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When should you draw down?

Tuesday, Jul. 1 | By Julie Taylor
Andy Gilliam, owner of Warrenton Arms and Outdoors said he has a right to sell guns, and a responsibility to sell them right.
In recent weeks, Fauquier residents have been at the wrong end of a gun, but in this case, it isn't the barrel.

When a man recently shot at Jimmy Dovell, Jr., while Dovell was allegedly fleeing from an attempted robbery, or last week when Carroll Gregg, Jr. allegedly shot and killed a man attempting to repossess his pickup truck, it raises the question: if a gun owner keeps a gun for self-defense, when is it appropriate to draw and fire?

"You don't just shoot first," said Steve Clark, owner of Clark Brothers Gun Shop. "Every situation is going to be very different, but you've got to be very aware of your surroundings and have complete, total control over your firearms. In other words, if you're unauthorized to handle a firearm, you cannot handle it."

When Andy Gilliam opened Warrenton Arms and Outdoors, he based his shop on the maxim that he sells guns because he has a right to sell guns, and a responsibility to sell them right.

"If you're able to present [your weapon] and use your voice command--"get out"--and the threat goes away, you call the police; that's nine/tenths of it," said Gilliam. "You need to default to the police. Have the police do their job as tax-paying citizens."

Gilliam referenced the Castle Doctrine which gives a homeowner the right to use force to defend themselves against an intruder, without legal implications.

However, the policy has some gray area, which makes some gun owners apprehensive to fire.

Gilliam said in many cases, people avoid shooting their weapon in order to avoid a court battle. Once a gun is fired, both parties will be tried in court.

"If you're going to use your gun there can't be a bunch of excuses, like the repo guy coming in at 11 or 12 at night," said Gilliam, referencing the late night hours in which Carroll Gregg allegedly shot and killed Junior Jordan Montero on Conde Road.

You should be able to justify why you felt your life was threatened, but deadly force should only be used in a life or death situation, said Lt. James Hartman of the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office.

"Call 9-1-1 and let the police do their job and handle the situation," Hartman said.

On a much simpler level, Clark asks whether intangible property matters as much as a human life.

The mindset that a weapon should be fired only as a last resort seemed unanimous among gun aficionados, and the sheriff's office promotes this same policy.

"If it's not a life and death situation we would never condone putting yourself in harm's way simply to protect property or prevent someone from fleeing," said Hartman.

Gilliam, Clark and Hartman also agreed that in a situation requiring the use of a gun, adrenaline runs high enough to cloud sound judgment.

"In this county there's a lot of my customers with concealed carry permits," said Gilliam. "Folks [in Fauquier] have concealed weapons on their person at all times during the day."

Overall, Gilliam believes this deters illegal activity, therefore benefiting the county.

"Criminals are a little more weary to take advantage of someone in this county cause they don't know who does or doesn't have a gun," said Gilliam. "A criminal wants to attack someone weaker than he is."

In the cases of Jimmy Dovell, Jr., and Carroll Gregg, Gilliam said these incidents do not represent the rest of the county population.

"It's reckless behavior. A gun does not entitle you to be above the law," said Gilliam. Additionally, "You shouldn't go get into a heated situation and bring your gun."

Hartman encourages gun owners to ask themselves: is it worth taking a human life just to protect property or to ward off what you think is a trespasser?

“Think to yourself, 'Am I or my family in danger of death or serious bodily injury?'” Hartman said.

In every situation, deadly force is always the last resort.

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