Dimitri Vassilaros, Tribune Review.
The law says you must act like a coward. In your own home. Even when your life is threatened.
Many states have criminal-friendly "duty to retreat" laws. A victim in his house is mandated to retreat from an attacker until he is cornered. Only then is the prey allowed to use lethal force on the predator. Prosecutors in those states have been known to victimize the victim (such as charging him with manslaughter) who prefers to fire back rather than to back off.
The National Rifle Association has been trying to end the insanity state by state.
Florida came to its senses last year. It enacted a law based on the "Castle Doctrine" -- that one's home is one's castle. A person now is not legally required to be hunted down room by room by an intruder before the victim pulls the trigger. The law allows the victim to shoot back without fear of being prosecuted for being overzealous about protecting his life. And it prohibits criminals from suing their more aggressive victims. All their victims, actually.
"Somebody should not be twice victimized, first by the assailant and then by the legal system trying to destroy his life," says Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, the largest organization representing gun owners after the NRA.
But the Florida law does more.
Car-jackers beware; now one's car is his mobile castle. And better still, if a victim is not in a home or car, now he legally can use deadly force. Sunshine State criminals without a death wish might want to consider career counseling. Or take Horace Greeley's advice to go west. But if they do, they had better hurry.
Wyoming is the latest battleground. The NRA is lobbying there and in 11 other states to repeal duty-to-retreat laws.
Pennsylvanians have that so-called duty if they are attacked outside the home, according to Kim Stolfer, legislative committee chairman of the Allegheny County Sportsmen's League. House Bill 2213 takes aim at the "duty" and prohibits prosecution for defending yourself. It also prohibits lawsuits by a criminal who was injured while attacking the victim. And it prohibits lawsuits by the criminal's survivors if the victim gunned him down.
Arthur C. Hayhoe, executive director of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, essentially spoke for liberalism when he said in published reports that "What they've done is legalize manslaughter here in Florida. It (the new law) promotes irresponsible, aggressive and even illegal use of firearms."
Why are we even having this debate?
How could anyone actually believe that you should not defend yourself until you've run out of room to flee? When did it become a person's duty to scurry into the basement like a cockroach fleeing the exterminator?
A duty-to-retreat law is the ultimate debasement of man.
It means that your life is not worth protecting except as a last resort. It also means that your intruder's life is worth protecting except as a last resort. You are little better than your tormentor.
The Castle Doctrine rightly says that your bricks and mortar are sacrosanct. But is there an equivalent doctrine for your flesh and blood?
You have no "duty" to retreat when threatened in your house, car or anywhere else. Your life is no less precious when you are outdoors. A man's home is his castle. A man's duty is to himself.
Dimitri Vassilaros is a Trib editorial page columnist. His column appears Sundays, Mondays and Fridays. Call him at 412-380-5637. E-mail him at [email protected]