Last November I wrote about the Castle Doctrine and how passage of that law was likely to affect me. The Castle Doctrine removes the responsibility to retreat from an attacker and makes it legal to shoot someone if the shooter has a legal right to be where he or she is and the person shot does not.
The gist of my post was that community volunteers and people active in children's organizations spend a considerable amount of time dropping things off and picking things up -- order forms, release forms, snack for the next day's meeting, and assorted other material. Those with day jobs often can't do this until after working hours. In the fall and winter this running around is frequently done after dark.
I am in this category and going to the homes of people I don't know to leave something or pick something up is a common activity. If the Castle Doctrine passes I am far more likely to be shot by a neighbor who only sees a shadowy figure snooping around, or by someone whose house I have gone to by mistake. This could put a chill on community involvement.
An article in last week's Morning Call ("Will new self-defense laws increase safety?," by John Manganaro, 5/30) points out another problem with the bill, or at least with the intention of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Scott Perry (R-York):
"This bill is meant to tip the scales of justice back in favor of the law-abiding citizen, where currently it leans slightly in favor of the criminal element, and that seems un-American to me," Perry said during a recent interview.
He was unable to cite any specific reports or studies to back up that opinion, but he went on to say that reducing crime isn't the sole purpose of his legislation.
"It's sad that we have to advocate for what is God-given and constitutionally given," Perry said. "We must be able not only to hunt but to protect ourselves from an overbearing government that does not do the will of the people. We would like to see crime diminish, and anything that empowers people to defend themselves is going to do that."
Generally an "overbearing government" is one the person speaking doesn't agree with. For instance, most women might have a different view of "overbearing government" than many men do. The thing is, we already have ways of expressing our view of government. More than one, in fact. The most important being the electoral ballot. If the majority of the people who go out to vote elect officials that follow their campaign promises, those officials are doing the will of the people. If those officials don't follow through on their promises, people can vote them out next time. Weapons are far more likely to be used to put into power a government that is not going to do the will of the people.
The author of the Castle Doctrine's statement that the impetus for the bill is not solely crime but encouraging those with guns to shoot anyone in government that they think is overbearing.
CeaseFirePA has responded with a statement that says, in part,
Just a few months ago in Tucson, Arizona, Jared Loughner announced on YouTube, “you don’t have to accept the federalist laws” – prior to shooting Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords, Judge John Roll and 17 other people in a grocery store parking lot. In 2009, Richard Poplawski murdered three Pittsburgh Police officers responding to a domestic abuse 911 call. Earlier, Poplawski had explained to a friend “if anyone tried to take his firearms, he was gonna’ stand by what his forefathers told him to do.”
In 2010, when HB 40 was first considered by the Legislature, and vetoed by then-Governor Ed Rendell, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys’ Association weighed in against the bill. While they have taken a neutral position this year, the Association’s Executive Director Rich Long explained to the Morning Call, "We felt all along that the current laws in Pennsylvania adequately provide for self-defense for law-abiding citizens…We've always seen this kind of move as a solution in search of a problem. We haven't seen law-abiding citizens exercising legitimate self-defense and then being prosecuted for doing so."
The Castle Doctrine makes me very nervous and if it passes I will decline to coordinate some of the school fundraisers that I have in the passed and will be less likely to volunteer for activities that have me going to people's houses unless I know them well.