Castle Doctrine: Lingering questions - - Jackson, MS

Castle Doctrine: Lingering questions

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

What limits do you, as a home-owner, have to protect your family and property? under Mississippi's so-called "Castle Doctrine", you are protected if you shoot and kill an intruder. But there are limits and the question lingers, has the law helped to reduce crime?

Florida was the first state to adopt such a law and Mississippi followed in 2006.

The so-called "Castle Doctrine" is based on Old English common law, which says a person is free to defend their homes and property without criminal or civil consequences.

There have been only a few cases in the tri-county area that are covered under the Justifiable Homicide Amendment that is commonly known as the Castle Doctrine, but it's not as prevalent as you might think.

Former State Senator Charlie Ross authored the amendment. He says it is designed to protect law abiding citizens and give them a way to protect themselves from criminals.

"It's not a law that allows you to go out and be like the wild west in the streets" said Ross. "This is a law that allow you to protect your personal space, your home, your car, if you're staying at a friend's house, to protect your family against people who are trying to do you harm. And it simply says, that when somebody is coming through your window and you feel like you need to shoot to protect yourself, the law's not going to come back later and say was it really dangerous? it says yes, he was dangerous and we're going to back you up."

Ross says the law extends to your place of business and place of employment.

"They are operating a business" Ross added. "They are providing jobs to people or the owners of that convenience store, so why shouldn't the law give them the benefit of the doubt as opposed to the bad guy whose breaking the law. That's the underlying purpose of the castle doctrine is, to say if you are law abiding, we're on your side."

When somebody is breaking into someone's house or someone's business they now have the right to presume that that person means them harm and they have the right to use deadly force, if necessary, to protect themselves. They don't have to wait and see what is this guy up to.

Retired Mississippi Highway Patrol Captain Philip Hemphill is an 11-time national pistol champion. He is considered one of, if not the best, handgun shootist in the world.

He says if you choose to have a weapon in your home, car or business, it is of paramount importance to familiarize yourself with the weapon and practice with it often.

"Because when you get into a stressful situation, whether it be a break-in or a confrontation with a bad guy or whatever, it needs to be automatic in what you need to do and not sit there and figure out, well I got to knock the thumb piece off, I got to do this" said Hemphill. "So it becomes an automatic reaction rather than having to search for how the weapon operates."

Law enforcement agencies don't keep definitive statistics on Justifiable Homicide. However, since the law was passed there has been an over-all 5-percent reduction in crime in Mississippi.

One point that must be made, convicted felons can not legally possess a firearm. The castle doctrine does not re-instate a felon's right to own a gun, even if he or she is trying to protect their property.

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