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.