Thursday, September 6, 2007

Utah Felon Uses Gun to Kill Attacker, Faces Felony Gun Possession Charges

Here's a story in the Salt Lake Tribune about a Hurricane man who justifiably killed a man who attacked him, but did it with a gun that he wasn't entitled to have in his possession--because he's a convicted felon.

Apparently nobody involved in this story can be described as a law abiding citizen; certainly not the attacker, not the victim/shooter, and not even any of the room mates. But the fact remains, this man’s life was in danger, or at least he was in danger of grave bodily injury, which is legal justification for use of deadly force in the state of Utah. So Danny Dutton is alive today because he was in possession of a handgun and was willing to use it to defend himself. He’s in danger of going to prison for a very long time, not because he used a gun to kill someone, but because he had a gun. The crime he committed was possession of the gun. The reason possession of a gun is a crime for Danny Dutton, but not for me, is because Danny Dutton has a prior felony conviction, and I don’t. The conviction, by the way, is for cultivation of marijuana, not exactly a violent crime.

I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know all the nuances that go with a case like this. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that one of Danny’s room mates was a law abiding citizen and legally owned a gun or guns and kept them in the house where they were accessible. Danny’s attacker breaks into the house and starts beating him and breaks his arm in the process, and continues to pound away at him with this blunt instrument. Danny retreats to the kitchen where he sees the gun on top of the fridge or behind the cookie jar or whatever, grabs it and dispatches his attacker. In this scenario, does Danny have a legal problem with felony possession of a firearm?

I think so, because technically, even though it wasn’t Danny’s gun, and he didn’t own the gun, when Danny picked up the gun, it came into his possession. As soon as Danny picked up the gun, he committed another felony, because he was then a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. That seems to be the approach that prosecutors are taking in this case.

So, in order for convicted felon Danny Dutton to stay alive, he had to commit another felony to defend himself. There’s something wrong here.

Do convicted felons have reasonable expectations to be able to defend themselves if their lives are in danger when they’re not committing a crime? If not, why not? The Second Amendment says "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." It doesn’t go on to say "unless you’re a convicted felon." That’s something that individual states tacked on later.

I think the State Legislature needs to revisit the law, and stipulate that even a convicted felon who is not committing any other crime, has the same right as any other law abiding citizen to defend himself in a deadly situation.

1 comment:

rochelle said...

i believe exactly how you feel on this incident. i know this indivdual has now had more run in with the law because he is to fearful for him and his family not to carry a gun, and is now facing more charges. i was curious to see if you had any advice on what to do, especially on a legal stand point