House Bill 882 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

House Bill 882

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill that will allow a self-defense claim to extend beyond the entry of one's home. If the bill becomes law, you will be able to have a "rebuttable presumption of innocence" (legal term) when you kill someone that you believe was about to commit a felonious act ( like burglary) or inflict bodily, possibly fatal harm to your person whether you are in your home, on your property, in your car or your place of business/employment. I voted for this bill.

The criticism behind this bill was that it would be considered open season on inner city youth if enacted. Being sensitive to that, I see it quite the opposite. In my district, there are homeowners trying to live in peace, but they are victims of burglaries and carjackings. As the current law reads, you would only have a claim of self-defense if a person was illegally in your house or was physically attacking you. This would broaden the scope. It is actually a long overdue companion bill to the "gunslinger" law, which allows a citizen to carry a gun in their car or place of business, as long as it is not concealed. The bill also provides civil protection for citizens who defend themselves and then get sued by the perpetrators or their families. The bill is actually a sad commentary on the state of affairs in this world, but I feel it will give citizens a sense of empowerment and not necessarily compel them to a "duty to retreat" (another legal term). In case you were wondering, the bill also protects those individuals, like census takers or repo men, who show up on your property in the performance of their duties.

Previous Comments

ID
169989
Comment

someone that you believe was about to commit a felonious act Hmmm. Sounds like a Wild, Wild West bill to me. "Draw!" OK, what is the back-up research on the potential effectiveness and problems with such a bill? Personally, I'm going to need a bit more convincing that these makes a lick of sense.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-01-14T10:36:24-06:00
ID
169990
Comment

Rep. Reeves put it best, it is not a research-based public policy decision, it is a difference in a philosophy of criminal law. The current self-defense laws in America are based on a theory of the duty to retreat, meaning when in an invidious situation, run away. If you cannot run away and have to defend yourself, then deadly force is acceptable. The other theory, in which this bill is patterned, is the duty to defend, meaning if you are in an invidious situation, you have the right by any means necessary to get out of it, including the use of deadly force. Bernard Getz is a classic example. Under current law, he had no right to kill those men he thought were going to attack him, because the act had not occurred. Under this bill, he would have had a stronger case for self-defense and may have gotten off. I hope that was objective enough of an explanation.

Author
Rep. Erik Fleming
Date
2006-01-14T17:22:50-06:00
ID
169991
Comment

I'm impressed with the Senate version of this law (I haven't seen the House version yet), and I didn't expect to be. I had initial concerns because it's based on a Florida law that is so poorly written that it would essentially legalize lynchings, by not in any way addressing such things as the immediacy and seriousness of the criminal act, et. al. I had planned to blog on the Florida law with the heading "License to Kill," but I wanted to see what other states' proposed versions would actually look like first. Now I'm glad I did. All the Mississippi Senate version of this law seems to do--all it seems to do--is remove the duty to retreat doctrine. Period. It doesn't allow folks to shoot retreating burglars, for example, as the Florida law does. It wouldn't allow (extreme case) thirty armed people to charge in and shoot a black guy to death for allegedly raping a white woman--which is the classic, stereotypical lynching scenario, rendered ambiguously legal by the Florida statute. The Mississippi law is far better written than that. It closes those loopholes. The threat to oneself or other persons must be immediate and real, and the force must be commensurate to that threat--which means, in effect, that you can't shoot an unarmed criminal, something that the Florida statute would allow one to do. So I have no serious problem with it. I do think that support for the law in some circles is based on a ridiculous Chuck Norris notion that having a shootout with a criminal is better than fleeing, but the truth is that both options should probably be legal so as to allow victims of crime maximum latitude in determining a plan for self-defense and defense of other persons in harm's way. CCheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-01-14T20:24:21-06:00
ID
169992
Comment

Re Bernie Goetz: Gotta disagree with you here, Rep. Fleming, on three counts: 1. Goetz basically did get off. He was acquitted of the shootings and imprisoned for criminal possession of a firearm. 2. The Mississippi version of the new code would not affect Goetz under the terms of People v. Goetz, which established that the self-defense doctrine is subject to a "reasonable person" standard and not entirely subjective. The Senate version of the Mississippi shoot-first law even includes an explicit "reasonable person" standard to close this loophole. 3. Goetz deserved to be charged with at least one count of attempted murder, based on his own admission. From Wikipedia: After surveying the scene Goetz saw Cabey moving on the bench and later confessed to approaching Cabey and saying, "You don't look too bad, here's another", and then attempting to shoot Cabey again in the stomach (with an empty gun). I think this is a good bill, but please, dear God, please don't bring up the specter of Bernie Goetz. We don't need people going around shooting up black teenagers for saying "Give me five dollars." That scenario is insane. And, fortunately, not directly affected by the new Mississippi bill. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-01-14T20:37:57-06:00
ID
169993
Comment

Thanks TH for the correction. It has been so long ago, I forgot what he actually went to jail for. I was just using the first point of reference that came to mind to give Donna an objective perspective in determining how she felt about us passing that bill, which I believe is identical to the Senate bill, SB 2426.

Author
Rep. Erik Fleming
Date
2006-01-14T23:57:54-06:00
ID
169994
Comment

I wanted to find the full text of the bill, but could not find anything under HB 882 or any combination of 882. Can anyone help me out? Mississippi Legislative Bill Status System http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/

Author
Philip
Date
2006-01-16T23:58:58-06:00
ID
169995
Comment

Click on that link, then hit 2006 session, either HTML or PDF, then go list of measures by committee under the House of Representatives column, then hit Judiciary A and scroll down. It is there. Better yet, hit this link: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2006/html/HB/0800-0899/HB0882CS.htm That should be a direct link to the bill.

Author
Rep. Erik Fleming
Date
2006-01-17T01:38:44-06:00
ID
169996
Comment

• For every time a gun is used in a home in a legally-justifiable shooting [note that self-defense has always been legally justifiable] there are 22 criminal, unintentional, and suicide-related shootings. • The presence of a gun in the home correlates with a tripled risk of homicide inside the home. • The presence of a gun in the home correlates with a quintupled risk of suicide inside the home. These are adapted from the Brady Campaign, but I introduce them here to raise a counter-argument, since y'all seem to think this bill's so warm and fuzzy. Don't you think that expanding the rights of citizens to shoot each other is dangerous? After all, it's citizens who shoot each other. Although we've had gun crime in Jackson lately, I can't think of many cases in which a gun saved someone's life. However, it is very easy to remember crimes of passion. My point is this: the fact that the bill may be technically sound does not mean that it is morally sound. Why exactly--and I would be overjoyed by research on this subject--do we need to expand laws expanding the right of people to shoot intruders, those "about to commit a felonious act," etc? Has there been an epidemic of people getting thrown into the slammer for shooting intruders but failing to retreat? Is this bill necessary, or is it political? Philosophical differences aside, I am practical. I would like to see research.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2006-01-18T22:41:52-06:00
ID
169997
Comment

The justification for the bill is not based on empirical data. This bill simply creates an extended presumption of innocence in a plea for self-defense. Right now, the law limits where self-defense can take place, this bill merely expands it. Nor it is strictly dealing with guns, many people defend themselves with baseball bats and knifes, especially with home invasions.

Author
Rep. Erik Fleming
Date
2006-01-19T00:19:07-06:00
ID
169998
Comment

brjohn, I am in sympathy with your points and if I were in charge of writing the law on this, it would be much narrower than even the Mississippi bill supports. But: (1) This law does not directly impact gun ownership. It merely changes the law so that those who are armed, and have their lives threatened, have no duty to retreat. In practice, this means little--folks who have used firearms in legitimate self-defense have consistently been cleared in court--but it gives some people more peace of mind. (2) We need to be realistic about the context of this bill. The NRA had a similar billed passed in Florida, and I had no doubt whatsoever (because the NRA pretty much owns this state) that they would get their choice of bills passed here. So what I love about this bill, more than anything else, is that it's not as bad as Florida's. I expected it to be as bad or worse. Now, if you want my overall opinion on gun ownership, it goes like this: (a) The Second Amendment is very clear that the personal right to gun ownership exists to serve the purpose of military self-defense. Period. The "well-regulated militia" of the Second Amendment is Washington's militia--check out my volume The Bill of Rights sometime, where I include Washington's actual civilian militia regulations, to which the amendment refers. During Washington's time, all able-bodied men were expected to carry firearms and be prepared to serve in defense of the country. Why? Because we had no professional army. None. It was an 100% conscription-based, civilian military to be used solely for domestic defense of the United States. Well, when John Adams created a professional Navy, the Second Amendment became obsolete. Now the civilian militia is the National Guard, and the so-called universal right to individual gun ownership has no legitimate claim to exist. (b) There was another reason for individual gun ownership rights that was touted in the 18th century, and that was the right to overthrow the government. "From time to time," in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots." This basis for gun ownership never actually appears in the Constitution, but the logic was very clear and very well presented in contemporaneous 18th-century documents: We need equal arms to those of the government so that, in the event of a revolution, we can dismantle it. But if that were the basis of the Second Amendment, then merely permitting firearm ownership wouldn't be enough--the U.S. government has far more sophisticated weaponry at its disposal, most of it banned for civilian use. So until we have two nukes in every garage and an F-117A in every driveway, it's nonsensical to talk about the blood-of-tyrants argument. The real arguments advanced today to back up gun ownership weren't used very often during the 18th century. They are: (i) Hunting (fair enough, though as a vegetarian I won't be doing any), and (ii) Self-defense. The fact that (ii) is 22 times more likely than not to end badly doesn't change the fact that it's an understandable thing. Certainly there are not very many action-adventure movies out there based around the theme of our hero being cornered by the bad guys and always managing to escape through a nearby window, then calling the police. But that's a hell of a lot more rational, in the real world, than going out of one's way to exchange rounds with some Uzi-toting crackhead. That said: Would I rather be armed if someone was kicking down my front door trying to get at me or someone I love? Hell, yes. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-01-19T00:37:17-06:00
ID
169999
Comment

Rep. Fleming, thanks for pointing this out--though I feel the need to mention that the folks lobbying to have this passed in every state are the NRA, who are rather more focused on firearms than baseball bats and knives, even if the bill itself remains neutral on the point. Likewise, the folks lobbying to get the bill defeated tend to be gun control advocates. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-01-19T00:39:06-06:00
ID
170000
Comment

"no legitimate claim to exist" --> "no legitimate textual claim to exist"

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-01-19T02:21:06-06:00
ID
170001
Comment

TH: I appreciate the historical context you bring to this discussion. The Second Amendment will probably be brought before the next Supreme Court, with the court siding with me and others who take a more liberal, evolved position that we have the right to bear arms. The Mississippi Constitution (Article 3, Section 12) makes it a clear right for its citizens to bear arms.

Author
Rep. Erik Fleming
Date
2006-01-19T07:37:42-06:00

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