• Opportunity to Cause Great Bodily Harm or Death

    In addition to ability, your attacker must have the opportunity to kill or cause great bodily harm and the threat must be immediate. For example, if some man yells, “I am going to cut your head off with my knife” and your attacker is on the other side of a four-lane highway with heavy traffic flowing in each direction, it would not be reasonable to believe he had the immediate opportunity to kill you; you could, in fact, most likely run away to safety. The attacker has distance and obstacles (traffic) working against him.

    On the other hand, if the same person is within 21 to 30 feet and there are no obstacles, it is very likely that this individual has the immediate opportunity to kill you with his knife. It has been proven that a person can close a distance of 21 feet and thrust a knife into the intended target within 1.5 seconds. Other similar studies found elderly people who qualified for Social Security capable of closing a distance of 21 feet within 2 seconds. See the “Tueller Drill” by Dennis Tueller.

    With firearms, guns are considered to be remote-control weapons and therefore opportunity nearly always exists. The opportunity criterion is mostly a factor with contact weapons.

    Some other considerations may apply when it comes to opportunity. For instance, is a knife-wielding assailant behind a locked door a threat? Most likely not; therefore, if you were to shoot the assailant through the door, that would not likely be found justifiable. On the other hand, if the assailant started to successfully break the door down, then he would promptly become dangerous and firing a gun to stop the deadly threat would in fact be warranted.