Self-Defense

Are People Allowed to Use Deadly Force to Defend Property?

It depends, whether as to looting or other threats to property.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I touched on this briefly in my looting/shooting post, but I thought I'd elaborate a bit more (especially since the commenters seemed to be interested in both the legal and moral aspects of this question). Note that this is, as usual, not specific legal advice, but just a general layout of how various American courts deal with the matter; many of the rules, as you'll see, vary sharply among states, and often turn on specific factual details. (I say "you" below for clarity and convenience—I hope none of you has to actually do any of this.)

[1.] In all states, you can use deadly force to defend yourself against death, serious bodily injury (which can include broken bones and perhaps even lost teeth), rape, or kidnapping, so long as (a) your fear is reasonable and (b) the danger is imminent (requirements that also apply to the doctrines I discuss below). For instance, you should be able to use deadly force against someone who is trying to burn down your home, since that threatens you with death or serious bodily harm. You should be able to do the same against someone who is trying to burn down your business, though with possible limitations involving the duty to retreat in the minority of states that recognize such a duty.

But in nearly all states, you can't generally use deadly force merely to defend your property. (Texas appears to be an exception, allowing use of deadly force when there's no other way to protect or recapture property even in situations involving simple theft or criminal mischief, though only at night,  Tex. Penal Code § 9.42; see, e.g., McFadden v. State (Tex. Ct. App. 2018).) That's where we get the conventional formulation that you can't use deadly force just to defend property.

[2.] This conventional formulation, though, omits an important limitation: In basically all states, you can use nondeadly force to defend your property—and if the thief or vandal responds by threatening you with death or great bodily harm, you can then protect yourself with deadly force. So in practice, you can use deadly force to protect property after all, if you're willing to use nondeadly force first and expose yourself to increased risk.

And in some states, you don't even need to expose yourself to such increased risk, if you reasonably fear at the outset that nondeadly protection of property would be too dangerous. In those states, to quote the Model Penal Code formulation (which some have adopted), deadly force can be used if

the person against whom the force is used is attempting to commit or consummate arson, burglary, robbery or other felonious theft or property destruction and either:

[a] has employed or threatened deadly force against or in the presence of the actor; or

[b] the use of [nondeadly] force to prevent the commission or the consummation of the crime would expose the actor or another in his presence to substantial danger of serious bodily injury.

Note the requirement, in at least this version, of felonious theft or property destruction.

[3.] And that's just for garden-variety theft and property damage. When the theft or vandalism is aggravated in certain ways, many states allow for still more deadly force.

[A.] In about half the states you can use deadly force against robbery, which generally includes any theft from the person that uses modest force or a threat: "Even a purse snatching can constitute a robbery if the victim simply resists the effort to wrest the purse away." Some robbery of course does also create a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, but in these states such a fear is not required.

[B.] In some states, there is a rebuttable presumption that you reasonably fear death or great bodily harm—and may thus use deadly force—if the target is (to quote the Iowa statute),

Unlawfully entering by force or stealth the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force, or has unlawfully entered by force or stealth and remains within the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force.

This is just a presumption, but to rebut it the prosecution would generally have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn't actually reasonably fear death or great bodily harm in such a situation.

[C.] [UPDATE 6/2/20 11:14 am; added this subsection:] And in some states, it is categorically permissible to use deadly force against burglary—often defined as entering a building illegally with the intent to commit a crime (including theft) there—or against arson, even when you have no reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to yourself. For instance, here is one of the New York criminal jury instructions, which generally summarize several relevant New York statutes (brackets in the following text are in the original, and indicate text that is included if the facts of the case fit it):

Under our law, a person in possession or control of [or licensed or privileged to be in] a dwelling [or an occupied building], who reasonably believes that another individual is committing or attempting to commit a burglary of such dwelling [or occupied building], may use deadly physical force upon that individual when he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission of such burglary….

A person commits BURGLARY when that person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling [or occupied building] with the intent to commit a crime therein.

Note that building includes "any structure, vehicle or watercraft used for overnight lodging of persons, or used by persons for carrying on business therein," and there's also a similar instruction as to deadly force to prevent arson, which is not limited to burning of occupied buildings.

[* * *]

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg: There are various limitation to these rules (e.g., if you're actually the initial aggressor, or if you know there's a good-faith dispute about the ownership of the property), and I'll note again that the rules and their interpretation can vary sharply from state to state. But this is the big picture, which I think helps show the complexity of this area of the law.

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  1. Since people keep telling me about the importance of Judeo-Christian values, it might be worth remembering this one:

    Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    1. You would kill someone, possibly sending them to hell for all eternity, because of a material possession? Not very Christian of you.

      Of course, by that standard, liberal Christians are going to hell, too. Jesus said to help your neighbor, not to pull out a weapon and force your neighbor to help your other neighbor. “Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s, and to God what is God’s” is to let you live in such a place with government mandates, but does not authorize you to create such.

      1. “Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s, and to God what is God’s” is to let you live in such a place with government mandates, but does not authorize you to create such.

        Neato theology. Hardly the only possible interpretation, however.

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      2. Nice platitude, but property sustains life. It is how people feed and shelter their family – at least for those who work (as opposed to those who live off welfare etc). So it’s a bit more complicated than,“Its just property. Because sometimes, indeed in many cases, property is not replaceable and the loss dramatically impacts the life of the owner and family.

        But, by all means, feel free to empty out your house and place the goods on the sidewalk, and leave the keys in your car for others to free take. After all, it just stuff, right?

        1. dramatically impacts the life != death.

          That’s my equation. It is also that of the law. A law that spontaneously grew in many jurisdictions.

          Is your equation different?

          1. Actually I do. I think people have a right to more than survive, they have a right to thrive. They have a right to be/feel safe, and provide a safe place for their families. Moreover a property loss may, and or the psychological damage of feeling vulnerable, well start a downward spiral that leads to a loss of family, job, and even a delayed death. So yes, my equation is a lot different than yours.

            1. What the crap is that reasoning? Some hypothetical eggshell victim means it’s okay to kill thieves?

              1. “Some hypothetical eggshell victim”

                If you’ve known anyone who has come home to find their house broken into, the loss of security can actually be emotionally devastating.

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              2. I am in favor of broad rights to kill thieves when it involves a person in their home or in a confined space.

          2. dramatically impacts the life != death.

            OK, so if someone is gouging your eyes out, cutting off your fingers/toes, torturing you, etc…deadly force is not called for, because what they’re doing (probably) isn’t going to kill you.

      3. This argument is basically a tempest in a teapot that is seldom even applicable in the real world. In so far as I know, no crystal ball that will instantly discern criminal intent has been invented, thus, since criminals who steal and damage property often harm people in the process, it is prudent to simply presume desire, or at least willingness, to do physical harm to person on the part of any criminal, perpetrator. Ergo deadly force is used against a perpetrator based on the quite reasonable belief that they pose a threat to physical safety regardless of their apparent primary goal. If that belief is inaccurate, too bad, the only reason conflict exists in the first place is because of the perpetrator’s actions, thus they should logically bear the responsibility for all consequences of those actions including those resulting from misunderstanding of their intentions. If one is not willing to bear that responsibility, then one should refrain from committing criminal acts.

      4. I am not the judge or jury, God is, if God sends him to hell it is because or himself, same with me, if I go to hell it is because of me. But Jesus says all people fall short of the glory of God, only through belief in him do you enter Heaven. It is not all about what you do or don’t do, it is about what you believe. You strive to be better because you are a Christian, you are not perfect because you are a Christian. Your scenario tries as always to set a false trap.

        1. Hell: A place where an invisible deity metes out eternal torture to all who do not show it enough respect.

          Nice theology you got there.

          1. Assuming that theology to be true, who are you to judge it? By definition, if that is what God does then it is just. And if it isn’t what He actually does then the fact that some people mistakenly think He does it is irrelevant.

    2. Luke 22:36 And He said to them, “But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” Jesus, discharging his followers.

      1. Which is advice to the twelve apostles, who were specifically commissioned to spread the word, and was not given to the general public.

        1. So, what’s your advice to say, your Korean shopkeeper, an apostle of capitalism?

        2. Isn’t it the general opinion that all Christians are now “commissioned to spread the word” though?

          1. Have your own way. Now, let’s discuss the Korean shopkeeper who owns religious book store.

        3. There is no logical basis whatsoever to believe that the advice to the “general public” would have been any different.

    3. Exodus 22,2

    4. A small point, martinned.

      Turning the other cheek is not a Jewish value. Specifically, at least as I was taught, it is wrong to tolerate an injustice, even if you yourself are the victim.

      1. Apparently, the “smite” on the right cheek here refers to personal slights, insults and offenses.

      2. In my experience, people who talk the loudest about Judeo-Christian values tend to be a little careless about the “Judeo” part of that. (Although they tend to be plenty willing to quote the Old Testament just like, predictably, Dr. Ed did above.)

        1. The more correct terminology is actually “Hebrew Bible”, instead of “Old Testament”

          1. If you’re Hebrew, that is. Otherwise, to Christians, it is the Older of the two testaments, which means it is the Old Testament.

          2. The most correct terminology is the Tanakh, assuming you’re speaking specifically of the Jewish religious text. (Or, if it comes from the pentateuch, the Torah).

            It is perfectly correct to refer to it as the Old Testament when speaking of Christian belief.

            (In fact, these things aren’t really identical. The Christian ‘canonical’ Old Testament is based on the Greek Septuagint, while the Tanakh is primarily in Hebrew with a little Aramaic. The differences are not inconsequential, and modern Christian re-translations from the Hebrew can’t change the scriptural environment Christianity developed in, and which materially affected the writing of the new testament).

    5. I have a family member who was in an abusive relationship. She stayed in that role in the relationship because she too had been taught to “turn the other cheek”. The lightbulb finally went on for her when her therapist asked “How many cheeks do you have?”

      “An eye for an eye” leads to a nation of the blind but a lack of any consequences inevitably leads to abuse.

    6. I love it when non-Christians interpret scripture. Jesus spoke to a liturgical community–that is, a community that shared values and faith. Similarly, the letters of Paul are addressed to a community of faith, and the admonitions address how one member of the community treats another. I am admonished to turn the other cheek to a fellow Christian, on the assumption that we share more than just common physical space.

      Christian ethics encompass Just War doctrine and radical pacifism. The debate is robust about whether a Christian may use deadly force to protect even his life or the life of others.

      Your facile regurgitation of scripture is inapt.

      1. That might explain why the Bible is the most stolen book.

      2. Jesus spoke to a liturgical community–that is, a community that shared values and faith.

        I don’t understand this. Is it even accurate to speak of Jesus’ audience at the time being “Christians?” Wouldn’t it have been made up of Jews of varying opinions, some Romans, other people who lived in the area and held different beliefs?

        By definition, you don’t share beliefs with those you are trying to win over.

        1. Jesus spoke to the Jews. They were his community, and he spoke in the context of Jewish law and to people who saw themselves as bound by the law. He was not trying to win people over in the sense of changing faith traditions. He was challenging their understanding of the law and what it means to fulfill the law. He made outrageous statements in that context.
          After his death and resurrection, his followers (Jews) changed their faith behavior in response to their experience with him and the Easter event. They didn’t think of themselves as starting a new faith tradition. The inclusion of gentiles hastened the perception of a new faith tradition developing. There was quite a bit of back and forth about that, it seems. (Read between the lines in Paul’s letters and Acts.) In the early days, the Jewish portion of the community tried to incorporate Jewish dietary laws and circumcision into the developing doctrine. Paul resisted this on Christological grounds and soteriological ground.
          What you are pointing to is that is was an organic, gradual development.
          The Christian debate over pacifism goes back to Jesus’ words (and Paul’s).

          1. He was not trying to win people over in the sense of changing faith traditions. He was challenging their understanding of the law and what it means to fulfill the law. He made outrageous statements in that context.

            Well, maybe he wasn’t challenging monotheism, but he was certainly, by your description, trying to “win people over” to his perhaps radical interpretation of the law.

            As for Paul, I hope it’s not too cynical of me to suggest that telling potential converts that circumcision and dietary laws could be ignored helped his recruiting efforts.

        2. I find the process fascinating. A teacher/leader in a faith interprets the faith’s tenets in a new way. He says some things that are not controversial. He says some things that are outrageous and seen as blasphemous. Adherents of that tradition divide, as people will, and argue. Nothing really new about that.
          The leader/teacher is executed (nothing new about that, I suppose). Then, his followers experience an event they cannot explain and begin to review his words and actions in a new way. Slowly a new faith tradition is formed. What in retrospect seems like a clear process at the time must have been ambiguous and fractal. People asking themselves what the heck is going on. What do we believe? What do we do? What does this mean?
          It is easy for non-believers to mock people of faith. But faith questions are integral to human development and flourishing.

      3. “Jesus spoke to a liturgical community–that is, a community that shared values and faith.”

        No he didn’t.

        1. Well, yes he did. He spoke to his fellow Jews. He didn’t speak to the gentiles. He spoke in the temple and he spoke as a rabbi. He and his audience shared the Law and a faith tradition. So, yes, actually, it was a liturgical community.

          1. There are many instances in the New Testament where directives are given specifically concerning the behavior of Christians toward other Christians. Look for the phrase “one another.”

            This isn’t one of those. On the contrary it applies to “whosoever,” and then later, to your enemies.

            1. This nesting is annoying. I don’t think you can make a blanket statement about this passage. He refers to being sued at law. That wasn’t gentile court. That was in the context of Jewish law. And he wasn’t speaking to people who regularly were interacting in a legal way with anyone other than their own community.

              No Christian would say that we are only called to behave in a Christian way toward other Christians. And we have to remember that within a faith community, there are mutual obligations. If each of is called to turn the other cheek, we are equally called not to slap one another in the first place.

              This does lead to a healthy and vociferous discussion of pacifism and the individual Christian’s obligations toward others. My ethics prof in div school was Stanley Hauerwas. He was one of the thought leaders, so to speak, about our duty always to be pacifists, even in the face of great evil such as the Holocaust. I think reasonable people can disagree here; it was very hard for the class to swallow that we should let genocide occur.

              At any rate, my point to Martinned is that these are complicated questions not easily answered by facile quotes of scripture out of context.

              1. 1. I have no idea what religion if any Martinned practices. How do you know s/he’s “non-Christian?”

                2. Even assuming s/he’s “non-Christian,” is it your contention s/he’s saying anything that hasn’t been said countless times by countless incontrovertible Christians?

              2. I agree that Martinned’s comment is facile. It’s a very common and tired type of statement on the internet.

    7. Nice passage. Do you believe in this, Martinned?

    8. And if you take that literally, you’re a moron.

    9. Great point Martinned, and as a libertarian I support the freedom of people to turn the other cheek, and even agree that it’s an effective way to stop future injustices by getting bullies to stop their ways and become enlightened to more honorable and rewarding ways of living.

      But I don’t see what it has to do with government and law, or that we should use government to force people to turn the other cheek. Even the quote recognizes a “suit at law” outside of the advice given, and maybe even suggesting if you lose a lawsuit because you were wrong maybe you owe even more.

  2. The single best deterent against committing crime is the fear of immediate retribution. The fear of getting shot is one of the best crime prevention methods.

    1. If you ignore all the dead people, it sure is!

      1. So, what do you Sarcastro, if someone breaks into your house and starts taking all your stuff?

        1. If I think I can take them, I’d stop them.

          If not, I’d call the police.

          I don;t think it’s a weird thing to say that I’m not going to kill someone over my iPad.

          1. And how do you stop them?

            1. He tolerates them into submission.

            2. …Do you think I’m against force? I’m against killing; there’s quite a separation between those two things.

              1. So you would use physical force to stop and hold them for, say stealing your ipad from your home?

                1. Sounds a lot like kiddnapping. Just saying. /Sarc/

                  1. It’s OK… Sarcy decided that he couldn’t really defend himself here.

          2. The problem is if someone breaks into your house you have no way of knowing they just want to take your iPad and leave. What if they want to kill your dog? What if they want to rape your wife or daughter? What if they want to set fire to your house with you in it? What if they want to kill you just so you can’t ID them as the one who stole your iPad?

            I agree you should not be willing to kill over property, but I have no guarantee the person entering my home holds those same beliefs. Too many people end up dead just for being home when someone decides to rob them

            1. This is the point I was trying to make. These intellectual exercises about defense of “property” fail to take into account that practically speaking, most potential defenses of property also involve potential defenses of person and life.

              Maybe I’ve just seen too many videos in the last few days of persons attempting to defend their property using non-lethal means, and instead getting savagely beaten for their troubles.

            2. What if they want to kill your dog?

              Then they’re probably a cop, and while they would deserve to be shot, I wouldn’t advise it. They have a slightly lower tolerance for that than they do for their own killing of black people.

              1. They have a slightly lower tolerance for that than they do for their own killing of black people.

                “Hand up, don’t shoot!” Right?

            3. Kevin,
              I think your point is why burglary is single out as allowing for deadly force far more generally than other types of theft. Someone breaking and entering in the night is certainly provoking a fear response that quite plausibly include fear of great bodily harm.

              1. I agree.

                All these scenarios assume that the victim is home when the theft/break-in occurs, which automatically creates a risk of physical harm. IOW, the arguments aren’t about theft at all, but about facing personal danger, which is a different matter entirely.

                But what if there is no such threat? What if you arrive home to see, for example, someone making off with your TV? Shoot them? Call the police?

                IMO killing someone to save your TV is abominable. No doubt Brett and others differ.

          3. “If I think I can take them, I’d stop them.

            If not, I’d call the police.”

            And if the police don’t come?

            …because they never will in time.

          4. The biggest problem with your logic, provided you are simply willing to let others take what belongs to you, is that the criminal perpetrator may well think you represent a threat to his taking your ipad regardless of whether you actually do. He may also simply not want a witness to the theft of your ipad and decide to eliminate you so you cannot act in that capacity. Your hesitation to act may well allow him the time he needs to affect your elimination.

          5. I’d call the police

            Hired violence is still violence.

          6. If I think I can take them, I’d stop them.

            If not, I’d call the police.

            To what end would you call the police…I mean, other than giving the thief a motive to kill you?

        2. So, what do you Sarcastro, if someone breaks into your house and starts taking all your stuff?

          ‘Remember the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge!’

          So sayeth the clingers, clutching their Bibles in front of churches that don’t want them around.

          1. Somehow I doubt Sarcastro would use that particular rallying cry.

      2. Since I am positive you are aware that the vast majority of successful defensive use of firearms does NOT result in a dead body, I’m under-impressed.

        Further, if there’s a choice to be made between a dead body of an “innocent” (like residents in a home) and a dead body of an aggressor (like armed home invader, rapist, etc.), would you not admit that one result is preferable to the other?

        1. Susan, have you trained to use a gun? Because part of the training is that you don’t point a gun at someone you don’t plan to kill. A gun is deadly force, regardless of the outcome.

          And the law agrees.

          The choice you offer is a false one.

          1. I think her point is that use of deadly force does not always result in death, and the threat of deadly force even less so

          2. You’re wrong about that. The training adage is to “never point your firearm at anything you’re not willing to destroy,” not that you “plan to destroy”. Countless guns are pointed at things that are never shot, because situations are fluid.

            The point of the adage, though, is two fold. First, don’t point at anything that could ever accidentally be shot that you wouldn’t ever want shot (your leg, your TV, etc.) and second, don’t pull your gun out unless you are mentally capable of using it at what you point it at.

          3. Do not point at, or even display a deadly weapon to, someone you are not PREPARED to kill. If they move for you, you must shoot without hesitation, or they’ll likely take the weapon and shoot you without hesitation.

            But if they submit or run, then no need to shoot. That happens most often, which is Susan’s point.

          4. Wrong. In a defensive situation you do not point a gun at someone you are not WILLING to kill. Whether you actually pull the trigger may well depend entirely on the reaction of the person who the gun is pointed at. Guns project an obvious and clear threat of force as well as force itself. If the threat of force against a criminal perpetrator is adequate to terminate the threat said perpetrator poses, there is no reason to use the actual force and in fact doing so would probably no longer be justified.

          5. Because part of the training is that you don’t point a gun at someone you don’t plan to kill.

            You’ve been involved in numerous discussions throughout the years where this false claim has been corrected, and you have no doubt been corrected when making it yourself…which makes this just one more in a loooooooong list of examples of your pathological dishonesty.

      3. In many cases, no great loss.

        1. This kid of blithe dehumanization is present so often these days on the right.

          1. We must have picked it up from the communists. Omelets/eggs, single death/large numbers and statistics, you know.

          2. Simply the realization that on net many people, particularly criminal perpetrators, do more harm than good to society at large. Thus their elimination may well on net be a positive.

          3. And yet the left is responsible for the vast majority of the bodies.

            Democrat-majority cities, run by Democrat mayors, Democrat attorneys general, Democrat city councils, (and often Democrat governors and state legislatures) with police unions who support Democrat politicians have the highest rates of crime and police brutality.

            I have little sympathy for the chickens coming home to roost. I can only hope that the people start to see that their votes matter.

      4. that they become dead is not necessarily a bug

      5. All human life is not equally valuable. Dead burglars are hardly a large loss.

    2. “The single best deterent against committing crime is the fear of immediate retribution. The fear of getting shot is one of the best crime prevention methods.”

      Is that a roundabout way of advocating that someone should have shot Derek Chauvin before he could complete the crime of murdering Mr. Floyd?

      (You might have identified the one angle from which one might solicit sympathy for Mr. Floyd from a white, male, gun-happy, right-wing blog.)

      1. Attempting to instill the fear of immediate retribution on police engaging in brutality against the black community is literally the reason the Black Panthers were founded

      2. It would have worked, but it would have ended poorly for whoever did it.

        1. It may have worked, if the rest of the business of the Black Pathers wasn’t rape, robbery, defrauding the government of welfare dollars, and the Oakland drug trade.

          Bobby Seale on the destruction of the Black Panthers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz1YPBazJzA

          1. Mad,
            I think Petti was referred to the immediate incident (ie, unrelated to the Black Panthers). I think Petti was saying was that, if someone had been heroic enough to shoot the officer who was slowly murdering Floyd, it would have (1) hopefully saved Floyd’s life, and (2) definitely and quickly resulted in that hero being shot 27 times by other police who would certainly have sprung into action to protect that thin blue line.

            1. Indeed, I believe that you are correct.

      3. I am absolutely sure that if I had been there and seen what Chauvin was doing to Floyd, I would have run as fast as I could and thrown a cross body block on him. No doubt in my mind about it.

        It was an execution, and I suspect Chauvin knew of Floyd’s criminal record and intended to harm him without due process.

      4. Is that a roundabout way of advocating that someone should have shot Derek Chauvin before he could complete the crime of murdering Mr. Floyd?

        I dunno. Maybe it is.
        Physical retaliation against the police and their property is far more justifiable than torching an Arby’s.

  3. In a civilized society, “Is a TV set really worth a man’s life.” is a question we want thieves to be worrying about, not owners of TV sets. The thieves’ fear for their own lives is part of what makes the society civilized.

    1. Nice the way Brett just kinda discards the life of the thief in his logic.

      What is it with this blog and a thirst for the death of others?

      1. Brett is minding his own business, allowing the world around him almost unlimited freedom to live their life their way. The ‘thief’ is the one showing up to place himself at risk. Not Brett.

        1. You are taking away Brett’s agency to absolve him of responsibility in killing someone.

          Brett’s the one escalating a threat to property into a threat to life.

          As noted above, the law pretty universally discards that notion.

          1. If somebody breaks into my house when I’m home, they’ve already escalated to a threat to life. And, as noted above, the law is quite open to that position.

            1. This is different than killing them over property. Think of an example where you come home from work, pulling into your driveway, and see the fellow in your house through the front window. Is it right to rush in and shoot him?

              1. Yes. Perhaps his family are home, hiding in a closet.

                Assume he has no family and calls the cops. What do they do, leave their guns behind?

                Nope, they threaten the burglar with death. Now you tell me, where do they, as third parties, get that moral authority to threaten death? Delegated from Brett, as a member of the public, and as the home owner who called them. But we cannot delegate what we do not have. Therefore those cops can only threaten death if Brett also could threaten death.

                1. Do you think the cops should shoot the guy in Brett’s house if he’s unarmed and doesn’t threaten them?

                2. Bingo! It used to be a standard principle of policing that the police were only doing full time what the public were themselves entitled to do.

                  The moment that changed was when we went from citizens to subjects.

                3. Look at you spinning of specific scenarios to justify Brett’s general statement.

                  Should tell you something about what you’re defending, eh?

          2. As noted above, no, not “pretty universally”.

            1. in nearly all states, you can’t generally use deadly force merely to defend your property. (Texas appears to be an exception…

              So 49 out of 50. Pretty universally.

              1. Except for all the other illustrations you conviently left out because they contradict you.

                1. The Castle Doctrine is about life, not property.

                  1. The other other examples. You can’t keep leaving them out forever. They still exist, your pretend ignorance notwithstanding.

      2. No, I’m saying that the thief is devaluing the thief’s life. If they don’t value their own life, who am I to dispute that?

        As I remarked the other day, property IS life. People spend the finite hours and days of their lives acquiring it, it doesn’t just fall into their lives as they go about doing whatever they please. Who robs me of my property robs me of the time that went into obtaining it. Precious hours of my life that I will never have back.

        When you add up the man-hours destroyed by your average burglar, he’s a murderer several times over. The only reason you don’t recognize this is that he steals a few years here, a few years there, instead of a whole lifetime at once.

        He might as well be going around poisoning people, and taking years off their life expectancy.

        1. He might as well be going around poisoning people, and taking years off their life expectancy
          Would you make this exchange? Allow someone to poison you for your usual hourly rate? I suspect not.

          Your randian property is life philosophy is reductive, and not something America seems to subscribe to. Nor do it’s laws, so this is one philosophy you’ll have to keep to Internet message boards.

          The thief is not devaluing their life; you’re making an affirmative choice to kill. You don’t get to write yourself out of that equation.

          1. The thief gets a free pass on theft, on endangering himself and others, while the victim bears the entire burden for both parties being moral.

            1. Who says the thief gets a free pass? Are you the only arbiter of law and justice?

              1. Nope, but apparently you are.

                1. No, dude, I’m saying leave it to the law and justice people we hire for that.
                  You’re saying you yourself are the but for cause of the thief getting away.

                  See the difference?

                  A guilty person going free is not traditionally the worst outcome in American law, by the way.

                  1. “I’m saying leave it to the law and justice people we hire for that.”

                    Leaving it to the law and justice people sure worked out great for George Floyd, didn’t it?

        2. Thieves are slavers, in effect. Whether they hold a gun to my head and force me to work for them to steal the fruits of my labor, or whether they steal the fruits of my labor after the fact, makes no difference to the end result: they have forced me to work for them. They are slavers and deserve as much consideration.

          1. What about the guy who drives really slow in front of me when I need to get to work…He a slaver? He’s costing me money and time. Do I get to punch him?

            1. Is there a spare lane to pass, and is he pointing a gun at me to deter me from passing him? If there is no way to pass, then he hasn’t done anything to slow me down. If there is a way to pass, then I will pass.

              1. It’s a one lane road.

                Is he getting punched?

          2. Would you Brett’s proposed exchange? Allow someone to poison you for your usual hourly rate?

            If not, maybe you don’t really believe your dumb slavery point.

            1. I don’t think you are making much sense. Lots of words, but what does any of that have to do with what I said?

              1. Don’t dodge.

                If property is like life, then would you take some years off of your life in exchange for property?

                If theft is like slavery, would you sell yourself into slavery if the price was right?

                If not, your 9:44 am statement is BS to justify killing people.

                1. “If property is like life, then would you take some years off of your life in exchange for property?”

                  I not only would, I have – it’s called ‘working at a dangerous unpleasant job’ 🙂

                  The guys on fishing boats in the Gulf of Alaska aren’t on a pleasure cruise.

                  1. working at a dangerous unpleasant job’ is not slavery.

                    1. ?????

                      You asked “If property is like life, then would you take some years off of your life in exchange for property?”

                      People actually do that – in fact it is common.

                    2. To be fair to Sarcastr0, Absaroka, all you did was quote which of his inane questions you were responding to and then respond to it. That’s not nearly clear enough for someone with the challenges Sarcastr0 faces in life. How could he possibly be expected to know that you weren’t just trying to fake him out by quoting one question then answering the other?

        3. As I remarked the other day, property IS life.

          It was insane the other day, and it’s insane today.

          1. Please show your work.

            1. I did that in the other thread.

              Go look it up.

        4. “When you add up the man-hours destroyed by your average burglar, he’s a murderer several times over.”

          This is silly as a matter of math and disturbing as a matter of morality.

          Burglary and larceny are awful things, the people that do them deserve punishment. But people ‘lose’ stuff all the time, they still can do all the important things in life. To take a person’s life over that stuff is messed up.

          1. No, it’s quite accurate as a matter of math. Fences only return maybe 5-10% of the value of stolen property to the burglar, in order to make a living wage, a burglar has to cause hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial and property damage a year. Over their lives, they account for many average lifetimes’ earnings.

      3. I’m legit curious how many people here who are arguing for killing a thief have actually killed another human being. Is this abstraction and fantasy, or do they actually have experience with living with the repercussions (not legal, but psychological and moral) of taking a life. Plenty of soldiers are permanently haunted by killing someone who was actually tried to kill them, but, ho ho, some asshole tries to take my iPhone, I’m gonna blow that bastard’s skull apart, yuk yuk.

        1. Phony exercise. Our society is based on everyone following the rules. Voluntarily. Without 99% agreement to follow the societal rules, everyday life devolves into a daily battle for dominance over those I come into contact with. Think prison society. Truly survival of the fittest.
          You delegate your ability to kill those desiring to do us wrong to the armed police. You delegated you inalienable right to keep and bear arms to an organized police. You, through your delegation, have killed someone to protect property.

          “”We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” George Orwell.

          1. “Our society is based on everyone following the rules.”

            Time to start putting clingers in jail for violating anti-bigotry laws?

            1. Your trolling has become mindless and tiresome
              More than 99% voluntarily follow social mores against bigotry. If that were not factual, these minor burning and looting escapades would never reach this level of discourse.

              1. That you can’t see bigotry — or don’t care about it — doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

                If you believe that racists constitute fewer than one in one hundred Americans, your perception of racism must be extraordinary.

                Carry on, clinger.

                1. If only facts existed in your delusions.

                  1. What are you saying? Of course bigotry exists! All you need to do is read RAK’s posts to see it on proud display.

        2. I agree that it must be difficult to live with the fact you’ve killed someone, and I have serious doubts about my ability to use deadly in the moment, even in a situation in which even Sarcastro would agree it would be appropriate.

          But those recognitions do not change the dispassionate analysis of when use of deadly force is justifiable. Such analysis must be done in the aggregate, and must abstract away individual human frailties like those mentioned above.

          1. Perhaps part of the ‘difficulty’ is a realization of the enormity of the stakes, and that’s an indicator of which way the scales should be tipped in the ‘dispassionate analysis?’

            “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”

      4. I think people are using shortcuts, not advocating wanton killing. If I am home (an older, single woman), and someone breaks into my home, how am I to determine if he would be happy if I just handed him my iPad? Maybe he also wants my laptop, jewelry, and TV. How do I know he doesn’t want to punch me in the face first so that he can more easily take my iPad?
        Well, I have data in the form of knowledge of past history. Home invasions where homeowners were beaten and shot in addition to theft. Not many where homeowners were just left alone.
        Ergo, I am going to use deadly force to protect myself on the reasonable assumption that otherwise, I will likely be harmed.

        1. Like others here, you are equating theft with a threat of personal violence. It is perfectly acceptable, IMO, to defend yourself against such threats.

          But the issue under discussion involves purely defense of property. Conflating the two really suggests that you don’t think killing is acceptable in response to what is purely a property crime.

          Let’s say you go to the parking lot to get your car only to see a car thief driving off in it. Would you consider it justified to shoot, quite possibly killing the thief?

          1. It’s hard to separate theft of property from threat of personal violence in any realistic scenario where you would have the capability of responding with deadly force (or not), because for the latter to be possible, both the thief and yourself must be present in the same place. For you to inflict violence on the thief, the thief must also be potentially able to inflict violence on you.

            In your highly artificial scenario where a thief is already driving off in your car, and you just happen to be arriving as they’re leaving. (1) Do you have a weapon on you? (2) That you can draw in time to use it reasonably? If both 1 and 2 are true, then the thief also has a weapon (your car), and can potentially use it against you.

            If he’s already driving off away from you down the road, #2 is definitely not true, even if #1 is. Handguns have short effective ranges and it would be grossly negligible if not wantonly indifferent to bystanders to fire it at the quickly receding thief. Irrespective of whether it’s moral to use deadly force in such an instance, of course you don’t fire at someone far away from you who is running away, because you are unlikely to hit, and can’t anticipate who or what is ‘behind’ your target that could get hit instead. That likely collateral damage is sufficient to render any such deployment of force immoral.

            (Also, generally speaking, people fleeing away from you are not a threat to you. You’re arguing against a strawman that no one, and certainly not LadyTheo, is arguing.)

      5. [yawn] When a criminal perpetrator unlawfully enters a residence or business, nobody knows his intentions, further his intentions may well change when someone is in a position to interfere with his original goal of stealing something. Therefore it is prudent and logical to simply presume that any perpetrator willing to unlawfully enter poses a threat to person and act accordingly. Further said criminal perpetrator and his or her actions are the sole reason a conflict arises and thus the perpetrator should bear all the consequences of that conflict. Laws should be crafted with the above in mind. If born victims, who spend their time agonizing over potential harm to those who intentionally victimize others, wish to allow themselves to be victimized by criminals at will they are free to disregard the above but others should not be required to.

      6. Nice the way Brett just kinda discards the life of the thief in his logic.

        It wasn’t a very valuable life.

      7. Nice the way Brett just kinda discards the life of the thief in his logic.

        Well, the thief certainly didn’t put much value on it. And given your “don’t point a gun at someone you don’t plan to kill” slip we may be looking at a classic case of projection here.

  4. Better tried by 12 than carried by 6. I’ll take my chances and blow away the looter.

    1. You don’t trust your threat assessment ability?

      An unarmed looter seems hard to rationalize as a deadly threat, most of the time.

      1. “Most”. Nice of you to finally admit the thief has created a risk.

        1. EVERYTHING creates risk, alpha.

          1. Except when you deny that burglars create risk for themselves and others.

            1. Merely creating risk is not a crime worth death, without a lot more information.

              1. Great idea. Invite the home invader for a spot of tea and jam, and discuss his motivations and intentions while he’s invading your home. Potentially get lots of good info and intel that way.

              2. Merely creating risk is not a crime worth death, without a lot more information.

                If you’re ever confronted by an “unarmed” (which you have no way of knowing, btw, unless he’s naked) thief who has invaded your home you should definitely wait until he either produces a hidden weapon, or starts bludgeoning you to death with some heavy nick-nack (or just his feet/fists) before you consider him a threat worthy of producing your own weapon to be used in self-defense.

      2. More people are murdered by fists and clubs, than guns.
        You’re going to have to recalibrate your use of the term ‘armed’

        1. “More people are murdered by fists and clubs, than guns.”

          The FBI disagrees. Your statement is true for rifles, but not guns in general.

          1. Iowantwo: Absaroka is right on this.

            1. I stand corrected Point stands. A thief not carrying a gun, does not nullify threat to life.

      3. Well Sarcastr0, I guess my threat assessment works like this…

        I have an uninvited intruder who has broken into my home for reasons unknown. But I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that s/he didn’t break in to my home in order to ask me for a piece of my awesome lokshen noodle kugel. Aforementioned intruder gets one shouted warning to leave the premises immediately or be shot.

        If they leave voluntarily, well alright then.

        If they do not leave voluntarily, they will involuntarily leave head first or feet first; macht nicht. And I will have nightmares for life.

        It is not ‘just property damage’ Sarcastr0. Those things that I spent a lifetime acquiring are the tangible expression of my time and labor. That means something. And no rioter or looter will take from me what I have earned; not without fierce and deadly resistance.

      4. How do I know he is unarmed? And unarmed does not mean harmless. If he weighs 195 lbs, and I weigh 108, then his body is a deadly weapon.
        I guess this requires a nuanced analysis, and this discussion is not that.

        1. It requires a mature, thoughtful group and not everyone present here meets those qualifications.

      5. Why take a chance? Most deadly force laws draw no distinction whatsoever between an armed and an unarmed perpetrator. Further in case you haven’t turned on a TV in the last week, the plural “looters” tends to be applicable far more often than the singular, and in plural they tend to form a violent mob. In my state as soon as one unlawfully and forcibly enters or attempts to unlawfully and forcibly enter, a home, workplace, vehicle or conveyance, it is presumed that the lawful occupant thereof is placed in reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm and thus has the right to use deadly force. Which brings me right back to my original question? Why take a chance?

        Criminals would be well advised to learn the deadly force and other laws of the jurisdiction where they plan to commit their crimes, fully understand and appreciate the risks that their criminal activities pose and act accordingly. If they do not care enough about their own lives and safety to do this it is not up to their victims to make up the deficit on their behalf.

  5. Private property rights is a cornerstone of our government structure. I agree with others here. Placing a value on human life MUST go both ways.
    Much like respect, valuing human life is reciprocal.

  6. Birdshot at the feet slows the intruder. In the pocket is the 00buck, should the intruder come with a petrol bomb.

    1. Judges have ruled such warning shots are attempted murder. You are forced to defend yourself exactly the same as if you used your weapon exactly the way it is meant to be used. Killing. Police,(those person you have hired to kill in your name) shot to kill for a reason.

      1. No, they shoot to STOP, which inherently becomes to kill.

    2. Legally and tactically a very bad idea. Legally if you have the luxury of firing warning shots at people’s feet you are not in any imminent danger and thus are not justified in firing a weapon, which is potentially lethal force, in the first place.

      Tactically this gives your assailant time to respond with their own weapon or simply over run you and beat you to death, and in this event it is very unlikely you will be able to load anything from your pocket in time to effectively respond. Fire center mass or do not fire at all.

    3. Birdshot at the feet slows the intruder. In the pocket is the 00buck, should the intruder come with a petrol bomb.

      Uh…..no.

  7. So, just to be clear, since this blog is all about religious freedom and defense of property …

    When a tyrannical and authoritarian ruler invades a church and forcibly evicts peaceful people using force, it should be completely appropriate for the people at the church to defense their religious freedom and property by killing that tyrannical ruler?

    Is that what I am to understand?

    Just checking for a friend.

    1. Yes. There are practical considerations too. But your friend was just asking about the root moral considerations, yes?

      1. This is a libertarian website. The type of place where people would rather let an asteroid destroy the earth than sacrifice any property rights.

        Since when did “practical considerations” ever come into the conversation?

        1. You don’t understand libterianism at all if you think that is an apt remark.

          1. No one who believes the Volokh Conspiracy devotes anything more than lip service to libertarianism (Prof. Somin excepted) understands libertarianism.

            1. Words mean just what I mean and not what anyone else means.

          2. “You don’t understand libterianism at all if you think that is an apt remark.”

            You haven’t read this website for very long if you can’t understand the point I made.

            Or, you know, you’re just dumb. Pick your poison.

            1. “False premise” is not a synonym for “point”.

    2. Agreed. But Communist China keeps all its people designed, for good reason.

    3. Absolutely.

      The obligation to defend our rights should not be outsourced to the same government that seeks to obstruct those rights.

  8. Deadly force is justified to prevent an imminent act of arson.

    1. Not as such — if you seem someone burning your unoccupied barn on your property, in most states you wouldn’t be able to immediately use deadly force (though it might escalate to that in some of the situations outlined in the post).

      1. Florida specifically defines “arson” as a forcible felony that would justify the use of deadly force. This makes sense to me, in that the danger created by burning an unoccupied building (to firefighters that have to try to save that building and other forests or structures or people in the vicinity threatened by the fire) certainly does create a risk of death or great bodily harm.

        1. Yes it does. This is true even of 2nd degree arson so the unlawful burning or attempted burning of any structure whether occupied or even in use or not will justify deadly force. A whole slew of other “forcible felonies” will as well. If one is committing any serious crimes in Florida there is an excellent chance one is justifying deadly force against oneself.

          http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0776/0776.html

  9. As a potential victim, you simply need to ask the perp for a reasonable amount of time in which to draw a Venn Diagram of your options.

  10. Seems to me one reason for those presumptions is that many people (myself included) will very rarely be in a position to defend JUST property. If someone smashes my windows and tries to get into my house, my iPad is the least of my concerns. I would likely be severely traumatized by killing another human, but I’m guessing less traumatized than standing by watching a thief harm one of my children because I shrugged my shoulders and said, hey, it’s only property. But hey, everyone needs to make that calculation for themselves.

    1. The Castle Doctrine is part of self-defense, not property defense.

      1. Sarcastr0: You are right that the doctrine that there is no duty to retreat from the home before using lethal self-defense — even in the minority of states that generally recognize a duty to retreat — relates to defense of self.

        But I think Linus’s point is different: It’s that people can reasonably fear that people who are breaking into their homes will inflict death or serious bodily injury on people as well. And that doctrine is indeed recognized by the law in some states, see 3.B, and I expect the underlying principle will play out the same way even in many states that lack such a formal presumption.

        1. We are in accord on this one, Prof. Volokh.

          My point is that this threat to life seems to be the philosophy behind the Castle Doctrine, not some ability to kill to defend property.

          But to take a deadly defense of property, and always mix it with some threat to life, becomes an exception that swallows the rule.

          1. I spend a good amount of time on private property here in rural America. The owners are aware of my potential arrival, although, too often they have forgotten. Todays farmers have shops that get well into $six figures. While doors are closed, and usually unlocked, I never open the door and go inside, on the pretense of searching out the object of my appointment. Why? Because these citizens also have extensive firepower, and I know they defend their privacy jealously. If I want to keep my good name and reputation, at the least, and my life at the most, I respect privacy.

            That others don’t is their problem for them to work out with the owner.

          2. “But to take a deadly defense of property, and always mix it with some threat to life, becomes an exception that swallows the rule.”

            Unless you have a crystal ball that discerns criminal intent this is unavoidable. Even if you did, intent can change in a second. An intruder who’s original intent was to steal property may well intentionally harm any occupant who interferes with his original goal. Best for the law to simply assume the worst intent on the part of an intruder and thereby place maximum responsibility on the criminal perpetrator who’s actions create the entire conflict in the first place.

      2. You cannot effectively separate the two things in most situations. There is no way to accurately discern an intruder’s true intent in the vast majority of situations and even if there were, that intent can change in an instant. An intruder who’s intent is initially simply to steal property may well change his intent to harming or killing anyone who interferes with his original goal upon discovering his target dwelling is occupied. Thus a well written castle law simply presumes reasonable fear of imminent death or great/grave bodily harm on the part of any lawful occupant in any instance of unlawful entry, or at a bare minimum, unlawful forcible entry, thereby placing maximum responsibility for everything that happens as a result of an unprovoked criminal act where it belongs: On the perpetrator of said act. Afterall if not for the actions of the perpetrator, there would be no conflict in the first place.

    2. But hey, everyone needs to make that calculation for themselves.

      Many desire to strip away that basic human right.

  11. There is what the law says and then political reality.
    Listening to the racist Boston (Suffolk County) DA, I am reminded of Wolfe’s _Bonfire of the Vanities._

  12. Sarcastr0
    June.2.2020 at 9:20 am
    You are taking away Brett’s agency to absolve him of responsibility in killing someone.

    Brett’s the one escalating a threat to property into a threat to life.

    As noted above, the law pretty universally discards that notion

    Does the trespasser message Brett that he only comes in peace to make off with his extra stuff, no bodily harm intended? A person has broken into his home. Now it is Bretts responsibility to do an accurate threat assessment? Facts on the ground all point to the lawbeaker ignoring laws. Bretts assessment is he is in personal danger of losing his life. You argue, with no facts, he is wrong.
    The maddening part? Police arriving on the scene could shoot to kill and prosecutorial immunity invented by the judiciary indemnifies the cop, but not Brett.

    1. In states like mine the criminal’s intentions mean nothing. Unlawful forcible entry into a home or business automatically invokes a presumption of reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm and justifies deadly force. This would absolutely apply to looters in both a residential AND a business setting. As soon as unlawful forcible entry is made or attempted they have justified deadly force. Under the law, their intentions are irrelevant.

  13. Many states, mine included, specifically allow for deadly force simply to prevent unlawful forcible entry into a home or workplace so long as the person using force is legally permitted to be there with only a few exceptions such as that the force may not be used against LEO or bail enforcement agent, none of which would apply to a looter. Further reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm is presumed simply based upon the act of illegal forcible entry or attempted unlawful forcible entry and the lawful user of the defensive force is immune from civil litigation. Looters may or may not intend only on damaging property, but in states with laws such as mine, it matters not. They justify deadly force and invoke a presumption that they intend to inflict death or great bodily harm simply by the act of illegally and forcibly entering or attempting to illegally or forcibly enter.

    Bottom line: Looters are taking their lives in their hands forcibly and illegally entering a home or even a business in many states including mine. If they are killed in a state like mine in the course of unlawfully forcing entry into a business, even in mass, legal recourse against the person who kills them is essentially non-existent. Killing 50 looters unlawfully entering would be no more legally actionable than killing one.

  14. Eugene Volokh has certainly started an interesting and provocative discussion with this blog post. But without really showing, as he tries to conclude, that the underlying principle of law is complex.

    Take for example the following assertion:

    “Some robbery of course does also create a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, but in these states such a fear is not required.”

    But in its very definition, a robbery requires the use of force or threat against the person of another. It will thus naturally create fear in an ordinary person. Even a purse snatching will startle a person of ordinary fortitude and make them fearful.

    That fear is not a formal element required to justify deadly force in response is best conceptualized as an evidentiary issue. In some states, we are not going to require a potential defendant asserting self-defense to prove that they had fear in such a situation. The purpose is to protect a potential defendant, who was just robbed, from any worry that they will face the harassment of criminal proceedings, rather than the belief that a cold-blooded killing in order to retrieve a stolen purse is justified.

    As a society, we see people who are robbed as victims whose personal safety has been put at risk. That we don’t require a robbery victim to prove what we assume to be generally true doesn’t mean that we don’t think that they have experience fear. It means we aren’t going to require them to prove that in their particular circumstance what we believe to be true generally. We are not going to make a robbery-victim worry about potential prosecution when they are forced to make the split-second decision to use deadly force in the heat of the moment when another has put their personal safety at risk.

    That the crime here is robbery and not mere shop-lifting illustrates the principle nicely. Eugene Volokh makes much of the fact that fear isn’t formally required in every jurisdiction. But what he fails to say is that no jurisdiction allows the use of deadly force to stop a shoplifting. If the underlying principle was that you could kill people who threatened your property rather than your life, then it would logically be open season on shoplifters as well.

    Eugene cites Texas law as an exception regarding the permissibility of using deadly force “merely to defend your property.” But it is no exception to this principle. The requirement that the incident occurs at night relates to fears of personal safety. After all, property does not suddenly become more valuable at night than it does in the day. However, night is more dangerous to your physical safety, since darkness conceals danger.

    The underlying principle of law is that you may not use deadly force to protect mere property. The word life is always first in the phrase “life, liberty, or property.” This is also illustrated in the criminal law by the fact that the death penalty is and always will be considered a more serious penalty than a fine, no matter how large. We are never going to require the same extraordinary due process protections for the state to deprive a person of property as we do their life.

    Quibbling nuance aside, the underlying principle is actually quite simple. Deadly force is limited to situations where either life or serious bodily harm are thought to be serious possibilities.

    1. What do you think of Antifa being labelled a Terrorist organization? Surely isn’t not against the law to shoot a terrorist, right? Terrorists threaten life and series bodily harm no matter what they happen to be doing at the time.

      1. AFAIK under federal law only foreign organizations are designated as terrorist organizations. Technically there is no such thing as a domestic terrorist or domestic terrorist organization recognized or defined in federal law or the CFR. Acts that would fall under the umbrella of domestic terrorism are criminalized by federal criminal codes against the acts themselves.

        1. So if you go out on the street to see what all the commotion is about, and someone walks toward you draped in black, with a black helmet and shield with the antifa symbol on it, and it makes you fearful, you can’t shoot them just because his/her appearance made you fearful?

          1. 1. What does your comment have to do with terrorist organizations?
            2. Who said anything that would support an affirmative answer to your question?

            The answer is probably “No”. You don’t specify a state where this hypothetical encounter occurrs but in general to use deadly force there must be fear of imminent death or great bodily harm, or in some states a belief that a given unlawful act is occurring and that force is required to prevent it, for example a forcible felony in Florida. The fear or belief in question must generally be reasonable and what you describe does not support such a REASONABLE fear or belief.

        2. No, this has been asserted, but isn’t actually true. The most that can be said is that the law distinguishes between foreign and domestic terrorism, not that it doesn’t recognize the latter.

          18 U.S. Code § 2331. Definitions

          1. The only reason I can think of to designate Antifa a terrorist organization is to justify a massacre, meant to frighten the rioters into staying home.

            1. Nothing as evil as massacre. Just benign surveillance. The govt needs warrants to survail US citizens, unless the state is running a counter intelligence investigation. The designation opens the door to all sorts of information gathering. Such as backward lookups into who individuals called, texted, messaged, or emailed, in thae last 6 months. Some politicians will scream bloody murder, claim 4th amendment rights, but the Trump campaign proves that ship has sailed. If you can survail a political campaign, and lots of people say you can, looking into looters seems pretty small beer.

            2. ANTIFA actions logically fits the formal definition of terrorism in that it uses violent means for political ends. The violent means need not necessarily include murder, destruction of targets with explosives or other typical terrorist tactics to fit the definition of terrorism. Simply using violence in furtherence of political goals is sufficient. That said that doesn’t mean there is any basis in US law to designate them as a terrorist organization and in so far as I know there is no definition of a “Domestic Terrorist Organization” or any synonym thereof in US federal code. Absent such a definition they probably cannot be classified as such an organization with any force of law behind the classification.

          2. Nothing in that code indicates that federal law recognizes any definition of a domestic terrorist organization or provides a legal basis for designating a group as such. That wouldn’t necessarily stop a federal agency from designating a group as a domestic terrorist organization under it’s own internal policies but the designation wouldn’t carry the force of federal law. One might be able to use the fact that a federal agency had designated, for lack of a better word, a specific domestic group such as ANTIFA as a domestic terror organization, group, or synonym thereof, to sway a jury trying them for a violent act against said group, it’s members or a member, but no force of law would be behind the argument. For that matter I don’t know that there is really any force of law behind the killing of a member of a foreign terrorist organization by an American civilian absent another justification. For example, if, before his demise at the hands of the US military, Osama Bin Laden had been spotted and positively identified by US citizen Joe Blow on the streets of Gotham, does Joe Blow have a legally recognized right under US federal law or the CFR to shoot him in the back of the head for no other reason than that he is a member of a foreign terrorist organization? I doubt it.

      2. Surely isn’t not against the law to shoot a terrorist, right? Terrorists threaten life and series bodily harm

        This library you work in…is it the sort of library that contains actual books?

  15. FWIW Florida Statutes 776.08 imcludes burglary and arson as forcible felonies, FS 776.013 permits deadly force to prevent imminent commission of forcible felony. So to the extent that arson and burglary are property crimes, use of deadly force. Is permitted.

    1. Yes, 776.012(2) and other relevant statutes such as what you cited makes being a criminal in Florida a very dangerous occupation. The list of criminal acts that justify deadly force against one is long and not especially obvious to one who hasn’t read the statutes.

      http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0776/0776.html

  16. This is a good and useful article, correctly showing the necessary step of personal confrontation to protect property and how that can then escalate into deadly force to protect the person.

    For those attempting to make the argument that it is somehow immoral to protect property with deadly force, you must also do the following to be morally consistent, i.e. not a hypocrite.

    1) Do not call the police during or after the commission of the crime. The police carry guns, and if they come into confrontation with the robbers, it may end with bloodshed. To be morally consistent, you don’t want your property to be recovered with bloodshed.

    2) Do not file an insurance claim on the property that you lost, no matter how large, even your house. Most insurance companies have claims investigators who will refer actionable information to police for criminal prosecution. That may end with bloodshed (see 1 above).

    So before you sneer at others (usually people of modest means) protecting their property with deadly force, make sure that you have morally reconciled yourself to these two rules, and that you will suck it up and bear the loss.

  17. I think it is telling that in these forums people have advocated and justified street justice of all kinds. It sounds cool and edgy when you say things like “throw the cop in the general population and see what happens…” Just want to remind those who think this is OK to think very hard about what might be coming…

    1. I’m unsure of what point you are trying to establish. “throw the cop in general population” (incarceration) sounds like a very savage take on justice.
      But that is what lots of commenters here are requiring of me. To cede my rights of safety from thugs by turning the other cheek. Do not use deadly force for safety. Riots are survival of the fittest. Rioters have suspended societal rules. Can I defend my property against persons that have tossed aside any acceptance of personal property rights? Or have those rioters refusal to accept the rules of society open themselves up to the use of deadly force? My choices as a law abiding member of society surely outweigh the rioters that have chosen to break all the rules, and abuse all persons rights to freedom and property.

      1. “I’m unsure of what point you are trying to establish. “throw the cop in general population” (incarceration) sounds like a very savage take on justice.”

        It’s a complicated question in terms of equal protection under the law. Few would argue that many people each year are thrown into general prison populations when they are woefully unprepared to deal with the routine level of violence found therein. Is the added danger to a duly convicted police officer when balanced against said officers usually substantial physical experience and training in doing violence to others, ostensibly to protect themselves, really sufficient to warrant special treatment?

    2. Reeducation camps for white people. Each one with a Starbucks.

  18. “In all states, you can use deadly force to defend yourself against …rape…”

    Nowadays it’s hard to tell, but hopefully this applies to rape-rape and not, say, to a third party defending a seventeen year old from her twenty-one-year old boyfriend, or to someone who is consenting but has been drinking so you believe her consent doesn’t count, or to a situation where the man has told a woman that it’s his birthday.

    1. Definitive discussion of these things without dealing with the laws of a specific state is almost impossible, but absent a provision in the law that would specifically apply to other than a violent forcible rape probably not. The triggering factor for justifiable use of deadly force more often than not is reasonable fear of imminent death or great/grave/serious or some synonym thereof, bodily harm of either oneself or in some cases another person. Before somebody jumps in with one of numerous exceptions like Florida’s “forcible felony” provisions, I said more often than not, and acknowledge there are likely a significant number of exceptions.

  19. I work for a company with a retail presence. The lawyers mandate that if someone wants to steal something, no one is allowed to interfere. The thieves know this, and regularly walk in and start stealing merchandise, and will have a conversation with the store employees while they do it. Of course, they’re always gone by the time police arrive. It’s unbelievably frustrating.

  20. This is all moot if the left is successful in defunding the police. No one will enforce the law so you can shoot rioters and looters at will, if they haven’t taken your guns.

  21. Great information about our laws – thanks!

    While libertarians usually talk about limits on what government can do to us, it’s good to know the extent to which we can defend ourselves from criminals. It’s good to see, we can defend our property in addition to our persons. The libertarian principle of not initiating force against people or property, doesn’t really address how to deal with those who do. But at least it’s a morally superior position to the socialists who advocate for government initiating force against people and taking their stuff to redistribute.

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  22. Gotta love how the municipal terrorists, that work for us & stand under us in the hierarchy of things, believe they have some divine right to tell me what I can & can’t do on my private property.
    They can’t take their statutory codes and shove them.

    It’s like having a ten year old that you hired to mow your lawn, tell you what you’re allowed to eat for dinner…

  23. So, for home defense, load your pump action shotgun with a round of rock salt, and then buckshot. If they don’t surrender or run away after the first round, and they try to come towards you, it’s clobbering time.

    -jcr

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