Yep We can learn a lot about the state of armed self-defense in this country by looking at one medium-size town in Kansas. A couple of stories from Wichita this week nicely encapsulate the extent of civilian gun ownership, the reason people arm themselves and what happens when they do.
First, let’s start with a defensive gun use. Four armed men walked into a gas station convenience store in the middle of the afternoon Friday, intent on committing a robbery. An unidentified armed 42-year-old man was in the store at the time.
“A customer was in line when four individuals came in at gunpoint and demanded money,” he said. “The citizen also got robbed and the citizen pulled a gun and shot at the suspects.”
Several shots were reportedly fired, but it is unknown whether the suspects returned fire, police said.
At least one of the suspects was shot and was still at the crime scene when officers arrived. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition after he was shot once in the head, Halloran said.
Wichita police think this robbery is related to an earlier robbery just after noon on Friday at the Family Dollar Store, 936 S. Woodlawn, the release said. Three robbers in that case held up an employee at gunpoint and took money and cigarettes.
The Wichita Eagle’s reports on the shooting make sure to discuss the application of Kansas’s ‘stand your ground’ law. And from the accounts of the convenience store robbery and shooting, this certainly sounds like a textbook example of justifiable use of force in a self-defense situation.
The shooting also apparently prompted the Eagle to look at self-defense shootings in the town over the last decade or so.
Wichita had more homicides this year than any year since 1995, driven in part by an increase in self-defense killings, an analysis of law enforcement records shows.
At least 43 people died by homicide in Wichita this year, up five from last year. The increase came because of self-defense killings, which increased by five — from three to eight, Wichita police said.
Kansas enacted its stand your ground law in 2007. The Eagle accurately describes the law as protecting those who use deadly force to defend themselves anywhere they have a legal right to be.
Kansas is one of many states where citizens have no legal duty to retreat from an attacker in any place where they are lawfully present. A killing is justifiable in Kansas when a person “reasonably believes” that the use of deadly force is “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to that person or a third party.
Decisions about whether the eight killings were justified in 2018 were not made by a judge or jury but instead by by (sic) prosecutors based on evidence gathered by police. One case will be argued next month to determine whether another homicide will be added to the self-defense category.
Under Kansas law, prosecutors can’t file charges against someone in a self-defense killing unless the state can establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a person did not act in self-defense, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said.
In other words, the burden of proof is placed on the state. A lawful gun owner who defends him/herself doesn’t have to prove they were acting in self-defense. A prosecutor has to prove that the defender acted unreasonably given the circumstances and the evidence.
In the past three years, Wichita police have worked five times as many justifiable homicides as during the first six and a half years of the stand-your-ground law, according to numbers provided by police. From 2006 to the middle of 2012, Wichita police worked three justifiable homicide cases, police said at the time. From 2016 to 2018, there have been 15.
Wichita isn’t exactly a hotbed of crime. The town of just under 400,000 people is the largest in Kansas and what the Eagle describes as five times as many justifiable homicides since SYG became law is, as they note, starting from a base of only three.
But Wichita’s experience with the state’s stand your ground as described by the Eagle is precisely what the legislature in Kansas and other states expected when they enacted the law. Law-abiding citizens should have the right to protect themselves no matter where they may find themselves when faced with the threat of death or serious bodily harm.
Police response times, even in the best of situations, are never fast enough to intervene in a fast-developing situation like Friday’s c-store robbery. And as we’ve noted before — and courts have affirmed — police have no duty to protect citizens. You are, quite literally, your own first responder.
And yet there are efforts in some states to repeal stand your ground protections. Opponents of civilian firearm ownership call SYG a license to kill, much as they mau-mau’d the NRA’s Carry Guard coverage as “murder insurance.” They’ll say and do anything to make law-abiding citizens hesitant to exercise their Second Amendment rights and dissuade them from carrying a gun, as is their constitutional right.
Americans use firearms over one million times annually to defend themselves, usually without ever firing a shot. Rolling back protections covering the lawful use of self-defense weapons will cost innocent lives. That’s why these efforts must be opposed at every opportunity.