A bang-bang-bang cluster of cases starting in early autumn had police, prosecutors, and the media wondering about the sudden impact of Texas’ new castle law, says the Dallas Morning News. Texas has long had a reputation as a shoot-first-ask-questions-later place. The recent spate of shootings begs the question: Did the castle law – which gives people the right to use whatever means necessary to protect themselves and their property without fear of civil liability – unleash a flurry of gunfire? Perhaps as important, has the law changed people’s perceptions about fighting back? Are they more likely to shoot first even when safe retreat may be an option?
Criminologist Gary Kleck of Florida State University doesn’t think the castle law governs someone’s thinking when they hear a window opening at night, or the crash of a door coming down in a home invasion. “In situations in which people would be making a decision to use defensive violence, it’s very unlikely they’d be thinking about laws and penalties,” he said. “That would be the furthest thing from their mind.” Police see the rash of shootings as part of a normal cycle. One Texas case has attracted national attention. It was a neighbor, Joe Horn of Pasadena, not the homeowner, confronting and killing two burglars Nov. 14. Was the castle law designed to cover that? No, said the author, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth. “You’re supposed to be able to defend your own home, your own family, in your house, your place of business or your motor vehicle,” he said, not your neighbor’s.