Make My Day Laws, and Self-Defense

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic


Fortunately, it's just plastic. Source: maxw hide caption

itoggle caption Source: maxw

A man in Texas reportedly sees two people breaking into his neighbor's house, calls 911, and then grabs his shotgun. In the end, two men lay dead in front of his house, and the shooter claims self-defense under Texas' "castle doctrine" laws. Basically, castle laws (and similar "make my day" laws) come from the idea that your home is your castle, and you have the right to use deadly force if someone breaks in. The obvious question in this case: Is his neighbor's house also his castle? The courts will decide this case, but your rights to self-defense change depending on which state you're standing in. In some places, you have to try to get away before opening fire; shooting is only a last resort. In other states, you can not only shoot to kill in your home, but also in your car or office. It's a confusing mix of legal and ethical mazes, and we'll try to work through them on the show today. How far should the right to self-defense extend?



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Somehow a guy claiming his neighbor's house as his 'castle' should be covered under 'kingdom' laws. Was the shooter defending his neighbor's life from an imminent threat? Otherwise, the premise of his defense seems flawed at best.

Sent by Rick Evans | 1:59 PM | 12-20-2007

If someone breaks into MY house (while I'm there), they will have two choices. Call the police (to turn themselves in) or get something shot off!

Its NOT about protecting my stuff (I have insurance for that), it IS about saving lives!

Texas is a different state (country?), they look out for each other down there.

Sent by Harold | 2:04 PM | 12-20-2007

Maybe I'd shoot, if I lived in fear, if I had a gun. But I'd shoot the foot~ to wound NOT KILL

Sent by murphy | 2:11 PM | 12-20-2007

Self defense can be reasonably argued to shoot someone breaking into your home (while you're there). But shooting someone who threatens some possession (your car, say) that you do not currently occupy -and so an event that does not personally threaten your life- is de facto a sentence of execution for the crime of theft or vandalism, which our judicial system does not sanction.

Sent by Fred Hamann | 2:12 PM | 12-20-2007

I have to respond to this story because of my own personal experience. When I was 16, I was locked out of my house on a rainy evening. My friend and I were there to pick up a change of clothes and then head to a party, so rather than waiting for my parents to come home (this was the days before cell phones) we went around to the side of the house, and I popped out a window and we crawled in. Ten minutes later, when we were coming out through the back door, the police were waiting for us. They handcuffed us and took us to the police station, refusing to believe that it was my house. It turns out my next door neighbor - a man in his mid 60's - called 911 and reported a buglary in progress. Hearing this story, I shudder to think what could have happened if this man had been armed!

Sent by Cara | 2:14 PM | 12-20-2007

It's all fine and good to discuss the legalities, but what about human nature. There can only be escalation... The robbers will bring their guns next time. The owners will get bigger guns. And so on... I think the problem's origin is somewhere else.

Sent by Ren | 2:14 PM | 12-20-2007

I remember reading and being told back in the late 1980s that although it may be "legal" in some instances to shoot an intruder, that you should expect a civil suit from the intruder or his/her family. Back then the average settlement was $25,000. Is this still the case?

Sent by dgdubya | 2:19 PM | 12-20-2007

I hope that I always have a neighbor like Mr. Horn. If we all defended our homes and our neighbor's home in such a way there would be less crime.

Why have we become scared to defend ourselves?

Sent by Lu | 2:24 PM | 12-20-2007

Please discuss the distinction between self-defense and the defense of property, which I understand never justifies deadly force.

Sent by George | 2:26 PM | 12-20-2007

Self defense goes as far back to ancient times. As arms have changed over time, so have rules of engagement. Interesting thing is that few people really capability to kill another human, only a small percentage of the population.

Sent by Jonathan | 2:26 PM | 12-20-2007

How incredibly and thoroughly convenient that the dead burglars weren't just burglars but dreaded illegal immigrants, previously deported but returned to do more harm, no less. They looked black, sounded Latino. Yikes. Everything but child pornography, Islamic terrorism and a monster under the bed. My favorite detail is the presence of passive, frightened undercover cops. The lawyers have been busy indeed.

That said, I think anyone whose life feels threatened by an attacker or home invader is justified in using all the force they can muster to render the attacker harmless. But shooting fleeing burglars in the back is indefensible.

Sent by Mike from Boston | 2:29 PM | 12-20-2007

Murphy, I'm relieved to know that you don't have a firearm. You obviously have no first-hand experience with the proper and safe use of firearms. Do you have any idea at all just how foolish and dangerous it actually is to shoot an adversary with the intention to merely wound? If you are at all justified to draw a weapon and point it at another human being you must be willing and able to shoot to kill. Only ignorant individuals, untrained in the proper use of firearms believe in the Western-movie inspired myth that they can "wing 'em, not kill 'em"!

Enroll in a firearms safety class first and then take some basic marksmanship training before you consider getting yourself a gun!

Sent by Phil | 2:29 PM | 12-20-2007

I worked very hard for the passage the Missouri Castle Doctrine law this past legislative session. While we were able to get a bill passed that included protection from civil suits (criminals or their survivors couldn't sue for wrongful death). However, we were not able to get the language in the bill to extend this protection to persons "anywhere they are lawfully present" as FL and some other states have.

Our protections extend just to the dwelling (incl. hotel, etc.) and automobile. As a result, if I am robbed in a shopping center parking lot BEFORE I get in the car, I am unprotected. One may NOT use deadly force in protection of property in MO.

I see the Castle Doctrine as a natural extension of the concept that we are unable to rely on the police to be everywhere at all times and must take responsibility for our own safety. This concept is what has led to the increasing prevalence of concealed carry laws in so many states. Ultimately, I am responsible for the safety of myself and my loved ones and will act accordingly.

Sent by Mark | 2:29 PM | 12-20-2007

I am confused by the references to "common law." It's my understanding that theives of very low cost items were routinely executed in 1780's England.

Sent by Steve McCue | 2:33 PM | 12-20-2007

Sent by murphy:
"I'd shoot the foot~ to wound NOT KILL"

Dead felons DON'T sue! Shoot to "stop".

Sent by Harold | 2:33 PM | 12-20-2007

The funnest thing I heard was a man trying to carjack a van that belong to a college Judo club. He was warned several times the people in the van belong to the Judo club and to walk away. The person reached in the van to get the keys and that was a mistake. So the guy used a technique to stop him, and told him to go away, but then he attacked again, and he was thrown, and once again asked to leave this went on and the guy stopped only after being thrown around several times.

Sent by Jonathan | 2:36 PM | 12-20-2007

I'm a young woman and I live by myself. My dog woke me up at 3 a.m. one night because he heard a noisy burglar. I grabbed my cell phone and hid in a closet while the man entered my home. I was barely able to hold the phone and call 911. I always thought there would be some rush of adrenaline and clarity, but I was basically reduced to a puddle of fear. Do other people have better reactions than mine? I worry that others would also shake and be confused like I was, and that they might make a big mistake with a firearm.

Sent by brittany | 2:37 PM | 12-20-2007

The show's host regretably shows strong bias. First, he speaks of the tow "blacks" who were killed as "illegal Colombian immigrats", somehow trying to suggest that race and not their action was the cause of the homeowner's attack.

Additionally, seconds later he describes (to his guest from Maryland) another homeowners decision to avoid shooting a home invader as "we have someone [online] who did the right thing."
The bias' appear to originate in the host and any pretense of journalistic integrity is lost in the hosts opinions. Please, NPR listeners expect more balance, as advertised.

Sent by Jorge Oclander | 2:38 PM | 12-20-2007

Having a gun prompts some people to find an excuse to use it. What would have happened if this guy had left the burglers alone? No one would have been hurt. Years ago I was accosted by three guys with guns when, as a professor, I had five students in a car on a field trip on a public gravel road at night. They pistol whipped us and threated to shoot us and only stopped when they noticed the car belonged to the state of CA. We could have been shot just because these fools (ex- deputies from LA)had guns and convinced themselves we were a threat to them.

Sent by Roger Lederer | 2:38 PM | 12-20-2007

Has it ever occurred to the those righteous people who let burglars go that, by definition, they are criminals. That some time later they might break into someone elses house, and for some whatever reason, kill the homeowner. How would the gentle person feel about that?

As for mistakes, the best way to avoid those is to not be stupid. Actually know which house is yours. Before breaking into your own house, bang on the doors. Announce yourself. And always remember. Stupidity tends to kill. Absolute stupidity tends to kill absolutely.

Sent by Doug Nusbau | 2:41 PM | 12-20-2007

In reference to some of the previous postings:
YES! we should just capitulate at the first sign of a threat !!!!! Why defend ourselves and risk an escalation of violence?
Isn't it the duty of the police and the state to protect us?.......
We have become too scared and dependant to protct ourselves....Police do not prevent crimes, they try to solve them after they happen!!!!!!
It reaaly sucks to find out that YOU are the one responsible for your safety and servival doesn't it?

Sent by Robert | 2:45 PM | 12-20-2007

Sent by Ren:
"There can only be escalation... The robbers will bring their guns next time."
I've seen these thugs shoot. Last time I went to a "pistol shoot", I scored 1150 (out of 1920). Accuracy will prevail! (It's NOT size that counts!)

"I think the problem's origin is somewhere else."

Yes, teach these kids to "LEAVE MY STUFF ALONE!!!"

And I second Phil's comment "Enroll in a firearms safety"

Sent by Harold | 2:46 PM | 12-20-2007

With regard to the discussion on the self defence and lawfull force laws. I feel that the idea of individual resposibility and common sense is being eroded. The mere fact that these laws are being called 'Make my day' laws is an indication of this. The question for some becomes, not, 'what is the right thing to do?' but 'what would Dirty Harry do?' the line between fact and fiction in many of the USA's dealings has become so blurred that any sense of reality has become almost extinct

Sent by J Burns | 2:46 PM | 12-20-2007

Quote: Murhpy "Maybe I'd shoot, if I lived in fear, if I had a gun. But I'd shoot the foot~ to wound NOT KILL"

That's just silly...

Unfortunately, I'm not that good of a shot. If someone that shouldn't be, is in my home I'm aiming for the largest part of the target I can (The Chest).

I never want to have to kill an intruder but I'm not going to ask if they just want to steal TV or murder my wife...

Sent by ArmBar | 2:48 PM | 12-20-2007

The police have no legal obligation to respond for your call for help--this has gone all the way up the Supreme Court. People not prepared to defend themselves are quite simply easy prey for killers, rapists and robbers.

Sent by Joe | 2:48 PM | 12-20-2007

As a prosecutor of violent felonies for several years, I'll add this: for everyone who is keen to blow away their adversaries without a direct threat to their own or another's person, remember that self-defense claims are easily made. Wholesale miscarriages of justice are not uncommon for clear murderers who are willing to give self-defense a shot in front of a jury (pun?).

This also goes to the many, many misguided legislators (in my home state included) who passed a form bill being passed around the nation by the NRA, under the guise of a "Castle Doctrine." Self-defense was adequately built into the existing criminal law in most every state, based on a form in existence for hundreds of years.

What most of these well-intentioned but horribly misinformed legislators have managed to do is open the prison door to at least a handful of murderers every year, by tinkering with workable self-defense laws with which they had no experience.

I suppose an elected official can make a policy decision like this (we'll set free some murderers in exchange for the right to be Dirty Harry). It is a decision, however, which should have been made clear to voters.

Sent by Todd | 2:51 PM | 12-20-2007

I would be proud to have this man as my neighbor. He is very brave to have defended his and his neighbor's safety, especially as frightened as he obviously was in the moment. I can't fault a frightened old man for reaching for his shotgun for protection. I can only fault the fools who thought they could easily get away with their selfish and hurtful behavior forever. Everyone dies, and these men's times were up!

Sent by Jason | 2:58 PM | 12-20-2007

Mark and Phil, Thank you for contributing such well conceived and rational thoughts to this conversation. To be sure; "Pacifism is the privilege of the protected". Perhaps most of the white, middle/ upper class listeners of NPR have been fortunate enough to not have had loved ones become victims of violent crime or become victims themselves. Congratulations, you are a dwindling statistic. Just because you walk around in Condition White does not give you the right to restrict those of us who choose to live lives of Situational Awareness. Actively choosing to not defend your own life and the lives of your loved ones when you have the means necessary is one of the most unfathomable concepts I've ever heard. By doing so, you place the life of a predator above that of you and yours. I can see no justification to such a decision and it makes me happy that I am not a member of your family should you choose Hoplophobia for them.

Sent by Matthew | 3:16 PM | 12-20-2007

Based on the interview, callers, Joe Horn case and Jonathan Turley citing of the Bernie Goetz case as his example of an upswing in these types of cases, I believe Castle docterines should stand.

Sent by Guy Harvey | 3:23 PM | 12-20-2007

No need to post this comment, just wanted someone to PLEASE SAVE THE TAPE of Neal Conan saying "a bagful of swag" - I choked on my drink laughing...

Sent by Andrea Estevez | 3:25 PM | 12-20-2007

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints try to follow the admonition in the Book of Mormon: "Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you. But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good..." We pay a tithe of 10% of our gross income as well as other monthly contributions to help people in our communities and across the world through the church and other charitable organizations.

Sent by Mary Lee | 3:38 PM | 12-20-2007

Back in 1996-97, I was a newspaper reporter working in a rural area near Charleston, South Carolina. I covered a news story concerning a Dorchester County man who came upon two men burglarizing his home. He shot at the pair and hit one of the burglars. The man who shot at the burglars was not charged with any crime.

Ironically, a few months after that incident, I covered an incident in Berkeley County which an elderly man was found shot to death in his own back yard. Police believed he had come home and interrupted a burglary in progress.

As I recall, the burglar in the first incident was out on bond when he committed the second burglary and murder.

I have always wondered about how the shooting affected the homeowner who shot at the men burglarizing his home. As far as I know, he never talked to any reporters.

Sent by MB Martin | 4:29 PM | 12-20-2007

To Brittany:
Thank goodness you had a dog! (The only thing burglars fear more than armed homeowners, are DOGS!!!!)

Nope, the adrenaline comes from the fear. Your actions were correct! You had a plan! Let the dog defend you.

Sent by Harold | 4:34 PM | 12-20-2007

Dead men cant sue or lie in a court of law. Joe will walk

Sent by Eric | 4:41 PM | 12-20-2007

My thanks to Matthew for his support of my comments and for clearly articulating the proper and well reasoned way to view those who would do us harm. All of us as individuals are ultimately responsible for our own safety and security.

Although most of us enjoy the benefits of living within a civil society governed by laws, we should not become complacent about our security. Even in our relatively sane part of the world there are those among us whose lives are not governed by a moral code and who can and will do us harm given the opportunity. These people may be described as "goblins".

It is utterly insane to capitulate to or comply with the goblins of this world. The only proper and well reasoned course of action when confronted with a goblin intent upon harming us or those we care about is to oppose them. The brave souls who perished on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania and saved the lives of countless, unknown countrymen by their selfless act of sacrifice and defiance knew this. We should all remember their example.

I respectfully disagree with the comments of Todd who identifies himself as a "prosecutor of violent felonies". Todd is incorrect in his assertion that the Castle Doctrine represents a misguided attempt to correct problems with our "workable self-defense laws". Rather, the Castle Doctrine is an affirmation of the individual's reasonable belief that those who would enter one's home without announcing their intent to enter or requesting the owner's permission to enter are to be regarded as a potentially deadly threat to the homeowner and those under their protection. The Castle Doctrine treats a person's home as a unique space wherein a person has a reasonable expectation of safety and security. This is indeed a reasonable presumption. Only a fool or a goblin enters a home not their own without an invitation. Those who engage in such inadvisable activities should rightly bear full responsibility for any unfortunate outcome they suffer as a result of their actions.

My thanks also to Ren for seconding my call for firearms training. Those who are unfamiliar with and untrained in the proper, safe and responsible use of firearms have no business owning let alone bearing arms.

The Second Amendment of our Constitution affirms our individual right to keep and bear arms. Neither the Second Amendment nor the Castle Doctrine as reflected in many of our States' laws absolves law abiding citizens of the moral and legal responsibilities that are implicit in the responsible ownership and use of firearms. A responsible firearms owner is absolutely responsible for each and every round discharged from their weapon. If you are not certain of your target and your ability to hit it then you have absolutely no business launching a bullet at it! There are four simple and inviolable rules of firearms safety that all would-be gun owners should know and abide by. They are:

Rule 1: All firearms are always loaded

Rule 2: Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy

Rule 3: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target

Rule 4: Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it

If there is anything about the rules above that do not make sense or is unfamiliar to you then you have no business handling let alone owning a firearm. Enroll yourself in a firearms safety class and get some marksmanship training. Please!

Sent by Phil | 5:23 PM | 12-20-2007

I was intrigued by the guest's assertion that many of the people taking advantage of the castle doctrine are minorities. Does the castle doctrine involve more minority defenders because minorities feel that the police won't respond to their 911 complaints. Does the "necessity" of the castle doctrine actually have a root in the perception of police response in minority communities?

I don't have a gun, or carry other less deadly tools for self defense, like pepper spray, because I know that I couldn't actually discharge the weapon and mean it. I am one of those people who would endanger herself if she tried to use a weapon against someone else.

I work nights, walk home alone, and have done so for years. I have never felt unsafe, or threatened. Before buying a gun I would encourage people to know their neighborhood, and to move through it with assertion. If you're scared enough to own a gun, you're scared enough to look like an appropriate target. Be careful, be cautious; but don't rely on a gun.

Sent by Shenandoah McGuire | 5:33 PM | 12-20-2007

There are a lot of interesting posts on this subject. The bottom line for me is that as much as I would like it to be otherwise, it is naive, perhaps fatally so, to think that our government authorities can protect us. There is a saying among Concealed Weapons Permit holders, "When seconds count, the police will be there in a few minutes.

Utah's so called Castle Doctrine allows the home owner to assume the worst when the home is illegally entered. Speaking as someone who has had to defend my home with a firearm twice (no shots fired)I can only think this is morally and ethically right.

In addition, it can also only be right that when a person decides to commit a criminal act, that it is dangerous by nature and that criminal automatically forfeits their rights to claim liability or damages against the victim of that criminal act. Nothing in the whole debate makes less sense than the criminal being able to sue the homeowner or victim for liabilities they voluntarily accepted when they set out to rob and pillage.

Sent by Tom C | 5:36 PM | 12-20-2007

Having just listened to this broadcast, (online), two things first come to mind:
1) The guest said "no jury would to that," and "juries don't do that sort of thing" (i.e., convict those who defend themselves). Well, if there's a jury, you must BE IN COURT (defending yourself, AGAIN)--so, you've hired legal counsel (big bucks). Also, even should your case be ruled legally justifiable, you can still be sued in civil court (more big bucks).
2) Secondly, anyone else notice the producer's choice to only have one guest, expressing that guest's own left-of-center views? Where there really no callers in opposition to the guest's position?

Sent by R.S., Granville, OH | 6:29 PM | 12-20-2007

I am impressed by the number of "I will defend myself and my family" people who come to the defense of a man who killed two people who had only stolen property.

If you want to institute the death penalty for burglary, come out and say so (as some commentators pretty much have) and get your state to make it so.

There is a world of difference between shooting some fleeing thieves outdoors in broad daylight in the back, and shooting someone you find in your home at night. From the phone call, this man was looking for an excuse to go out and kill someone. I hope he is persecuted to the full extent of the law, and if there is a higher authority after death he will also face that for killing two men.

Sent by Carlos | 7:39 PM | 12-20-2007

property not worth killing over? that's drivel from the mouths of privileged people. if property isn't protected who will feed and clothe your family. have you never read of so many people being victims of theft over and over until they are ruined? or do you believe it's the "nanny states" place? personal experience changes minds.

Sent by John Meadows | 8:07 PM | 12-20-2007

I'm disappointed that NPR would air a story with such bias. The main reason I listen to NPR is because they are less biased than most of the mainstream media. No matter what side I am on, I would like to hear the facts and opinions on both sides of the story without bias from the host.

Sent by Nathan | 9:30 PM | 12-20-2007

Anyone who has listened to Mr. Horn's conversation with the 9-1-1 operator can tell that his decision to go out and kill the intruders was premeditated. Mr. Horn had a taste for blood, and disobeyed the 9-1-1 operator when his life was not in danger in the slightest. This was a cold-blooded double homicide. Let the courts and justice system do their job. If Mr. Horn really wanted to help, he should have shot them using a zoom lens.

Sent by Dan Baker | 9:41 PM | 12-20-2007

Peter from Cincinnati. What a jerk-letting a burglar go to break into maybe my house. It's your obligation as a decent human to stop this idiot. Wrong move letting him go.

Sent by Bob | 10:26 PM | 12-20-2007

I shot at a guy who had broken into my house (I hit him too). At that moment, I didn't know how many people were in my house, I just knew there was a large guy in front of me. He didn't die. He did plead guilty and served a bunch of years for this crime and for other outstanding crimes he was awaiting trial and out on bail for. Courts are too soft. One plus though, I never have to do jury duty now. No defense attorney wants me.

Sent by No name for obvious reasons | 10:39 PM | 12-20-2007

Tully states that it is rare that homeowners are convicted for shooting a burglar and that the castle doctrine is a law that is in search of a problem. I disagree, it may be rare that homeowners are convicted for shooting intruders but there have been many cases where the police arrest the homeowner, the prosecutor charges the homeowner, and the intruder or the intruder's family sue the homeowner in a civil suit. The castle doctrine addresses all these issues. Even if you are not prosecuted successfully the cost of defending yourself in court and having an arrest record can be damaging to your career and livelihood. The same goes for defending yourself in a civil suit. If you are on a fixed income, spending 10K on lawyer fees can cause bankruptcy. The castle doctrine protects citizens from wrongful arrest, wrongful prosecution, and from the burglar robbing you a second time with a civil suit.

Sent by Doug Davis | 10:35 AM | 12-21-2007

Pre-meditated murder, the last time I checked the death penalty is not an sentencing option for burgulary. How about a direct order from a police official to "stop" and not go outside. Burgulary should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law..."of the law" If this type a behavior is permitted in this country, give me my tax money back Mrs Horsewell, since we have no need for police officers, or civic protections. I am insulted by this notion, an associate of mine was robbed at gunpoint, shot the perpetrator in self-defense which was verified by forensic scientist and still spent 4 years of his life in prison, if this guy walks there are thousands of prison inmates of African American decent in the south spending time incarcerated for technicalities within self-defense rulings. You guys are push the envelope right over the edge of the cliff. This maniac is crazier than the criminals, he said he was going to kill them, he said he was going to kill them, again he said he was going to kill them, and this he said to a police official. There is not enough property in Mr. Horn's neighborhood or state even to warrant the cost of 1 human life, even an illegal alien. This is precisely why we still have racial tension in this country. I wonder what will be the outcome of Mr. Whites case in Louisiana fearing for his sons safety, we know what the Mob of whites in the south is capable of if you don't believe me come to Georgia I know a few properties you can wonder around on in blackface if you dare, but I am sure you know better. Law is law if it is minipulated to protect a few, then the law means nothing the scales of justice are carried by a blindfolded lady. The implication is clear, the day Mr. Horn walks on this is the day that America dies and becomes another Afghanistan. Anyone who decides to kill where such an act is not the last option available to them is guilty of either Homicide 1, Homicide 2, Manslaugher 1, Manslaughter 2, or Reckless endangerment the law provides for specific adjustments in consideration of any medigating factors. I actually heard Sean Hannity suggest that more citizens should do this imagine that, some conservatives feel as though this was not a crime, when actually there were two crimes committed on that day and each one of them should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, unfortunately one of those crimes can no longer be prosecuted. I wish someone would contact the families of the victims in their home country and convince them into file a civil lawsuit against Mr. Horn and take all of that property that he felt he was at risk of surrendering to criminals, then free him to live on the streets as a vagabond and beggar. As for the professor on NPR who claims that this is not racially motivated you are as dishonest as they come, the fact the he call them "Black" implies a subtle racist inclination why would it matter at all if he was going to kill them as he stated before he even left the house. What would their race or description even matter the authorities would clearly be able to tell from the human carcuses left in the yard with shotgun pellets in their backs, their backs. He is a murderer and a coward he should be placed on a watch list so his neighbors will know that he has a propensity towards murder, what if those guys were juveniles who could possible have been rejuvenated into productive citizens, too bad I guess for them and their families. What if they had been family members of the home-owners who desperately needed to get medication or something of the sort out of the home. Not that any of these are the reality of this case, but regardless the law is designed to consider these possibilities the psychology of a senile elderly racist John Wanye type is not designed to consider such possibilities and that is why even his behavior falls under the rule of law. I admonish anyone to adequately defend Mr. Horns action in an intelligent and legally justifiable fashion, impossible, impossible, impossible. What if the perps saw Mr. Horn approaching from a distance and had hand guns, what if the shot and killed him before he could have made a fatal shot with a shotgun, would they be guilty of murder or self defense, would you fight the same fight in support of the law, I seriously doubt it, leave Law debate to the professional who have made the financial investment in their fields, Law school isn't for laymen. Consider this should Los Angeles citizens shoot at police officers, they have been known to shoot innocent victims by mistake, how about citizens of New York, or Decatur Georgia. In all the before mentioned locales police officers have murdered citizens who did not pose a realistic physical threat to there well-being. Is it OK for someone to lose their life over a mistake or would you rather citizens take the matter in their own hands and explain their psychologies later, hopefully not my fellow citizens I would hate to have to live with the blood of a neighbors adolescent child on my hands. Can anyone spell "GUN CONTROL" This behavior escalates and escalates Me and my family will move from this God forsaken country if this continues and I suggest that all morally upright children of God do the same, these trivial considerations blur the lines of human decency and nullifies grand ideals which made this country great.

Sent by S. L. Taylor | 10:44 AM | 12-21-2007

Texas law gives us broad latitude to use force and/or deadly force for the protection of ourselves and our property, also the protection of a third person and a third persons property. We have even more latitude if certain crimes happen at night. Read PC 9.31 PC 9.32 PC 9.33 PC 9.34 PC 9.41 PC 9.42 PC 9.43 but read these penal codes very carefully.

Sent by Walter jones | 10:52 AM | 12-21-2007

i wonder if this could have been avoided if the 911 operator hadn't laughed at the man and tried harder to calm him down and talk him out of it. it did not sound like he was trying very hard.

Sent by leigh | 1:39 PM | 12-21-2007

I think that if I were to see someone going into my neighbors house and I didn't recognize them. I would call the police and try to gather any information, like if they drove up in a car what kind and if I could see the license plate. I can't imagine shooting at them, because I would not know why there were breaking in. My grandmother use to fall down and she had an alert that called our house when this happened. If her door had been locked I would have broken in to get to her. How would anyone know I was there to save her instead of rob her? It's a matter of having all the facts before you act. If you don't have them, let the police handle it.

Sent by Joy Weimer | 2:45 PM | 12-21-2007

Can you please post along with this story the comments of the legal analyst who was on the show. i'd particularly like my coworkers in the architectural industry to read about the seasonal hazards of identical looking homes.

Sent by S.T. | 7:30 PM | 12-21-2007

After reading several of the comments here, I am still unchanged in my admittedly on-the-fence opinion about this situation. Is *killing* someone before due process correct? Aside from the concern about having your *own* home broken into, this issue raises questions about the ways in which one can cross the line from Good Samaritan to Good-intentioned-yet-terribly-rash Samaritan. Also, how inter-connected was this neighborhood? Does it matter whether the shooter knew his neighbors well enough to know it wasn't them (or their friends) coming into the house? On one hand, if I were to be robbed, I'd be happy someone was at least watching out for me and my own. On the other, I wish they would have called the NYPD.
Concerning the outcome of this situation, I am wondering what would be the "best" message to potential criminals -- or whether it will strike them at all, regardless of what it is. Maybe next time, they'd come in expecting something. I'm fearful that any acquittal could prove terribly destructive in the long run because, when you think about it, aren't robbers going to try and rob you anyway? Theft is not exactly a new concept, after all.

Students living around my campus here in the Bronx get mugged pretty regularly (21 cases this semester, to be exact) from people brandishing even BB guns -- but *very* seldom do people take physical chances, or even try to run away before their money is taken from them. I just have to wonder what the effect would be for in-building hold-ups, robberies, etc. Would they get even bolder than that on a regular basis if something like a castle law could potentially include an entire block? Conversely, would it scare off future thefts? Importantly, if one were to attempt to assume a thief's perspective, how would the chance that one could be killed by a *neighbor's* firearm change the way one thieves?

Sent by Julie Fifelski | 2:09 AM | 12-22-2007

see today (12/22) front page article in denver post about writer stephen white's encounter with a cop who mistakenly thought white's home was being burglarized and the cop almost shot white, the homeowner

Sent by Tom Korson | 9:38 AM | 12-22-2007

You must be allowed to protect yourself and your property. One should not be able to kill someone to protect a 10 dollar watch. However, if someone were about to steel your entire life savings and you are retired and have no means of making any income are they not essentially destroying your life. Should I not be able to potentially use deadly force at that point? There are no certain rules or easy answers. Anyone who gives absolutes for or against deadly force use is not being realistic.

Sent by Ralph Splendorio | 10:56 AM | 12-22-2007

I am no politician, but a friend asked me to throw out my opinion on this subject.

I feel that the law should ban lethal weapons to civilians, but instead, invest in non-lethal weapons. I.E. Stun guns, pepper spray, etc. Those robbers did not deserve a punishment as bad as death.

Sent by Matthew | 8:19 PM | 12-22-2007

"Having a gun prompts some people to find an excuse to use it. What would have happened if this guy had left the burglers alone? No one would have been hurt. Years ago I was accosted by three guys with guns when, as a professor, I had five students in a car on a field trip on a public gravel road at night. They pistol whipped us and threated to shoot us and only stopped when they noticed the car belonged to the state of CA. We could have been shot just because these fools (ex- deputies from LA)had guns and convinced themselves we were a threat to them.

Sent by Roger Lederer | 2:38 PM ET | 12-20-2007"

Wrong, sir. Having guns does not "cause" behavior, the behavior is a pre-existing condition. You were in danger not because these men had guns but because they were CRIMINALS, and because you took no steps to defend yourself. CITIZENS should not have to be afraid to take appropriate steps to defend themselves, their communities and their nation. This is in fact confirmed in "common law", i.e. the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If guns "cause" crime, then spoons "cause" obesity.

Sent by Robert Ries | 8:45 AM | 12-23-2007

I had to listen again to make sure that Cindy Horswell did indeed say that the Castle Doctrine did not apply in the lead story. To use this story in a discussion of the Castle Doctrine is simply dishonest. Jonathan Turley has impressive credentials, but he seems not to understand the world outside of Washington where prosecutors are human and some have agendas (e.g. Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong). For that matter the Professor Turley seems to disagree with the Wikipedia definition of the Castle Doctrine. The Wikipedia does not say that using lethal force to protect property is part of the Castle Doctrine, but it does say that it has some basis in English Common Law. I expect better of Neal Conan and NPR.

Sent by R. Steven Burns | 10:51 PM | 12-23-2007

I have no problem with someone disliking firearms. What I have a problem with is someone attempting to legislate me out of my right to own something simply because they do not like it. That is not what America is about. There are two simple facts here that so many people overlook. This is America, land of the free. Part of being an American is that we recognize that human beings all have some very basic rights. One of these rights is simply the right to LIVE. If your life is threatened, again you have the right to LIVE. If we don't acknowledge that very basic right in this country, and basically just concede that when threatened you should lay down and die, this is no longer America. The second point I would like to make is that, regardless of the ownership of a firearm, everyone should understand that using a firearm to defend one's self is and should be a LAST resort. Many anti-gun people think that every firearm owner/enthusiast somehow has a diminished respect for human life and are just looking for excuses to use their firearms. This couldn't be further than the truth, yet that attitude really makes me feel sad. Most gun owners are living, breathing people that have feelings and a respect for human life like any other.

This entire self defense argument boils down to one thing. In the event that a truly threatening and deadly situation occurs, whether at your home or out and about (if you happen to have a concealed carry license for example), you have 2 options. Keep in mind, this is assuming you have good reason to believe you are in serious danger of being seriously injured or killed. Your 2 options are to stop your attacker with your weapon, or attempt to do so with less potentially lethal means. Here's the problem. Less dangerous force also exponentially INCREASES the risk you face when in a deadly situation. Whether it be pepper spray, a stungun or taser, martial arts, etc most of those devices do not have near the percentage of success as a firearm. If you are truly in a life or death situation against an armed attacker, is your life really worth risking on a potentially significantly less effective method of disabling your attacker. This isn't the movies folks. Pepper spray doesn't work on everyone. Martial arts takes a seriously trained individual to take down most people and even then can't guarantee 100% success. You have to remember, the individual attacking you has already made the decision that your life is worth less than theirs, therefore they are already ignoring any morals or rules that you live buy. If someone is going to attack you, fight with everything you've got. The firearm is the great equalizer as it can seriously even the odds for say a 100lb female versus a 6'5" 300lb male. No matter how you try to rationalize it, you cannot escape physics except for pure luck or chance of say a perfect hit that temporarily stuns them. This just isn't realistic to risk your life over in a deadly situation.

If you aren't willing to fight with everything you've got to save your own life, I'll put this bluntly, you are a second rate human being and really have no business trying to push your morals on other people.

Please consider the next statement. I am a gun owner/enthusiast obviously. I have the utmost respect for human life and absolutely dread the thought of ever being in the situation where I might have to use one of my firearms against another human being. You know what though, I like living even more! If another individual forces me to defend myself, I'm going to feel horrible about hurting/killing them, however at least I will likely still be alive and would not have had my life unfairly taken from me. All that being said, firearm self defense is a last resort. This "Make my day" talk is ridiculous as pretty much any sane gun owner knows and understands that it's a last resort. Next time you anti-gun people talk about gun owners, you might take a step back and realize we are living, breathing, FEELING, human beings too and aren't so different from yourselves.

I have to add one last thing. This is for those that are vehemently anti-gun and that want to ban guns. Taking away everyone's last means to defend their selves in a deadly situation will only serve to turn this into a second rate country. It will declare open season for criminals on the American people, and will not do anyone any good. Here's a suggestion, try becoming a bit more educated on firearms before deciding no one should have one. If you just don't like them that's fine. There are plenty of independent studies as well as annually published FBI crime statistics that show the sheer number of crimes prevented by civilians defending their selves with firearms. In many cases the mere sight of a firearm has been enough to deter the attacker without even using it. I have yet to see one single factual and valid study or collection of statistics from any anti-gun group showing that firearms are some huge detriment to our society. Typically most of the statistics they use are either flat out fabrications or simply isolated incidences taken out of context that offer no real proof of anything. Remove the emotion from the situation and take a look at the facts alone. You might be surprised at what you see.

Sent by Travis Brown | 9:07 AM | 12-24-2007

"I feel that the law should ban lethal weapons to civilians, but instead, invest in non-lethal weapons. I.E. Stun guns, pepper spray, etc." Sent by Matthew

There is a saying, "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight." Illegalizing firearms will not remove them from the hands of those who have no respect for the law. Don't believe that it would make gun access for criminals significantly more difficult. With a small lathe or milling machine, I (and many of those on the other side of the law) could turn out a remarkably efficient firearm in a few hours time.

" I would encourage people to know their neighborhood, and to move through it with assertion. If you're scared enough to own a gun, you're scared enough to look like an appropriate target. Be careful, be cautious; but don't rely on a gun." Sent by Shenandoah McGui

There is a piece of sound advice in the above. Most are ignorant of posturing and the use of body language to "send" a message that one is not going to be an easy target. Also, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a ton of cure. I.e., avoid places and situations, as much as possible, where risk is higher. However, the fact is that most of us that own and legally carry firearms do not do so out of fear. I conceal carry. I have no memory of fearing for my life. I don't carry my sidearm because I am afraid. I am aware however, of the nature of the anti-social personality (sociopaths), that there are indeed in all of our communities individuals who would kill for a pack of cigarettes, the fact that there are relative risks, and that it is my responsibility to see to my safety and the safety of others around me should a real and imminent danger be presented. The vast, vast, majority of us hope and pray that we will never have to use our firearms against another human being. As a mental health professional, I've no illusion that the taking of a human life, no matter how justified, won't have a profound influence on the individual who took the life. The use of the firearm is a last option.

If it comes to someone else's life, or the lives of myself and innocent others who are legitimately threatened, I will do what I need to do. I will not go as a lamb to the slaughter before the wolves in our society.

Sent by Andrew | 4:36 PM | 12-28-2007

I believe that I have the right to defend myself. There is a range of force that can be used. I took a class in self defense and the focus was the use of a hand gun. 14 hours on the range, 650 rounds of ammunition expended. Then 22 hours of classroom time, lecture on the consequences of using deadly force. The man presenting the class stated very clearly that the use of deadly force is a LAST resort. The person using deadly force will be held accountable and has to live with the fact that they ended the life of a person who was somebody's brother, sister, mother, father, son or daughter.

I have been trained on what carrying a concealed weapon means. And the consequences of using that weapon.

If one choses to carry a weapon, then one better be ready for what happens with using it. The cost may be more that one can pay.

I am an advocate of being able to defend myself and family. At no time, EVER, is deadly force to be used in defense of property. That can be replaced.

Sent by Mark Dallner | 11:06 PM | 12-29-2007

Again we see how the liberal left portrays an owner of a fire arm as some sort of fiend, while the usual excuses are trotted out for the REAL criminal. In this forum the REAL criminal is the burglar. I am of the firm opinion that anyone who forcibly enters my home, KNOWING I AM THERE, should leave in only one state--- DEAD AND IN A BODY BAG. I'll sue his family for any damages my property incurred at a later date.

Sent by Michael D. Beede | 6:03 PM | 1-7-2008

The Laws are to protect your family and yourself. If anyone breaks into my home, I will be forced to go into a defensive mode and take action. That means to shoot to kill!!!!!!!

Sent by Damon | 5:45 PM | 2-16-2008

After reading some of the nonsense posted here it is a wonder more of you aren't dead from burglarys gone wrong etc, I have had several experiences with this kind of thing and know that criminals not only are a different breed of individual who could care less about you or your family, it has been proven that they are genetically defective. that is why there are so many repeat criminals, child molesters, serial killers, etc. they just don't care about you or me. they would just as soon shoot you as look at you. shooting someone in the foot would only get you sued and i promise you that they would sue you for everything that they could get and won't even have to hire the attorney to do it. the state would do it for them. most of the citizens of this state and country are so ignorant of the laws that protect criminals that wounding a burglar or a strong arm robber or even a man with a gun would get you a liable suit that would take ten percent of your paycheck for the rest of your life. you are right in shooting to kill for they will do the same thing to you and most likely shoot first, they won't give you a chance and you shouldn't give them one.

Sent by Mr. Smith | 9:40 PM | 3-28-2008

It's shocking to me to read commentaries demanding the right to potentially defend other people's property (although Mr. Horn could not know what was in the bags the burglars were carrying), while the utter tragedy of having taken a HUMAN LIFE is handled as an incidental side effect. Is a human life worth next to nothing in America? Is it really worth less than your life savings? Ask yourself if you would actually KILL a person point blank if they were in process of emptying your bank account and not threatening you in any other way. Could you use a gun or other means to end another person's life, forever? Would this irreversible action not haunt you for the rest of YOUR life? I could not commit such an act, though of course I would exhaust all other means to get my assets back. How frightening that so many people - NRP listeneners at that!! - don't view human life as sacred, to be shed only if one's own life is in danger (I agree a person has the right to defend his or her own life). Is it a matter of conscience, or lack thereof?

Sent by LHB, listener from Germany | 2:22 PM | 3-31-2008

I heard it stated this way the other day. When someone steals your property they are stealing part of your life. The reasoning was that everything you have costs you part of your life.

For instance, a $1 pen may have cost you (depending on how much you make per year but let's assume $30/hour) 2 minute. A $2000.00 tv therefore costs you a 67 hours or 7 working days. Your wife's $5,000 jewelry collection 2 months.

With that in mind, suddenly this stuff starts to add up to a ton of your life walking off with some felonious scum bag, and defending it makes not only perfect sense but becomes a moral obligation.

If my neighbor had just saved several years or months of my life from a couple of burglars I'd be so grateful he'd NEVER have to buy another drink in his life. And, I'd be MORE than happy to tell that to the jury if he was so unfortunate as to have to go before one.

Sent by Dan | 2:28 PM | 5-17-2008

"A person is justified in using force or deadly force against another to protect the property of a third person if he reasonably believes he would be justified to use similar force to protect his own property, and he reasonably believes that there existed an attempt or actual commission of the crime of theft or criminal mischief."

this is a law in the state of texas.
any person has the right to protect a neighbors property if he finds it nessecary to use said deadly force.

Sent by luke | 11:26 PM | 5-28-2008

to carlos of 12-20-2007

the ones who will be punished by the higher authority after death will surely be the ones who coddle criminals.
romans 1:32 includes those who take pleasure in criminals along with the criminals themselves

Sent by leroy | 1:13 AM | 6-25-2008

I was told mine was the first make my day case in Oklahoma. I could never find out why Musk.CO. Refused to return my gun.

Sent by James Jay Aston | 8:32 AM | 9-7-2008