Lions and Tiger and Bears… Oh My!


Lions and Tigers and Bears… Oh My!

After finishing up with a CCW class this weekend I got home fairly late.  Chaney was doing a training excise with her Sheriff Explorers and Sandy was falling asleep in front of the TV.

Seemed like as good a time as any to read my emails.

The first one I see is from a client who went fishing in Dana Point harbor last evening.  He fishes in a float tube… (think inner tube with water tight pants.  Instead of shoes you have flippers that allow you to propel through the water.)  He was issued his CCW permit a while back and had what could have potentially been a violent encounter last night, and was curious about legal implications.

He was attacked by a Sea Lion.

Well… actually nibbled by a sea lion pup is probably more descriptive, but does not sound quite as cool.

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While this playfulness sounds cute these are wild animals.  In fact, biologically they are pretty much the equivalent of bears…. and while bears are as cute as sea lions we all know they can potentially be deadly.

When I was diving I had the opportunity to dive with a sea lion harem off of San Nicolas Island.  It was all cute and adorable until the alpha male showed up.  At a depth of 50 feet he snarled at me and my blood ran cold.

The teeth on a sea lion can easily rip flesh from bone, and while they “look cute” they are more than prepared to act as what they are: wild animals.

So while are student was amused by this playful sea lion pup, it dawned on him that this  adorable encounter could easily turn deadly.

His question:  could he have used deadly force if he felt threatened.

The answer is an unequivocal yes.

There are all sorts of regulations regarding the hunting of game, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act specifically prohibits the harassment or hunting of marine mammals (except in very specific circumstances usually regulated for aboriginal substance hunting).

But there is a broader picture:  The use of deadly force… specifically the use of a concealed carry firearm for the protection against a wild animal.

The general rule should be obvious:  You can’t shoot an animal unless you are in a specific geographic area that allows for hunting, you have a proper current hunting license and a tag (for the taking of the specific game you are hunting for)… and it is in season.  (For non-game animals, such as varmints there is no tag, nor is there a specific season).

For the purposes of this discussion we will assume you are not hunting game… rather defending yourself from an imminent threat from an animal.  (Note the use of the word “animal” and not wild animal… the fact that the attacking animal might be domestic is irrelevant to the equation).

Your use of your firearm to defend yourself against the offending beast is on its face a violation of law… however, your affirmative defense to this violation of law is one of necessity.  

Remember: you are allowed the use of deadly force when it is reasonable to believe that there is an imminent likelihood of death or great bodily injury.

A bear, a pack of coyotes, a mountain lion, a rabid dog, or even an amorous sea lion might very well create such a reasonable threat.

There are hunters that hunt with pistols… though those pistols are very different from the firearms typically carried for defensive purposes.  Still… the purpose of the CCW is not to hunt… rather it is to defend.  If a threat has manifested on two legs, or four and the use of deadly force is necessary to stop that threat you will be deemed to have acted reasonably by dispatching the creature with you concealed carry weapon.

Be advised though… the question is going to turn on “reasonableness”  and therein lies the rub.  What might be reasonable to you… especially in the throws of the encounter might not be deemed reasonable by others.  A bear or mountain lion attacking you… most can empathize with the fear you are under and will more than likely deem your actions justifiable…

Sea lions?

Well.. yeah I guess… it’s just that… well… you know… there cute!  And what are you doing playing around in the water anyway?  Couldn’t you have just,… you know… splashed water on it and made it go away?  

Yeah… this logic might be what stands between you and a court date and prosecutorial discretion.  

Now the real question:  If you are hunting and you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant…. what do you do?


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