by William Skink
There is an assumption among those supporting stricter gun control policies that the steady stream of gun-related tragedies will eventually translate into public support for policies that restrict access to firearms. That assumption is wrong, according to this Pew Research data from 2014:
For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control. Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.
Around the same time this survey data came out, Markus Kaarma killed a German exchange student in his garage with a shotgun. For one Missoula politician, this tragedy was a perfect opportunity to take a shot at the Castle Doctrine:
Less than 24 hours after a German exchange student was shot and killed inside a Missoula garage, a local legislator proposed a bill changing the language of Montana’s “castle doctrine,” the law justifying the use of lethal force in defense of an occupied structure.
Before details of this particular tragedy were even known, Rep. Hill rushed to capitalize on it by trying to reverse what Gary Marbut accomplished in 2009 when he successfully had specific language stricken from Montana’s self-defense statute. From the link:
Before that revision, Hill said, Montanans still had a constitutional right to defend their home, so long as they believed lethal force was necessary to stop an intruder who was entering the residence in a “violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner.”
That language was removed in 2009 at the request of lobbyist Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association. The bill was carried by Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel.
“Marbut basically changed it to shoot first and ask questions later,” said Hill. “Before 2009, a person had to exhibit some sort of violent, riotous or tumultuous behavior. Now that he’s removed those terms, you could shoot a wayward trick-or-treater. It lacks common sense.”
Actually, if we want to apply common sense, one would have to acknowledge that criminality doesn’t always approach its targeted victim in a violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner, like this gangsta wannabe. Removing that language doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Ultimately Rep. Hill’s attempt to take advantage of this tragic death evaporated when the criminal justice system did indeed find Kaarma’s actions to be criminal. He was convicted and is currently incarcerated. The Castle Doctrine defense didn’t work.
Gun control, as an issue championed by Montana Democrats, also won’t work. It might get individual politicians a few flashy headlines, but the trend is heading in the opposite direction.
Because people don’t feel secure.
Unpack that however you like. Some of it is harsh economic reality, some of it is media hype. Or maybe it’s the heat:
After being stuck inside all winter, many people anxiously await the arrival of the warm spring season weather. But, there are some who dread the potential increase in crimes caused by rising temperatures.
Tracy Siska, executive director at the Chicago Justice Project, says there is a correlation between rising temperatures and violent crimes.
“Violence increases, especially street violence, muggings, assaults, battery,” Siska says. “Across the boards most crimes increase.”
Siska speculates that the spike in crime may be due to the increase in the number of interactions that people have with one another during the warmer months. Warmer weather can bring together potential wrongdoers, victims, and belongings all in the same place.
Whatever factors are at play, the end result is more people contemplating and procuring the means of using lethal force to defend themselves. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing, nor am I totally enthused to be a part of it, but the experiences I’ve had the past few years have changed my thinking on personal defense.
From what I’ve been able to gather, that thinking is rather popular in Montana. As Montana Democrats work on their laundry list of issues to address, gun control might not be a good one to invest much political capital in.