Pacific Northwest gun owners and activists are engaged in a very active discussion about home protection and self-defense in the wake of a double-slaying in Minnesota that was reported yesterday, with sentiments clearly against the dead alleged teen burglars.
However, it is also clear that the firearms community is hardly warming up to the man who shot the two teen cousins and then appears to have executed them. Sympathy completely vanishes at the revelation that homeowner Byron David Smith waited a day before notifying authorities so as not to disturb their Thanksgiving holiday.
Discussions at Northwest Firearms and Seattle Guns have topped 400 views each, and there are also interesting remarks at Gun Rights Media and WaGuns. Local gun owners are mindful of self-defense laws, and they recall that Washington this year has seen a number of home-defense shootings. This column discussed the situation earlier in the year here and here.
Dead are Nicholas Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18. Both were wounded by shots from a semiautomatic rifle, and finished off with bullets to the head. Smith, a retired State Department employee, is charged with second-degree murder.
Today the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that the teens may have been involved in an earlier break-in a few miles from Smith’s home in Little Falls. That may figure in the broad scheme, but Smith could not possibly have known that, and it would have no bearing on his use of force to protect his own home under the Minnesota law that was explained yesterday in this column by attorney David Gross.
Gross worked as city attorney in Minneapolis and is one of Minnesota’s leading gun rights activists. He spoke at the Chicago Gun Rights Policy Conference, and in addition to being a very good shot with a pistol, he is a remarkably bright guy with a cut-to-the-chase bluntness. As he explained via e-mail to this column Tuesday, “As I teach in my Permit to Carry classes: ‘Deadly force is never reasonable…under Minnesota Law, but can be used only when necessary’.”
He suggests that, “it was neither reasonable nor necessary for this guy to kill these people after he had stopped the threat of the commission of a felony in his place of abode, let alone any imminent physical threat to his person.”
Hamline University law professor Joseph Olson is a pal of Gross and he is quoted by the Star Tribune. Olson concurs with Gross, noting to the newspaper, “I think the first shot is justified. After the person is no longer a threat because they’re seriously wounded, the application of self-defense is over.”
But Gross takes the discussion to a place that should be at the center of every violent or fatal encounter between intended victim and would-be criminal, especially when teens, who should know right from wrong, are involved. He has a very keen analytical mind, which shows in this remark:
“I simply cannot get out of my head the question which may never be answered,” he wrote. “What the hell were those two kids thinking!? What the hell were they doing there!?’ I want to know what the high school rumor mill was saying about this guy’s place in this small, small town…There IS more to this story concerning our society and culture than merely this guy’s lack of reasonable perception and restraint in the face of what I can imagine is an extreme provocation/frustration with events and circumstances. I offer no excuses for him, but I DO want the entire story for a complete analysis and understanding of the totality of the [societal/cultural] circumstances. It seems clear to me that these kids are not martyrs, even though it appears that they did not deserve to be killed.”
Leap to the observation of retired Little Falls High School teacher Richard L. Johnson, quoted in the Star-Tribune. It was his house that was burglarized prior to Smith’s encounter, and now authorities may be able to link the two teens to that crime. A car linked to Brady was spotted in Johnson’s driveway the evening before the Thanksgiving shooting.
Johnson returned from a trip Sunday to find his home had been burglarized. The newspaper said he did not know either Brady or Kifer. And he says this: “The whole thing is very sad that they lost their lives. In the same instance, if they hadn’t been breaking into houses, they’d be alive.”
A joint funeral service for the teens is scheduled this Saturday at the Living Hope Assembly of God church in Little Falls.
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