Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Looting and the use of force…

I don't see how a situation such as we recently witnessed in N.O. changes anything.

The rules are pretty well understood by most people:

1. You are permitted to defend your, your family's - and your neighbor's - property if someone tries to steal it.

2. If a person employs violent force to effect a felonious taking of property, then the question of appropriate use of force shifts to one's response to assault, battery or attempted murder. Bottom line: Force may be met with force.

3. If the property is such that its loss could reasonably be understood as life threatening, (e.g. food, water, shelter, a generator) then, as above, the situation rises to something akin to attempted murder, rather than theft or robbery. Again, force may be met with force.

4. Lastly, if roaming bands of thugs are committing assault, battery, rape, arson (especially if there is a reasonable chance that such a set fire could spread to one's shelter), etc., then there is no question that force may be used to protect yourself, your family and friends - however you want to define that group.

With that being said, however, common sense ought to warn us that, absent any immediate threat, an individual's appearance, location or even activity, are NOT grounds for opening fire on them.

The only gray area, as I see it, is this: What does the law have to say about defending one's property against a group of looters, which while not using violence, is too big to defend against without using overwhelming, potentially deadly force?

Frankly, in the recent New Orleans trouble, questions of law are moot: there was none. And it's most unlikely that anyone will be required to account for their behavior during this period.

Ingrained morality and common sense are the best we can hope for when situations like this arise.

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