The Right to Self Defense

from the Waco White Papers:

From: Gary Hunt at the Outpost of Freedom in Waco, Texas
Date: December 21, 1993


I have often wondered what it was like when communities were small, and everybody knew everybody.

This thought occurred to me while I was driving through Tombstone, Arizona, site of the famous gunfight. As was reported in the papers of the day (not television news), the Earps and Doc Holliday were walking down the street, knowing that the Clantons and Lowery were at the corral. These factions had been at odds with each other for years, and on this day there appeared to be a plan, for as the Earps and Doc walked by the Clantons, the Earps threw some hateful words out. This, apparently, did not provoke the desired action, so Doc pulled his shotgun from under his coat, turned and fired. The Earps then joined in and only two of the others got away.

Similarly, here in Waco, one faction, with color of law, was able to open up on the other in a devastating gunfight that left 9 dead. The color of law was sufficient, at least for the time being, to vindicate the aggressors. In both cases the side with color of law would have, if circumstances warranted, been given time off, with pay, while adjudication occurred. The other side would have been incarcerated until adjudication was completed. Those with color of law would not be charged with a crime, but the others would be charged with serious crimes.

While I was here during the siege I ran across an interesting piece of Texas law. In the Texas Penal Code, §9.31 (C), reads as follows:

§9.31 (C) The use of force to resist arrest or search is justified:
(1) If, before the actor offers any resistance, the peace officer (or person acting at his direction) uses or attempts to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest; and
(2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the peace officer’s (or other person’s) use or attempted use of greater force than necessary.

There must have been a reason for this law to have been passed, so I went back and reread the definition of:

liberty 1. Exemption from slavery, bondage, imprisonment, or control of another. 2. Freedom from external restraint or compulsion (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary).

LIBERTY Freedom; exemption from extraneous control. The power of the will to follow the dictates of its unrestricted choice, and to direct the external acts of the individual without restraint, coercion, or control from other persons. (Black’s Law Dictionary – Third Edition)

It appears, then, that the right for each of us to walk freely, subject to not harming or injuring another person or his property is the concept of liberty that the Founding Fathers spoke of, and we have let our liberty be lost in a myriad of regulation, rule and control.

What gives a “peace officer” the right to take a persons liberty, or property? Obviously the Texas legislators realized that excessive force could be used, unlawfully, justifying lawful retaliation. Perhaps they understood human nature and knew that personal bias might play a part when one person, operating under color of law, might exceed lawful exertion of force. Understanding that abuse of power might occur, isn’t it possible that both time and extension of power might result in “law enforcement” officers exerting an authority that is beyond lawful authority?

Wondering how, and why, the scope of law enforcement may have changed, I began searching further and ran into an interesting account of a significant change that came as a result of a major trauma in the history of the United States of America. During World War II, especially with the troops being an occupation army after the armistices, there was a rather carefree attitude among those who thought they may never see home again. To control the servicemen the Military Police had to impose arbitrary authority under the maritime jurisdiction that all soldiers were subject to. Meanwhile, back in the states, police officers approaching retirement during the war tended to stay on to help out in the war effort. As the MP’s began returning stateside (literally tens of thousands of them) they began to fill the ranks of local law enforcement, filing in the gap made by those now retiring. The attitude of arbitrary enforcement was ingrained in the returnees, and, although tempered by training as they joined the local ranks, still became a prevalent attitude which began a change of servant to master.

I looked further (American’s Bulletin, September 1993) and found an interesting article, portions of which follow:

This fundamental premise was upheld by the Supreme court of the United States in the case of John Bad Elk v. U.S., 177 U.S. 529 (1900) when the court stated: “…where the officer is killed in the course of the disorder which naturally accompanies an attempted arrest that is resisted, the law looks with very different eyes upon the transaction when the officer had the right to make the arrest, from what it does if the officer had no right. What might be murder in the first case might be nothing more than manslaughter in the other, or the facts might show that no offense had been committed.

“an arrest made with a defective warrant; or one issued without affidavit; or one that fails to allege a crime is without jurisdiction, and one who is being arrested may resist arrest and break away. If the arresting officer is killed by one who is resisting, the killing will be no more than involuntary manslaughter.

In reviewing the case we find that:

“The court charged the jury: “The deceased, John Kills Back, had been ordered to arrest the defendant; hence he had a right to go and make the attempt to arrest the defendant. The defendant had no right to resist him. .. In this connection I desire to say to you, gentlemen of the jury, that the deceased, being an officer of the law, had a right to be armed, and for the purpose of arresting the defendant [John Bad Elk] he would have the right to show his revolver. He would have had the right to use only so much force as necessary to take his prisoner, and the fact that he was using no more force than was necessary to take his prisoner would not be sufficient justification for the defendant to shoot him and kill him. The defendant would only be justified in killing the deceased when you should find that the circumstances showed that the deceased had so far forgot his duties as an officer and had gone beyond the force necessary to arrest the defendant, and was about to kill him or to inflict great bodily injury upon him, which was not necessary for the purpose of making the arrest.

The jury, relying on these instructions, convicted John Bad Elk of murder and the case went to the higher court on error. The higher court stated:

“We think the court clearly erred in charging that the policeman had the right to arrest the plaintiff [John Bad Elk] in error, and to use such force as was necessary to accomplish the arrest, and that the plaintiff had no right to resist it.

“At common law, if a patty resisted arrest by an officer without a warrant, and who had no right to arrest him, and if in the course of resistance the officer was killed, the offence of the party resisting arrest would be reduced from what would have been murder, if the officer had the right to arrest, to manslaughter. .. So we can clearly see that something has happened that has had the affect of allowing us to be arrested (lose our liberty) by the design of a law enforcement officer when the Supreme Court has held that the officer has no right unless certain procedures (constitutional protections) are adhered to.

Perhaps we have been led to believe that law enforcement has superhuman rights. Perhaps the Founding Fathers, and those that followed recognized that no special privilege could be granted to normal humans who took a job that put them at risk. Perhaps arrest cannot be made, unless by indictment, properly obtained information or if a serious crime, not minor, is committed in the presence of the officer, and, perhaps not even in this last case unless property or lives are at stake.

As a general rule we have accepted the fact that we may shoot another person to protect our lives, property or money. But what is property or money if not a previous conversion of time. The time exerted to achieve the money or property surely had value. When someone attempts to “steal” that time prior to conversion are we not able to understand that even more is being taken away than when property is? Just because a man is wearing a badge gives him no right to take from us what we would not allow to be taken by someone without a badge. Why have we come to a point that we accept authority, such as that which invaded Mt. Carmel Center, Waco, Texas, without question? However, when the matter comes to life or death we are willing to protect our property, by any means necessary, when just the property is jeopardized.

One Comment

  1. […] guilty of a misdemeanor, or no crime at all, since the attempt to arrest him was not lawful. See The Right to Self Defense. I supposed, as we have all conjectured, the Constitution has been put aside by the government. […]

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