June 13, 2012

Vol. 6   No. 20


Under the laws of most states, if I use deadly force to defend myself or another from a felonious act, my actions can be considered justified.  Sounds, to me, like a pretty reasonable system.

On the other hand, if I use deadly force against someone who is not, at the time, engaged in some felonious act against me or another I can be charged with a criminal offense, tried in a court of law, and, if found guilty, I can be punished.  Now, there's another system that sounds reasonable, to me.

As most of us are aware, in 2007, the State of Texas passed what is commonly referred to as  the Castle Doctrine.  One of the effects of that legislation was that it removed the obligation to retreat before using deadly force, as long as you were in a place where you had a legal right to be, etc...

The Castle Doctrine put the legal burden where it belongs, on the felon.

Whether it's called the Castle Doctrine, or Stand Your Ground, the concept of being able to defend yourself, without first taking the time to consider retreat, is under attack.

The usual suspects are salivating over legislation to make law abiding citizens be kinder and gentler to criminals.

Also, on May 29, 2012, Cheng & Hoekstra, of Texas A&M University, released a report on their study, "Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence? (Evidence from Castle Doctrine)."

One of the conclusions reached by Cheng & Hoekstra, in their 35 page report, was:

"We find no evidence that the castle doctrine deters crime."

With all due respect to the Aggies on my mailing list, my response is, "So what?"

The conclusion of Cheng & Hoekstra reminds me of a quote that I've always been particularly fond of:

"I'm not entirely convinced that capital punishment acts as an effective deterrent to violent crime.

I do, however, believe that it is an excellent way to make bad people dead."

My point, here, is that if I find myself in a life threatening situation, my overriding concern is for defending my life.  Of little or no concern, in such a situation, would be whether or not my defensive action was predicated on a method that might have a general deterring effect on crime.  When you are up to your butt in alligators, it's hard to be too concerned over your job of draining the swamp.

But, how, then, do we deal with Stand Your Ground problems, like in the cases of Raul Rodriguez in Houston, TX, or George Zimmerman in Sanford, FL?

We don't.  The courts do.  We get out of the way and let the system work.

Where does that leave the idea of retreat?  The idea of retreat is alive and well, right where it's always been.  It's just another option.

Not that many years ago, a Texas DPS instructor, friend told me that defending yourself is all about 'options'.  The more options you have, the higher will be the likelihood of a successful defense.  That statement not only made good sense to me, but it has also had a profound effect on my view of the Castle Doctrine:

The Castle Doctrine removed only the obligation to retreat.

It did not remove the 'option' to retreat.

A reasonable person will consider every option at his disposal, prior to the use of deadly force.  Retreat is just one of the options that a reasonable person will consider.

If retreat is what it will take to keep you alive, RETREAT.

Retreat not because of the law, but because it will help you Stay Alive.

Remember too, the law is not what makes a person reasonable.

Practice, Practice, Practice


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