Markus Kaarma and The Castle Doctrine

Yesterday, a co-worker asked me what my thoughts were on the recent Castle Doctrine case here in Missoula. I had no idea what he was talking about but we chatted about it a bit, he filled me in, and then I did a little bit of reading on the issue myself. Here is a quick rundown…

Last Spring there were a series of garage break-ins* in the Missoula area where beer and money had been stolen from garages. Then, in April, a German exchange student was shot and killed by Markus Kaarma in Kaarma’s garage. Kaarma is claiming he feared for his life and the Castle Doctrine protects him, though it appears more complex than that. Kaarma apparently discussed setting up a trap for someone and left a purse out in the open in an open garage to lure in the thieves. He even told neighbors that he had been “up for three nights waiting to kill some kids”. Eventually a student took the bait and ended up dead. Kaarma then shot the exchange student when he was in the garage, the student was injured by the first shot and attempted to retreat but Kaarma pursued him and fatally shot him in the head.

From what I’ve read I think Kaarma should be found guilty. I am strong supporter of personal firearm ownership and self-defense, but if you set a trap for someone just so you can kill them that is no longer self-defense. There were plenty of opportunities for Kaarma to secure his family and possessions, including not leaving the garage open, locking his door after the exchange student arrived and calling the police (he had a security camera set up so he could help identify the thief later, and backing into his house after injuring the student instead of pursuing him.

Many conservatives and some libertarians will jump to Kaarma’s defense and say that the student would be alive if he just didn’t commit the crime or trespass. That may be so, but if we are advocates of justice then the punishment must fit the crime. We can’t in one breath say that death by cop for selling cigarettes is unjust but death by civilian for stealing a purse is okay. Ending a person’s life should be a last resort to protect the lives of others, not an appropriate response to someone entering a garage.