Mitch Morelli of Memphis pusued an armed robber in a high-speed car chase and was able to jot down a tag number that helped police track down the assailant, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “It was straight out of Clint Eastwood-type stuff,” Morelli said. “But I knew if I did nothing, nothing would happen.” The suspect, police allege, had terrorized city schools in a series of handgun incidents and had robbed another family in a home invasion.
Critics fear some citizens have become too bold amid law changes that have greatly broadened the right of self-defense. Nationally, a spate of “Stand Your Ground” laws, including one passed in Tennessee last year, are eliminating old standards requiring that a crime victim retreat first before using deadly force. A prosecutor said Morelli likely was within his rights to pursue his robbers. An old Tennessee law gives citizens power to make citizen arrests. Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence questions whether society should “go back to a vigilante, every-man-for- himself situation.” Helmke is critical of “Stand Your Ground” laws that eliminate requirements that crime victims retreat before using deadly force to protect a car, home or business. The National Rifle Association says 22 states have Stand Your Ground laws, including Tennessee, where lawmakers extended the use of deadly force to citizens who are attacked in their cars.