Can you fire warning shots at burglars?

File pic.

How far does self defense get you when you are faced with an intruder in the middle of the night?

When the News reported last week about an elderly man, Piet Lourens, who fired warning shots at three intruders, questions about the legality of his actions arose.

While most of the News’ readers agreed with Lourens, Krugersdorp police’s spokesperson, Sergeant Tshepiso Mashale said there are certain repercussion if your right to self defense is not properly used.

Wilma Kemp, one reader, said that she feels today’s laws protect criminals and not victims of crime. Another resident said she was not going to wait for a burglar to kill her first.

“If you have a licensed firearm, you can use it when your life is in danger,” she said.

But Mashale also said that intruders on your property are not necessarily life-threatening. You need to have exhausted all your options before your shoot another person with a gun.

“When someone is directly threatening you life, say with a knife to your throat, and you shoot him or her, an investigation after the incident could find that your actions were in self defense,” Mashale added.

“But take care when someone else’s life is in your hands.”

Mashale advised the public to rather lock yourself in a room and contact someone, either the police or community policing forums, for help. If you do intend to fire warning shots, do not shoot to kill, she said.

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Chantelle Fourie

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