May 4th has a couple notables within the Firearms Industry… It is the birthday of Clint Smith, the gruff, crusty, well regarded Marine who’s been teaching within this industry for decades. One of the Old Guard in the tactical training community, Clint is running Thunder Ranch on a gorgeous mountain in Oregon.
It’s also the day we lost another industry legend, Pat Rogers. Pat passed on this day in 2016. Pat was one of the most influential tactical instructors and left a peerless legacy, his influence is felt across the Military, Law Enforcement, and Trained Citizen shooters in the defensive and competitive fields.
But let’s get my wandering brain back to my original post premise. Star Wars!
Han Shot First, Justified?
May the 4th is a Star Wars “Holiday” in the pop-culture world.
In that vein, I want to breakdown the scene between Han and Greedo from a defensive minded stand-point. Would it be a ‘justified’ shoot?
First, let’s settle something.
This is an OT fact and none of the later edits are relevant to the theatrical release fact. So, was it justified?
The answer… Maybe. There is a lot going on beyond the scene’s immediacy.
In the narrow sense, Greedo is an armed assailant who holds a contract to kill him and tells Han he is going to do so. Justified shoot.
But… Han is a criminal. So is Greedo. They are acting outside the law. Under most legal codes, and probably the Empire’s too, self defense requires a status of legality to hold up in court. One cannot lawfully defend oneself while unlawfully doing something. A burglar cannot shoot the home owner in self defense legally. So Han, a criminal smuggler, is dealing with another criminal who is collecting a bounty contract from a criminal organization, the Hutts, and would be outside most normal law codes. Unjustified shoot.
But “lawful” doesn’t really apply. The entire premise is that Tatooine, the fringe desert planet that hosts the early story in A New Hope (and many other story arcs), is an effectively lawless place. It has an Imperial ‘presence’ but the day-to-day is very dog-eat-dog. The law therefore becomes force (not necessarily The Force) and connections. Kill someone or wrong someone, if they mattered to other people enough they’d come get you, if they didn’t matter enough then you were guilty of nothing any group with effective authority would come after you for.
So let’s look at it in the narrow view again, can you shoot first if your life is in clear peril?
In the United States, and many other locales, force used early enough to be effective to prevent great injury or loss of life is justifiable. The threat does not have to have shot at you, swung at you with a melee weapon of some sort, or otherwise taken the opportunity to inflict harm upon you first. The assailant does not get the privilege of acting first in a clearly harmful manner simply to prove they are really in the act of harming you, it might work out that way in any given instance but it is not a legal requirement for those under “Stand Your Ground” or “No Retreat” legal frameworks.
So, given that Tatooine is effectively “stand your ground” by the absence of any authoritative body that would come detain you for an unjust use-of-force. “Justified” shoot. Justified in that Han saved is skin from a threat, and did so in a manner not contrary to local expectations.
Han shoots Greedo, who has Hutt connections and was there to collect or kill Han, and then calmly departs the venue. Han clearly is only mildly concerned about the event (more based on Jabba’s implicit impatience than the fact he just left a body at a cantina booth). Han is not concerned about his actions being viewed as ‘unjustified’ to any authority body, making both the Empire and the Hutts less than acting governmental authority and instead merely powerful actors in the larger structure, which indicates there is no authority body to declare the shoot unjust or who would declare it so and act if they knew. Getting detained for homicide, even temporarily, would disrupt his line of work too much to be worth being so cavalier about it in a public venue.
In conclusion, ‘Justified’ Shoot. By virtue of lack of anyone authorized to say it wasn’t, and by preservation of Han’s life.
May the 4th be with you.