I am wondering if it is legal to set up a booby trap to stop an active shooter.

For example, say that there is an active shooter inside a factory and a worker there places something heavy like an anvil above a partially closed door and then that anvil falls and strikes the head of the active shooter when he/she opens that door.

If the active shooter is severely injured by that anvil, or is killed by it, will the person who set up that booby trap be charged with assault/murder, or will the booby trap be seen as a means of self-defense, and since people are allowed to defend themselves in an active shooter situation, will that person not be charged with assault/murder?

1 Answer 1


Yes, this would be legal self-defense.

But, in practice, mass shooting events are usually too quick to allow anyone to make a booby trap.

For example, a mass shooting event in Denver and Lakewood, Colorado this week lasted just 47 minutes and took place at seven distinct locations which no one but the shooter could have predicted in advance, spread over a dozen or so miles, with no more than five or ten minutes of activity in any one place.

  • Sounds very dodgy - presumably you'd have to be absolutely sure that only the shooter would be caught in the trap. On the one hand if someone else was injured or killed, could you argue you were trying to catch the shooter? On the other hand, even if the shooter themselves was caught, would you have to prove you had taken the precautions to be certain no one else was?
    – komodosp
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 14:49
  • @komodosp There is no intent to harm and under the circumstances what would otherwise be considered reckless action wouldn't be. It might not even be negligent and one could probably treat the shooter's actions as an intervening cause breaking the chain of causation or foreseeability in a civil negligence case. The likelihood of the booby trap maker facing criminal charges for accidentally injuring another while trying to defend self and others from this deadly force is near nil.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 17:58

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