Two weeks ago, I wrote about the pitfalls of defending another person. The biggest pitfall being that one cannot often know what is happening and who is the aggressor. But what if the third party is your own child? First, the same law would apply that I cited in that blog, MCL 780.972(1)(a-b). You would still need to have and honest and reasonable belief that there is a threat of imminent death, imminent great bodily harm to your child, or imminent sexual assault to them before you could use deadly force in defending your child with your gun.
Reaching this belief in our own homes when another is immediately threatening our children is easy. Forming this belief in public and when we did not watch everything happen is another story. Just like with defending third parties, we may not know the whole story, especially when we were not present the whole time or were distracted during parts of what happened. For instance, if someone, a stranger, is actively trying to abduct our child, you may have an honest and reasonable belief that your child is in danger. The key to this is the type of danger. Is the danger an imminent threat of death, great bodily harm or sexual assault? Often, I hear individuals say that they would shoot first and ask questions later. While the mama bear instincts in me agree with this statement, the lawyer that I am cautions otherwise. I realize that there are seconds to decide. There is not one answer that would be right for all situations other than some restraint. The restraint needed will be determined by the situation at hand and your own perceptions. Often, we can take steps before we will ever need to resort to deadly force.
There are steps you can take now to protect your child from danger as a first line of defense. The first step is to assess their level of understanding and age before any discussion. When my children were young, my son would often run away from me in a store. He was three and having any discussion about not running away from me was unproductive. To my son, this was a game that he found funny but scared me to death. When store employees would call a Code Adam, they would bring me other children that did not match the description I had a given. Back then, there were not cell phones with photographs, so I had to rely on my verbal description. However, with the technology we have today, it is easy to keep an up-to-date photograph of each child on your phone. Having up-to-date photographs of your child on your cell phone will make providing a description easy in times of high stress.
The second step is to teach your children is to never go with a stranger. If someone tries to physically remove your child, teach them to scream, kick and fight. This will draw the attention of others to what is happening. Teach your child to always scream “This is not my mommy (or daddy)” when someone is trying to take them. Do what you need to do for your child’s age to empower them to be safe without frightening them. There is no answer that works for every child, so as a parent you must find the right strategy and teaching method for your child.
I remember when I was twelve that my father taught me how to defend myself from being attacked. He taught me to use my brain and my own body for defense. He taught me about the weakest areas on a man and said, “No matter what strike there first and do not hesitate.” He taught me how to break a nose or gouge an eye with my thumbs. These were techniques that disgusted me, and I was not sure I could but looking back I realized my father was teaching me how to survive when he could not be there. He was a mama bear, okay papa bear, and he never suppressed his instincts to protect his only daughter or teach me how to take care of myself.
If you find yourself defending your child after using these initial steps and need the assistance of an attorney, call one that understands and can relay your mama bear instincts to a jury. When you defend your child, you want an attorney that will defend you with those same instincts.