocked, the deputy heard the sound of a shotgun racking. The deputy, using poor tactics, retreated to the corner of the porch, shined his flashlight into the front porch windows. There he claims he saw Mr. Knibbs pointing a shotgun in his direction. The deputy then opened fire, killing Mr. Knibbs. However, forensic evidence showed that Mr. Knibbs was almost certainly not pointing the shotgun at the deputy, and Knibbs’ wife said her husband expressed skepticism that it was really a police officer outside when he initially accessed his shotgun to defend his home.

From the decision: “To protect himself, his wife, his daughter, his son, and his infant grandchild, Knibbs armed himself with a shotgun, loaded it, and stood at his front door with the barrel safely pointed towards the ceiling. The person outside then shouted to drop the gun, and seconds later shined a flashlight on him and shot him. Knibbs never made any verbal threats or movements with the shotgun. He was shot simply because he stood in his living room holding a shotgun.”

The court held the deputy’s use of force was objectively unreasonable. The appellate court also stripped the deputy of his qualified immunity protections.

What’s more, the decision bolsters the idea that if police fail to identify themselves both orally and with visual confirmation, they will likely lose their qualified immunity, especially if they shoot first and ask questions later.

Prudence demands a higher standard of care for gun owners…
While this case may strengthen a homeowner’s right to arm himself or herself within the dwelling, that doesn’t mean a prudent person will answer the door with a gun in hand. Nor is having windows beside one’s front door that aren’t covered with some sort of window covering or sheer fabric to prevent someone outside the home (police officer or bad guy) from easily looking inside and potentially shooting through said window. Hint: If you think you need to hold a gun while answering the door, do you really need to come to the door at all?

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