Misguided mayors need to look to Castle Doctrine laws to curb crime
By Tim Inwood
On Thursday October 26th a group of mayors gathered in Chicago to plot their strategy for getting guns off the streets, a continuation of Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts from April. While the gathering made headlines in USA Today, the details in the reporting made it clear this cluster of obtuse politicians are clueless about crime.
The problem with crime is not guns, it is criminals. Anyone with a modicum of common sense knows this; unfortunately, common sense seems to be a fairly rare thing in this crowd of mayors. These mayors, from New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Denver, Little Rock, Miami, Atlanta, St. Louis, Omaha, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Seattle and 109 other cities from 44 states, would be wiser to back something that would truly help deter crime. Promotion of Castle Doctrine laws and encouraging people to take responsibility for their own lives is exactly what they need to do. Instead, due to ignorance or hoplophobia (fear of guns,) they are chasing the law-abiding instead of the criminal.
For those who don’t know what the package of Castle Doctrine Laws are, allow me to explain briefly.
In many states, including Ohio, you are required to retreat if confronted by a criminal outside your home. This means if you are carjacked you are expected to give up the car unless you can prove that you could not retreat and were in imminent danger of grave bodily harm or death may you respond with lethal force. Castle Doctrine fixes this ridiculous situation allowing you to defend yourself when and where endangered by a criminal, and shifts the burden of proof back onto the bad guy.
Three of our neighboring states have come to the conclusion that placing the burden on the bad guy is a good thing. Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky have enacted “Castle Doctrine” laws. Ohio has bills pending in both chambers of the Statehouse in Columbus, but they are not expected to pass this year.
On the evening of October 25th, Joe Eaton of Buckeye Firearms was interviewed on the “Scott Sloan show “on 700 AM WLW radio in Cincinnati. The hot topic of the evening was recent shootings in Cincinnati. One shooting is somewhat controversial, the other not so much. However, despite the common feelings of the one shooting not being controversial, a Deli owner who defended himself may still be prosecuted for using deadly force, according to news reports, much to the disgust of the show's listeners.
The first shooting involved a man who allegedly came out of his home in Kennedy Heights to see a young man stealing his car. The victim drew his pistol and demanded that the thief stop. The thug would not stop and the man fired into the auto, killing the criminal. The media immediately set about to canonizing the thief, a 14 year old boy named Quavale Kinnell. To make things worse, there are some also making an issue of the fact the boy was black. Now frankly, if you stop and think about it logically, the media screaming about the boy’s age is silly - the fellow trying to stop him did not know he was 14 years old, and a 14 year old driving a 2 ton weapon is as dangerous as a 30 year old. Why is a 14 year old driving a car anyway? Having seen Kinnell’s picture, I can understand someone mistaking he was older. Also, calm reflection shows that reasonable people know the boy’s race was not the reason the man shot him, it was that he was stealing a car. The final component of the firestorm is that the man allegedly took a life in the defense of property, though it remains to be seen if the car in any way threatened the shooter. Use of lethal force in defense of personal property is not legal in Ohio, nor in most other states.
Now do I think an argument can be made for defending property by taking a human life? Yes. And before you yell at me that it is immoral to say property has more value than life, let me say let me say there is some logic behind this that could save lives. Yes, save lives by allowing deadly force. I am not advocating shooting someone for stealing a loaf of bread ala Jean Val Jean in “Les Miserables”. However, if we are talking a major piece of property like a car, especially if in a carjacking, then I think a strong argument defending the use of deadly force can be made.
If Ohio passes Castle Doctrine laws, law abiding citizens will no longer have the burden of proof to establish they were unable to retreat. (Recent Ohio case law held that you had a duty to retreat from a locked jail cell!) Further, if the person is stealing your property in a manner that involves violence, the presumption will be against the bad guy, whereas it is currently against the victim.
For instance back in the 1980’s when I lived in suburbs of Washington D.C., I recall a woman being carjacked and her arm got caught in the safety belt. The monster who was stealing her car actually dragged her to death and was actually using the center concrete barrier to try to drag her body off the side of the car. Had that woman been able to carry a gun for her defense that might not have happened, as that fiend might have been deterred from the idea of stealing the car of someone who could shoot him for his efforts. Crimes like that were among the reasons I abandoned living in our Nation’s Capitol and returned to the relative safety of rural Ohio.
To further digress on this, let's talk about Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. I am not a big fan of Rudy, and do not want to see him become President. However, I actually admire one thing that he did while he was mayor of New York City: He started enforcing what was called “broken window theory”. The theory was that for the slightest infraction of the law there was a penalty to be enforced. He ordered the police to come down hard on these minor crimes and, as a result, crime dropped dramatically in New York City while he was mayor. I think criminals would be similarly deterred from crimes like stealing cars and such if they realize the threat to them will be huge for carrying out their nefarious plans. If they might get shot for using violence to steal a car, motorcycle, etc…they might be deterred from it, thus saving their lives and their victims. The thug may watch a nice Mercedes Convertible roll up and think, “Hmm nice Mercedes Benz, but that guy might have a pistol and it’s not worth my life to find out.” The time to stop coddling criminals and fight back has indeed come.
An excellent example is the other shooting in Cincinnati. It occurred Monday evening October 23rd at the S-&-S Deli on Winton Road, in Cincinnati. Gary Eden, 37, of Carthage walked into the shop, picked up a can of soda, walked up to the cash register, then suddenly lashed out and struck the owner of the shop in the head with the can of pop as hard as he could. This lacerated the head of the shop owner and knocked him down. As the shop owner shook off the effects he saw Eden coming around the counter at him. The owner then drew his .357 magnum revolver and shot Eden in the head. Both men were taken to University Hospital but Eden, the criminal aggressor, died. Now there is some talk that the shop keeper may be prosecuted because Eden appears to only have been armed with the can of soda. This is clearly a justifiable shooting in my view; a criminal uses a weapon to cause violence against another in the commission of a crime. While some might disagree with my analysis with respect to whether a soda can is a weapon, a Castle Doctrine law in place would protect honest shopkeepers who are violently attacked with weapons from the threat of jail time for defending themselves. Luckily in the case of the deli owner, I do not think a jury will convict him.
I can go on and on with many other examples of crimes like the one above. Clearly the time has come for Ohio to follow our neighbors in adopting a Castle Doctrine law. Passing CCW in 2004 was our first serious step to being able to protect ourselves and reduce crime. Adopting HB347 to fix the serious flaws with our CCW law should be the next step. However, it is clear that a Castle Doctrine law must also be embraced as a part of a comprehensive plan to reduce crime in Ohio. Now if only the misguided Mayors meeting in Chicago to discuss failed policies of gun control could get the message. That will only happen when their citizens demand they face reality and stop playing with pathetic, failed ideas of the past. We hope that you will join or support organizations like Buckeye Firearms Association to help us continue our crusade to inform and educate the public as well as sway politicians with the truth to pass the laws we all need to protect ourselves. I hope you will help us do this by sending a contribution in today.
Tim Inwood is the current Legislative Liaison and Past President of the Clinton County Farmers and Sportsmen Association, and a volunteer for Buckeye Firearms Association.