In a test of the “castle doctrine”, a Montana prosecutor this month declined to file charges against a homeowner who shot an unarmed man to death in his garage, the New York Times reports. The shooting raises similar questions about armed citizens and their right to self-defense as the February shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, in Florida, with the critical difference that Martin was shot outside.
In Montana, the case has focused new scrutiny on whether the 2009 castle doctrine measure has given homeowners the authority to defend themselves against real threats or has provided a way to kill without consequences. “The community has not been well-served by either the law or the legal process in this case,” editorialized the local newspaper, The Daily Inter-Lake. In 2009, Montana joined more than 20 other states in passing broad self-defense measures backed by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups. Under the law, a person can brandish a gun to ward off a threat. An individual does not have to flee or call the police before engaging in self-defense.