GOP lawmakers preach both respect for law and order and unswerving support for individual gun rights. Those two values are in direct conflict, but sometimes it takes a legislative showdown to understand exactly how contradictory a fundamentalist reading of the Second Amendment is to law enforcement.
The Indiana House of Representatives has just approved a bill, supported by the National Rifle Association, that allows homeowners to use their guns to kill police officers if the homeowner reasonably believes that the police are wrongfully entering the house. The bill, which already passed the Indiana Senate (though must be reapproved because of a House amendment), reads in relevant part:
(c) A person may use force in accordance with this section to prevent or terminate a law enforcement officer’s unlawful entry into the person’s dwelling or into the dwelling of a member of the person’s immediate family under one (1) or more of the following conditions:
(1) The person does not have actual knowledge that the officer is a law enforcement officer, and the officer:
(A) has not identified himself or herself as a law enforcement officer; or
(B) is not wearing a distinctive uniform or badge of authority.
(2) The law enforcement officer is not engaged in the execution of the law enforcement officer’s official duty.
(d) A person may use reasonable force, including physical force, against a person described in subsection (c)(1), if the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to immediately prevent or terminate the unlawful entry into the dwelling.
This bill also includes provisions that would render the use of force illegal under certain circumstances, such as “hot pursuit.” However, lawmakers have to consider what behavior they incentivize with laws about criminal procedure. For example, a person is generally not allowed to flee an arrest, even when innocent, because we want to incentivize respect for and the safety of law enforcement. The crux of this new law is that in the heat of the moment the homeowner is encouraged to forcibly resist arrest if they personally refuse to respect law enforcement — if they are wrong, that doesn’t get sorted out until after shots are fired.
This law is dangerous and unnecessary. Without this law, if law enforcement improperly enters your home, their improper actions will be punished in courts of law, both with an invalidation of the search and potentially through civil damages awarded to the homeowner. But now, Indiana Republicans want to short-circuit that by encouraging homeowners to resist arrest, forcing police to reconsider every action for fear of even more homeowner violence than they already face.
In addition to placing law enforcement at increased risk, the most likely victims of this law will be women and children. In fact, the “need” for the law arose from an Indiana Supreme Court case, that held that a man could not forcibly resist arrest when police tried to enter his home in response to a 911 call from the man’s wife reporting domestic violence. Under the statute, the owners of a crack house are unlikely to be protected by this law, but domestic abusers will likely fall in the realm of “reasonable belief.” And if you have any doubt, recognize that Indiana lawmakers passed this law for the explicit purpose of allowing domestic abusers to resist arrest.