Standing One’s Ground – Revising the Castle Doctrine

By Bob Montgomery Thomas

Once again, The Patriot Ledger editors were on the wrong side of the equation in an editorial they published on March 31.  For them to say that interest in the proposed amendment to the Castle Doctrine statute already in place (MGL c. 278, § 8A) only escalated after the Florida tragedy is just more pabulum that those in some quarters are trying to shove down the throats of the citizens here who have every right to defend themselves from intruders.

Back in the early part of February, I wrote to several of the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 661 – which seeks to amend the existing Castle Doctrine statute – to offer suggestions to clean up certain ambiguities and typos to ensure that all parties had additional protections as well as the amended law having stricter guidelines.

As written, SB661 is indicative of what Massachusetts schools have been teaching, or NOT teaching, about thinking about what one is going to write about before writing it.  Further proof of that premise is what The Ledger editors stated in their commentary.  And to tie the editorial in to what happened in Florida is completely and utterly inane and insane.

Saying that SB661 essentially shifts emphasis from using violence as a last resort to a ”shoot first, ask questions later” mentality is ludicrous. And then they added a number of quotes from different ”experts” to give the editorial supposed weight, which they did not. I snorted tea from my nostrils reading them.

Former State Trooper-turned defense attorney Robert Jubinville said, ”We’re going to see people getting shot for no good reason” and that ”I can see some terrible, terrible things happening with this law.”  Well perhaps deserving people will be shot when some thief tries to attack someone’s family in a place the thief ”had no right to be” – an important element in SB661. Perhaps if Jubinville or the editors had read the actual Bill before commenting on it, they might have been able to suggest some cogent safeguards instead of just bloviating about all the harm that could come from such legislation.

Prior to this “editorial,” two Ledger staffers joined forces to describe what sorts of weapons a person might use to defend him or her self against an intruder, including ”guns, knives and baseball bats.”  They missed that one could throw a javelin or a goldfish bowl in self defense. Again, a cursory read of the Bill was lacking because there is no mention as to what weapon a defender may use to protect his home and his family.  But for some reason, the scribe-duo added ”baseball bats” in order to make self defense seem more gruesome.

Really now? How about three in the hat and one straight up the would-be thief’s brain cavity?

The editors said – mindlessly invoking the tragedy of the Florida case – ”the broad protections of the ‘stand your ground’ law, which Florida passed in 2005, has kept (Zimmerman) from facing charges.  That’s just more bull crap.  The shooter did not follow the law: he followed the person he viewed as ”suspicious” and lost his standing under the law, no pun intended.

Quincy’s Senator John Keenan is on record as having said, ”It’s very subjective as far as the standard for when a person may use deadly force.  I don’t know how you quantify that.  Is it a look?  Is it someone threatening you?  Or is it more than that?”

No, Senator, it’s much more than that.  Perhaps if you read SB661, you could make a semi-intelligent observation, which you did not.  And besides that, Sir, you are an attorney as well as a senator; why not add your expertise instead of grandstanding to get your name in the Ledger as you are often wont to do. Who asked your opinion anyway, The Patriot Ledger?  They apparently already knew what you would say so they decided not to ask the people on the street who agree with the needed amendment to MGL c. 278, § 8A.

The thing that a lot of the presumptuous clowns in office fail to remember is that they work for the people.  How ’bout you guys start earning your keep before your healthy retirement packages kick in?

Here’s what I sent to the Bill’s co-sponsors way back when:

SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS TO SENATE BILL 661 (SB 661) AS PROPOSED BY SENATOR STEPHEN BREWER AND OTHERS

§1, Chapter 278, § 8A of the Massachusetts General Laws shall be amended as follows:

§1, Chapter 278, § 8A: Killing or injuring a person in defense of self or others:

§ 8A: It is an act of lawful defense if a person or persons, who, as an occupant or occupants of a dwelling or in any place that they have a lawful right to be, used deadly force, or less than deadly force, if he or she or they acted in the reasonable belief that an assailant or assailants or any accomplice(s) thereof, was or were about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon the lawful occupant(s) or upon any other person or persons who also had a right to be in the dwelling or location.  There shall be no duty on any person to retreat from any place that they have a lawful right to be.

An act of lawful defense as outlined in this section shall not be cause for arrest or prosecution, but any person or persons acting in such described self-defense may be temporarily detained for lawful questioning.

Further, an act of lawful defense under this section shall not be cause for the revocation of any license issued under §§ 122, 123, 129B or 131 of Chapter 140 or the impoundment of any weapon or weapons used in such described self defense.

And further, that Chapter 231, § 85U of the Massachusetts General Laws shall be amended as follows:

§ 2, Chapter 231, § 85U: Death or injury to assailants; liability of defender

§ 85U: No person or persons who committed or participated in an act of lawful defense as outlined in § 8A of MGL Chapter 278 shall be held liable in an action by any party for damages for death or injuries to any assailant or accomplice who had no lawful right to be in the place where such death or injury occurred; or any later death that occurred as a result of any injury received while any assailant or accomplice was in any place he or she or they had no lawful right to be.

End of suggested changes sent

It all seems pretty clear to me what the intent of this legislation is.  It’s not to revert to the days of the wild, Wild West.  It’s to tell thieves and thugs that we as a society are fed up with their crap and that we will take care of things on our own terms if they want to continue to try to push the wrong buttons.

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© Copyright 2012 , All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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