Montana’s Castle Doctrine a Bipartisan Mistake

by lizard

There are a few ways of going at the proliferation of Castle doctrine law, laws which create substantial barriers for prosecutors to actually bring charges when self-defense is invoked. Slate frames it like this:

One amazing thing about the recent spate of laws that make it easier to shoot people and get away with it is how much prosecutors hate them. “It’s an abomination,” one Florida prosecutor told the Sun Sentinel, referring to the state’s “stand your ground” law at the center of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin. And now we’re hearing from Montana’s county attorneys, sheriffs, and police chiefs, all of whom oppose the 2009 law that expanded the “castle doctrine” to give homeowners more leeway to kill potential intruders.

The law is “a solution that had no problem,” the president of the Montana County Attorneys’ Association said. And earlier this month, the prosecutor for the town of Kalispell cited the newly strengthened castle doctrine in refusing to indict Brice Harper, a man who shot and killed Dan Fredenberg, the husband of the woman Harper was having an affair with. Harper didn’t kill Fredenberg at the end of a violent encounter. He killed an unarmed Fredenberg when he walked into Harper’s garage.

This is clearly bad policy, and in Montana, there are lots of fingerprints on this mess. That means making this a partisan thing instead of a policy thing is a bad idea; it’s automatically divisive and, for Democrats, disingenuous. Cue Don Pogreba’s discontent:

For a party that claims to represent law and order, the Montana Republican Party has certainly done some real damage to the ability of law enforcement officers to arrest and prosecutors to convict those who kill other people using firearms. As a result of 2009 Legislature’s passage of HB 228, it’s very difficult for prosecutors to convict anyone who asserts “self-defense” as a justification for killing someone else.

Here’s the problem with the partisan approach. From Pogo Possum in the comment thread:

Let’s begin by voting out the “macho middle-aged” Democrats still serving in the Legislature today that voted for the Castle Doctrine back in 2009. Here is a list to help you get started.
Bradley Hamlett
Larry Jent
Jim Keane
Carolyn Squires
Mitch Tropila
Dave Wanzenried
Shannon Augare
Anders Blewett
Carlie Boland
Frosty Boss Ribs
Chuck Hunter
Bill McChesney
Edie McClafferty
Bert Mehlhoff
Pat Noonan
JP Pomnichowski
Jon Sesso
Kendal VanDyk

HB 228, the Castle Doctrine, was hardly a partisan Bill. In 2009, the Montana House was evenly divided with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. 35 of those Democrats (70% of all House Dems) voted for HB228 on the final reading. The Montana Senate was split 23 Democrats and 27 Republicans. 13 of Senate Democrats (57% of all Senate Dems) voted for HB228 on final reading. In total, 58% of the combined Democratic Senate and House members voted for the Castle Doctrine. Don’t forget that then Governor Brian Schweitzer stuffed his Veto into the bottom drawer of his desk and signed the bill.

I look forward to your ridicule and denunciation of these still sitting Montana Democratic Legislators and wannabe presidential candidate Brian Schweitzer who, as you put it, did “some real damage to the ability of law enforcement officers to arrest and prosecutors to convict those who kill other people using firearms”, with the same passion and theatrics as you are directing at Republicans.

If the problem is policy, let’s stick with policy, because the problem of partisanship ensures nothing will happen to change anything.

Along that same vein, Trevor Hultner has a piece titled Liberals and the Libertarian “Contagion” describing the childish antics of “progressives” regarding libertarian participation at some Stop Watching Us rally going on in Washington DC.


  1. Billings Dad

    My home IS my castle.

    My family lives there, they sleep there, and my granddaughter crawls all over it playing with her toys.

    If I need to protect myself, or anybody else in my family, in our home, I am well able, as I’ve got a fine double-barrel shotgun on the gun rack, loaded with buckshot.

    I believe defending mine and my family’s lives are a natural right.

    Why would you want to limit, or take away my rights ?

    • lizard19

      Billings dad, your ability to kill an intruder won’t be snatched away from you. there are significant problems with this law, as it stands, and reasonable people understand that.




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