Since Mark Dayton vetoed the omnibus self-defense bill earlier this year you would think gun control advocates in Minnesota could stop lying about it. Sadly they have not. In fact a recent story, according to current reports, involving a man who shot two home invaders, dragged their bodies into his workshop, and shot the sole survivor in manner befitting of an executioner has fired this state’s gun control advocates up again:
It probably doesn’t seem that the Thanksgiving Day killings of two teens in Little Falls, Minnesota, shot by a deranged but heavily armed home owner, could be any more horrible. But consider this possibility: If a gun law passed early this year by the Minnesota Legislature had not been vetoed by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, the Little Falls killer would not be in jail.
Incredible, I know. But the “Stand Your Ground” bill — written by the National Rifle association, pushed by the Republican legislative majority and supported by many outstate DFLers — would probably mean that the 64-year-old man who shot the two teens in his basement, then left them there overnight because he didn’t want to disturb the cops on a national holiday, would be nearly immune to arrest or interrogation about the blood-curdling woundings-cum-executions he performed in his home.
One horrifying part of his story, as told to the authorities, led to murder charges: His clueless bragging about deliberately killing each of the teens, one by one, after they had been wounded. “The law doesn’t permit you to execute somebody after the threat is gone,” said the Morrison County Sheriff.
But it would have. If Dayton hadn’t vetoed the bill that was passed last spring.
Current state law allows a homeowner who fears for his life to use lethal force to defend himself. But it is up to a judge to determine whether that fear was “reasonable” or not. The bill passed last spring would have bypassed the judge and taken the shooter’s word as Gospel: “I was fearful, so I killed ‘em” would have been good enough.
In order to understand the legislation one has to actually read it, specifically the section that deals with what is commonly referred to as castle doctrine:
Subd. 2. Circumstances when authorized. (a) The use of deadly force by an individual is justified under this section when the act is undertaken:
(1) to resist or prevent the commission of a felony in the individual’s dwelling;
(2) to resist or prevent what the individual reasonably believes is an offense or attempted offense that imminently exposes the individual or another person to substantial bodily harm, great bodily harm, or death; or
(3) to resist or prevent what the individual reasonably believes is the commission or imminent commission of a forcible felony.
(b) The use of deadly force is not authorized under this section if the individual knows that the person against whom force is being used is a licensed peace officer from this state, another state, the United States, or any subordinate jurisdiction of the United States, who is acting lawfully.
Subd. 3. Degree of force; retreat. An individual taking defensive action pursuant to subdivision 2 may use all force and means, including deadly force, that the individual in good faith believes is required to succeed in defense. The individual may meet force with superior force when the individual’s objective is defensive; the individual is not required to retreat; and the individual may continue defensive actions against an assailant until the danger has ended.
Emphasis mine. Setting aside the fact that castle doctrine already had some judicial precedence in Minnesota the legislation in question very specifically stated that an individual could continue to use all force he or she believed in good faith to be necessary until the danger had ended.
The information being reported so far indicates that the surviving burglar was incapacitated when David Smith, the homeowner, placed a handgun under her chin and fired the rounds the ultimately killed her. Under the vetoed legislation this action would have been illegal as the threat had ceased when the burglars were incapacitated and therefore no longer a danger.
Another statement made in the article I find interesting is the following:
More than that, the law put handcuffs on the cops, requiring them to presume the shooter was innocent and prohibiting them from making an arrest unless — and only if — they found probable cause after an investigation. If that law had taken effect Aug. 1, as it would have without the veto, the Little Falls shooter would not have been taken into custody, would not have been interrogated and might well still be sitting in his house, cradling his Mini 14 in his lap while Minnesotans scratched their heads. True, a forensic investigation would eventually have produced evidence that the teenage victims had been shot multiple times, and at close range while lying on the basement floor. But there is no telling what would or wouldn’t have happened after that. If Byron David Smith was still puttering around the house, keeping his mouth shut, he might never have been arrested.
Emphasis mine. Before I continue I believe it’s important to look at the relevant subsection in the legislation under question:
Subd. 5. Criminal investigation; immunity from prosecution. (a) An individual who uses force, including deadly force, according to this section or as otherwise provided by law in defense of the individual, the individual’s dwelling, or another individual is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution for that act.
(b) A law enforcement agency may arrest an individual using force under circumstances described in this section only after considering any claims or circumstances supporting self-defense or lawful defense of another individual.
Subd. 6. Justifiable use of force; burden of proof. In a criminal trial, when there is any evidence of justifiable use of force under this section or section 609.06, the state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s actions were not justifiable.
An individual using force to defend their dwelling would only have been immune from criminal prosecution if their act fell under the castle doctrine section of the legislation. According to the Star Tribune story Smith admitted to police that he took actions that would not have been covered under the castle doctrine section of the legislation:
According to the complaint, Smith told police that he heard someone breaking into his house at noon on Thanksgiving. He showed police the window he says Brady and his cousin, Kifer, used to enter his house, which he said had been broken into several times before. Lange, his friend, said he kept his valuables downstairs.
Smith told police he armed himself with a rifle and a handgun and waited downstairs until he saw the first person’s feet, then legs, then hips.
He said he fired and the first victim, Brady, tumbled down the stairs. While Brady looked up at him, he shot him in the face, according to the complaint.
“I want him dead,” he told investigators.
He put Brady’s body on a tarp and dragged him into his basement workshop and sat back down in his chair.
Several minutes later, he heard more footsteps and saw Kifer coming down the stairs. He waited until he saw her hips, then fired. She also fell down the stairs, but then his rifle jammed and Kifer laughed.
That angered Smith. “If you’re trying to shoot someone and they laugh at you, you go again,” he told police.
He then pulled out the .22-caliber, nine-shot revolver that he was wearing, and fired “more shots than I needed to.” He dragged Kifer into the workshop, placed her next to Brady and noticed she was still gasping for air.
“Smith stated at this point he placed the handgun under the woman’s chin and shot her … up into the cranium … a good clean finishing shot.”
Smith admitted to firing more shots than he needed to and placing the handgun under the surviving burglar’s chin and delivering the killing blow… after he had dragged her into his workshop. Consider what Smith admitted to for a moment. He told police that he fired more shots than necessary, indicating he continued firing even after the target was no longer a perceived threat. Then he admitted to dragging the injured person into his workshop, indicating that he felt the target was incapacitated enough to handle and move. Finally he admitted to killed the surviving burglar after deeming her safe enough to handle and move. He admitted that he used more force than in good faith believed was necessary and continued using force even after the danger was gone. I believe it’s a stretch, to say the least, to imply Smith would have avoided arrest if HR 1467 hadn’t been vetoed by Dayton.
Now for the final nail in the coffin, the fact that Smith apparently wasn’t the one to call the police:
Sheriff Michel Wetzel said Monday that he believes the teenagers were committing a burglary but said Smith’s reaction went beyond legal protections of Minnesota law that allows crime victims to use reasonable force to protect themselves and their property during a felony.
And the law requires people to notify police, said Wetzel, who learned about the shooting from a neighbor the next day.
He asked a neighbor the next morning if he knew any lawyers, and that neighbor apparently called police.
HR 1467 made no exception to the requirement that individuals involved in defensive cases must contact police. Smith’s failure to contact police after the situation was over would probably be enough cause for his immediate arrest.
If there are any gun control advocates reading this post please let it be a lesson to always read any legislation you plan on using to make an argument for your cause.