This story has set me thinking.
To summarize: Man comes home to find his home burglarized. Man sees the burglar crawling out of his neighbor’s window. Man yells at the burglar to ‘Freeze’. Burglar does not freeze. Man fires handgun into the ground and repeats his command to freeze. Burglar freezes until cops come and arrest him. Man is charged with ‘reckless conduct’ which carries the same penalty as the burglar will get for his two counts of burglary.
What is wrong with this picture? So many things.
My first answer is obvious. The Man should not be charged with reckless conduct. He acted wisely, courageously, and responsibly. He stopped a burglar from getting away with his ill-gotten gains and also prevented the burglar from committing further burglaries, adding to the safety and security of his community. Bravo. On top of that, if the guy crawling out of his neighbor’s window had NOT been the burglar, the worst that would have happened is one citizen being detained by another for a few minutes. So, the Man was doubly responsible for not shooting the guy since there was no way for him to know for sure that the dude in the window was the burglar. Double bravo.
Yet, his actions do fall under the legal definition of reckless conduct. And I think I’m OK with a law against discharging firearms in residential neighborhoods. And I’m also OK with their being a law against detaining random people at the point of your gun. It gives the cops something to throw at the asshole being stupid with his legally owned guns. This result, however, I am not OK with.
So what to do? The answer, obviously, is to show some common sense. The Man should simply never have been charged. Someone in that police department or prosecutor’s office didn’t have the stones to take personal responsibility for the situation and simply say, ‘The Man acted properly, he shall not be charged.’
Yet, more objections can be raised. Am I really advocating that the law be selectively applied at the human whim of the government? I suppose I am. It’s not as bad as it sounds though. This selective application of the law is an inescapable effect of allowing ourselves to be ruled by laws.
We’re simply not capable of writing laws that would lead, mechanically, precisely, to the just outcome in every case. Can you imagine the wording of a law that would prohibit dickwads from firing their guns into the air in residential neighborhoods but yet would be granular enough to not catch the Man in their net?
It all comes down to actual humans applying common sense. Always.