Numerous news outlets are perpetuating grossly irresponsible mischaracterizations of Indiana’s new self-defense law, which results from amendments to the state’s Castle Doctrine law approved by the General Assembly last session. “Indiana law that let’s citizens shoot at police” said the San Francisco Chronicle headline. And there was this from Bloomberg News: “NRA-backed law spells out when Indianans may open fire on police.” It’s open season on cops! Run for your lives, men in blue!
What hysterical nonsense. And it doesn’t help that people such as Tim Downs, president of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, are being quoted with such alarming predictions as, “It just puts a bounty on our heads.” No, it does not. It merely negates The Indiana Supreme Court’s incomprehensible ruling last year that “there is no right to reasonably resist entry by police.”
And the ruling was completely unnecessary.
The case in question involved one Richard Barnes, involved in a verbal altercation with his wife. Police were called in to investigate possible domestic violence, and Barnes’ wife begged him to let them in. He refused, but police went in anyway. Barnes shoved an officer to prevent entry, and he was arrested and eventually convicted of battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He appealed, saying that because police entered his home illegally, he was entitled to use force to keep them out.
There are such things as “exigent circumstances,” such as the possibility of imminent danger, that allow police to bend the rules to get the job done in a hurry. Given the possibility of domestic violence, the justices could have easily cited those circumstances in ruling the police entry legal, and they should have. Instead, they went much further and, by their own admission, went against hundreds of years of precedent.
There was such an angry – and justified – backlash against the ruling that the General Assembly had little choice but to act. And all it did was restore a reasonable right to self-defense Hoosiers had always enjoyed until last year.
Police are put on a level playing field with everybody else. They have to have justified cause to breach the security of our homes. But – and please don’t forget this – if we do use force against them, we have to justify its use and the level of its use as reasonable under the circumstances. We do not have an excuse just to start hammering on police. “Self-defense” has always been and always will be a claim that has to be backed up.