Okay, so I can’t blame Montana Shooting Sports Association President Gary Marbut for this directly, but a decision by a Texas judge to allow an armed intruder to use the “Castle Doctrine” defense is the logical extension of the gundamentalist arguments that he brings to the Montana Legislature every session.
First, the facts. Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer shot and killed her neighbor, Botham Jean, who lived one floor above her in her apartment building. Even though Guyger managed to climb an extra floor, ignored a doormat that was not her own in front of the door and did not appear to perform CPR after killing Jean, her defense rests on the Castle Doctrine “that says if you’re in your “castle” — home, car or business — any deadly force used is presumed to be reasonable.”
That defense, codified in Texas law in 2007, means that to win the case, the defense need only show that Guyger believed she was in her apartment and her life was in danger when she shot and killed an unarmed man.
The judge’s decision to allow the jury to consider a Castle Doctrine defense for someone who broke into another person’s home is absurd, and it’s a logical extension of the law Marbut and his MSSA wrote for Montana.
In 2009, Marbut wrote changes into the MCA passed by the Legislature that impose an even more dangerous legal standard in Montana. Because of Marbut and the MSSA, a shooter does not even need to be defending her own home or property.
As a result, a Missoula man believed he was entitled to murder a teenaged foreign exchange student and other people who have shot and even killed fellow Montanans have gone free because they “feared” for their lives.
In 2012, a man who was having an affair with a woman shot her husband three times, killing him. He wasn’t charged with a crime even though the Flathead County Attorney wanted to and the widow got a restraining order over the violent, threatening behavior of the man who had killed her husband.
In just the first five years after Marbut convinced legislators to change the law, the “stand your ground provision” was used at least a dozen times, undermining efforts to prosecute killers.
The law Marbut has written is absurdly dangerous, as the case in Texas demonstrates. If a trained police officer can argue that she reasonably believed she needed to kill someone in his own apartment, what will prevent future shooters from asserting they are in the right when they kill? Given the fears Marbut and his cohorts stir up about federal law enforcement officers, what will prevent someone from killing an FBI or ATF agent serving a warrant?
The court’s decision in Texas offers a stark reminder that gun laws that normalize violence and empower people to fire recklessly will encourage people to use their firearms recklessly. The absolutists and ahistorical interpretation of the Second Amendment that Gary Marbut peddles everywhere from our schools to our legislative chambers only increases the danger we all face, and it must be rejected.