Give MSNBC some credit for covering the story of Sheriff Chuck Wright and his call for law-abiding citizens to arm themselves as a measure of self-defense. However, deduct credit for a complete lack of research and common sense in preparing their interview of Wright. Substitute host Craig Melvin treats his guest respectfully but obviously doesn’t have a clue about the laws regarding self-defense, nor the actual application of “presumption of innocence”:
CRAIG MELVIN, NewsNation guest host: If women are shooting potential attackers, aren’t they presuming guilt before innocence? What if a woman kills an attacker? Isn’t that opening another whole legal can of worms?
Sheriff CHUCK WRIGHT, Spartanburg, S.C.: Well, it’s easy to fix that. Just don’t attack a woman…. I know that this is controversial, but I do believe that people who believe in the Second Amendment and believe that they should arm themselves have a right to do so, as long as they’re trained properly.
First, no one can shoot “potential attackers” in self-defense. Anyone who gets a permit to carry a firearm has to learn the laws of self-defense with lethal force (in most states; see update), which don’t change with the issuance of a permit. Lethal force can only be used if in reasonable fear of losing life (your own or someone nearby) or “grave” bodily harm (i.e., losing a limb or an eye, not broken bones) while outside one’s home. Inside one’s home, laws vary more, but they all require some sort of actual crime in progress, such as breaking and entering the house itself; in Minnesota, there has to be a felony occurring, not just the B&E, which is a misdemeanor, and at the moment the law still requires some retreat inside the home, which legislators are trying to change with a “castle doctrine” change to the law.
The term “potential” is meaningless in self-defense, with or without lethal force. A “potential” attacker is one that hasn’t attacked yet, and if lethal force is used against that person, the shooter will find him/herself facing a very tough prosecution. They won’t get much support from the carry community, either.
In the case Wright handled that led to his frustrated outburst, there was nothing “potential” about the attack. Pulling a gun or a knife on a person is an attack (specifically, assault with a deadly weapon); demanding property while doing so is armed robbery, and telling victims that they’ll be killed is a rational and reasonable basis to fear for one’s life, although the victim had better expect to get challenged on that point. When an attack is in progress, the laws of self-defense do not require victims to presume innocence, an absurd idea on its face. The woman who got attacked in Wright’s jurisdiction was threatened into disrobing and then sustained a sexual attack; at what point does Melvin think the “presumption” evaporates? When he finally kills her? When a jury says so? The presumption of innocence relates to investigation and prosecution, not self-defense. The only entities required to employ a presumption of innocence are judges and juries.
MSNBC might have enlightened their viewers with an intelligent discourse on self-defense. Instead, they botched it through their own ignorance and bias.
Also, be sure to read Scott Johnson’s response to a rebuttal from the Star Tribune about their reporting of the Evanovich shooting. Here’s the money pull from Scott:
I took from McKinney’s October 28 story that the good citizen had chased Evanovich down and shot him in cold blood. That is the way McKinney’s story reads. That is why I characterized McKinney’s story as deeply deceptive. That is why I say I stupidly relied on McKinney’s for my understanding of the case.
McKinney now asserts in his defense that he didn’t mean to deceive, that his story was only unintentionally deceptive. Yet on the crucial point, which I have emphasized in McKinney’s message above, McKinney states that he resolved the ambiguity of the October 21 police report simply by omitting any reference to the confrontation, which turns out to be the key to understanding the incident.
Is that the way they teach you to do it in journalism school?
Update: Most states require certification and training for carry permits, but according to HA reader Todd W, Pennsylvania does not. However, even if carriers aren’t trained in this area, they’re still very much bound by the laws regarding the deployment of lethal force in self-defense. Those laws do not change for permit holders. I would strongly advise PA carry permit holders to make sure they have a clear understanding of those laws in their state.