Thursday, July 17, 2008

Joe Horn, Texas, Alan Korwin give Castle Doctrine a bad name

UPDATE: Korwin ain't so bad.

A runaway jury in Texas refused to indict Joe Horn ("I'm gonna kill 'em!...Move, yer dead!") on any criminal charges whatsoever related to his murder of two men burglarizing his neighbor's home. Grand jury proceedings in Texas are sealed, so we do not and likely will never know the reasoning, but the matter is already being linked in the popular press (one example) to Castle Doctrine laws removing the duty to retreat during a criminal invasion of one's home or business, no doubt in part because Horn himself mentioned the change in the law to the 911 operator.

This despite Horn's actions (even according to the law's author) not falling under castle doctrine protection. The letter of the law is clear: the Castle Doctrine bill creates a presumption that a person breaking into one's home or business is there to cause, primarily or incidentially, bodily harm, and clarifies (as the Supreme Court affirmed for Federal case law, way back in 1895) that there is no duty to retreat.

What it does not do is allow a man, in a fit of stupid machismo or for any other reason, on witnessing a crime in which others are not in iminent danger, to load his firearm, shout "Move yer dead!", seek out trouble, and shoot the culprits in the back. The Castle Doctrine only applies if trouble comes to the shooter! Nevertheless, that the Castle Doctrine gives semi-literate rubes like Horn or W.C. Frosch even the idea that they have a right to shoot people not invading their homes or businesses--in Frosch's case, a kid cutting across his lawn--will make it all the more difficult to get Castle bills passed in states which impose a statutory duty to retreat.

Alan Korwin, publisher of Gun Laws of the United States, isn't making the situation any better. From his 17 July 2007 "Page Nine" e-newsletter:

News reports generally failed to mention that the two dead criminals, caught red-handed burglarizing Horn's neighbor's house, were in the country illegally. News media policy is to ignore or avoid the illegal immigration aspects of crimes when possible, because they believe it might expose a stereotype, create a stereotype, or is not important, though nearly everyone who reads their tripe believes it is very important. Reasons for the difference in opinion are unclear.

Texas has robust "Castle Doctrine" laws protecting homeowners and the innocent, and making things tough on home invaders even if they aren't illegal aliens committing crimes here. Horn said on tape that he knew of those laws, and the officer on the other end of the line acknowledged the laws were in place, but tried in many ways to convince Horn to do absolutely nothing and let the burglars rob his neighbor.

Korwin may publish books on the law, but he's no lawyer, and it shows. That Hown knows of the Castle Doctrine law does not justify--legally or morally--his actions when the Castle Doctrine simply does not apply. Yet nevertheless Korwin is taken, popularly, to be an authority on firearms law. His invocation of the Castle Doctrine will make it more difficult, at the margin, for us to get these laws passed elsewhere.

As will, of course, his stressing of the burglars' immigration status. To imply that their status is a mitigating factor for Horn is vile, moreover, even a half-wit understands that Horn could not have possibly known the burglars were unlawfully in the country when he shot them in the back. To answer Korwin's question, the reason newsmen didn't report the burglars' immigration status is because, legally, it doesn't matter, and morally, it doesn't matter. That "illegals have no rights" is a right-wing myth, the product of Mugabe-like or Hitler-like imaginations. "If you shoot someone in the back, and it turns out that they don't have a government permission slip, that makes it OK." The press, better educated than the plebs, understand that immigration is irrelevant and have no obligation to report on it simply because morons and bigots think it's important.

Korwin is reminding me in some ways of Jack "Pal" Smurch from Thurber's classic The Greatest Man In The World. What kind of self-respecting, thoughtful human being thinks immigration status of the victim is relevant to the question of whether or not someone should be indicted for murder? The same sort of childish lout who writes of a "lamestream media" and who believes Oregon Petition hype about anthropogenic global warming. Flying around the world didn't make Smurch anything but the boor he was, and likewise publishing success hasn't transformed Korwin into Eugene Volokh or Dave Hardy. A boor can become successful in business, he can be dressed up in a suit, given awards, receive ass-kissing admiration from better men, but he remains a boor. Class doesn't follow success.

Lack of class has hurt the pro-RKBA movement in the past and, at the margin, will continue to hurt it. Unfortunately, there's no good way to even induce the classless to clean up.

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