'License to Kill' or Permission to Defend?

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Today's New York Times has a predictably negative take on new laws in Florida and 14 other states that expand the right to self-defense, eliminating the requirement to "retreat" before using lethal force in public and giving the benefit of the doubt to people who shoot home invaders. It seems Florida prosecutors don't like the new law, and Sarah Brady avers that "it's a license to kill"—"in a way." In an e-mailed commentary, criminologist and Second Amendment scholar Don Kates says the Times exaggerates the impact of the changes, which merely bring these 15 states in line with most of the country. He argues that the new rules would not make a difference in the three Florida cases the Times uses to illustrate their alleged impact (you may want to read the Times article before reading Kates' analysis):

1. The garbage dispute—no difference!

The shooting victim claims he knocked on the shooter's door because the shooter had reported his illegal conduct to the authorities. An angry confrontation ensued and the shooter closed the door. Apparently the victim continued pounding on the door so the shooter opened it and shot him.

If true, the shooting was equally illegal under the retreat rule, the majority rule or Marian's law. Under all of them if someone breaks down your door you may shoot. Under none of them can you open the door and shoot someone who angrily pounds on your [door,] beyond which you a safe.

Note that there is also complete agreement under each rule if we assume the shooter's story is correct. If you open the door to talk to someone who then tries to force his way in you may shoot unless it is clear that he cannot get in (e.g., a 110 pound woman tries to force her way into the home of a man who is 6′ tall and weighs 185 lbs.)

2. The prostitute

Her story is that her elderly client pulled a gun declaring that he was going to kill her and then himself. She wrests the gun away from him and then shoots him rather than fleeing. Even under the retreat rule one is only required to retreat if ths is clearly possible. Under these circumstances she was privileged to shoot rather than run away, taking the chance that this homicidally desperate man can jump on her and get the gun….

3. The cabbie

His story is that after he got his passenger out of the car (apparently w/o having been paid) the passenger pulled a knife. Obviously the cabbie was not required to partially turn away and try to get in his cab exposing his side and back to a stab wound. Nor need he have done that even if the passenger had not had a knife. Retreat is required only if it can be accomplished in complete safety.

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  1. As I’ve said before, I’m done reading anything written for the NYT – and this article is an example of the genre that I’ve decided not to support any longer.

    Is it labeled as analysis, opinion, or straight news? There doesn’t appear to be any difference on their pages, but it’s sometimes interesting to see whether they’re bothering to be honest about that much.

    Kates seems to have his analysis of the situations pretty clearly laid out, and, as usual, the Times is full of shit.

  2. The duty to retreat people just amaze me. If you confront someone with deadly force, the victim of your threat should not have to think of a way to run away before he shoots you. If someone reasonably fears for their lives, they ought to be able to act accordingly without thinking through avenues of saving you from your own stupidity.

    Truthfully, this law doesn’t go far enough. There should be a federal make my day law allowing the use of deadly force to protect your home. If I kick down your door, you shouldn’t have to wait to see if I really have a gun or am a threat before you shoot me.

  3. That second one is a little shaky. A women holding a gun on an elderly man who, shen he was pointing the gun at her, still couldn’t win a wrestling match against that her. And now, with her armed and him disarmed, we’re supposed to believe that she clearly had no avenue of escape?

    Maybe, but it would appear to be unwise to write that presumption into the law. If he wrestled the gun back from her, would we then change over to presuming that, while pointing the gun at her, he clearly had no avenue of escape?

  4. The proper thing to do is let the man escape unharmed so he could live to menace another prostitute.

  5. The point is Joe that under any theory of self defense, unless you are in your home, you have to be under the reasonable belief that your live is in danger before you have a right to act. In the case of the prostitute who takes the gun away from the man, there is no way she can say she reasonably fears for her life once she has the gun, so she could not use self defense as a defense to shooting him. So, the example is not applicable since she would be guilty with or without the duty to retreat.

  6. I wouldn’t mind seeing the ex-cop do time, solely for dropping a dime on his neighbor for too many garbage bags.

  7. If he wrestled the gun back from her, would we then change over to presuming that, while pointing the gun at her, he clearly had no avenue of escape?

    I’m pretty sure the presumption would still be that he initiated the assault and is liable for its complications.

  8. “Under none of them can you open the door and shoot someone who angrily pounds on your [door,] beyond which you a safe.”

    While that is true, it shouldn’t be. If I am trespassing on your property and refuse to leave, the truth is I probably need killing. I know that is a minority view and pretty extreem but I just can’t stand people who think that it is okay to tresspass on someone’s property and confront the owner.

  9. “The proper thing to do is let the man escape unharmed so he could live to menace another prostitute.”

    Wow, Jennifer, you’ve really internalized those Republican talking points about Iraq.

    You either want to stay the course, or you want the Islamofascists to take over America. You either want the man dead on the sidewalk, or you want him out terrorizing prostitutes.

    It’s too bad that someone holding an attacking at gunpoint doesn’t have the option of calling for help or anything.

  10. Erhm, joe? Do you really think that the police are going to show up to aid a prostitute over a deal gone bad? They’ve got eeeevil drug lords to chase after; no time for some ten-dollar whore.

  11. Joe,

    Unless Jennifer is on the jury, the prostitute is going down and justly so regardless of what the duty to retreat is.

  12. Wow, Jennifer, you’ve really internalized those Republican talking points about Iraq.

    You either want to stay the course, or you want the Islamofascists to take over America. You either want the man dead on the sidewalk, or you want him out terrorizing prostitutes.

    It’s too bad that someone holding an attacking at gunpoint doesn’t have the option of calling for help or anything.

    You missed the joke, joe. Jennifer was referencing some comments in the thread about the South African anti-rape device.

  13. In the case of the prostitute who takes the gun away from the man, there is no way she can say she reasonably fears for her life once she has the gun, so she could not use self defense as a defense to shooting him.

    That would depend in part on how big she is and how big he is. Also, the fact that the guy is insane enough to consider a murder/suicide makes him even scarier than a normal guy his size.

    It’s too bad that someone holding an attacking at gunpoint doesn’t have the option of calling for help or anything.

    It’s too bad prostitution is illegal, so that a prostitute being held at gunpoint by a would-be murderer doesn’t really have the same option of calling for help or anything.

    Call me an extreme Dworkinite man-hater if you must, but I say this in all sincerity: as a woman distinctly on the small side, I know full well most men could kill me with their bare hands if they wanted to. Even a weapon wouldn’t give me invulnerability. And if you ever pull a gun on me and I manage to get it away from you, I will NOT stop to contemplate and ponder all the variables regarding how much danger I’m currently in; I will pull the trigger and continue pulling it until either the chamber is empty or you are immobilized.

    However, I will also point out that if you don’t threaten to kill me, you’re probably perfectly safe. It’s just that men who threaten to kill me make me all bitchy, y’know? At least I’m assuming they would; I’ve not actually been there.

    I know, I’m terrible. Won’t someone please think of the prostitute-threatening old men? Who will speak up to defend them once their victims turn the tables? Can’t an old fart threaten a whore with murder without having his own life put at risk?

  14. Try #2 for clarity:

    Wow, Jennifer, you’ve really internalized those Republican talking points about Iraq.
    You either want to stay the course, or you want the Islamofascists to take over America. You either want the man dead on the sidewalk, or you want him out terrorizing prostitutes.
    It’s too bad that someone holding an attacking at gunpoint doesn’t have the option of calling for help or anything.

    You missed the joke, joe. Jennifer was referencing some comments in the thread about the South African anti-rape device.

  15. Jennifer,

    If in the process of wrestling the gun from the guy, she acts without thinking and shoots him, I can see your point. What if, she gets the gun from the guy and points it at him and he stops? Do you think that she should then just be able to shoot him if he doesn’t attack her anymore or lurch for the gun?

  16. That second one is a little shaky. A women holding a gun on an elderly man who, shen he was pointing the gun at her, still couldn’t win a wrestling match against that her. And now, with her armed and him disarmed, we’re supposed to believe that she clearly had no avenue of escape?

    You make the assumption that the “average” person, when presented with the wrong end of a firearm, is capable of a sound, coherent, rational thought process to examine every potential outcome of all of his or her choices.

    I don’t think it is fair to lay blame on someone who was threatened with great bodily harm if they use said firearm after managing to take it from the perpetrator.

  17. The answer seems pretty clear to me — if you don’t want to die while initiating a home invasion, move to one of the more northern atlantic states.

    The fact that castle doctrine laws are controversial just amazes me. Death penalty critics have a point when there’s some doubt about the guilt of the accused. But there’s never any doubt about how guilty someone is that busts down your door.

    Lastly, if prosecutors are complaining that they can’t waste taxpayer money going after people who should never be targeted in the first place, maybe they need some help finding a new job.

  18. Regardless of the law, I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

  19. In California the law has been that way all along, and disaster has predictably failed to appear.

    In fact, here it’s legal to use lethal force to stop a fleeing violent felon (for anyone, not just cops), although I’ve never heard of anyone actually doing so.

  20. Jennifer, (I’ve you’re stilling willing to converse with someone who is objectively pro-menacing prostitutes),

    “It’s too bad prostitution is illegal, so that a prostitute being held at gunpoint by a would-be murderer doesn’t really have the same option of calling for help or anything.”

    That is too bad, and that’s the real problem. Once you put these transactions in the realm of the black market, there are no good answers. In a sense, the fact that the example is of a prostitute gets in the way of its efficacy as a case study, because of these other variables that come in.

    “Won’t someone please think of the prostitute-threatening old men? Who will speak up to defend them once their victims turn the tables? Can’t an old fart threaten a whore with murder without having his own life put at risk?” Yawn. Let us know when you’re done chewing the scenery.

  21. “In fact, here it’s legal to use lethal force to stop a fleeing violent felon (for anyone, not just cops), although I’ve never heard of anyone actually doing so.”

    The standard practice in Texas is for the cops to help you drag the body back onto your property so you can claim that you were defending your home. Perhaps that is what is going on California. 🙂

  22. What if, she gets the gun from the guy and points it at him and he stops? Do you think that she should then just be able to shoot him if he doesn’t attack her anymore or lurch for the gun?

    I would not bet my life on the assumption that a man crazy enough to make a murder/suicide threat will start acting rationally once his ability to carry out his threat has been curtailed. Hell, the sonofabitch might get even crazier once he’s cornered. He’s already said he plans to kill himself, yet I’m to assume the fear of death will make him behave?

  23. What constitutes a realistic option to flee isn’t understood by anyone who hasn’t tried it.

    A firearm and five feet of space gets you no additional freedom of motion against an unarmed person. It is far too easy to wind up in a wrestling match. Even if you put three in his chest, you might still wind up in a wrestling match.

    If you are unarmed and the assailant is armed, and you reverse the situation, you have to assume that he is going to kill you if he can. If you get the weapon from him and he cowers in a corner, you’d first want to put a piece of furniture between you and him to interrupt a full out straight line charge, then issue orders for him to comply as you increase the space. If he complies, you can call the cops. If not, he may get shot. You should not turn your back on him.

  24. Jennifer — I would never confuse you for an extreme Dworkinite. After all men are responsible for occurences in your body right?

    ohh, I shouldn’t carry things over like this, I know I am in for an earful.

    It’s just a joke, Jennifer.

  25. If I am trespassing on your property and refuse to leave, the truth is I probably need killing. I know that is a minority view and pretty extreem but I just can’t stand people who think that it is okay to tresspass on someone’s property and confront the owner.

    John, I think you just endorsed killing a lot of Jehovah’s witnesses.

    There’s only one time in my life that I contacted them instead of them contacting me: I was putting together a family-oriented charity event, and I was asking local churches to announce the event in their bulletins. I called the local Jehovah’s Witnesses, just like I called every other church in the area, and asked if they would put in an announcement. They didn’t really want to talk to me.

  26. Jennifer, “I would not bet my life on the assumption that a man crazy enough to make a murder/suicide threat will start acting rationally once his ability to carry out his threat has been curtailed.” You wouldn’t have to. In the example, you’re pointing a gun at him, and could shoot him the moment he makes an aggressive move.

    The question is about what you should be allowed to do if he doesn’t. How about throwing him a knife and ordering him to cut off his thumb – should that be allowed? If you answer no, than how can you justify an even more serious act of violence?

  27. Let us know when you’re done chewing the scenery.

    Let me know when you’re done with the assumption that a man who pulls a gun on a woman and threatens to first kill her and then kill himself somehow becomes the victim when the woman fixes things so that only half of the man’s intended victims actually end up dead.

  28. he knocked on the shooter’s door because the shooter had reported his illegal conduct to the authorities

    IMO this one is the test, and from the article it looks as if there will be no prosecution — so I’d say, test failed. No way does this rise to the threat of deadly force by the door-pounder, and if the shooter felt threatened to that degree he had several other remedies.

    Besides, the ‘illegal conduct’ was two extra garbage bags, the equivalent in evil of driving 27 in a 25, and further, impossible for the garbage collectors not to notice and cite.

    So the shooter is clearly a major asshole and deserves a forced separation from polite society on those grounds alone. So sayeth the Doctor.

  29. “John, I think you just endorsed killing a lot of Jehovah’s witnesses.”

    That is funny and if true, I probably wouldn’t be in such a small minority anymore. But seriously, the JW will leave if you ask them to. When I was a kid we had a house with the garage in back so we never used the front door. My father intenionally let a group of very territorial hornets nest around the front door just to make sure anyone who knocked there really wanted to talk to us. It was hysterical, watching them run for thier lives upon approaching the door.

  30. “It’s too bad that someone holding an attacking at gunpoint doesn’t have the option of calling for help or anything.”

    Yes, because I’m sure that the man would have been willing to stand by while she put the pistol down, retreived her cell phone, and called the police, who as we all know, are going to break a land speed record to save the life of a prostitute.

    Otherwise it just wouldn’t be cricket, Old Bean.

  31. WTF joe. The man who threatened the murder suicide is reasoned? I’m sorry if a man threatens my life and his and I have to wrestle with him to get the gun away from him, if I win he loses. I’m not turning my back on him, giving him another shot at me. Call me a cowboy or equate me with Bush, but I ain’t letting that happen. Granted, I’m not a prostitute, but letting the crazy guy get a second chance at me is insane.

  32. If I kick down your door, you shouldn’t have to wait to see if I really have a gun or am a threat before you shoot me.

    Should I have to wait to see if you’re a cop?

  33. I don’t think it is fair to lay blame on someone who was threatened with great bodily harm if they use said firearm after managing to take it from the perpetrator.

    I’m in agreement with Carrick. I don’t see how we fairly judge what someone should have done in an impossible situation. Let’s face it, with that much adrenaline, people snap. I’m willing to give a lot of latitude to a person for reacting badly in such a situation.

  34. Re: prostitute vs old man

    If I was the prostitute’s lawyer I would take the angle that this was assisted suicide … still illegal in florida but you might get some help with the bills.

  35. In the example, you’re pointing a gun at him, and could shoot him the moment he makes an aggressive move.

    He already made an aggressive move when he threatened to kill me and then kill himself. Once you threaten my life, I am under no obligation to preserve yours.

    How about throwing him a knife and ordering him to cut off his thumb – should that be allowed? If you answer no, than how can you justify an even more serious act of violence?

    Oh, now I see why you’re so upset about some woman killing a murderous old fart who said he wanted to die anyway after he killed her first–because one of those evil guns were involved, and really, what the hell is the difference between using a gun in self-defense and ordering a man to mutilate himself? None, apparently.

  36. Cripes, mediageek and Mo, did you not notice the part where she’s holding a gun on him? Uh, yeah, the whole thing depends on his willing cooperation. Not.

    David, I can understand snapping and being terrified, and the law has always taken those into account. That’s not what the debate is about. The debate is about the person who has the meaningful option to escape, and makes the choice to kill instead.

    This law wouldn’t define executing someone who you have disarmed and are holding at gunpoint as an understandable lapse that eliminates the intent necessary for a conviction. It would define that homicide as something you are well within your rights to do.

  37. Should I have to wait to see if you’re a cop?

    Police don’t like taking that chance, so nowadays they shoot first for good measure.

  38. Joe, you seem to be working from the assumption that once she wrestled the gun away from him, that he immediately ceased his attack. I’ll admit to only skimming the article, but if it can be pointed out that he ceased in his attempt to victimize her, I’ll allow that you might have a point.

    Guns ? Crucifixes and Criminals ? Vampires.

  39. Why does joe hate prostitutes?

  40. There’s a lot that we don’t know about the situation with the prostitute and the suicidal maniac.

    If she got the gun from him, he stopped fighting, she stepped away to the other end of a big room while he was cowering in the corner with his hands in the air, and then she fired at him even though he wasn’t moving toward her and was saying that he surrendered, yeah, charge her. She had successfully defended herself and was not in a position where she needed to use deadly force.

    If they were wrestling, she gets the gun, he’s still fighting and is in very close proximity, she has no choice but to seize the momentary advantage and shoot the person who is trying to kill her. Or if they are wrestling, she gets the gun, then he lunges at her from just a few feet away, once again, she has no other realistic choice.

    And if it’s somewhere between those two extremes? Then there’s reasonable doubt about whether she was justified, and we all know which way reasonable doubt goes.

    We simply don’t know enough from this article.

  41. joe,

    I think the meaningful option to escape is difficult to define. What seems reasonable after the fact(all the things a person could have done rather than kill) might not be apparent when a person doesn’t have time for analytical thought.

    Besides, why should the public be held to higher standards than law enforcement?

  42. It would define that homicide as something you are well within your rights to do.

    In case you haven’t been keeping up with common law (or even bothered to read the entry attached to these comments), homicide is something you are already well within your rights to do. This law, to quote Jacob, brings these 15 states in line with most of the country.

    As someone who’s never been involved in a situation where the potential for lethal force was expressed by an attacker, but having been in some tough scrapes where, upon retrospection, I probably made a few bad procedural decisions, I think it’s dangerous to legislate the use of lethal force by victims under the expectation that the potential victim would behave as rationally as s/he might under normal circumstances. I think error in such legislation is likely, but I think it’s better to err on the side of the victims and not the aggressors.

    I do know that for every story like this there’s a terrible story of someone killed or some home invaded that might have been prevented had the victims had weapons and felt justified in using them. Cabbies themselves tend to be disproportionately targeted by dickhead fares trying to skimp on paying. That the NYTimes would pick up what’s essentially a wire story, cherrypick a couple stories involving victim retaliation with firearms that seem suspicious, speaks a lot of how the author thinks, and injects their bias into a purportedly unbiased news story.

  43. In related news, a jury here in Tampa recently acquitted a restaurant owner who chased down a robber with his car and ran him down. The charge was only for manslaughter, but the jury didn’t even convict him of that.

    From what I’ve heard, there was enough fog around what happened to justify an acquittal, but it is a demonstration of what jurors will do when presented with this sort of case. Note that the delay in lethal retribution in this real-life case was quite a bit longer than Jennifer’s prostitute-turning-the-tables scenario.

  44. I wonder how many cops would show the restraint that joe expects the prostitute to show?

    While I agree that maybe she should have backed away slowly and removed herself from the scene, I also have no problem with her shooting the old bastard. He laid his cards on the table, and now gets to learn the consequences.

    Also, I doubt she has had any tactical firearms courses or concealed handgun courses or whathaveyou to know what My Ligon suggests.

    So I say let the hooker walk.

  45. Cripes joe, all he had to do to stay alive was to not point a gun at her and threaten murder suicide. It’s really not that hard.

    Granted, if he’s cowering in the corner a la thoreau’s answer I’d let him live. Geez, no wonder liberals have the namby pamby, soft on crime rep. You’re calling the psychopathic man with murderous intent the victim.

    There’s are easy ways to not get shot. Not pointing a gun at an innocent person is one of them.

  46. Dammit, squirrels ate my comment.

    mediageek, I’m framing the example that way because it best addressed the legal point in question. If the woman was still fighting for her life, or if she panicked, or if she didn’t really have the option to escape, even the old law would have recognized that she is allowed to shoot. No argument from me.

    David, “What seems reasonable after the fact(all the things a person could have done rather than kill) might not be apparent when a person doesn’t have time for analytical thought.” The standard has never been hindsight. The relevant standards are the mindset of the shooter at the time, and to help clarify that mindset, what the mindset of “a reasonable person” would be in that situation.

    This is about the Jennifer Scenario – when a person is quite aware of the option to leave peacefully without being harmed, but decides that it would be better to kill the would-be attacker.

  47. did you not notice the part where she’s holding a gun on him?

    Did YOU not notice the part where he pulled the gun on her first, and said he planned to use it? Do you think this man bears ANY responsibility for his own death, or is he just a poor little victim? Geez, all he did was pull a gun on a woman and threaten to kill her–how the fuck was he supposed to know such actions might have negative consequences?

    This is about the Jennifer Scenario – when a person is quite aware of the option to leave peacefully without being harmed, but decides that it would be better to kill the would-be attacker.

    What evidence have you that this was the case?

  48. did you not notice the part where she’s holding a gun on him?

    Did YOU not notice the part where he pulled the gun on her first, and said he planned to use it? Do you think this man bears ANY responsibility for his own death, or is he just a poor little victim? Geez, all he did was pull a gun on a woman and threaten to kill her–how the fuck was he supposed to know such actions might have negative consequences?

    This is about the Jennifer Scenario – when a person is quite aware of the option to leave peacefully without being harmed, but decides that it would be better to kill the would-be attacker.

    What evidence have you that this was the case?

  49. did you not notice the part where she’s holding a gun on him?

    Did YOU not notice the part where he pulled the gun on her first, and said he planned to use it? Do you think this man bears ANY responsibility for his own death, or is he just a poor little victim? Geez, all he did was pull a gun on a woman and threaten to kill her–how the fuck was he supposed to know such actions might have negative consequences?

    This is about the Jennifer Scenario – when a person is quite aware of the option to leave peacefully without being harmed, but decides that it would be better to kill the would-be attacker.

    What evidence have you that this was the case?

  50. Lowdog, I agree on the merits and facts.

    It’s the legal implication here, the doctrine being written into the law. We law should not authorize people to kill other people based on a judgement of whether they’ve got it coming. Only to defend yourself, or to defend others.

    This is the reasoning behind vigiliantism and vendetta. Our society has finally managed to ban these things because it quickly and inevitably gets out of hand when private citizens are authorized to make this decision and carry out the sentence. Very often, the first few targets are about as deserving as this old guy, or worse.

    Jennifer, do you think the first few people tortured by the military in Iraq were more or less deserving than the would-be attacker shot by the prostitute? Can you see why that question isn’t enough?

  51. but decides that it would be better to kill the would-be attacker.

    Some people just need killin’, joe. It seems to me that the old fucker’s life was forfeit the minute he pointed his gun at the whore.

  52. Joe-I think the disagreement is fundemental here; to Jennifer and most other posters, the right to defend your own life is absolute. While you make some good points, especially in regard to the prostitute, I can not see any reason why a person should be required to flee when confronted with deadly force or the threat thereof. It’s similar to what I was taught as an MP, and later in various martial arts classes: once your opponent pulls a knife, a gun or whatever, [i]they have made the decision to make the situation a life-or-death one.[/i]
    I am well aware that there are some touchy situations, where there is a legitimate question about whether the threat of deadly force was present. But that does not mean we should require everyone to flee rather than fight.

  53. I was thinking the other day about how Richard Reid the terrorist shoe bomber failed in his attempt to blow up a plane full of other passengers and flight crew. I find it almost amazing that the man lived. After he he failed in his attempt, I would find it extremly hard not to beat the man to dead pulp. After all, the man clearly had no regard for life, especially his own, so why not help him along.

  54. This is about the Jennifer Scenario – when a person is quite aware of the option to leave peacefully without being harmed, but decides that it would be better to kill the would-be attacker.

    Would-be attacker? Damn, have they abolished laws against assault in my absence? What mental gymnastics do you have to accomplish to call a man brandishing a gun a would-be attacker?

  55. Sorry about that six-post, folks. That will teach me to try to best the Reason server squirrels.

  56. In light of Solitudinarian’s comments, I think we can all agree the squirrels are being unusually picky today.

  57. Reference stepping back and letting him have the first move.

    Concealed carry and law enforcement instructors both cite several studies showing that due to the reaction time required to make a decision and pull the trigger an attacker can from a standing start 21 feet away close and be on you before you can stop him with a handgun. That’s if you’re using self-defense ammunition, you place the bullets well, and he isn’t strung out.

    I kind of doubt the john was 22 feet away. Life ain’t television.

    Also, whenever the subject of civilians with guns has come up in the past two decades Brady et al have predicted disaster. Concealed carry will change fenderbenders into firefights, “assault rifles” will stack bodies like cordwood, airline pilots will shoot passengers, off-duty LEOs will cause huge liability claims, .50 caliber rifles will shoot down airliners, etc. They’ve been wrong every single time. Why should this be different?

  58. There’s are easy ways to not get shot. Not pointing a gun at an innocent person is one of them.

    Indeed. As the old talk.politics.guns saying goes, if a man is worried about a woman mistaking him for a rapist and shooting him, he should put down the knife and pull up his pants.

    While there are no doubt a few man-hating psycho women out there, I’m pretty sure most members of the Fairer Sex are quite capable of correctly judging when their lives are in danger, and when their date is just joking around.

    (I was going to say this earlier, but the squirrels wouldn’t let me…)

  59. Jennifer, do you think the first few people tortured by the military in Iraq were more or less deserving than the would-be attacker shot by the prostitute? Can you see why that question isn’t enough?

    Joe, seriously, give up the Bush/war analogies. The torturers were not in imminent danger of being murdered by the people they tortured. If the prostitute had escaped from the old man, and then later got angry and went back and shot him I’d be all in favor of prosecuting her to the fullest possible extent. And I’d also agree that your torture/Iraq War analogies would apply.

    I’d also agree with the analogy if the prostitute had tortured the man to death by playing a game called “Let’s see how many non-essential body parts I can shoot off before you give up and die.” But THAT didn’t happen, either.

  60. >What mental gymnastics do you have to accomplish to call a man brandishing a gun a would-be attacker?

    Correct. Pointing a gun at someone meets the legal definition of assault and is enough to warrant an assault charge.

    And I totally agree that in this case the john was the assailant; he introduced the danger and is morally responsible for his own death. It isn’t up to a crime victim to take her aggressor’s safety into consideration while making split-second decisions about how to defend herself. I’m very glad to see the right to self defense being affirmed and expanded, where necessary, in this country. I’ve worried that we might go down the same trail that they’ve blazed in the UK, where crime victims get sued by their attackers using public funds for defending themselves and citzens are advised not to intervene if they see another person being assaulted.

  61. If Joe is still here and the server squirrels haven’t worn him down, I’d seriously like to know how much responsibility, if any, he thinks the would-be murderer had in regards to his own death.

    I’m also wondering if Joe’s opinion would be different had the man made his murder/suicide threat to a non-prostitute.

  62. joe-

    “Yawn. Let us know when you’re done chewing the scenery.”

    This is all you got when your called on for sticking up for a would be murdering John? The geras sack of crap deserves what he would have otherwise dished out. And you are a wanker for the feeble slight of hand.

  63. “Also, whenever the subject of civilians with guns…stack bodies like cordwood…”

    In 2003 (the most recent year for which data is available), there were 30,136 gun deaths in the U.S:

    * 16,907 suicides (56% of all U.S gun deaths),
    * 11,920 homicides (40% of all U.S gun deaths),
    * 730 unintentional shootings (2% of all U.S gun deaths),
    * 347 from legal intervention and 232 from undetermined intent (2% of all U.S gun deaths combined).

    firewood is usually sold by the cord, 128 ft? (3.62 m?), corresponding to a woodpile 8 ft wide ? 4 ft high of 4 ft-long logs.

    How many cords of bodies is 30,136?

    The 347 “legal interventions” that are addressed by the self-defense laws, are hardly a major cause of gun deaths in the US.

  64. The actual quote MSM is responding to is:

    Also, whenever the subject of civilians with guns has come up in the past two decades Brady et al have predicted disaster. Concealed carry will change fenderbenders into firefights, “assault rifles” will stack bodies like cordwood, airline pilots will shoot passengers, off-duty LEOs will cause huge liability claims, .50 caliber rifles will shoot down airliners, etc. They’ve been wrong every single time. Why should this be different?

    The specific “cordwood” claim cited was that “assault rifles” will stack bodies like cordwood,

    In the context of Larry’s statement, only the number of people killed by assault rifles since the lifting of the “assault weapons” ban would apply.

    I am finding it very hard to find any figures for this. I suspect this is because the number is very miniscule.

    Even the most hyperventilating gun-control sites that claim X numbers of police officers were killed by “assault weapons” between years X and Y seem to indicate that assault rifles (or “assault weapons”) are far, far less deadly than swimming pools. (It seems the number of people who drown in pools every year would stack up to make a nice bunch of cords.)

  65. The 347 “legal interventions” that are addressed by the self-defense laws, are hardly a major cause of gun deaths in the US.

    Which makes my point. Brady et al predicted that the number of self-defense shootings would multiply in the months following implementation of the “License to Kill” laws. Once again, the sky isn’t falling.

    The biggest impact of the expiration of the “Assault Rifle” ban in the gun shop I was running wasn’t people flocking to purchase rifles for $800 to $2,000. It was folks who wanted one of the “high capacity” magazines marked “For Sale to Law Enforcement Only.”

    Understand they already had plenty of pre-ban large magazines. It was collector interest in the “LEO Only” marking they were attracted to.

  66. Jacob’s post and many of the comments fail to appreciate that the question of whether someone is reasonably in fear of death or great bodily harm is ordinarily a question of fact, rather than a question of law. In a homicide prosecution for any of the cited hypotheticals (except perhaps the first, and then only if the law of the jurisdiction imposed a duty to retreat), the facts would get the accused a jury instruction on self-defense. It would be up to the jury to determine whether the fear of harm was or was not a reasonable fear.

  67. Stevo, Larry…

    I am on your side on this particular point, but I think you would have to admit that we as a country have far too many people using their guns to kill people. 11,920 bodies is a lot of bodies that have had their liberty taken away by their fellow citizens.

    If that is not an argument that guns should be registered and licensed, I don’t know what is.

    ATLANTA — The United States has by far the highest rate of gun deaths — murders, suicides and accidents — among the world’s 36 richest nations, a government study found.
    The U.S. rate for gun deaths in 1994 was 14.24 per 100,000 people. Japan had the lowest rate, at .05 per 100,000.

    http://www.guncite.com/cnngunde.html

    Of course, when you look at overall homicide rates we are not at the top of the list, Brazil, Mexico, Estonia, N. Ireland, and Taiwan all beat us in the 90’s, for instance.

    http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcgvintl.html

  68. If that is not an argument that guns should be registered and licensed, I don’t know what is.

    Considering the fact that the vast majority of those homicides are committed by young African-American males (in fact discounting the murders committed by that demographic the USA has one of the LOWEST murder rates in the world) it might make more sense to place severe restrictions on that segment of the population.

    Huh, what’s that you say?

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