On The Surface of Things…

July 19th, 2007 3:26 PM
This story seems nothing more that another person's exercising his right to defend life and property, something that most people in Texas heartily support. But the lead paragraph from a Houston Chronicle article raises a warning flag:

State Rep. Borris Miles, who voted earlier this year against a bill broadening Texans’ rights to defend themselves with deadly force, shot and wounded a man he said was trying to steal copper from a palatial house he is building in the Third Ward.1


The article notes that this is a success story for concealed carry, but also emits more warning signals about proper self-defense protocols:

A spokesman for Miles said the representative, who has a concealed weapon permit, carries a gun as a matter of practice, particularly while in his district.

About Sunday, Miles, D-Houston, stopped by the construction site at

3742 South MacGregor Way
and found water problems, spokesman Donald Fields said. Miles left to change clothes and came back around to clean up the water, Fields said.

While upstairs, Miles heard noises and went downstairs to investigate, a Houston Police Department spokesperson said.

Fields said Miles spotted two men cutting and stripping pipes in an attempt to steal the copper.

He yelled at them and one threw a small pocketknife,” HPD spokesman Victor Senties said. Miles pulled his pistol and shot the man in the lower left leg, Senties said.

Miles, a former HoustonIndependentSchool District law enforcement officer, said he aimed to wound the man. He called the incident “regrettable,” but said he, like other citizens, has the constitutional right to protect his home.

“Had I had the option of calling the authorities prior to the shooting, I would have done so, but with my life in clear and present danger and being immediately threatened by a knife-throwing burglar, I had no choice but to fire for my own protection,” Miles said in a statement.2 [Emphasis added]


July’s Chronicle article contrasts sharply with another self-defense shooting from three months earlier, where a home invader confronted an elderly victim:

Muggings and car break-ins are not unusual in the southeast Houston neighborhood around 76th Street and Avenue H,  but residents expressed surprise to learn that a 77-year-old neighbor had shot a teen who allegedly broke into the man's house around 1:45 a.m. today.

Oscar Melchor, who lives a block away on Avenue I, appeared shaken when told  Bob Manross had shot the 18-year-old neighbor, who allegedly burst through the back door of Manross’s house and demanded all the elderly man’s cash.4


The author of this April Houston Chronicle article is also one of the two who wrote the July article. Here, the author instead focused on how the incident upset neighbors, and how it happened in proximity to schools and churches (conveniently ignoring the fact that at , neither type of facility is likely to be in use):

A few hundred feet away [from the incident] is De Zavala Elementary School, and a church stands across the street from the shooting scene.5


Unlike Mr. Miles, this victim lives under economic limitations and is unable to build a new home in a better neighborhood:

Manross said he’s lived in the area for more than 15 years and he would like to move if he can. He said he keeps weapons handy because of the crime problem. “I don’t take any chances,” said Manross, a retired painter. “I live in a bad neighborhood.”6


There are 25 churches and 14 schools within one mile of Mr. Miles.7 A typical handgun bullet has a maximum range of over one mile.8 At , the time of Miles’ shooting, it is far more likely these facilities were in use than at . Yet the authors did not see the need to point this out, highlighting their variable criteria schedule.

Good For Me, But Not For Thee

Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘elitism’ as: “advocacy of or reliance on the leadership or dominance of a select group.”9 Mr. Miles, on the surface of things, was defending his investment in his new home, something we all should support. It is the nature of this home which makes one pause in curiosity:

The land on which Miles is building his new home is valued at $120,715, according to Harris County tax records. The planned 9,200-square-foot house is valued at $435,325.10


Mr. Miles believes he has a “constitutional right” to “confront” intruders and then shoot them when they respond offensively, but his voting record indicates he believes the average Texan should first retreat when he finds burglars on his property. Miles was one of 13 representatives who voted NO on SB 378, Texas’ “Castle Doctrine” law which becomes law on September 1, 2007.11 One of the major elements of the new law is that it removes any duty to retreat before using deadly force when appropriate.12

Texas A&M notes that as of May 2007, the median home price for Houston was $149,200, while the median price for the entire state of Texas was $144,500.13  At $556,040, Mr. Miles’ house is over double Houston’s 75th percentile of $270,000 (only 25% of the Houston homes currently listed are above a $270,000 asking price.)14

Another curious aspect to this incident, and what is considered irrelevant by the Chronicle, is that Mr. Miles authored HR 173, recognizing January 30, 2007 as Farmers Insurance Group Day at the Texas state capitol, when: “Approximately 800 employees and agents of the Farmers Insurance Group are visiting Austin to celebrate Farmers Insurance Group Day at the Capitol…”14

The Chronicle notes: “Miles, who owns a Farmers Insurance Agency office, defeated veteran state Rep. Al Edwards in the District 146 Democratic Primary last year.”15

Mr. Miles, who does not see a problem limiting your right to self-defense, has no problem using his position as a legislator to generate free advertising for his company, no doubt enhancing his finances and business connections so that he is better-positioned to defend his incumbency and pay for his new “palatial house”. Nor does he have a problem with doing the opposite of retreating when his house is invaded.

It seems the Houston Chronicle supports the notion that a rich, big-city Democratic legislator has more rights than a retired painter. For a media outlet supposedly defending the rights of the little guy who can’t afford big houses in pricey neighborhoods, their biased reporting tells another story.

About the Author

Howard Nemerov is an investigative analyst for NRA News. He can be reached at HNemerov [at sign] Netvista.net.

Special thanks to Chris Bird–author of Thank God I Had a Gun and The Concealed Handgun Manual, and a director of Texas Concealed Handgun Instructors Association–for assistance on self-defense issues.


[1] Kristen Mack and Kevin Moran, State legislator Borris Miles shoots theft suspect, Houston Chronicle, July 9, 2007. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/4955069.html

2 Kristen Mack and Kevin Moran, State legislator Borris Miles shoots theft suspect, Houston Chronicle, July 9, 2007.

3 Kevin Moran, Teen shot by Houston homeowner in alleged break-in, Houston Chronicle, April 3, 2007. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/4683605.html

4 Kevin Moran, Teen shot by Houston homeowner in alleged break-in, Houston Chronicle, April 3, 2007.

5 Kevin Moran, Teen shot by Houston homeowner in alleged break-in, Houston Chronicle, April 3, 2007.

6 Access Mapquest and follow directions. www.mapquest.com.

7 Domna Antoniadis, Range of a Handgun Bullet, 2002. http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2002/DomnaAntoniadis.shtml

8 The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Thumb Index Edition, 1993 Edition, Clarendon Press, page 800.

9 Kristen Mack and Kevin Moran, State legislator Borris Miles shoots theft suspect, Houston Chronicle, July 9, 2007.

10 House Journal, Eightieth Legislature, Regular Session, Proceedings, Fortieth Day – Tuesday, March 20, 2007, page 1008. http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/hjrnl/80r/pdf/80RDAY40FINAL.PDF#page=5

11 Wentworth, et al, S.B. No. 378, A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT relating to the use of force or deadly force in defense of a person, Section 2, Subsection(e) added to Section 9.31, Penal Code, page 2. http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/80R/billtext/pdf/SB00378E.pdf

12 Real Estate Center, Texas Residential MLS Activity Median Price, Texas A&M, July 10, 2007. http://recenter.tamu.edu/data/hs/trends4.html

13 HoustonTexas Weekly Data, Housing Tracker. http://www.housingtracker.net/askingprices/Texas/Houston-SugarLand-Baytown/

14 Miles, H.R. 173 enrolled text, March 1, 2007, page 1. http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/80R/billtext/pdf/HR00173F.pdf

15 Kristen Mack and Kevin Moran, State legislator Borris Miles shoots theft suspect, Houston Chronicle, July 9, 2007.