leave the shoplifters to the police

Shoplifting Is Not A Threat To Life Or Limb; Let Police Handle It

An oft-repeated idea in the realm of concealed carry is that you don't shoot in defense of mere property, which is exactly why shoplifters should be left to police. There are fairly regular reports that emerge of a person otherwise carrying in accordance with the laws that draws their pistol - or worse, discharges it - after they spot a shoplifter making off with a few things from a store.

Obviously, people shouldn't be allowed to just commit crimes but you could end up committing a worse one by getting your gun out to try and apprehend someone.

Granted, most people don't actually need to be told this. Most people get the idea that the point of concealed carry is to be armed in case of the absolute worst case scenario. However, it still bears mentioning that your permit and pistol are not a license to act like an amateur crimefighter.

Shoplifting Doesn't Pose Anyone A Threat

normally shoplifting does not pose bodily harm to anyone

The essence of why you should just leave shoplifters alone is that shoplifting doesn't usually pose anyone a threat of any kind. They're just committing a simple theft - taking some item without paying for it - and leaving.

This is different from robbery, which involves the use of force. The difference between the two is that a robber puts a gun, knife or other threatening object into the equation. They are hurting someone or making it clear that they will if they don't get what they want. In that case, there's a threat to life and limb.

A robbery or car-jacking presents the three components you need for a self-defense claim. Namely:

  • Ability, or the capacity to seriously hurt or kill you
  • Opportunity, meaning they can do so right now
  • Jeopardy, or they are about to hurt you or someone else

That's why the self-defense laws of most states includes language about being able to use force to intervene when someone commits a violent felony. Armed robbery or strong arm robbery - where a person uses the threat of their fists rather a weapon of some sort - would qualify in those instances. Mere shoplifting? Even if it's a big flatscreen costing a whole lot?

It doesn't wash on paper, and definitely won't in front of a judge.

Vigilantes Never Prosper

People who act outside the law to avenge crimes are vigilantes. It's one thing to watch "Death Wish" and enjoy it. (Whether it's the Bruce Willis or the Charles Bronson version...but avoid the sequels; they're terrible.) It's quite another to do something like that in real life.

In the real world, vigilantes very, very rarely are morally "in the right." Most of the time, they're in the gray area at best, end up in prison and usually deserve it.

The famous case is from 2015, that of Tatiana Duva-Rodriguez of Auburn Hills, Mich. Duva-Rodriguez witnessed someone stealing from a Home Depot in that town, drew her carry gun and fired at the vehicle the shoplifter and getaway driver fled in. She was convicted of reckless use of a firearm, stripped of her concealed carry permit and given 18 months of probation, according to the Washington Post.

A similar event happened that same year in Elkhart, Ind.; one Norman Reynolds, according to Goshen News, fired at two shoplifters fleeing a Big R - a chain of farm and ranch stores - while trying to stop them in October of 2015. Reynolds took a plea deal for criminal recklessness, receiving probation and an 18-month suspended sentence.

In March 2017, one James Newman - a Marine Corps veteran - of Billings, Mont., was carrying when he noticed two people trying to make off with some goods stolen from a JC Penney. He confronted them and stood in front of their vehicle to prevent them from leaving. They tried backing up, and he fired several shots into the tires. The thieves got away, but Newman was facing charges of reckless use of a firearm as of Aug. 2017, according to KTVQ Billings News.

Just like not being that guy at the movie theater, don't be that guy that gives concealed carriers a bad name.

How To Handle Shoplifters: Observe And Report

observe and report crimes that don't pose bodily harm

How to handle shoplifters? Observe and report. Remember the physical description, and if possible the description of their vehicle including the license plate. Report that information to the police and let them handle it.

Let us not mince words: stealing is wrong, even when Congress does it.

However, and most people don't need to be told this yet it bears mentioning, having a concealed carry permit doesn't make you some sort of unofficial deputy. It just means you are licensed to carry a gun on your person, which is only to be used in the face of a grave, real, clear and present threat to your life or limb or that of another person. Someone boosting a few baubles from somewhere...just doesn't qualify.

Additionally, most big box stores carry theft insurance that covers the theft of goods. The store will get reimbursed for the loss. Why try to shoot someone over that? You'll probably go to jail, and it's not like the store owners are going to go hungry.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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