Gun Control: Media Myth-Conception

Here is another example of the poorly-researched mix of fact and opinion prevalent in today’s reporting. A recent news article covering a defensive shooting in Florida highlights media bias against Castle Doctrine law: the right of the law-abiding citizen to use appropriate force to repel an attack without first seeking to retreat.Dan Haggerty of the local NBC affiliate based in Fort Myers, Florida reported that Justin Marcoux (also spelled Macoux and Marcaux in the article) of Lehigh Acres was waiting for a ride to work early one morning when he spotted Victor Howren in the yard, carrying off Marcoux’s father’s generator. According to the reporter, Howren dropped the generator when he got between two cars on the property and Marcoux thought Howren was grabbing a weapon. That’s when Marcoux drew his (licensed) concealed firearm and shot Howren in the arm.1 So far, this article concurs with the press release by the Lee County Sheriff.2 It is in the concluding section where Mr. Haggerty diverges into editorial, promoting the myth that self-defense originated with Florida’s Castle Doctrine:

Investigators are now trying to determine if he [the shooter] is protected by the “Stand Your Ground law.”It allows a person to defend themselves if they are in imminent danger.3 

The Sheriff’s press release does not mention Castle Doctrine and concludes on a more definitive note regarding the investigation:

Felony charges of burglary and grand theft against Howren are pending further investigation. Meanwhile, once the shooting incident case report is completed, it will be forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office for review.4

  First, Haggerty should have done some background research before reporting his opinions as truth. Florida statutes from 2004 show that before Castle Doctrine a person was allowed to “defend themselves if they are in imminent danger”:

776.012  Use of force in defense of person.–A person is justified in the use of force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, the person is justified in the use of deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.5

  Second, Haggerty implies that Castle Doctrine somehow complicates law enforcement’s investigation by requiring satisfaction of certain criteria imposed upon them by the law. It seemed a phone call was in order. Based upon a discussion with Sergeant Larry King, Public Information Officer for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, Castle Doctrine updated self-defense law by removing the defender’s need to retreat if such option existed. In this aspect, it toughened self-defense law in favor of the defender. As to whether law enforcement pursues and issues a warrant, they perform the normal procedures of taking statements and interviewing witnesses to determine the merits of the case. Generally, in an apparent defensive shooting they let the state decide how to proceed rather than immediately arresting the shooter. In any case, the State Attorney’s office retains the ability to file charges against the shooter should probable cause exist.6 In a follow-up email, Sergeant King notes:

The only additional clarification may be to note in this incident there are just two witnesses – the man who shot and the man who was wounded.  We may find circumstances to make an immediate arrest in cases where witnesses have consistent statements contradicting that of the shooter.  It’s safe to say you have to look at these types of shooting incidents on a case-by-case basis.7 

  In fairness, the NBC article is conditionally true on one point: Castle Doctrine protects the shooter from having to justify not retreating. But this is only true if the shooting itself is ruled justified. From both Sergeant King’s comments and the Lee County Sheriff’s press release, other than deleting the criteria determining the defender’s ability to retreat, Castle Doctrine has no inhibitory affect on the Sheriff’s and State Attorney’s ability to complete an investigation, determine if the defensive use of deadly force was justified, and press charges against the shooter, if deemed appropriate.It is one thing if NBC wants to write an editorial against Castle Doctrine and label it as such. It is another when, under the guise of supposedly fact-based news reporting, media instead choose to embark upon social engineering to convince people that Castle Doctrine is bad because anybody who claims self-defense is somehow exempt from thorough examination of their behavior by police and prosecuting attorneys.Endnotes[1] Dan Haggerty, Resident shoots robbery suspect in the arm, NBC2, August 8, 2007. http://www.nbc-2.com/articles/readarticle.asp?articleid=13940&z=3&p=2 Burglary Suspect Shot By Victim, Lee County Sheriff’s Department, August 8, 2007. http://www.sheriffleefl.org/news/gendetails.aspx?id=49843 Ibid.4 Burglary Suspect Shot By Victim, Lee County Sheriff’s Department, August 8, 2007. 5 The 2004 Florida Statutes, Title XLVI, Section 776: Justifiable Use of Force. http://www.flsenate.gov/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0776/ch0776.htm 6 Phone conversation with Sergeant Larry King, Public Information Officer, Lee County Sheriff’s Department, August 9, 2007. http://www.sheriffleefl.org/ 7 Email from Sergeant Larry King, Public Information Officer, Lee County Sheriff’s Department, August 9, 2007.