Monday, October 1, 2007

No Duty To Retreat (Updated and corrected)

The Colonial Minuteman: Proud symbol of the right to lethal self-defense against abusive government agents.

A year ago, the State of Michigan enacted a law stipulating that individuals can properly use deadly force to defend themselves or others when confronted by an assailant threatening imminent death, bodily harm, or sexual assault. The measure specifies that this right is to be recognized and protected anywhere its exercise proves to be necessary -- not merely in the sanctuary of an individual's home, but "anywhere [the citizen] has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat...."

Those seeking a suitable brief summation of what it means to be a free man or woman can find a pretty decent one in the phrase, "no duty to retreat."

To the best of my knowledge, Michigan and Louisiana are the only states of this once-free land whose laws governing self-defense explicitly disavow the spurious notion that free people under criminal attack have a duty to retreat before availing themselves of the innate right to lethal self-defense. And it is quite likely that even those state laws protect not a right, but a limited, situational privilege. [Actually, as a reader pointed out in the comments thread, 15 states have enacted "no duty to retreat" laws since 2005. I appreciate the correction, and regret my error. -- WNG]

Would the self-defense laws in Michigan and Louisiana [and elsewhere] provide legal protection to a citizen who shoots a law enforcement officer threatening the illegal use of lethal force?

If not, they're of very limited use. Without putting too fine a point on the observation, allow me to note that cases of lethal police abuse are becoming increasingly common, and defense against abusive agents of the State was the chief purpose of the Second Amendment -- not protecting the means of hunting, as that venerable nimrod Bill Clinton once said; not just deterring armed crime by non-government actors, as the Quislings at the National Rifle Amendment insist; and certainly not preserving the ability of states to maintain "select militias," as sundry dishonest collectivists maintain.

The Second Amendment made plain the Framers' understanding that citizens must protect their ability to kill government agents when such action is required to defend the innocent. They understood that free people have no duty to retreat when confronted with illicit armed violence from the State. And they inscribed that understanding in the Second Amendment.

I write those words as someone unalterably opposed to aggressive violence in any form. My soul rebels at the thought of taking another human life. I pray that God will preserve me from situations in which bloodshed is a possibility. And I likewise pray that if the defense of my family required it, God would grant me the clarity of purpose to kill those who threaten them quickly and efficiently.

The right to armed resistance against unlawful police power was widely recognized until at least the dawn of the 20th Century. In the 1900 case John Bad Elk v. United States, the Supreme Court recognized that the killing of a law enforcement officer who acts without a proper warrant can be justifiable homicide: If said officer is "
killed in the course of [a] disorder which naturally accompanies an attempted arrest that is resisted, the law looks with very different eyes upon the transaction, when the officer had the right to make the arrest, from what it does if the officer had no such right. What might be murder in the first offense might be nothing more than manslaughter in the other, or the facts might show that no offense had been committed."

The heroic Geronimo: Brave patriot and freedom fighter.

Florida Circuit Judge Rick de Furia recently ruled, in the case of John and Cynthia Coffin, that citizens have the right to resist unlawful violence committed by police officers -- in this case, the unwarranted invasion of the Coffins' home and the criminal assault on Cynthia. John, a heart patient in his mid-50s, did the right thing: He beat the invaders bloody, until forced to relent at gunpoint.

Under Black Elk -- and the "no duty to retreat" principle in Michigan and Louisiana state laws -- John would have been justified in shooting dead the armed invaders who had attacked his wife.

If this principle were widely recognized, Mississippi resident Cory Maye, a young father who shot an armed intruder who proved to be part of a police SWAT team conducting a no-knock raid on the wrong address -- would not have been convicted of capital murder.

But ours is a form of despotism under which the immunities enjoyed by the State's enforcers are so complete, and their very persons so sacred, that a police officer can arrest and charge with "assault on a government official" a sick man who coughs in his presence.

Police have a version of the "no duty to retreat" doctrine: They are empowered to use lethal force in circumstances in which neither they nor others are in mortal danger.

A very good example of that doctrine is displayed in this notorious car chase video:

Notice how the chase begins with the officer lying: The driver (who apparently stole the car) didn't try to "ram" the police vehicle, but appeared to avoid a collision.

Note as well the statement at 2:05 into the video: "Eighty-three, I'm going to take this guy out if I get a chance." In light of the lethal fusillade at the end of the chase, that statement strikes me as evidence of pre-meditated intent to kill the suspect.

The chase ended when the officer driving the first car rammed his vehicle into the allegedly stolen vehicle -- and then began firing into the suspect's car without warning. Another angle shows one of the three officers involved in the chase splayed T.J. Hooker-style on the hood of the car, firing multiple rounds into the suspect, 37-year-old Charles Wayne Bennett -- and then asking the passenger if the driver had a gun (see the clip below).

The passenger, a neighbor and casual acquaintance of Bennett, was an innocent bystander. He had no idea why Bennett fled from the police, and believes that it wasn't necessary to kill him:

According to police Captain James Schaffer, the shooting was justified because the car driven by Bennett "was being used as a weapon."

This may have been true. However, there were other options available to the officers apart from summarily executing Bennett, such as disabling the vehicle by shooting out its tires after Bennett was pinned in.

Perhaps the use of non-lethal force would be considered a "retreat" of sorts -- and the police don't have the duty to retreat. That being the case, law-abiding citizens should be protected in exercising lethal force in exactly the same fashion when confronted with the threat of illicit violence from police.

I'm old enough to remember a time when police would fire warning shots. Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff (whose career was a casualty of the Cold War's end) once said that warning shots were America's most appealing trait: "In Russia, the police just shoot the guy and that's a warning to everybody else."

On the evidence of the video above, Yakov -- much to his dismay -- should feel right at home in Amerika, 2007.

Please visit The Right Source and the Liberty Minute archive.

Dum spiro, pugno!


guilherme said...

The right to keep and bear amrs is a natural law to sef-defense.

Nobody has the right to kill me if government dont let me be a gun owner.


Bob said...

Just a bunch of dumb grown up kids who never got "cops-n-robbers" out of their systems. Pathetic.

Al Newberry said...

Wow. Blue Ash. That's just down the road from me. In fact, I have to go out that way today or tomorrow. Scary.

William N. Grigg said...

Al -- Stay safe, bro.

Anonymous said...

Will, I believe 15 states now have clarified there is no duty to retreat, with Florida starting it a few years ago.

William N. Grigg said...

Thanks, Anon! See the correction above.

Al Newberry said...

I just got around to watching the video. I am very familiar with that area. Smaller town--cops tend to feel they have something to prove in smaller towns. Well, they certainly proved they're liars and killers.

liberranter said...

Does anyone know which 15 states have enacted "no duty to retreat" laws? I notice that the International Herald Tribune article to which Will has linked doesn't bother to tell us this, instead choosing to make an uncalled-for snide comment on "itchy trigger fingers" that belongs not in a news article but in an editorial, further confirming the IHT's left-wing bias. Alas, what else would we expect from a MSM rag that's a hybrid of the Washington Post and the New York Times?

Mark Call said...

I see the correction as well, Will, and would add this note:

Colorado, twenty years before the 2005 date referenced in the linked article, passed what has become known as the "Make My Day Law", based on the then-popular Clint Eastwood movie phrase.

While that statute does not invoke the 'no duty to retreat' language, it does something equally useful in the home-invasion context --

it changes the PRESUMPTION of the law, and allows the break-in victim to PRESUME that anyone in their house under unwelcome conditions may intend deadly harm, and that therefore armed resistance is appropriate.

Mark Call said...

Another thing comes to mind as well on this topic:

Even if the "Law" was to acknowledge the Right (again) of individuals to protect what they think of as their family and home with force, and that understanding specifically extended to the New Gestapo in Blue ("LEOs" as opposed to peace officers) -- there's still a problem or two.

First, since most LEOs routinely ignore their Oath of Office anyway, and thus are used to acting under "Color of law" as opposed to the de jure variety, nothing changes in that regard.

Second, and arguably more importantly, anyone who WAS to exercise such a perogative -- regardless of the law -- would doubtless be "terminated with Extreme Prejudice" by the Fraternity.

Better you should off a mafia Don.

liberranter said...

Mark Call said...
Better you should off a mafia Don.

You mean there's a difference between a mafia don and the average cop?

William N. Grigg said...

You mean there's a difference between a mafia don and the average cop?

I'm not sure how the comparison would work out if dons were involved, but the typical mafia hitman is more discriminating in his use of lethal force that the typical New Model (post-1994) police officer.

Mark Call raises a good point regarding lethal retaliation from corrupt police. But as the police threats against "video vigilante" Brett Darrow illustrate, it's not necessary to shoot a cop in order to be targeted for lethal retaliation, at least in St. Louis.

liberranter said...

But as the police threats against "video vigilante" Brett Darrow illustrate, it's not necessary to shoot a cop in order to be targeted for lethal retaliation, at least in St. Louis.

Speaking of Brett Darrow, an update on his situation, just in case it hasn't been posted elsewhere:

Sgt. James Kuehnlein of the St. George, Missouri PD has been fired for his violent outburst at Brett that made the worldwide rounds on the Web. Apparently even the corrupt politicians who run the St. George PD couldn't put a positive spin on this. The full story here:

armed_and_christian said...

Indiana passed this law last year as well. Gov. Daniels called it "Castle Doctrine." Anyone threatening or attacking your home, vehicle, family, or person is subject to immediate deadly force.

Anonymous said...

What most people miss and what was well illustrated by the article is that the primary significance of the 2nd amendment is the people's right to use arms against a tyrannical state. It is this right to defend onself from the state, not robbers, theives, or other criminals, but the state, your state that forms the basis of the amendment. All one need do in order to understand this is to put the amendment in its historical context: the founders had just used their right to use violence against a corrupt government, their government, in the Revolutionary War. If there was one entity which they did not trust and against which they wished to insure the people defense it was governemnt and its functionaries.

Anonymous said...

Every person has a right to defend his life and property (and the lives and properties of others) by force if necessary. This right is inherent in life and exists regardless of what the law says.

The problem with the 2nd Amendment, and original intent, is that the founders never imagined one's STATE government as the enemy. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) They saw the states as threatened by the federal government and viewed the individual right to keep and bear arms as a means by which the states could maintain their independence from an overreaching federal leviathan. The understanding being that a man would fight, as did Robert E. Lee, to defend his home state from invasion by federal troops.

Under a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment applies only to the federal government, not the states.

As everyone here knows, the "several states" are now just subsidiaries of the central government. This has been the case since the War Against Secession (aka the Civil War), and especially since the collectivist revolution of the 20th century.

Nowadays, however, the whole Bill of Rights are a MANDATE for the feds to override state laws that are deemed in violation of the Bill of Rights. But of course, the 2nd Amendment is an exception, as evidenced by the plentiful state gun control laws (not to mention federal statutes).

The state, at all levels, is the enemy. Relying on its promises (Constitutions) is like taking a known liar and murderer at his word.


Anonymous said...


Mark Call said...

Under a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment applies only to the federal government, not the states.

This is true, RB. Note, for that reason, that almost every State therefore has a requisite set of guarantees (including the RKBA) in their individual constitutions.

The "14th Amendment incorporated the B of R" crap is revealed to be the lie that it is by the obvious disconnect with the Second Amendment, just like the "War on Terror" is belied by the fact that little old ladies with knitting needles are harassed in airports while immigrants bearing WMD components cross the border unimpeded.

(And it's not just LOLs, Will - I expect you might eventually have some better intel on the new Arizona victim of TSA hospitality than we get on the MSM. )

Mark said...

"...disabling the vehicle by shooting out its tires after Bennett was pinned in."

Yah--that's right up there with "shooting the gun out of his hand" and "shooting him in the leg" to stop an armed threat.

William N. Grigg said...

So ... YOU'RE saying there was NO option apart from jumping on the hood of the car and pumping several rounds into the driver?

Did you actually watch the video? Even a donut-fueled, good-enough-for-government-work hack couldn't miss a stationary target the size of a tire at closer than point-blank range. I doubt that I could miss a shot like that.

Anonymous said...

When your family or friends get held hostage at gun point ask the police sharp shooters to kindly shoot the weapon out of the robber's hands. Because we all know that the highly trained police sharp shooters can hit a dime at 100 yards. Anything more than that and is excessive force and they should be prosecuted the same as the robbers right? Do you know why that officer jumped on the hood? Let me explain to you. The immediate threat was the driver and the vehicle. The officer could had shot from the driver side door, stop the driver but at the same time the driver side passenger would be caught in the cross fire. He risked his safety for the safety of the passenger. Some would say that's a selfless act, others would say what a dumb ass. Which one are you? Are there police that are corrupt and use excessive force, no doubt. Only 40 years ago if you were of a certain color and lived in certain parts of America, the police were like this. You could call them state sanctioned terrorist by today's standards if you wanted to.

Anonymous said...

The physical and psychological militarization of the police is a direct assault on the citizenry. Indeed, the majority of these coppers are rotten and cruel. Abuse of power is the name of the game. The following article comments on many liberty issues with a great discussion on the right to keep and bear arms.

E. David Quammen said...

Mark Call said...

This is true, RB. Note, for that reason, that almost every State therefore has a requisite set of guarantees (including the RKBA) in their individual constitutions.


"The prohibition is general. No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to Congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretense by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both."

- William Rawle, A View of the Constitution, 125-6 (2nd ed. 1829). (Appointed by President George Washington as U.S. District Attorney for Pennsylvania in 1791).

"...More especially, it cannot be believed that the large slaveholding States regarded them as included in the word citizens, or would have consented to a Constitution which might compel them to receive them in that character from another State. For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went...."

- U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1856 in Dred Scott v. Sandford.

E. David Quammen said...

The precedent is pretty well covered here:

"The Right to Self Defense"

"Who are these militia? [A]re they not ourselves. Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American. . . . [T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people."

- Tenche Coxe, using the pseudonym "a Pennsylvanian", Feb. 20, 1788, Pennsylvania Gazette.

"Whereas civil-rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as military forces, which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms."

- Tenche Coxe, 'Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution' using the Pseudonym "A Pennsylvanian" in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789 at 2 col. 1.

Mr. Coxe was a prominent Philadelphian and political economist who was named assistant secretary of the treasury in 1790, commissioner of revenue in 1792, and purveyor of public supplies in 1803. Whose series of newspaper articles were very much approved by both Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Madison.

Mark Call said...

The prohibition is general...

I am familiar with William Rawle's work, and do not disagree with the concept, EDQ. However, the fact remains that most state constitutions DO duplicate not only the 2nd Amendment, but other guarantees of God-given Rights.

The principle boils down simply to "tell 'em NO, and keep telling 'em."

Sadly, it is also inarguable that virtually ALL of those "guarantees" of Rights have been ignored, the warnings of Henry, Mason, Coxe, and many others notwithstanding.

After all, as our host here has so effectively pointed out, if the armed agents of the police state can so utterly ignore their oaths of office, and most Amerikans are utterly ignorant of these issues anyway, what difference do a few prohibitions in what the Dictator-in-Chief calls a "GD piece of paper" make?

E. David Quammen said...

Mark Call (and everyone else) -

Then it is up to We The People to stand up and demand our rights be respected. Especially if We rely on God, as "Henry, Mason, Coxe, and many others" did. United We Stand, divided we fall. We vastly outnumber them. If it wasn't for us, 'they' wouldn't even be there.

E. David Quammen said...

"National rights and national opinion, cannot really exist, without powers for defending the one, and organs for expressing the other. The system of orders must shew these or confess that they have provided for neither, and that it uses the terms as decoy phantoms to delude nations within its grasp. The policy of the United States, exhibits its militia, its right of bearing arms, its rights retained, its right of instruction, and its inclusive right of abolishing the entire government.

"Our policy, considering a nation as possessing rights it cannot alienate, secures its will and ability to protect them, by moral and physical means. It provides election, attempered by free discussion, as a moral mode of subjecting governments to the sovereignty of the nation, and not to subject the nation to a sovereignty of the government."

- Senator John Taylor, (Virginia), An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States; Section the Sixth; THE GOOD MORAL PRINCIPLES OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES. (Fredericksburg, VA.: Green and Cady, 1814).

Orion said...

William Norman Grigg, a patriot's patriot.

Mr Grigg the 2nd Amendment is clear yet the anti-gunners say it refers to National Guard, WELL REGULATED MILITIA,

Marlon Brando starred in a film, The Missouri Breaks (1976), which clearly demonstrates what REGULATED meant in this nation rent it and see, it was a lightbulb moment for me.

Recall Waco, who were they bothering? See DAVID KOPEL's writing JUSTICE FORF WACO AND OKC.

Josh said...

The vehicle defiently appears to attempt to run over the police officer. The police officer only has to have a perception of a deadly threat based on some reasonable standard, to be justified

The only sad part is... a stolen car is ONLY a property crime. Unless the vehicle was used to commit a dangerious crime (robbery, rape, etc) who cares that much? A stolen car is not worth a dead cop or a dead kid who didn't realize how deadly a car chase is.

Anonymous said...

Too bad Trayvon Martin was unarmed...

Anonymous said...

Too bad Trayvon Martin didn't suffer