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If You Don’t Shoot Your Attacker In Kansas Then Waive Bye-Bye To Claiming Self-Defense


Kansas is a whacky place, what with its impossibly flat land and endless fields of wheat and sorghum (which is apparently a type of sustainable livestock feed and ethanol fuel source), not to mention the perpetual parade of impervious aliens and supernatural portals.

Well, the crazy Kansans of the Sunflower State can now add a new claim to fame by being the only state that requires you to shoot your attacker with your gun as a prerequisite to claiming self-defense, or else the defense will be waived and you’ll be charged with aggravated assault.

Hmm…  That new one doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as easily as “The Barbed Wire Capital of the World.”

In a recent case before the Kansas Court of Appeals, a majority of the court held that under Kansas law, citizens who attempt to claim self-defense when confronted by either the threat of harm which they reasonably believe will occur or are under actual physical attack, can only claim the defense if they use actual physical force against their attacker.

What constitutes actual physical force?  Well in the case of State v. Flint described in the previous paragraph, it meant that the defendant, Flint, had to actually fire the gun he was holding at his attacker.

Sound weird?  Well it sounds even stranger when you know the actual facts of the case.  Flint and his fiancée were in a bar when his fiancée got into an argument with two male bar patrons.  The argument eventually moved outside of the bar and became more heated.  Then somewhere along the line there was a “scuffle” and Flint’s fiancée end up on the floor.  Flint then grabbed a gun from his car and pointed it at the men who then backed off.

Now you’d think that this might sound like a clear-cut case for self-defense, and a more preferable use of it as well since the situation was resolved with no one getting hurt.  And if anything, the question of whether Flint should be allowed a self-defense claim should revolve around whether his belief that he or his fiancée were under the threat of harm was reasonable and whether his pointing a gun was a reasonable response.

Well, not quite – in Kansas anyway.  The court convicted Flint of aggravated assault.  In legal language assault means threatening another with physical harm, whereas battery means actually physically harm another person.  Aggravated in this case just means a weapon was used.

So you might be wondering at this point how such a seemingly backward result occurred.  It’s because the Kansas Court of Appeals was upholding a previous ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court on a case called State v. Hendrix where the court took a literal interpretation of the Kansas statute on self-defense.  Basically the court said because the statute only allows self-defense claims when a person uses force and makes no mention of using the threat of force, then self-defense is only allowed in Kansas when a person actually uses force on their attacker and nothing less.

It’s a very, very strange ruling.  I mean most states around the country have similarly worded statutes on self-defense and they all seem to understand how weird and potentially dangerous a literal interpretation can be, especially when one takes into consideration how America’s attitudes on guns are evolving.

In the meantime, the only way Kansans can change this interpretation is by soliciting their legislature for a change to the self-defense law.  But it’s not all bad.  Kansan gun-toters must be ecstatic right now.

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Ken LaMance


  • Jay Burgherr

    As a Kansan and a licensed Concealed Carry citizen, I take exception to the implication in the last line of your blog: ” But it’s not all bad. Kansan gun-toters must be ecstatic right now.” You make it sound that we are just simply blood thirsty. This is very close to libel.

    The reason I am licensed and I carry a firearm is to protect myself or my family should someone try to harm us. I do not want to harm anyone. The court was acting in good faith in using only the actual language in the law and not attempting to legislate from the bench. I’m sure that is what the progressive liberals would have wanted the Kansas Supreme Court to do.

    We in Kansas respect both the US and the Kansas Constitutions. We also understand the need for the separation of powers. To bad that you don’t.

    This law needs to be changed to include the “Threat of Force”.

  • Roger

    Reminds me of the advice to not pull your gun out unless you are going to use it.
    But using a weapon can involve the display of it and the less-than-deadly implication of “back off or else”. Seems the law was written in such a way as to REALLY discourage pulling out the weapon.

    One wonders how this went down–did the two attackers bring the criminal charge? Was the fiance hurt and in danger of worse? Was the defendant the one who reported the fight and in essence turned himself in? Lots of angles we don’t know from this brief description. Hopefully the jury had the sense to use some discretion.

  • Plamya

    I have a somewhat similar situation as Mr.Flint and was convicted, even though I 1) attempted to flee from the attacker, when we were pulled over I was a quarter of a mile in front of him, who was the real aggressor? 2) the attacker threatened me four times, three during an interview with detectives and the other time in front of the judge (which he was only admonished for) 3) I had no previous violent criminal convictions while the attacker had drug and law enforcement battery charges (which he somehow got dropped). I mistakenly thought under a law that had been passed in 2010, I had the “right to protect myself if I was in a place I had a legal right to be” which I was. It appears yet again, the state apparatus has the right to interpret laws and monopolize the right to self defense as it sees fit, no blind justice required.

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