Don’t Mess With Texas Self-Defense Laws

Self-styled media “fact checkers” worked overtime last week defending Texas State Rep. Terry Meza’s bill to amend the Lone Star State’s “Castle Doctrine” from well-deserved criticism. No matter the effort to present Meza’s proposal as a serious measure, however, it remains at its core juvenile and dangerous.

It is true that Meza’s bill (H.B. 196) does not repeal outright Texas’ Castle Doctrine, the law that codifies situations in which property owners are justified in using deadly force for self-defense. It would, however, gut much of the law by removing “robbery” and “aggravated robbery” from the list of justifying actions. In defending her bill from critics who joked she hoped the change could promote wealth redistribution, Meza used “stealing lawn ornaments” as an example of why the change was needed.

One might be forgiven for not being able to separate the satire from Meza herself, but what cannot be excused is Meza’s ignorance of the law, as both a lawmaker and an attorney. It seems she has no clue that under Texas law, theft and robbery are two entirely different legal concepts. Nobody is being shot over “stealing law ornaments,” and if they were, the state’s Castle Doctrine would (rightfully) not protect the property owner from prosecution. At best, her bill is a bad solution to a problem that simply does not exist.

The distinction between theft and robbery is important and is what makes Meza’s ignorance – whether deliberate or actual — so dangerous. Both theft and robbery are based on theft of property, but “robbery” and “aggravated robbery” are reserved for property theft in which the assailant either causes, or threatens to cause, “imminent bodily injury or death.” So, to use Meza’s example, it would be when someone is stealing lawn ornaments, and then threatens to kill the property owner when confronted. In such scenario, if the suspect is shot by the homeowner it would not be for stealing plastic flamingos, but because the homeowner took the suspect at their word and reasonably believed he or she intended to cause immediate and serious harm or death.

Under Meza’s changes to the Castle Doctrine, property owners upon confronting a person in the process of committing a crime, who has now threatened to hurt or kill them, must turn their backs on a violent suspect and flee. What happens if the perpetrator then gives chase, or as the victim runs away the criminal pulls a gun to prevent the property owner from calling police? Meza’s bill would force property owners to wait until they are in ipsa mali, that is, in actual harm before taking action to defend themselves — being told you are about to be murdered is not sufficient grounds for defending yourself; you actually have to be in the process of being murdered to do so.

It would be one thing if this was another run-of-the-mill gun grab by the Left. Considered as it should be, however, in context with the “Black Lives Matter” riots and the social push to “defund the police,” Meza’s proposal is part and parcel of a broad strategy by the Left to “reimagine” both law enforcement and self-defense.

Theirs is a fantasy world in which unarmed “crisis” workers deescalate violent situations with soothing words, and the newly defunded police will appear on cue to nab the bad guys in the act without the citizen needing to protect their home and property on their own.

It is a world in which the rich deserve to have their possessions taken in order to effect a more equitable distribution of society’s assets. In this fantasy world, bail should not be required because doing so rewards people with sufficient assets to make bail and penalizes those with naught. In this La La Land of Social Justice, traditional notions of self-defense are seen as outmoded and either racist or “classist.”

Those who know history understand that the concept of rugged individualism has served as a key component of America’s — and Texas’ – entrepreneurial successes. To Meza and her followers this principle, like the Castle Doctrine, is to be similarly discarded in favor of social egalitarianism.

When it comes to undermining the fundamental principle of self-defense on which our Second Amendment is premised, people like Terry Meza are doing more than killing jobs; they will be costing lives.

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Bob Barr
Bob Barr is a former Congressman who represented the citizens of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. Bob heads Liberty Guard, a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty.