Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Right to Protect

Recently, an armed homeowner shot and seriously wounded a person who illegally trespassed on his gated property around two in the morning. Sounds like a clear case of self-defense to me. But when I heard that the homeowner is being accused of attempted second degree murder for shooting an intended burglar, I got upset. Since when can we not protect our family and home?

Louisiana has very strong and clear self defense laws to protect people trying to protect themselves. These laws are considered the Louisiana Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Laws. (RA 14:19-20, RS 9:2800.19) In a nutshell, these laws grant a Louisiana citizen under attack the right to protect their person and property using any force necessary without having to retreat. Given this and the facts that I am aware of, the homeowner was well within his right to use force, the gun, to prevent the impending attempted robbery, a felony offense. The robber jumped a fence at two a.m., rousing the family dog that started barking which alerted the homeowner that someone was outside in his private yard. Given the circumstances that night and recent instances of property theft, the homeowner had a reasonable fear for the safety of his self and his family. Therefore, when the intruder continued onto the private property after being forewarned by the barking dog, the homeowner fired one round at a distance of 30 feet to stop the intruder. By my interpretation of the statues, the homeowner was within his rights to shoot at the intruder. One might argue that the force used was not “reasonable” against an unarmed suspect. However, to counter, one might argue that the force was indeed “apparently necessary” given the unknown fact of if the burglar had a weapon or not while he posed a threat to the family.

One of the many questions that have arisen from this incident is: where were the teen’s parents? Yes, that's right. A fourteen year old was the burglar in this situation. Surprised? As seems to be the case in much of the crime committed by inner-city youth, the teen intruder came from a broken family of eight children raised by the mother and the eldest son, 23, in a low socio-economic setting. As many would agree, this does not sound like a recipe for a happy and healthy upbringing. There are many factors that, if changed, could have affected this teen. What if his father was still at home? What if he didn’t have so many siblings? What if he had a part-time job or a youth group to keep him positively occupied? Pastor Christiana Ford seems to thing this is the solution: to put the blame into someone else’s hands for the problems of the youth. While I agree that having jobs and church programs could certainly help, I disagree that this lack is where the problem lies. All problems that people exhibit can be traced back to the parents and parenting style, or lack thereof. Studies have proven time and again that a majority of low income children have very little future respectable prospects in life and get caught in the norm of violence around them. Occasionally, one kid will shine through, one kid whose parent(s) made an effort to truly be a part of their child’s life and encourage them to be more. I believe that if more parents could take that extra step, no matter how small, we would see less juvenile, and therefore adult, crime.

This entire situation is tragic. A good man protecting his family is accused of attempted murder. A teen with a troubled past is in critical condition because no one taught him now to be good. Both these persons and their families’ lives have been changed because of this incident which should never have come to happen. We as a community need to do more. We need to educate ourselves about the self-defense laws. And we need to hug our children while telling them how much they are loved. Change starts with you. Only until after you change yourself can you change another.


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