Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Before killing that intruder, consider this…

For all those who are waxing eloquent about individual freedoms and the recent supreme court decision on the supposedly gloried upholding of individual rights to owning a firearm, I would say, hold on - read the fine print in state laws. An informative op-ed piece in today’s Times lays bare the legal ramifications as soon as one decides to flex that trigger happy finger.

Consider the situation, an intruder breaks into your home while you were sleeping, you confront the person and protected by the fundamental right, take out that gun and shoot the person down. In a court, there is a good chance you might be tried for murder in light of the following lines that are part of most states gun laws (based on the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code of 1962). Of course, this excludes Texas.

* A person may use only as much force as is “immediately necessary".
* If a "less lethal means of defense" is available, the use of deadly force is illegal.

With respect to the first bullet above (pardon the unintended pun), the legal limitations on self-defense typically do not allow the use of force at a distance. Defensive force is considered “immediately necessary” only when the defender can wait no longer, when the threat is “imminent.” Last available resort!! One cannot stand in one's balcony and take pot shots at the intruder downstairs. It was neither imminent nor immediately necessary.

The second item as regards the 'less lethal means of defense' is slowly coming open to more scrutiny especially in light of the technological changes and options available to an individual that allow one to inflict non lethal pain on another individual. Is the word TASERS flashing in your mind at this point?

One might counter this with the following: Anyone who uses a gun in self-defense may argue that he would have used a less lethal weapon if he had had one at hand, but there was only the firearm.

Lawyers are going to tear this to pieces due to the following fact: When a person shops for a weapon of self-defense, anticipating some day a confrontation with an attacker, their choice of a gun over something less lethal is a conscious predetermined decision that the individual took in a marketplace that is currently filled with non lethal choices like the TASER as well as other choices emerging that include light lasers (designed to blind temporarily) and microwave beams (temporary intense burning sensation on skin). It will be a true measure of culpability when the person in question has willfully ignored these other ‘non-lethal choices’ and went ahead and bought a weapon that propagates deadly force... Is that not like saying that one had an ‘intent to kill’?

Considering all of the options, TASERS seems like the best choice for both law enforcement and private citizens...

Tasers, handgun-shaped devices that fire a dart that delivers a painful electrical shock. A hit from a Taser causes an instant muscular spasm that can disable any attacker, no matter how determined. And the Taser works no matter where on the attacker’s body the dart hits. A bullet, in contrast, instantly disables only if it hits a couple of vulnerable spots, like the space between the eyes. A shot to the arm, the leg or even the torso may not stop an attacker.

The following paragraph says it all...

If you are a surgeon and you leave your glasses behind on the way to the operating room, then botch a delicate procedure, you can’t convince a judge that the resulting death wasn’t your fault because you couldn’t see well. If, on your way to confront an intruder, you choose your gun rather than your more effective but less lethal weapon, you can hardly complain later about your limited options.

Hey, now there are designer TASERs for the fashion conscious... (we talked about them in this blog here).

Aboriginal weapons from South East Australia. (Image from an August 2000 Sotheby's catalogue showing the collection of Lord McAlpine)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

First, the law you quote is variable depending on jurisdiction. Most jurisdictions apply a "reasonableness" test, where the finder of fact is asked to step into the shoes of the victim and decide if that person's fear and subsequent action was reasonable under the circumstances.

Second, I'm certain that felons engaging in housebreaking, robbery, rape, kidnapping, carjacking and murder are all, today, seeking out "less than lethal" means of relieving me or mine of my life or wealth. Certainly, it would seem that the modern criminal should have so many concerns about my welfare.

Sorry, but your suggestions are ridiculous. If I find a total stranger in my home in the middle of the night, I have no reason to immediately believe that he/she is a nice person and who has my health and welfare at heart.

Forget it. If a criminal chooses a life of crime, they also assume a certain amount of risk, it comes with the territory.

Maybe if they had reason to fear, they would have more reason, to stay out of my home.

Andy

Sunil said...

"First, the law you quote is variable depending on jurisdiction."

When I last checked, about 70% of the states follow the law as suggested in the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code of 1962 as regards the issue we are talking about.

"Second, I'm certain that felons engaging in housebreaking, robbery, rape, kidnapping, carjacking and murder are all, today, seeking out "less than lethal" means of relieving me or mine of my life or wealth."

Your comment above seems anecdotal at best.

"If I find a total stranger in my home in the middle of the night, I have no reason to immediately believe that he/she is a nice person and who has my health and welfare at heart."

Agreed. Still it does NOT give anyone the licence to shoot and kill another human being. All the more so if there are other non-lethal ways to stop the person that are readily available in the marketplace. TASERs present a non lethal, long distance technique to stop someone. Of course, if one has a terrible urge to kill another human being, please go ahead and face the music afterwards...
The mentality of 'get out of my backyard or I will blow you away with this sawed off shotgun' needs to change. That made sense in the good ol' frontier days. Makes no sense in todays world....