Sunday, May 01, 2011

Feel free to shoot first IV

Rodney got his gun

Update: The companion bill in the Senate is SF1357. It appears to be word-for-word the same as the House bill discussed here. There is much more in the bill to make Minnesota more "gun friendly;" I have just focused on the Shoot First provision of the bill.

In the previous post, it was established that the "castle doctrine" already exists in Minnesota. The question that concluded Feel free to shot first III was:
Well, crikey, you say, what's the big deal then?
A clue to the difference is found in Rodney Peairs' shooting of Yoshihiro Hattori on Peair's front lawn. The shooting, which took place in the fall of 1992, involved a couple of high school kids -- one an exchange student from Japan, the victim -- who were going to a Halloween party in Baton Rouge. Hattori was dressed up like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever; he wasn't wearing a mask, nor was his companion, a local high school boy that Hattori was staying with.

The boys got confused about the location of the party and stopped at a house with Halloween decorations and a similar address. They went to the front door and rang the bell. There was no answer, but they were observed by Peairs' wife, who actually did say, "Rodney, get your gun."

The boys were walking back to their car to leave when Peairs came out of a side door, apparently confronting the boys and shouting "Freeze!" The record is conflicted at this point, but Peairs (a 6' 2" heavily-armed man) says that the 130 pound Japanese teenager came at him, and that he was "scared to death." Peairs reported there was nothing he could do except gun down the menacing intruder.

The police agreed with him. But wouldn't you know it, the governor of Louisiana and the Japanese Consul made a stink, and Peairs was charged with manslaughter (not murder). He was acquitted, but Peairs was found liable in a civil trial and a judgment of about $600,000 was entered against him. His homeowner's insurance paid $100,000, and the rest of the judgment remains, apparently, unsatisfied.

Was this a "castle doctrine" case, or not? The Baton Rouge police apparently believed it was, and it was presented to the jury that way by the defense. But it seems pretty aggressive to me, and to a lot of other people, too. Moreover, the shooting did not take place in Peairs' dwelling, or even as Hattori and his companion were trying to enter it. This fact would probably have been a problem for Peairs if he had been tried in Minnesota.

Enter Tony Cornish and Shoot First. Recall that one of the circumstances in Cornish's bill where deadly force is authorized is: "to resist or prevent the commission of a felony in the individual's dwelling." Classic statement of the "castle doctrine," right? But not when this is your "castle":

"Dwelling" means a building defined under section 609.556, subdivision 3, an overnight stopping accommodation of any kind, or a place of abode, that an individual temporarily or permanently is occupying or intending to occupy as a habitation or home.
 A dwelling may include, but is not limited to, a building or conveyance and that building's or conveyance's curtilage and any attached or adjacent deck, porch, appurtenance, or other structure, whether the building or conveyance is used temporarily or permanently for these purposes, is mobile or immobile, or is a motor vehicle, watercraft, motor home, tent, or the equivalent.
"Curtilage" is law French for "yard" or "lawn." So when Clint Eastwood said,"Get off my curtilage!" in Gran Torino, that's what he meant. Note especially, too, a motor vehicle -- mobile or immobile! -- can also be a dwelling. This is Cornish's shout out to homeless people.

Let's say you have a little place on Mud Lake where you like to go on weekends and motor around, looking for carp in the shallows to shoot with your .22. You wake up some Saturday night, and you see someone standing on your dock. You think he might be stealing your Evinrude twenty horse, and the half-full can of gas, too. Can you get out that .22 and shoot him?

Why yes, yes you can! If Tony has his way. You don't even have to warn him. As in earlier examples of the operation of Tony's Law -- I think that's what we ought to call it -- if it's a good shooting under the law, you'd be "immunized" from any criminal responsibility, and you'd be "immunized" from any civil liability for killing the guy out in the lake doing a little night fishing for walleyes, too. Just like Rodney would have been civilly immunized for blowing away the Japanese teenager.

Tony's Law is an NRA wet dream.

Update: Once again I neglected to thank MNO for assistance in researching and preparing the series.

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