Stand Your Ground bill — HF 573

Next week the Iowa House will be voting on House File 573, the “Stand Your Ground” bill.  This bill is a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly — and at this point, the bad and the ugly seem to outweigh the good, by a considerable amount. Which is why I voted against the bill when it came up in today’s Iowa House Public Safety Committee.

The bill nonetheless passed out of committee, 14-7, and like I said, we’ll be voting on it again on the House floor soon. I got MANY emails from people all over the state, including several from Clinton County folks, asking me to vote for the bill…. and I read them all, and I thought about it, and worked through the bill several times, and in the end I voted NO, and unless the bill changes drastically for the better I’ll be voting no again. NOT because I’m against guns, or people who use guns, or self-defense, or killing people (well, w/in reason); I voted no because this bill is way too extreme. Seriously, all you people who asked me to vote yes — read this, and then let me know if you still think it’s a great bill.

I’ll tell you who doesn’t think it’s a great bill — every single one of Iowa’s law enforcement agencies have registered against this bill (http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=Lobbyist&Service=DspReport&ga=84&type=b&hbill=hf573 ). Just so that’s clear.Not that law enforcement is always right about legislation — often they’re wrong. But this time I’m thinking they’re right. Here’s why.

Greatly Expands the Castle Doctrine

Iowa law already has a very strong built-in Castle Doctrine (your home is your castle and all that) – if someone breaks into your house, and you shoot him, it is extremely unlikely that you are going to be charged with (or convicted of) any crime unless there’s something real sketchy about the situation(e.g., the person who “broke in” was your ex-wife to whom you were paying lots of alimony) – because there is already a legal presumption that you can use  reasonable force , which includes deadly force, to protect yourself in your own home/business/place of employment, even if you could safely run away or hide under the bed, and the burden in on the State to prove that what you did was unreasonable. And that’s as it should be. However, this bill extends that legal presumption from your home/business/place of employment to encompass pretty much anywhere that you have a legal right to be, including your vehicle.

HF 573 would amend Iowa Code section 704.1 to state  “a person has no duty to retreat from any place where one is lawfully present, and has the right to stand the person’s ground, and meet force with force, if the person believes reasonable force, including deadly force, is necessary under the circumstances to prevent death or serious injury to oneself, a third party, or to prevent the commission of a violent felony. A person may be wrong in the estimation of the danger or the force necessary to repel the danger as long as there is a reasonable basis for the belief of the  person and the person acts reasonably in the response to that belief.” (emphasis added)  Thus, this bill  says you never have to retreat, no matter where you are (pretty much), no matter how much safer it might be for you and everyone around you to just run away (or drive away, if you’re in your car).

What does this mean? Well, if you pull into the Wal-Mart parking lot in a bad part of town and you see someone walking towards you quickly in what appears to you to be a somewhat hostile manner waving something around that in the dark appears to maybe possibly be a gun and maybe even yelling things at you or in your general direction that could possibly be threats – well, under current law, you’d have to make a reasonable effort to … drive away. Unless driving away posed some greater threat then not driving away, which it wouldn’t, obviously. But under HF 573, you wouldn’t be required to “retreat” — you could shoot that person dead, and if turns out it was just some poor drunk in a bad mood brandishing a cell phone, oh well.

Or if some kid is breaking into the bicycle shed behind your house, under current law you’d probably need to call the cops, or maybe sic the dog on the kid – under HF 573, you could shoot the kid, because all felony level burglaries, including Burglary 3rd, are considered “violent crimes” and there’s a legal presumption that you can use deadly force to stop or prevent a violent crime (like someone breaking into your bicycle shed, which is just not a violent crime. Unless maybe if you’re a bicycle, but even then…).

If HF 573 becomes law, one gang member could shoot another in cold blood outside of a grocery store, and when the cops show up he could just explain that the dead guy threatened to kill him, and he reasonably believed the dead guy intended to carry out that threat at some point in the near future – even if the dead guy clearly doesn’t have a gun, and even if the dead guy didn’t actually threaten anyone (cause the dead guy is dead, and dead men tell no tales). Oh, plus if you shoot a bunch of innocent bystanders when you are attempting to shoot the bad man who you believe (right or wrong) is trying to steal the old lady’s purse, that’s probably OK, and you can’t be convicted of negligent homicide, and the dead people’s families can’t sue you.

Last session, when this bill first came up, I discussed it with  Clinton County Sheriff Rick Lincoln, and Clinton Chief of Police Brian Guy, and Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf, and they all advocated against the bill because they believe that if the bill passes into law, we will see an increase in shootings in Iowa; they are also concerned that the extremely broad “self defense” rights created by this bill would make it much easier for criminal defendants to walk on murder charges, and as a criminal defense attorney, I can assure you that they are correct (which would be good for me and my clients, not so good for the State of Iowa in general).

Bottom line, this bill is just too extreme, period. Iowa’s law already allows citizens to use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves or others, and to protect their home or business or place of employment  – it just needs to be reasonable force (which can include deadly force), and in proportion to the actual danger. This bill creates a presumption that it’s almost always reasonable to use deadly force, anywhere, and for all intents and purposes removes the proportionality requirement.

And to be honest, I am somewhat amazed that the majority of legislators on the House Public Safety Committee voted in favor of it, since last session a parade of law enforcement folk came before us and passionately implored us to vote this bill down, and shared their sincere and heartfelt concerns that if this bill passes, a large increase in violent deaths is inevitable, and that while some of those additional violent deaths will be due to criminals killing each other off with impunity (which I’m thinking that at least  some of the members of the Public Safety committee might not have a big problem with),  some of those additional dead people will be innocent bystanders, and some of those additional dead people will be law enforcement officers.

I am sure that   Representative Matt Windschitl (who sponsored the bill, and whose family owns a big gun shop) had nothing but the best interests of Iowa’s citizens (or at least Iowa’s gun buyers/owners) in mind when he drafted HF 573; however, there are often unintended collateral consequences when we create  new laws and the experts are telling us that the collateral consequences of this law will be the unnecessary deaths of many innocent bystanders and many law enforcement officers.  That makes it a no vote for me. And that surely can’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about me.

 

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About Representative Mary Wolfe

Part time attorney; full time State Representative for Iowa House District 98 (East Clinton County)
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20 Responses to Stand Your Ground bill — HF 573

  1. Nate McClintock says:

    So a gun dealer wants to sell more guns …. Imagine that …

    I don’t have a problem with law abiding citizen buying a gun from registered gun dealers ….

    The problem is at the gun shows, there are a lot of guns being traded between private citizens with no tracking what-so-ever …

    Bill HF 573 combined with the lack of tracking of gun at gun shows is a recipe for disaster …

    At least in my opinion …

  2. Hank Britton says:

    this is a bill for the non-criminal element (your average person). It will not assist criminals. Criminals know that if they perform this action, using an illegal weapon, that they are going to be in serious trouble. This bill will protect the average person in their homes. As it stands now, if someone breaks in and brandishes a knife and tries to kill you, they will prosecute you if you shoot that person! Even if you are found innocent, you face a lot of jail time, bail if allowed, time away from work, possibly loosing your job, tens-of-thousands of dollars spent on lawyers and all that which you cannot ever recoup. Your standard criminal element isn’t going to shoot someone and then claim they were threatened…using an illegally possessed weapon. They know they’ll be charged with a weapons violation, at the very least. This bill will protect innocent citizens who follow the law and keep them from the police and zealous attorneys destroying their lives.

    • wolfelaw says:

      I absolutely agree that the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding and reasonable and would never normally do anything unreasonable like the examples in my post, but my concern is that sometimes reasonable people don’t think clearly, because they are afraid, or they’re angry, or excited, or all three, and if that person doesn’t have much experience w/guns (and a lot more people are getting them, which means there are a lot more “new” gun owners out there), that person might over-react in a crowded setting, and innocent people might get hurt. Plus this bill really would make it a lot easier for criminals to avoid convictions on gun related charges — I know that the intent is to help good people avoid unnecessary charges, but laws are laws and they have to apply to everyone equally (normally)and criminals will absolutely take advantage of the various defenses that this bill creates.

      And I agree that sometimes innocent people who are just defending themselves might get charged with a crime, and that is rotten, but that’s an issue to take up w/the individual county attorneys (who are elected officials) because they actually have the discretion as to whether and with what people are charged. But most of the time people who are defending themselves in their own homes will be fine, I think. Actually, I think I’ll ask the County Attorney whether he’s charged anyone in that type of situation in the past ten years — I’m curious.

      • kevin says:

        After the law is passed you could also …”take up w/the individual county attorneys” the failure to charge persons of these unreasonable shootings which are prophesied by the proffered scenarios -when that happens.

        It seems *really* unlikely that the same county attorneys who are against this bill now will, under the new law just throw up their hands and say “well, we can’t charge these two gangs with any crime because all three of the shooters were shooting at each other in self-defense and the law says it’s justified.” Even they cannot torture the law to that degree and would hope that no such thing took place for political reasons “just to teach the public a lesson”.

        I also suspect that you may know that by the time someone commits a murder that they, on average, have about four previous felony charges and numerous misdemeanors in their past. They are already prohibited from carrying weapons anyway so defense against prosecution for using deadly force is not even an option for them; another straw-man. What is not being said here is that opponents of extended castle-doctrine believe that the presence of a weapon will *convert* peaceable people into murderers -unless they are public agents of some sort. “Important people” such as mayors with bodyguards, police chiefs who are armed anywhere they go, and other politicians are quite certain that the “rest of us” cannot be trusted. There are no data to support this beyond introspection. The FBI themselves do not even list firearms as a contributory element of criminal activity. The actions that you suggest ordinary people would take under the proposed legislation would still be criminal assault or at LEAST criminal negligence under any reading, should, and would be prosecuted as such.

        As far as all of these murderers walking free under the imagined scenario: “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” -William Blackstone; I’m sure you’ve heard of him.

      • kevin says:

        I DO appreciate your willingness to elaborate your views in some detail and debate the issue in a civil manner. THAT is the stuff of good government.

  3. classicmario says:

    What a joke. Please tell me the name of “the representative” who voted against HF573 comming out of Committee! This is a group of outright lies to portray ridicule of a life or death situation by a person lacking the time or ability to retreat. It is not reasonable to inflict harm on a person advancing on you just because they are advancing on you! It is not reasonable to believe you are in danger unless you can prove that you were really in danger; percieved danger doesn’t count in a Court of Law. I thought I was in dangeer of my life doesn’t count unless actual danger was reasonably entered into the situation.
    Let’s stop the nonsense!

    • wolfelaw says:

      Well…gotta admit, I’d prefer that people not be shooting and killing other people in public buildings/spaces unless they are really in imminent danger of being killed by those other people. Under current law, if you are in your own home/place of business, you can kill someone if they break in and the standard is a lot lower — i.e., it’s reasonably perceived danger, and you have no duty to retreat (which is as it should be — it’s your home). This bill would extend that standard to anywhere, anytime. I am not aware of any situations in Iowa where someone who isn’t alive, would be alive, had this bill been in effect.

      • kevin says:

        Well, yeah, they are probably dead so can’t describe the encounter to your satisfaction. I suppose it is morally superior to allow it to progress to rape or other assault to justify what you “might have done” but didn’t -if you survive.

        Most ot the time, the mere display of force is enough to dissuade the assailant so the crime remains uncompleted. In about 2/3 to 3/4 of cases where force IS used with a firearm, the person wounded survives but almost always breaks off the attack -which is the objective of defense -NOT to kill someone.

        Sometimes the assailant dies. That is an occupational hazard of being a violent criminal. It should not be an occupational hazard of driving a pizza-delivery car or walking home late from economics class.

  4. PapaG says:

    Under current law, If a person does come into your house and for some reason, i hope it never happens you have to choose to protect your family by shooting someone you say It is unlikely I will be charged. Under the current law is there potential for a civil suit even though no criminal charges were filed?

  5. Randy Schultz says:

    Mary, I really think you should research this a little more. You make light of existing laws taking care of all situations of someone breaking into your house, i.e. don’t worry , that’s all covered. The reality is that you can’t just shoot intruder in your house and it will be fine. You will have to make sure you have exhausted all means to jump out the window and escape, hide, or lock yourself in a room and let the bad guy have his way with you and your house. It is very challenging to prove you were directly threatened and could not have done anything else to shoot that intruder, even to the point of giving your house to him and running. I don’t have any faith that my county attorney won’t prosecute me. Try to imagine yourself with a intruder in your home coming in your bedroom. Two versions, one is “Freeze or I will shoot you”. The second, gee I wonder if he would give me time to open the window take the screen off and jump out, or I can make the bathroom and lock it, I wonder if he can kick the door open, dang, I’m to big to get under the bed but heck he sees me anyway. You have less than a minute to make that tough decision, what feels like the best one? I agree that you should not shoot just anyone on the street, and if this law has that ability, it is not what we need, but this country is not the 1950’s leave it to Beaver society anymore and good people need help staying safe. I live in the country 25 miles from my county mounties. I would not have a chance if I had to wait for a 911 response. I am a second generation farmer, and I hope I never have to make the above decision but if I do you can visit me in jail because that is probably where I will be under the current law interpretation. The issue is real, if you really don’t like this bill, write one yourself that is better but to do nothing is to do nothing.

    • wolfelaw says:

      W/all respect, in IA one is NOT required to retreat from one’s home or place of employment…that’s the crux of the “castle doctrine.” And I totally agree with that, and with most of your comments. But this bill would expand the castle doctrine to anywhere…the street, a store, a parking lot, your car, a bar. Plus it contains several other provisions that would absolutely allow bad guys to get away with murder. The idea is good, but this bill just pushes it way too far.

  6. kevin says:

    The same standards of judgment as to lawful use of force will exist under the proposed law. This does not give one any more right to “shoot-to-kill” than under similar circumstances in the home -except there would be enhanced legal protection for an individual traveling, for example. Anyone WANTING a confrontation is seeking them now anyway. Those are what we already call “criminals” and from whom, some of us deserve the means of defense of last resort. The daily hypothetical gunfight showdowns have not occurred in any of the other states where so-called “stand your ground” legislation has been passed despite this worn-out straw-man.

    Also, it is no surprise that agents of the government seek to maximally restrict the independence and liberties of the individual. This is the hallmark of governments through the ages. They have their own agenda and are jealous of any power outside of their own. If people are utterly dependent they are more easily controlled.

    What the attorneys don’t like is that this law PRIMARILY prevents a criminal assailant who is injured while plying his trade from then SUING the victim who successfully fends off the attack. Further, this complicates their otherwise slam-dunk (her responsibility was to outrun the rapist) cases where under the proposed law, someone defends themselves and the attorney’s office has to do additional paperwork and investigation. -We wouldn’t want to complicate their life in the county attorney’s office with our petty problems of survival. Let’s interview some attorneys and see if it isn’t true under current law that you *could* be sued, even if criminally exonerated, for defending yourself in your own home or place of business -let alone while you are fending off a bunch of thugs on the street.

    Pott. County attorney Matt Wilber claims that this “handcuffs the police” under some hypothetical where they make a bad arrest for assault and the arrestee is later exonerated by a jury. Apparently, the attorneys only believe juries make correct decisions when someone is convicted of a weapon offense and it is a non-governmental actor. The police should not be a special class of people who are immune to criminal or civil liability for misdeeds -or whose lives are specially precious. *If* governments derive their just powers *from* the governed, then the same power also rests with those governed. We are not subjects of the crown in America, we are free people. We have rights beyond just voting for the less of two evils and paying taxes. The right of self-preservation is the most ancient and fundamental predating the Magna Carta. If the peaceable citizens of Iowa are denied this principle, the state motto “Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain” is simply another patriotic slogan to placate subjects of the new crown as they frantically fumble for their cellphone.

    • wolfelaw says:

      Kevin…I really appreciate your response…you’ve obviously given this bill a lot of thought and I agree with some of what you say. But….in my opinion the laws created by this bill would have unacceptable collateral consequences. Like dead innocent bystanders.

      • kevin says:

        This could be a valid concern but this simply has not been borne out by experience. This is the exact argument offered when “shall-issue” permits were realized in Florida over twenty years ago. The “blood-bath” never materialized. The daily “fender-bender” shootouts did not take place. States which have extended so-called castle doctrine outside the home do not have the promised increase in wrongful injuries and death. Everyone is entitled to his own personal opinions but one can’t have his own personal set of facts. Interestingly, the Iowa House Dems. left en masse to avoid debating and voting on these very bills yesterday because they KNOW that the public supports it and apparently do not want to confront their constituency later and explain why they voted to keep it safer for violent criminals and I do think that it could be arguably framed that way by supporters. The house opponents know what time it is.

        Thus far on this page, everyone already seems to agree that Iowans already have the right to defend themselves with deady force under very limited circumstances thus acknowledging that the right already exists. Why then, does this proposed law worry anyone? No one will be found justified in gunning down someone just for an insult or even getting punched. One must “sincerely believe that the threat of IMMINENT DEATH or SERIOUS (crippling or permanent) BODILY INJURY existed AND that a prudent person would have acted in the same way under the conditions at the time”. Typically, there must be an obvious disparity of force: multiple assailants, man against woman, youth against elderly, able against infirmed. This does not lower the bar for justification of force and the attorneys know it. This only bolsters the guarantee that we have a reasonable right to be secure in our safely and retain the means to ensure, to the degree possible, that we will be. I would easily give up my (limited) wealth and home to save my life or my family but- I should not have to surrender those things in a civil suit to an attacker because he met with an unwilling victim -no matter where it occurs. Neither should anyone *become* a criminal for the unfortunate circumstances neccesitating physical defense against an attacker. It is not that the police won’t help, or that they do not provide a deterrence but what we are talking about here are obligations, rights and responsibilities codified as law. The public seems only trustworthy to elect “authorities” and “experts” and pay the bills but as the US Supreme Court has ruled, the police have no obligation to protect any person, only to maintain general order. We are legally obliged not to injure an assailant but no one is legally obliged to help me. Thanks for nothing.

        If you dare, find the statistics for police shootings/use of force and you will discover that they injure the wrong person much more frequently than do would-be victims; you know, the people actually AT the scene when it happens. Yet, we trust the police with the use of deadly force and just say, “well, the system isn’t perfect and there are going to be mishaps. That is just a cost of maintaining public safety”.

        Here’s the deal: The bad-actors already present a public danger. This is to remove the legal protections that *they* have and the after-the-fact legal grief that follows someone who IS justified in using force to fend off an assailant. It appears here that the critics of the bill believe “if you just ignore bullies they’ll go away” or some such naivete. This “stand-your-ground” bill is to protect US against those who won’t accept a peaceful resolution to some interaction. The police do not carry weapons to initiate conflicts but as a last resort, to end them. The average guy does not want to injure people; he wants to live unmolested. The people who want trouble are already out there dishing it out. We simply want to be left in peace and criminals can decide what price they want to pay to violate the peace and person of the citizenry. They cannot be allowed to simply exert their will by unlawful force against the public without expecting resistance. THAT is the recipe for rampant crime. Peaceable people with the means to resist assault is not. The aspect of this that the critics STILL fail to address is the protection from civil-liability in a situation where the weapon use IS LEGALLY JUSTIFIED. Presently, even in justified use-of-force situations only police are immune from civil actions (under the doctrine of sovereign immunity). As it stands, if one were to use deadly force against an intruder strangling their infant at midnight in their home, they *could* be sued by the strangler (or heirs) to recover for injuries. Opponents say “Well, that would never happen in reality because a jury wouldn’t stand for it”. The hypothetical juries, apparently, can only be trusted in *that* situation but not to recognize an unjustified use of force by a hypothetical gun-slinging fool spoiling for a fight. Why is it that we can trust the juries not to award damages or wrongly convict a person in a home-invasion but they get so stupid when one is forced to defend oneself from violent felonies away from home?

  7. jared says:

    Most of the people who are against these kind of laws will pull one instance out of the national news and use it as leverage to keep you from having your God given rights. The flip-side is that there are hundreds of thousands of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted (yes 6 figures) and there are millions of break-ins or robberies a year. Laws that apply to “using a gun to commit a felony” or almost all cases of actual murder will not be effected by the passing of this law. This law will bring much more fear into the mind of criminal. The negative consequences of this law will be in the single percentage points weighed against the positive when it comes to innocent dead, verses the saved. When this country was founded no one even dreamed of relying on some government entity to protect them self or their fellow man. We are in a free country where we are not required to rely on the government for our basic needs. Self defense would be included in this.
    There is certainty a double standard in the idea that I have to run from a criminal, and just because someone else has a badge they can face a situation with a different set of rules. Certainly no one would think it would be advantageous to have a cop flee from a criminal, putting has back to him. The main difference in my mind between a police officer and me is he is more than likely defending only him and maybe other officers on duty, where much of the time I am with my wife and kids. If you don’t know you really has more on the line, me or the officer; you would probably vote down this law.

    • kevin says:

      Reality has destroyed the arguments of the bedwetters -not that they will recognize it. They kept warning us how that so many differences of opinion would devolve into a murder if mere plebians were allowed to have defensive weapons at hand and it simply has not happened -anywhere the laws were relaxed. If it had, such events would be endlessly and widely advertised by those who “feel uncomfortable” with a potentially armed public -you know; the unwashed rabble that does all of the working and paying and living and dying. The “concerned” left have to resort to: “Luxembourg has no guns and a very low crime rate” or some such statistical irrelevancy. And almost without exception, the places which are “weapon-free zones” have the most horrific events. Still, they will not renounce the religion of gun-control -and it is a religion because it is based on faith which has no scientific statistical support. The left has had pretty much 100 years of increasingly rigid weapons laws to prove how safe we would become under their astute and farsighted guidance and have failed in every place where they get their way. They simply do not want to confront the real demographic elements of crime. The greatest predictor of crime in any city is not how many guns there are per capita, but another inconvenient element which can be discovered by anyone who studies the FBI UCR or the annual National Crime Victimization Survey.

  8. Stacy says:

    I think that its about time that they issue a bill that lets weaker sex defend themselves. I am a disabled woman who has two children and according to the current laws if some jackass breaks into my home with a knife I can’t shoot that guy I have to use the same type of force meaning I have to get into a knife fight that I WILL lose!! I am all for this bill. This bill gives power back to the families to defend themselves and their loved ones. I am sick of people going on and on about how criminals will take this and run and blah blah blah. This bill is for us law abiding citizens who need to protect themselves and I beg of you vote YES!!!!!

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  10. marcee says:

    I agree that the laws need to be with the person threatened with bodily injury. I do not feel I should have to defend myself if I shoot a person breaking into my home. I do not feel that a criminal should have the right to sue me in a civil suit. I do agree that we do not need citizens running around in public armed either. We need to have stricter laws for the criminals. once it is proven you are an habitual offender or take a persons life, I feel you have gave up your rights, no more appeals, no more early release, no more spending millions of tax payers dollars for defense. I also feel that they are too well treated in prison, cable t.v. The average citizen with a legal gun is not the problem, we need to stop the criminal from getting guns, because they seem to get around all laws now.
    I live in a small community, we have a group of thieves, they steel four wheelers, bikes, t.vs what ever they find. Everyone knows who they are and where they hide stuff. They have been arrested and released so many times it is laughable. There was even an instance where one person who was robbed got some of his stuff back but then was made by police to return it to the thief’s because the race parts were made specifically for his machine and he had no numbers to prove it was his rightful property, This kid is a well known racer and the thief’s do not even own racing machines. go figure? These thieves have been at it for several years and the police can’t seem to catch or prosecute them, but if I shot one while he was robbing me I would have to get a lawyer and prove it was self defense and I had no other choice. This is news, the robber is old stuff and barley newsworthy.
    We do need stiffer laws, we need the criminals to pay for their offenses and as a civil home owner I should not be treated as a criminal and have to spend money and time to prove I was justified.
    Stiffer gun laws is not the answer nor is more rights to carry in public places, because in the long run the hurt the legal gun user. Our justice system, the police, lawyers, both defense and prosecutors need to stop the offenders and make the criminal scared to the consequences.

    • jared says:

      One major reason we even need a stand your ground law is because of a enormous cultural and social shift that most people are not even aware of. THE POLICE STATE. In the past there were no police. The closest thing might have been a constable or a sheriff in your general area. The general area even on the heavily populated east coast might have been many days of distance. Many times in the west 3/4 of the country didn’t even have a sheriff (generally an unpaid position) close enough to reasonably justify his time to witness a public hanging. Arrests, investigations and trials used to be handled by people in the community without compensation of any kind. A “jury” handled the case from start to finish. Essentially a “mob” of people just handled most cases at the nearest town-hall/church/school/courtroom and a decision was made. If a judge could be present to preside, then great. If not, as long as the punishment was not to severe, a judge wasn’t necessary. Usually the punishment had nothing to do with detention because the victim generally had the first word on what would be appropriate. Many times it was helping with repairing things around town, new construction, or even working at the victims farm or business for a set amount of days or weeks. The criminal would generally was given a place to stay if needed and food if needed. They might have even been compensated at a reduced rate of pay so they would be able to carry out their “sentence” and still be able to afford to live. If you could get a guy working in your field for half price for a month instead of being guarded by an unpaid group of people in town, what would you and your community decide?
      The shift to a highly organized police and prison system being necessary to arrest and finally carry out sentences for even the smallest of crimes didn’t happen until around WW1. The police, court and department of corrections have taken control of this part of our society. Where someone came up with the idea I shouldn’t be able to carry a weapon and defend myself is not in the constitution. The writers of the constitution assumed that I as a private citizen and other fellow citizens in my community were completely “free”, except that we may defend the constitution ourselves. And sometimes ourselves.

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