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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Firearms, emotion and knowledge

My fellow blogger Lady Logician has a post about the story of Kenneth Englund and his confrontation with a now admitted gas thief. She pondered why I "wasn't all over" the story.
She makes the following statement: "
It seems that Farmer Englund saw a punk stealing from one of his neighbors, grabbed an unloaded shotgun and gave chase. Under Minnesota law, if you catch someone robbing you and he/she flees, you are obliged not to chase them down.

Sigh.....this is Minnesota. Don't get involved, you might get charged with a crime."

Here are my comments on this story and her post:

This is an area where commentary really needs to be left to those with knowledge. Comments about this type of story should not be made briefly, capriciously or flippantly.

My credentials: I have had a Minnesota permit to carry a firearm for five years. My firearm instructors were: a range qualifying officer for six police jurisdictions here in the southern suburbs, an Army Ranger, an NRA certified firearms instructor, an Air Force intelligence officer and the pioneer firearms instructor in Minnesota. One of those instructors is also a BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) certified instructor and the retired sniper for a suburban SWAT team. He has also survived a close quarter’s firefight. I am a certified firearms instructor (AACFI-American Association of Certified Firearms Instructors). I am also a member of a number of pro-liberty, pro-self defense groups here in Minnesota. I do not speak for any of these organizations. My comments reflect only my own opinion(s). Also, all my comments are based upon the current facts as presented and reported in the Star Tribune story.

That being said, there is so much wrong with Mr.Englund’s actions. It's obvious that he is a good citizen and was also trying to also be a good neighbor. It seems the resultant protest firestorm comes from trying to support his intent without questioning at all his methods and actions. I support the former but strongly criticize the latter. It appears that Mr. Englund made decisions based on emotion and very faulty analysis. Once firearms are introduced into any situation, and especially this situation, and with obvious emotion, all the dynamics change radically. When a firearm is carried, it is absolutely incumbent upon the carrier to be aware of how, when, where and why that firearm can be used. It is therefore vitally incumbent upon the carrier to also know how, when, where and why not to use that firearm.

There is a four fold test for the self-defensive use of a firearm in Minnesota. All four must, repeat must be present:

1. You must be an unwilling participant.

2. You must be reasonably in immediate fear of death or great bodily harm (meaning death would occur from the resultant injuries).

3. Reasonable retreat is not practical.

4. No lesser force will do.

Mr. Englund fails first of all as his was not the self-defensive use a firearm. He was not subjected to either harm or danger. He therefore subsequently fails in all four of the requirements for the deadly use of a firearm. Lady Logician states that first of all Mr. Englund saw Mr. Smith stealing from Englund’s neighbor, not from Englund (this statement is not supported at all by Englund’s comments). She then closes her comments saying that “Under Minnesota law, if you catch someone robbing you and he/she flees, you are obliged not to chase them down.” Englund was not the victim. His neighbor was. Englund’s neighbor was not threatened, his property may have been (again because Englund admits that he did not see, at this point, the alleged theft. See comments below). Mr. Englund was not in danger. Mr. Englund chose to confront, at this point, the alleged perpetrator and chose to do so with a firearm. Mr. Englund at this point was not avoiding conflict, but became a willing participant. He introduced a firearm into a situation that he willingly entered into. As he was a willing participant he also had ample opportunity to execute practical retreat. As Smith was not visibly armed, Englund having violated the first three precepts now violated the fourth. But, what if Smith were clandestinely armed, perhaps even with a knife? By taking an unloaded firearm into a situation, Englund may have been attempting to bluff or intimidate Smith. One does not bluff with a firearm. Ever. Repeat: EVER! Englund potentially put his and Smith’s life at risk for $5.00 worth of gasoline. And to make matters even worse, Englund admitted he did not even see the theft. He was only suspicious because Englund said Smith’s car was the same one that was seen at the site where a truck radiator went missing previously.

Englund then proceeded to be involved in a high speed chase that involved a woman and an innocent three year old child. Minnesota law allows the use of deadly force only until the threat ceases. Englund was not threatened at any point, let alone here. Smith was fleeing, thereby ending any threat if it ever existed. Englund jumped into a vehicle to pursue Smith and once again became a willing participant. Four lives, including an innocent child’s life were all put at risk by Englund’s actions in this high speed chase. And Englund similarly put in danger the lives of any passengers in any cars traveling those same roads (remember, Englund had a cell phone all this time. He could have just as easily reported a description of the driver, car, license and direction of flight rather asking if he “should blow them away”). Englund then commits the same act at the end of the chase by pointing his shotgun at Smith. Again, if Smith were armed the potential for deadly consequences were rampant, once more including at the very least the life of a blameless child. As Isanti County Sheriff Ammend said:” There's so many things that could have gone wrong here” (sic). Fortunately, for all involved, they didn’t.

Now, Prairie Pravda does not exactly do justice to the story by stating “A long history of legal decisions runs against people who use force to protect property.” There are certainly both statutory and case law regarding the use of deadly force to defend one’s domicile when one is present or accidentally comes upon an intruder. However, that is not even remotely the case regarding Mr. Englund and his actions.

Again, I applaud Mr. Englund’s sense of civic duty. However, how that duty is implemented and executed must be fashioned and tempered with wisdom, scrutiny, responsibility, prudence and discernment. No matter how lofty his intent, Mr. Englund did not apply those constraints at the risk to himself and to innocent life.

Wanton, impulsive and reckless comments do nothing but inflame the situation. And certainly situations like this. They can easily add to the lethality of a future confrontation. And emotions and firearms are most certainly a deadly mix.


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