2007-10-27 : 'Shoot first' law gives robbers both barrels

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2007-10-27 : 'Shoot first' law gives robbers both barrels

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2007-11-06 07:55

http://www.capeargus.co.za/?fSectionId= ... 106C145258

'Shoot first' law gives robbers both barrels
27 October 2007, 15:50

Burglars in the United States could once sue homeowners if they were shot, but now a growing number of states have made it legal to shoot to kill when somebody breaks into a house.

John Woodson, 46, found that out last week when he ambled into Dennis Baker's open garage in a Dallas suburb. A surveillance video showed the robber strolling inside, hands in his pockets.

From the shadows, Baker opened fire and killed Woodson.

"I just had to protect myself and that was it," Baker told reporters despite the fact Woodson had not tried to enter the bedroom near the garage where Baker had been sleeping.

The incident made national headlines since it was Baker's parrot that gave the alarm when it innocently squawked "good morning" at the intruder.

But Woodson's death seemed anecdotal compared to another Dallas resident who a few days earlier had killed his second robber in three weeks inside his home.

Police are investigating both cases, but it is unlikely charges will be filed. Texas recently passed a law branding anybody breaking into a home or car as a real threat of injury or death to its occupants.

In contrast with traditional self-defence laws, this measure does not require that a person who opens fire on a burglar be able to prove that he or she was physically threatened, that force was used only as a last resort and that the victim had first tried to hide.

Florida was the first state to adopt in 2005 a law that was dubbed "Stand your ground" or "Shoot first."

But now they have proliferated largely under pressure from the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), the main weapons lobby in the United States.

Today 19 out of 50 US states, mostly in the south and the central regions of the country, have this kind of laws, and similar legislation is pending in about a dozen others.

"This law will bring common-sense self-defence protections to law-abiding citizens," said Rachel Parsons, a spokesperson for the NRA.

"If someone is breaking into your home, it's obvious that they are not there to have dinner with you," she continued. "You do have a right to protect your belongings, your family and yourself.

"The law needs to be put on the side of the victim, and not on the side of the criminal, who is attacking the victim."

But for the Freedom States Alliance that fights against the proliferation of firearms in the United States, these new laws attach more value to threatened belongings than to the life of the thief and only serve to increase the number of people killed by firearms each year, which currently is estimated to stand at nearly 30 000.

"It's that whole Wild West mentality that is leading the country down a very dangerous path," said Sally Slovenski, executive director of the alliance.

"In any other country, something like the castle doctrine or stand-your-ground laws look like just absolute lunacy," she continued.

"And yet in this country, somehow it's been justified, and people just sort of have come to live with this, and they just don't see the outrage in this."

According to Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 2,18 million burglaries to the United States in 2006, up 1,3 percent compared to the year before.

But the number is still well below the 3.24 million burglaries a year committed 20 years ago. - Sapa-AFP
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