Experts explain Tennessee self defense law in light of homeless man's shooting


Nashville experts explained the self defense law in Tennessee after a young woman claims she shot a homeless man in self-defense.

Metro police said 26-year-old Katie Quackenbush is charged with attempted murder for the shooting of 54-year-old homeless man Gerald Melton. Melton remains in the hospital in stable condition.

Nashville attorney and Tennessee Firearms Association Executive Director John Harris said there difficulties surrounding Tennessee’s self defense law.

“It's a complex concept, and really most civilians don't have a grasp of it," Harris said. "Some law enforcement don't have a good grasp of it."

Harris said the self defense law requires someone to be in a situation where you’re in fear of death or serious bodily injury.

“It depends on your ability as a potential victim to avoid harm," Harris said. "Run away or you can't, get in a car or you can't, and it depends on the ability of each person that's being the attacker or the aggressor to inflict the harm. They could be larger and stronger. There's no weapon requirement at all.”

“In Tennessee, if you’re involved in a shooting, the officers aren't legally required to even consider that it might be self defense," Harris said. "They can arrest you anyhow."

Former Metro Nashville Police Officer Bob Allen is the training director at Royal Range in Bellevue.

Allen worked more than 30 years as an officer and spent more than 20 years training fellow police officers. Now Allen now trains civilians in the use of firearms.

“A male against female, where their strength size and disparity is different, generally the courts give you more leeway than they would me on drawing a firearm on somebody and defending yourself,” Allen said. “If I'm the shooter, I have to explain what made me fear my life then.”

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off