Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Guns and childish pranks

The gun rights activists laughed at us at the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee this past spring. They laughed at an example given of an Ohio man who shot a teen-ager who was in his yard one night trying to figure out if his house was haunted. The man  claimed that he felt threatened when the girls trespassed and he shot out of his window into the dark yard, not really knowing where his bullets would end up. Here were his comments: " "It's really something how homeowners defend themselves and the way the laws are written, we're the ones brought up on charges while the perpetrators get little or nothing," he said." 

This brings me to the main point of today's post. I've been traveling and had plans to post something very different on my return. But then a news story about a 12 year old boy playing "Ding Dong Ditch" caught my eye. For daring to ring the doorbell at the home of a jittery gun owner, he was shot in the back while running away. This shooting of a 12 year old Kentucky boy playing "Ding Dong Ditch" is no laughing matter. Mr. Bishop, the shooter, isn't laughing either since he has now been charged for attempted murder. Luckily for him, the boy was injured and not killed, which could easily have happened. He will have physical and emotional scars for the rest of his life. Can anyone remember playing "Ding Dong Ditch"? I can. I played the game with friends while at slumber parties. We sneaked out of the house and thought we were cute and daring by ringing the doorbells of neighboring homes. Can anyone remember thinking a house in their city was haunted and driving or walking by to find out just to be a teen-ager and for the thrill of feeling scared? I did the very same with friends in my city where a large old house was rumored to be haunted so naturally we had to check it out. I guess the girl who was shot by the owner of the "haunted house" felt more than scared once the bullets entered her body.

These shootings raise important questions about what justifiable self defense really is. Can you just shoot a child, or anyone else for that matter, in the back as they are running away from your house and think it's self defense? Is it all right to get your gun whenever you hear a noise and shoot out into the darkness when all you need to do is yell out or call the police? Is this self defense? When guns are around and you are afraid of people lurking around every corner to do you harm, is this the end result? What if Kentucky had a version of Shoot First? Oh yes, it does, actually. Expanded "Castle Doctrine"  laws are meant to allow for shootings in places not normally thought of as dwellings and in places away from your home. They are meant to take away the usual responsibility to think before shooting. They are meant to expand gun rights over the rights of people to be safe from being shot.There are true justifiable self defense cases and those acting under these provisions are most often not charged with the injury or death of the victim. Mr. Bishop, the Kentucky man who shot the boy after he rang his doorbell was arrested and has been charged. Check out Kentucky's self defense law. Let's hope that Mr. Bishop will not get away with this senseless shooting. There appears to be a provision in the Kentucky law that would apply here. I don't know about you, but I wonder who actually writes these laws? They just never seem to pass the plain language test. Is that by design? I'm just asking.

In looking around for Kentucky gun laws, I found this advice for people involved in a case of a self defense shooting. From the linked blog, " Don’t turn these groups against your case by making ill-timed remarks. Sometimes the most difficult obstacles to overcome are the ones encountered after you re-holster your weapon." Hmmm. What does this actually mean? Is this advice meant to make a case for a justifiable self defense even when it isn't? I'm just asking. Others are wondering about the Kentucky law as well. As recently as June 1, this article appeared in the Kentucky News Review. 


Broader questions need to be asked about how quickly people are willing to shoot another human being. Are people who have a gun at the ready more willing to shoot someone in an altercation when another way of dealing with the matter could be employed? Are we O.K. as a society with the idea that shooting someone is the first resort instead of the last resort? Can kids be safe in their neighborhoods from people who are so fearful that they have guns ready to shoot if they are just being kids? Can strangers be safe from being shot if they come to the wrong house and try to enter the home by mistake? Do we need laws to expand the rights of gun rights activists when the current laws are already working? As a society, are we O.K. with shooting someone in an altercation when walking away or a punch in the nose would suffice? What kind of communities do we want? Do we want people with guns to be able to shoot them wherever they find themselves and claim self defense? When does an ordinary fight between two people justify shooting someone? Why does the gun lobby want to take away the right of all individuals to a trial to determine the outcomes of self defense cases? Why change the laws already on the books if they are working? What happened to the idea that with rights come responsibilities? Is this the gun lobby's desire to normalize carrying of guns everywhere in self defense? Are these laws increasing the possibility for yet more shootings than we already have in our country? Is a human life worth so little that Second Amendment rights trump common sense

18 comments:

  1. So, Kentucky does have a castle doctrine statute: http://www.kentucky-lawyer-dui.com/castle_doctrine.htm - and a guy who irresponsibly shot at a kid who was running away after a harmless prank is still being charged with attempted murder.

    If the "shoot first" [sic] laws had the effect you have been claiming they do, he would not have been.

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  2. Yes, you are right. Let's hope he doesn't get off. We will know more later.Even if he doesn't, you seemed to miss my point about why someone is so scared of people coming into his yard that he shoots first. You guys are always telling me that you fear the bad guys so you must have your guns. And then some "good guys" get shot as well. We need to make sure we don't have a culture in which people feel like they can shoot someone who enters their yard or comes to their door before they have a chance to assess the situation. The language of Shoot First laws are vague in these cases and sometimes people get away with shooting another unarmed person who meant no harm.

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  3. "It's really something how homeowners defend themselves and the way the laws are written, we're the ones brought up on charges while the perpetrators get little or nothing," he said."

    Oops he was sentenced to 19 years I guess the "We" did not get brought up on charges but "He" did. I guess his claims of self defense fell on deaf ears in the court system.

    Like I said before I agree with the ruling. You can not and should not shoot into the darkness at a perceived threat.

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  4. "We need to make sure we don't have a culture in which people feel like they can shoot someone who enters their yard or comes to their door before they have a chance to assess the situation."

    I agree. But the enemy is ignorance. The sort of ignorance that the popular media has been spreading since the dime novels and penny dreadfuls.

    The answer is education. And for this, the best source of education is the NRA. Particularly, the NRA Basic Personal Protection In The Home Course.

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  5. Do we want people with guns to be able to shoot them wherever they find themselves and claim self defense?

    If their claim of self-defense is legitimate, yes. My right to defend myself is not limited to only my home - it is my 'personal' right, and goes where I go. My life is not less valued in other places.

    When does an ordinary fight between two people justify shooting someone?

    It doesn't, if that's all it is. And no one, dreaded "gun lobby" or not, has advocated same. This is just the usual fearmongering. The standards for legitimate self-defense have not changed. One is justified in using deadly force (in my state) when one reasonably believes - the key word here being 'reasonably' - that one's life or great bodily harm is at imminent risk (or the life or harm of another, as the case may be).

    The only real differences we have are whether
    1) one must retreat before using force in defense, and reasonable people can disagree on that one, or
    2) whether forcible entry into one's home or occupied vehicle constitutes facts which would support a reasonable belief that one's life is at risk. I think that's entirely reasonable, myself. Don't break into my home at 2:00 a.m., and we'll not have any issues.

    The "shoot first" meme is pure fearmongering.

    Why does the gun lobby want to take away the right of all individuals to a trial to determine the outcomes of self defense cases?

    It doesn't. This claim is utter BS. HOWEVER, before a person is put on trial, there must be probable cause that a crime has been committed. If a person legitimately defends themselves with deadly force, there is no crime. And yes, the legitimacy of a self-defense claim is part of that probable cause calculus.

    Too often, trials are shows for a prosecutor with an agenda who proceeds to trial not because the facts justify it under the law, but to "send a message."

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  6. To keep things in perspective - I used to teach carry permit classes. I read the Castle Doctrine bill that was proposed here in Minnesota - and there was nothing in it that would have caused me to change my instruction in any way.

    And there was nothing in it that would change my own behavior, in any possible self-defense circumstance, in any way.

    I can conceive of no scenario where I would shoot had the bill passed where I would not shoot, given that the bill did not pass.

    The issues it covered simply weren't relevant to the decision as to whether to shoot or not to shoot.

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  7. I didn't see it that way at all, jdege. Nor did the Sheriffs Association, the Chiefs Association, the Peace Officers Association and the County Attornies along with a good many other people.

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  8. " Can anyone remember playing "Ding Dong Ditch"? I can."

    I can't. That may have something to do with my parents raising me to not do stupid things, because stupidity eventually leads to getting hurt.

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  9. Shooting someone for ringing your doorbell is a criminal act, and this criminal deserves to be prosecuted - this criminal would not have been protected by either castle doctrine or stand your ground.

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  10. "You guys are always telling me that you fear the bad guys so you must have your guns."

    I don't think that any person who has thought through this issue and has decided to carry a firearm does so out of fear. We do it because we want to ensure that we have options available to defend ourselves or our families should the unthinkable happen.

    None of us want to find ourselves in that situation - ever.

    "We need to make sure we don't have a culture in which people feel like they can shoot someone who enters their yard or comes to their door before they have a chance to assess the situation."

    There's not a law anywhere in this country that would allow the use of deadly force simply for someone that enters their yard or walks up to their door. Even the law proposed here in Minnesota that your organization referred to as "shoot first" would have allowed either of these to happen.

    Culture is an entirely different story.

    "The language of Shoot First laws are vague in these cases and sometimes people get away with shooting another unarmed person who meant no harm."

    The changes to Minnesota law proposed this year are a heck of a lot clearer than the current mix of statutory and case law.

    Today, an instructor who teaches a class that certifies a Minnesota resident to apply for a permit to carry has to cover the current statutory law along with multiple court cases in order to adequately explain the state of the law in regards to the use of deadly force in Minnesota.

    So to understand when to use deadly force in this state, a person has to read:
    MN 609.06
    MN 609.065
    MN 609.02

    And then read and understand the following court cases:

    State v Austin
    State v Baker
    State v Bastings
    State v Carothers
    State v Glowacki

    along with many others.

    How is that clear?

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  11. "Do we want people with guns to be able to shoot them wherever they find themselves and claim self defense?"

    Of course not.

    "When does an ordinary fight between two people justify shooting someone?"

    Never. And this would not have changed in the proposed laws in Minnesota either.

    "Why does the gun lobby want to take away the right of all individuals to a trial to determine the outcomes of self defense cases?"

    We could start by having laws that ensure that prosecutors don't charge individuals in legitimate self defense cases. There's no reason that cases like that should go to trial.

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  12. In spite of what the antis refer to as a "shoot first" law, in truth, Castle Doctrine does not change the rules for the use of deadly force.

    States can vary in the details and definitions, but generally, to claim justifiable homicide by self defense, one must be able to satisfy three conditions. First, the situation can not be your fault. You can not have created the situation or escalated a confrontation to one of deadly force. Second, you must have not been able to retreat or, depending upon the state, did not have a duty to retreat. Finally, you must have been in fear of your life or serious bodily harm.

    In states without castle doctrine, the defendant must prove all three conditions were met. Not one or two but all three. In states with castle doctrine, it merely shifts the burden of proof to the prosecutor if the event happened in proscribed locations. The state must only now prove that one of those conditions were not met--if one condition of the three is not present, than you cannot claim justifiable homicide by defense even with castle doctrine.

    That is what Castle Doctrine does. It does not lesson or change those conditions at all like some would have everyone believe.

    Obviously, from what was presented in the article anyway, the Kentucky man will not have a claim of self defense with or without castle doctrine.

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  13. Many changes would have occurred to Minnesota's current Castle Doctrine law, already in place. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=H1467.0.html&session=ls87 You can see for yourself all of the lines crossed out and underlined as added provisions.. This amounts to substantial change to current law though you, Bryan, and other gun rights activists have tried to claim that the changes amounted to nothing much and that they were needed. In actuality, the changes would have been significant.

    We have gone around the block about this before. I disagree with your assessment and you disagree with mine. But all you have to do is look at the proposed language of the bill to see how many changes would have occurred. Since it didn't pass it is moot right now. It happens that most law enforcement and county attornies agreed with us and not you. It was not seen as a necessary change to the law, and in fact, was consdered to be a dangerous addition to state statutes. And even some of the NRA supported legislators stated publicly that this bill went too far.

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  14. "When does an ordinary fight between two people justify shooting someone? "

    There is no such thing as an ordinary fight between two adults. There is playing around, domestic abuse, battery, rape, murder.

    A rape victim has a right to shoot her rapist to stop the rape, even if it is just an "ordinary" rape. Hinting otherwise is monstrous.

    Saying that some people should get murdered, robbed and raped so better people don't have to worry about gun-crime is inhuman.

    A common-sense gun policy needs to address the legitimate need of people for protection when the government can't afford to protect them. Throw all those people under the bus, and you can't ever get a majority to agree with you.

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  15. dusty dog- what? Your fourth paragraph is ridiculous. Of course, you know as do my readers, that that has nothing to do with what I said on this post.

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  16. Joan. His fourth paragraph is the logical extension of your argument that just because it may not happen therefore it will not happen. You have made that argument, you just stopped halfway to the inevitable conclusion.

    You live in a comfortable safe place and transfer all of your own views and prejudices to the rest of the world. That's ok. I do it as does almost everyone else.

    I also have seen a much different world than you. One of gang activity, political upheaval, raging crime and social disintegration. Add to this mix racial conflicts, poverty and drugs and you have the perfect stew for violence and human devaluation.

    It is a world you seem to have forgotten exists.

    I may not have to interact with it on a daily basis but I know it exists. It exists here in the twin cities and it is spreading out from all big cities as the economic collapse of this nation turns more and more people from hopeful and invested to disenchanted and revoked from society.

    The thugs and hoodlums are no longer somewhere else. They are here. The disenchanted and unstable are finding it harder and harder to join in on our Society's promise. The rural country side is no longer immune from it. From the recent events in Iowa, to Moose lake and Cold Spring Riccori to red lake and other places, this plague is spreading.

    Telling us that we are irrational in our fears and worries is to simply be blind to reality. No more than I would drive a car without a spare tire and seatbelt would I travel from home without a means to protect those who are near and dear to me.

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  17. Wow- Peter. It sounds perfectly horrible. Stay safe.But I don't agree with your view of the world, actually. Remember that 70% of gun deaths in Mn. are suicide. Remember that more often than random gun deaths committed by strangers, the majority of gun deaths are domestic and amongst people who know each other. That could, in fact, include some of the gang shootings which don't usually involve someone like yourself unless you get caught in the cross fire. Why do you think I am working so hard on this issue? All guns start out as legal and many get into the illegal market through private sales, stolen, straw purchases, and bad apple gun dealers. Let's enforce the laws already on the books and we can reduce some of these. Let's close the private seller loophole and we can reduce some others. Let's make sure that gun owners lock up their guns safely where thiefs can't easily get at them and children and teens can't find them. Let's make sure law enforcement has the funding and the personnel to do their jobs to monitor gun shops and make sure straw purchases are not taking place among a few other things and we could reduce some gun deaths. You don't believe in any of those but it is possible to do all and save some lives. You believe that there are bad guys out there who will go after you personally but you don't seem to want to stop them from getting their guns. That is the mystery to me. I just don't get that resistance on your part. We live in 2 different worlds in many ways.

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  18. We need no new laws. All the ones we have on the books are enough. There is probably far too many of them, but for now no new ones.

    The private seller law is fine. If a felon has bought a gun from an unknowing citizen, the felon has just committed another crime which should by statute remove him from society for decades. But felons don't fear the law because they know busy judges and prosecutors don't want trials they want pleas and cases off the books.

    That has to stop. Felons with a gun, and they know who they are, this is not a kid with an errant shotgun shell in his pickup, these are criminals who have already been in the system need to know that use of a gun in their next crime is twenty years. No pleas allowed. I don't care how many "kingpins" he rats on he gets twenty years.

    This is on the books we just need to get the judges to quit listening to some teary eyed part time mom blabbering about him turning his life around etc etc.

    There is no reason to stop private sales and force people to use an FFL for a legal sale ( where that's required FFLs charge up to a hundred dollars per transfer because the Govt has given them a monopoly. ) because that punishes the innocent, the non criminal. The criminal will still buy and sell guns without permits. They already buy and sell drugs, guns, women, etc now without regard to laws. Why would one more stop them?

    Enforce the laws we have now. Tell judges to look for violent repeat offenders and allow them to upgrade punishments. Quit thinking that just one more law is going to get criminals to change their behaviors. It hasn't happened since Caine and Able. Ain't happening now.

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