“Castle Doctrine” defeated in Virginia

The Virginia Shooting Sports Association (an NRA affiliated Virginia gun rights group), in lamenting the demise of the Castle Doctrine bill that was presented to the Virginia Legislature this year, attempted to vilify another Virginia gun rights group by equating their opposition to the bill with the anti-freedom lobby’s opposition of it:

Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws sent this email today applauding yesterday’s effective defeat of the last remaining Castle Doctrine bills…

Ironically, the group used language similar to language used by a gun rights group in opposing the bills, explaining that Virginia law on the issue of self defense has been carefully crafted by the courts. A Virginia gun rights group was actively opposing the Castle bills during the General Assembly.

The VSSA Blogger indicated that the unnamed gun rights group should have been appeased by language that was added to the bill specifically to address those concerns.

VSSA and the NRA supported the legislation and worked with patrons to address concerns raised by some that the bills would override protections already in common law…[by]…including specific language clarifying the bill:

“…shall not be construed to limit, withdraw, or overturn any defense or immunity already existing in statutory or common law prior to the effective date of this law.”

I was going to leave a comment on the VSSA blog, but apparently a Google account is required, which my readers will well know I no longer have.

So…I’ll do this here.

The un-named pro-rights group that the VSSA blogger was back-handedly insulting was the Virginia Citizens Defense League, of which I was an Executive Member until fairly recently.

I have, both here on my blog, as a blogger for VCDL, and as an EM, strongly supported the concept and advocated the need for a castle doctrine bill here in Virginia. I know no-one at VCDL who is opposed to the concept in principle.

But neither I, nor VCDL leadership, will endorse a law that may potentially do more harm than good.

The added language notwithstanding, the proposed bill backed by the NRA and VSSA still had a glaring, huge, deadly flaw:

Any person who lawfully occupies a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force, against another person when (i) the other person has unlawfully entered the dwelling and has committed an overt act toward the occupant or another person in the dwelling [bold added -ed]

Right now, there is no requirement in Virginia Law or established case law for an overt act to have occurred. The only requirement is a reasonable belief that bodily injury is imminent.

Under the language of this bill, the defender would be required to wait until the criminal, who has already broken into their home, commits ANOTHER overtly hostile act before self defense is protected by the proposed law.

This is clearly unacceptable. Versus adding a vague statement about this law not being construed to change any existing laws (which could be interpreted any number of ways by a creative judge who “discourages self-help”), how about fixing the language itself? All they would have had to have done is strike the “overt act” requirement.

I would prefer any such law to include a presumption of imminent bodily injury when defending one’s castle against an unlawful intruder, but would have been satisfied with just the removal of the “overt act” language.

The bottom line is that this bill was fatally flawed and needed to be defeated. It may sting the NRA and its affiliates to be defeated by an upstart like VCDL, but if they want our support, they need to earn it. Attempting to equate VCDL to anti-gun groups when the two opposed this legislation for exact opposite reasons is hardly the way to win support for your cause.


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