Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Michigan House considers "Shoot First" bill

23. October 2005 • Murph
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The Michigan House is considering HB 5143, which would copy Florida’s recent “make my day” law enabling citizens to use deadly force when they believe themselves threatened, removing any duty to retreat from harm, and preventing civil or criminal charges against such “defendants”.

The Freep reasonably calls this “nonsense”:

Republican Reps. Tom Casperson of Escanaba and Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, who introduced the bills, said the legislation would prevent residents from having to worry about whether they are justified in using force to defend their families and property.

That’s nonsense. Shooting or killing someone should concern any reasonable person. A home or vehicle break-in does not necessarily endanger the life of the occupant. Nor does it absolve the owner, legally or morally, from making any decision other than shooting to kill.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has counterattacked in Florida, taking aim at the state’s tourism industry. Their Shoot First Law campaign is running ads in national newspapers and distributing information at airports warning tourists of the potential of being shot by nervous locals. Jeb Bush: not amused.

(How did I miss this a month ago?)



  1. Actually, the “shoot first” law is actually just a way to protect folks who use their 2nd Amendment rights to defend themselves and their property. And contrary to anti-gun (actually, anti-self-defense) pundits, it will not lead to more shootings. Not unless the bad guys try to invade more homes while the owners are there.

    Personally, I would never convict someone who used deadly force to defend themselves. Please don’t confuse offenders with defenders. I also suggest you not try to break into my house! :-)

    And the quote “A home or vehicle break-in does not necessarily endanger the life of the occupant” is wrong. If you are confronted in your own home by someone who shouldn’t be there, you must assume they will use deadly force against you just so they can get away without being caught. He who acts last, in that case, will probably die.

    And actually, to prevent more defensive shootings, all the anti-gun folks should just post signs on their front lawns saying “no gun on premises.” That way the bad guys will know where it’s safe to break in!
       —Chico Panther    Oct. 24 '05 - 06:11PM    #
  2. Chico, the problem with this bill isn’t so much the guns or the defense... It’s the incredibly loose wording, i.e “presumed” danger or defining a vehicle as “a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, that is designed to transport people or property”.

    So, if this bill passes and I’m walking down the street with my radio flyer in tow and you’re walking towards me (and I presume you’ll be thieving my hot lil red wagon, because who could resist?) I can kill you? Cool. Glad to hear I’ll be within my rights to not act last in that case, since I’d (presumably) otherwise be dead.
       —FAA    Oct. 24 '05 - 07:40PM    #
  3. The last time I checked, it wasn’t illegal to shoot someone in self-defense.

    The problem with these “shoot first” laws is that self-defense defines using deadly force as a last resort, not the first. The text is so ambiguous, a person could receive both civil and criminal immunity if they “believed” they were unsafe.

    Perception, like many other things, varies from person to person. That’s why self-defense is defined as it is; to avoid ambiguity.
       —Jared Goldberg    Oct. 24 '05 - 11:34PM    #
  4. Chico – I’m not trying to voice an anti-gun position; don’t hop to conclusions here. I think people have a right to defend their home and family . . . but what I don’t agree is that simply claiming “self-defense!” should be a “get out of trial free” card.

    If you shoot somebody who’s menacing you in your home and you have cause to believe they’re going to harm you, well, yes, the jury should consider it self-defense upon considering the facts. But I think it’s very important to have that jury have a role in there. “He was getting really excited over his seven-letters on a triple-word score, and I was nervous,” is probably not a valid situation in which to shoot somebody defensively. “It was 3am, I had just heard a window break, and he was standing in my living room; I’d never seen him before,” is a little more valid. The role of the jury is to determine whether you were, in fact, in a position where you had belief that you were in immediate danger and had reason to shoot, or whether shooting was an unjustified and tragic escalation of an innocent misunderstanding.

    I think that the Freep has a very good sentence in there – “Shooting or killing someone should concern any reasonable person.” Shooting somebody is a decision, and that decision, like any other that leads to somebody getting hurt, is one that should be examined in court.

    That’s what I’m concerned with. I’m not anti-gun, I’m anti-circumventing the justice system.
       —Murph    Oct. 25 '05 - 09:11AM    #
  5. But the main reason we’re considering laws such as “shoot first” is because the left has tried so hard for so many years to eradicate the use of guns for lawful purposes. It’s a “push back” sort of law, which I grant would not be needed if overzealous prosecutors wouldn’t go after homeowners defending their turf as much as they do.

    If the anti-gunners in the US had their way, we’d soon be like the British subjects, who when disarmed are now sheep waiting to be assaulted, murdered, etc, all without adequate means to defend themselves. The “law” in England even stooped so low as to imprison farmer Tony Martin when he dared shoot an intruder on Martin’s property. “Shoot first” is to ensure that travesties like the Martin case don’t happen here.
       —Chico Panther    Oct. 25 '05 - 11:23AM    #
  6. You’re right Chico. Now if only those honorable nazi protesters in Toledo had had guns to shoot away all the rioting minorities!
       —Matt Hollerbach    Oct. 25 '05 - 11:30AM    #
  7. Chico – I don’t generally think that pushing the pendulum too far in the other direction is the right way to deal with bad laws.

    Besides, I think it makes for poor civic discourse to push extreme measures just because you think the other side has pushed extreme measures. I think that pushes you further from a rational consensus, rather than closer.
       —Murph.    Oct. 25 '05 - 12:11PM    #
  8. Does anyone know what Michigan law presently says about this? It would be good if someone could post either the present statute or appeals court case that makes some believe there is a “duty to retreat”.
       —David Cahill    Oct. 25 '05 - 12:47PM    #
  9. “which I grant would not be needed if overzealous prosecutors wouldn’t go after homeowners defending their turf as much as they do.”

    Any stats to back up this claim? How many of the self-defense cases result in prosecutors going after homeowners? Anecdotal incidents don’t equal real numbers – back up the claim with numbers and percentages, please.
       —John Q    Oct. 25 '05 - 01:00PM    #
  10. Statistics? There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Although one statistic you could look up is this: The left love to vilify the National Rifle Association, for example. However, if you were to examine who the perps were who committed gun crimes, you would be hard pressed to find NRA members amongst the perps. Why not instead vilify the perps who would gladly shoot you while they’re holding up a convenience store?

    And as far as banning guns go, that’d be about as effective as banning drugs. I mean, obviously, since doing drugs is illegal, nobody does them right? And just as there are laws against murder, nobody ever kills anyone, right? It’s like this: the bad guys will arm themselves, so we all need to preserve our right to arm ourselves in return.

    Remember: just because you carry, doesn’t mean you intend to use your gun for offensive purposes. A gun can’t harm you unless there’s a person attached to it, while a person can still kill you even if he/she is not attached to a gun!
       —Chico Panther    Oct. 26 '05 - 03:54PM    #
  11. Chico, you’ve kind of invalidated your argument by saying statistics were unnecessary.

    I’m a gun owner, too, but please, for our sake, don’t carry on a debate using nothing but pro-gun quips and NRA-ILA statements. If the man wants statistics, you should be willing to provide them.
       —eston    Oct. 26 '05 - 06:02PM    #
  12. (eston, I was wondering how long it would take you to say that…)
       —Murph.    Oct. 27 '05 - 04:35PM    #
  13. It only took two hours. :)
       —eston    Oct. 27 '05 - 05:05PM    #