…To Just Plain Inexcusable

The Minnesota Monitor – the region’s Soros-funded propaganda outlet – has been doing its best, it seems, to burnish its rep as a “news” outlet; hiring Steve “Mister Furious” Perry, getting its staff to write more like reporters and less like snot-nosed polemicists, the whole thing.  Is it too little, too late?  We’ll see…

But at the end of the day, the site shows the danger of being a bought-and-paid for propaganda outlet; when its masters want propaganda distributed, truth is the first casualty.

Andy Birkey’s not a bad guy; he’s a fine writer, and he’s written some good stuff. But he covers the gay beat; while he’s no worse at Second Amendment coverage than anyone else in the local Soros/Leftymedia, this piece, frankly, starts with a basis in complete ignorance, and moves into utter fabrication.

Birkey doesn’t get far.

A National Rifle Association-backed bill is likely to be heard in the House Public Safety Committee this week, possibly Thursday. Dubbed the “Stand Your Ground” bill, HF 498 would make it easier to kill someone in self-defense.

That’s just plain wrong.

Read the bill. And then read this piece I wrote last week, in which I sum up the law-abiding citizen’s burden under current law when claiming self-defense. I spelled out the rules:

In Minnesota, if you choose and need to defend yourself or your family with lethal force, you must meet all four of the following criteria:

  1. You can’t be a willing participant in the struggle: you can’t dive into a fist-fight and then shoot your way out of it.
  2. You must reasonably fear death or “great bodily harm”: That means “a jury’s gotta buy it”.  And “great bodily harm” has a legal meaning; it means you gotta get hurt very, very badly
  3. The force you use must be reasonable under the circumstances: If the police come to your house to find a body with no knife or gun, but clutching your TV, Tivo and monitor, you might have trouble with this one.
  4. And finally, You must make every reasonable means to de-escalate the confrontation: That means you must back away from the altercation. In the home, that means you have to try to back away. There are limits, of course; if you are in a wheelchair, you’re not expected to develop superhuman strength and agility; if it’s -40 outside and there’s a howling wind and you have an infant, no jury and few prosecutors would fault you for shooting; if you have kids sleeping upstairs and your abusive ex-spouse has come through the door with a chainsaw, backing away is a very relative thing.

The bill changes nothing about the citizen’s obligation to prove that self-defense with lethal force was justified. It merely tightens up a few of the technicalities.

Let’s summarize what’s in SF446, starting in Subdivision 2 (Subd. 1 is definitions, although they’re worth reading as well)

  • It clarifies the circumstances under which defending oneself (or someone else) with lethal force is authorized. It changes current law in that it allows self-defense when someone “Reasonably Believes” (i.e. – a jury will buy it) they could sustain “substantial” or “great” bodily harm (#2 in the criteria above). These are legal terms with real meanings; we’ll get to them below. (Subdivision 2)
  • Subdivision 3 says an individual “may stand the individual’s ground in any place where the individual has a legal right to be, and may use all force and means, including deadly force, that the individual believes is required to succeed in defense. The individual may meet force with superior force, so long as the individual’s objective is defense.” In other words, as long as you have an otherwise legitimate claim of self-defense, (you meet all four of the criteria above), you are not obligated to retreat from the fight (criterion 4, above)
  • Subdivision 4 states that a homeowner may legally presume that someone (unknown to thehomeowner!) who is breaking into their house or car can be presumed to be a potentially lethal threat.
  • Subdivision 5 essentially states that the provisions above can be part of a legal claim of self-defense.

And that’s it. It means that a homeowner doesn’t have to figure in his head “if that’s a razor blade, does that mean I only have a fear of “substantial” rather than “great” bodily harm?” (Zealous prosecutors have put otherwise law-abiding citizens in jail over that in the past). It means that a homeowner doesn’t have to parse a burglar, rapist or robber’s intent when they find them in their homes (a friend of mine spent years and tens of thousands of dollars defending himself against a zealous prosecutor for shooting a warning shot at a burglar. In his or her home).

The bill would replace existing statutes that justifies the taking of life in cases where bodily harm or death is eminent, [let’s cut Birkey some slack and assume he means “imminent” – Ed.] and create a broader set of circumstances for which “shooting first” is immune criminal prosecution.

Point of order: In self-defense situations, “shooting second” can be a really bad idea. I’m not sure who in the media came up with the “Shoot First Bill” meme, but it’s kinda a dumb one.

Introduced by State Sen. Pat Pariseau, R-Farmington, and Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and supported by a number of Republicans, the bill is opposed by members of law enforcement and isn’t likely to pass the DFL-controlled legislature.

Part of the concern over the bill is that it diminishes the duty to retreat — that the first line of defense is not to kill, but to get out of harm’s way if it is safe to do so.

This “concern” is purely potemkin theatrics. There is no “duty to retreat”; to claim self-defense, one must currently show a “reasonable” attempt to de-escalate the conflict. Of course, “reasonable” means reasonable to a jury, sitting in a nice, secure jury room, in daylight, after having a county prosecutor ask them, rhetorically, “don’t you think he could have gone to the second floor, or out the door?” in a nice, brightly-lit courtroom, with all the time they need to make the decision.

Attorneys also fear that the bill could give criminals a license to kill.

“This expansion of the right to use deadly force would apply equally to criminals as to law-abiding citizens,” wrote Dakota County attorney James C. Backstrom. “It would create viable self-defense claims in situations like bar fights. It could allow rival gangs to shoot at one another with impunity. With no duty to retreat, anyone could claim they were responding to a threat of serious harm and were therefore justified in killing a person.”

I’m going to emphasize the next bit rather intensely:

This would seem to be patent misleading bullshit. There is nothing in Cornish/Pariseau’s bills about repealing the first of the four criteria; “one can not be a willing participant.  There’s nothing in the bill that would change any of the other requirements – that the fear of harm and the force used must be “reasonable”, as in “must convince a jury”.  Indeed, the bill states specifically that the law-abiding shooter may only shoot where the individual has a legal right to be (see above!); it says nothing about revoking any of the qualifications for a shooting to be considered self-defense!

I will be seeking comment from County Attorney Backstrom’s office on this statement, which would seem at best to be misleading, and at worst to be flatly at odds with legal reality, and issued for purposes of poltiical propaganda.  (Indeed, Backstrom’s op-ed piece, from which the quote is drawn, would seem to be a good candidate for a serious fisking).   I’ll (try to) be charitable, here; Backstrom could be talking about far-fetched technical defenses (when lawyers say things like “could create viable cases”, it means they’re stretching and stretching hard…).

The Cornish bill would remove some of the county prosecutor’s discretion in prosecuting otherwise law-abiding gun owners; it’d take away some of the need to parse the intent of people breaking into homes and cars.

That is all.

To pass this bill off as anything else with no attempt to get the broader legal and factual context is to serve as a DFL propaganda tool, and to toss aside any claim to journalistic credibility.

(I’d love to have left a comment about this in Birkey’s post – but apparently George Soros isn’t so flush that he’ll buy them a comment engine that actually functions..)

12 thoughts on “…To Just Plain Inexcusable

  1. HF 498 is scheduled to be heard this Thursday — as early as 1230, but perhaps later. Expect the DFLers running the committee to put it up for discussion immediately, if we don’t show up in quantity, but delay it to the end of the day, if we start to leave.

    If you can, be there. It’s important.

  2. His article about the origins of Minnesota’s blue laws (to “enforce religion and morality” or something like that) was so filled with wrong , I couldn’t even bring myself to fisk it.

  3. I posted over at Minn Mon before I saw your article. The Chicken Little mentality of the anti-self defence crowd is never ending.

  4. I’m unclear on the bill – does it expand self-defense, or provide immunity from prosecution? The different is huge.

    Self-defense is a defense that you can raise after the prosecutor has filed criminal charges against you, you’ve gotten your lawyer and appeared at the arraignment to have bail set, you’ve given the prosecutor proper notice of your intent to plead self-defense, you’ve convinced the judge not to grand the prosecutor’s motion to strike your self-defense argument, and you’ve convinced the judge to give the self-defense Jury Instruction. And it may not work – the jury may not believe your self-defense argument.

    Immunity is when the prosecutor is forbidden to file charges against you in the first place.

    A defense is nice but it comes at the end of tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees. This bill gives us immunity? I could only wish!


  5. Since the posting function over at Minnie Mon works about as well as other Sorosphere technology, I’ll post my question to Andy here:

    Andy, if somebody were to characterize a bill you approved of — say, one providing health benefits to domestic partners of state employees, even if said domestic partner were of the same gender — in a hostile and inaccurate way, and a reporter (or, even a “New Journalist Fellow”) were to write a piece entitled:

    “Will ‘Subsidies for Sodomy’ bill make headway this year?”

    What would you think of the accuracy and fairness of that reporter?

    I know what I’d think — I’d think it sucked rocks. And not in a good way.

  6. Andy Birkey’s not a bad guy; he’s a fine writer,

    I really liked how he was able to weave the Holocaust into a post about a stuffed elephant toy being sold by the RNC.

    That’s some mad writing skilz

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