BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The decision that gun owners are forced to make of whether to shoot or don't shoot when an intruder enters their home could change their life in an instant.
"Whenever you feel you have to do whatever you have to do, that's when you make it happen," said James Rougeou with Louisiana State Police. "You would do just what you would normally do."
'Do what you have to do' means use your weapon if it's the only way you can protect you and your family.
"You can't just shoot somebody just because they came in your house," said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore.
He said by law, that split-second decision to pull the trigger is within the law if it's considered justifiable that the use of deadly force is necessary. Louisiana law dates back to the 1600s and England. Early colonists brought with them the same basic concept that people should be able to be safe in their own homes. The laws of England stated, "For a man's house is his castle..."
"If you feel that force is necessary and you are reasonable in your fear, you have a right to shoot and kill and defend yourself. Whatever force you believe is reasonable," Moore added.
Back at the training center, a simulation was held to test the reaction of a homeowner to a possible intruder.
"It's going to be just like real life, except there'll be simunition bullets, instead of live bullets. You're going to be a homeowner. You're going to answer the door. Then, you're going to react to whatever my guy gives you," Rougeou explained.
The premise is simple. The reporter knows a threat is coming, but there's no script and no rehearsal. There is a knock at the door, causing anxiety to increase and instinct takes over.
The man asks for help and then barges in demanding money.
"How are you doing sir?" the visitor asked. "My truck's broken down by the road. You got some money I can get?"
"No, I don't have any money," the reporter replied.
"Give me some money. You're going to give me some money. Give me some money," the intruder yells.
They both fire guns and the assailant was hit in the left shoulder. The entire exchange took only 12 seconds. Many of the state's registered gun owners may have no experience with a weapon that sits in a bedside table and no training on proper use.
Sgt. Nick Manale with LSP said that's a bad idea.
"Just like you wouldn't get behind the wheel of a car without training, we encourage firearm owners [to] train and learn how to use that weapon," Manale said.
In Louisiana, 45 percent of residents legally own guns. That may seem like a high percentage to some, but it ranks only No. 13 nationally. In Mississippi, 55 percent of residents are gun owners, which ranks our neighbor to the east at No. 6. Alaska has the highest percentage of gun owners at almost 60 percent.
In a recent study released by the Violence Policy Center, research found that states with weak control laws and higher gun ownerships tend to have higher rates of gun deaths. Louisiana leads the US in people who die by gunfire - whether murder, accidental shooting deaths or suicide - with almost 19 deaths per 100,000 people. Mississippi ranks second in that category.
Gov. Bobby Jindal denounced the findings through a statement that a liberal special interest group conducted the study.
"We found that in real-life situations, people revert back to what they've trained with or known before," Manale explained.
He added an obvious problem is created when so many gun owners have no training. Many wonder what experience do those gun owners fall back on in the instant they either shoot or don't shoot.