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Comment on "Armed Response to Looters":
In response to David Kopel's post below, my own view is that encouraging vigilante groups in New Orleans to "shoot on sight" whoever they believe is a looter without a valid necessity defense is tremendously dangerous. Such an approach would only help undermine the social order by turning New Orleans from a looting zone into a shooting zone.

  Among the problems is that looters can get guns, too, and presumably will try to shoot on sight the "armed citizens" that are trying to shoot them on sight. For that matter, armed looters will presumably say that they are "armed citizens" looking for looters, and will just shoot "citizens" and claim that be believed that they were looters. Who will be able to tell, given that the other side will by then be dead? The looter/armed citizen line is nice and clear in theory, but things get fuzzy and hard to reconstruct in practice. I would rather not encourage the latter to kill the former as a way of restoring social order.

  I strongly believe in self-defense, and this is particularly true in the horror of the developing situation like that in New Orleans. But encouraging armed vigilante groups to "shoot on sight" when they see what they think is "looting of concern" (as opposed to necessity-based looting, which is apparently quite okay and even laudable) in a city that is being evacuated seems to me, well, a really really bad idea. Others may disagree, of course, so I have enabled comments. Please note: I realize that these are particularly anxious times, but I am going to be quite relentless in deleting comments that are not civil, respectful, and on point.
Chris Lansdown (mail) (www):
Professor Kerr,

I think that you hit the nail on the head. If there was some very highly reliable way to tell who is (and was) who, shooting on sight might be bad, but at least practical. As it stands, a free-for-all does sound likely to favor the least scrupulous.
9.1.2005 3:31pm
Chad Okere:
I agree. Plus, what moral right do you have to shoot someone who isn't attacking *you* or *your property*. If for some crazy reason a store owner is still left in NO, then he might be able to claim he was defending himself.

But what gives other people the right to shoot someone just because they think they might be committing a crime? What if someone they think is looting actually has permission from the property owner (it is possible).

Defending yourself is one thing; unilaterally taking the law into your own hands is totally different. And it will lead to chaos as otherwise harmless looters arm themselves in order to defend themselves from self-appointed vigilantes.
9.1.2005 3:32pm
Chris Lansdown (mail) (www):
(Of course, the important question then is to find out how scrupulous the unscrupulous are currently being.)
9.1.2005 3:32pm
Shelby (mail):
I agree, Orin, though I think Chad overstates the case. In a situation approaching anarchy one can justify shooting looters on sight -- but you need to have sufficient certainty that they are looters. If someone's leaving an electronics store with a TV, or a pharmacy with a shopping cart full of drugs, that seems pretty self-evident.

Realistically, though, New Orleans is not a place where one can coolly (and safely) make and enforce these kinds of judgments. I'd support the National Guard shooting looters (if they've already done all they can to save the stranded) but individual citizens are too likely to get in over their heads. So to speak.
9.1.2005 3:38pm
RKV (mail):
You are proposing a reasoned response to an unreasonable situation when you say "the problems is that looters can get guns, too." The reality is that the looters already have guns. If they see advantage in attacking "soft targets" they will do so without remorse. Self-defense remains the moral and legal criteria it always was, just remember that it is better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.
9.1.2005 3:41pm
Owen Courrèges (mail) (www):
I don't buy the idea that so-called "necessity based looting" is laudable, or even jusitifed in most cases. First of all, most of these people indeed had time to either a) get out of the city, b) purchase provisions for the storm ahead, or c) get to a shelter. Their failure to act responsibly so doesn't make their theft praiseworthy. Secondly, strong want, even necessity, does not created a right to steal. If that were the case, then the system of property ownership in poorer nations would itself be meaningless. If a hungry man in Uganda wanted to loot a store, it would be "laudable" for him to do so. If looting in justified, so is anarchy.

Besides, I'm not certain that I buy the idea that much of this looting is for basic necessities of life, and in any case, Louisiana law explicitly permits the use of deadly force to protect the property of another. Nonetheless, I do agree that sending around bands of armed vigilantes is a recipe for disaster, for the simple reason that more people will ultimately be hurt or killed. But if I'd chosen to stay in New Orleans, I'd like to think that I wouldn't have to worry whether or not a looter was looking for food or a Rolex if I tried to stop him from breaking into my apartment.
9.1.2005 3:42pm
Monkberrymoon (mail):
"Plus, what moral right do you have to shoot someone who isn't attacking *you* or *your property*."

I don't know about Louisiana, but in Texas you can (legally, if not morally). See Tex.Penal Code sec. 9.43 (using deadly force to protect third person's property).
9.1.2005 3:45pm
Taimyoboi:
I don't believe Mr. Kopel was advocating that a bunch of armed citizens hop into the back of a pick-up truck or airboat and go stomping through New Orleans looking for looters to shoot.

I think his point was that when and where a citizen who is armed happens to find himself caught in the middle of a looting, it would be entirely permissible for him to shoot.
9.1.2005 3:54pm
RKV (mail):
"I'd support the National Guard shooting looters (if they've already done all they can to save the stranded) but individual citizens are too likely to get in over their heads." Shelby, the National Guard cannot be everywhere all the time. The same is true of the police in more normal circumstances. Individuals have the moral duty to protect themselves and their families. Please stop trusting in a benovolent other to protect you. That is your job. You can elect not to exercise your natural right to self-defense, but you have not right to impose your choice on others.
9.1.2005 3:56pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
First of all, most of these people indeed had time to either a) get out of the city, b) purchase provisions for the storm ahead, or c) get to a shelter.

Amazing. Simply amazing, that anyone can write this by Thursday of this week. The silly people should've just put it all on their American Express.

Back on topic, must agree w/ Prof. Kerr---if the police &Nat'l Guard want to shoot looters, that's fine. But recall the photos of blacks and whites carrying stuff through the floodwaters, with the blacks labeled "looters." I would be very afraid that a black person with a gun would be a "looter," while a white person with a gun would be an "armed citizen." Not something you can disregard in a Southern city stretched to the breaking point. (Writing this in Jackson, MS, btw.)
9.1.2005 4:04pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Simple. Deputize everyone in New Orleans as an FBI agent and then they can shoot anyone they want, righteously.
9.1.2005 4:10pm
Owen Courrèges (mail) (www):
Anderson,

Amazing. Simply amazing, that anyone can write this by Thursday of this week. The silly people should've just put it all on their American Express.

Please, don't be obtuse, and don't misstate what I said. Even the poor could have gotten provisions; a few days worth of food can be obtained for little more than a few dollars if you're thrifty. Many people who had vehicles, or who could have carpooled out of the city, simply refused to leave. Others refused to even try to get to a shelter. You can't pretend that there wasn't widespread irresponsibility.
9.1.2005 4:11pm
tdsj:
hmmm... as a legal matter, we all know that you can shoot someone to defend your person, but not to defend your property.

What Glenn and Kopel seem to propose is that it's also morally/legally justifiable to shoot someone in order to defend public order generally. I've never heard of that being offered (or accepted by a court) as a defense to homicide. Anyone know?
9.1.2005 4:11pm
Shelby (mail):
RVK: You have no idea how hilarious it is do direct that argument at me.

My comment had nothing to do with self-defense. I just don't think it's wise for real people, today, in New Orleans, to seek out gun-battles with the nutcases who are looting there instead of getting out. If you're endangered, by all means fight back, but don't seek out trouble.

I mention the National Guard because they're a reasonably well-organized group with the resources to protect one another and sort out looters from other people. However, right now their hands are pretty full saving lives.
9.1.2005 4:11pm
Hank:
Prof. Kerr did not say, at least in this post, that, if the police &Nat'l Guard want to shoot looters, that's fine. The only thing he is to be faulted for is for responding to Kopel's post. What have we come to that we can debate whether it's ok to shoot looters on sight?
9.1.2005 4:13pm
RKV (mail):
Anderson, Those of us who live in earthquake prone California are advised to have several days worth of supplies on hand to cover the remote posibility of a large earthquake. Why not hold people who live below sea-level in a hurricane zone to the same standard? A family of four can get enough to survive for a week for $100. People did indeed have sufficient time to leave, stock up or get to shelter (such as it is). Of course it is too late now for what appears to be several hundred thousand people in NO and we should help them. I hope others living elsewhere will take note of this situation and act accordingly. I know my family has.
9.1.2005 4:13pm
Noah Snyder (mail):
There seems to be a big linguistic problem here. The word "looters" is applied to both people robbing other survivors at gunpoint, and to people taking perishable goods necessary for survival from abandoned and flooded grocery stores. It seems very hard to come up with a good term for referring to the one without referring to the other.

Looting is typically used to refer to situations where the store owner is coming back tomorrow, or next week. Not where the store is underwater in a city that will be uninhabitable for several months. Because situations like the current tragic one are so rare, we don't really have words to refer to the shades of what is happening.
9.1.2005 4:16pm
tdsj:
can anyone tell me, in these two photos, what the difference is between "looting" and "finding"?

http://news.yahoo.com/photo/050830/480/ladm10208301530

http://news.yahoo.com/photo/050830/photos_ts_afp/
050830071810_shxwaoma_photo1
9.1.2005 4:18pm
Shelby (mail):
Owen:

Not everyone is in New Orleans because they lack discipline and foresight.

1) It's just not practical to evacuate a city that size every time a tropical storm, or even hurricane, comes near. There have been repeated close calls that didn't result in major damage. Eventually people decide to wait and see if it's really coming this time. That leads to a last-minute rush, but given human nature it's unavoidable.

2) Some people are physically incapable of evacuating themselves -- sick, elderly, hospitalized, etc. The logistics of moving them are even tougher, making point 1 even more applicable.

3) People stay to care for those in point 2. Should we condemn the nurses who stayed to care for cancer patients, especially in solid, up-to-date facilities that have withstood prior hurricanes?

4) One drawback of having a sophisticated public-transit system is that people will rely on it and not keep cars. The system then cannot handle the last-minute crush resulting from point 1.

So, ease off on the sanctimony, willya?
9.1.2005 4:20pm
billb:
http://members.aol.com/keninga/looting.htm

Home and neighborhood defense during Hugo and Andrew.
9.1.2005 4:21pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Well, Shelby, anyone without food &water just brought it on themselves, evidently. They should die &improve the gene pool.

Why people who reported to shelters should've thought they had to bring their own supplies with them, beats me. But I'm not that savvy, evidently.
9.1.2005 4:22pm
Shelby (mail):
Anderson:

Where do you get that out of anything I've written here?
9.1.2005 4:24pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Shelby: Not out of what YOU wrote!
9.1.2005 4:26pm
Arthur (mail):
Is anyone concerned about what will happen in large cities in the rest of the United States after a few white vigilantes execute an African-american looter or two on national television? Rodney King and all.
9.1.2005 4:28pm
Richard Bellamy (mail):

can anyone tell me, in these two photos, what the difference is between "looting" and "finding"?


So, would a resident of mixed race would be "misappropriating" or "shoplifting"?
9.1.2005 4:28pm
cdunc (mail):
Regarding the idea that "Well, they shoulda stocked up on supplies": Perhaps some did, and they supplies got washed away. So I agree with the previous poster who said ease off the sanctimony.
9.1.2005 4:32pm
frankcross (mail):
The thread is wandering. Kopel's position takes the position that the basic non-looting New Orleanian is intelligent, even omniscient. He suggests that they assess whether a person is a looter, whether that looting is or is not a necessity, and then shoot the latter category.

My experience is that the basic non-looting New Orleanian is not omniscient and is, in fact, probably drunk. He's going to shoot somebody who's carrying his own television out of his own house to safer ground. He's going to shoot somebody who's carrying "more food" than he thinks they need. He's going to shoot at somebody and miss and hit an innocent bystander.
9.1.2005 4:34pm
bob danvers (mail):
From Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2124688/
9.1.2005 4:35pm
tdsj:
So, would a resident of mixed race would be "misappropriating" or "shoplifting"?


possibly. I'm not sure whether we'd get to shoot him or not. It would be a close call.
9.1.2005 4:35pm
Preferred Customer (mail):
"Anderson, Those of us who live in earthquake prone California are advised to have several days worth of supplies on hand to cover the remote posibility of a large earthquake. Why not hold people who live below sea-level in a hurricane zone to the same standard? A family of four can get enough to survive for a week for $100. People did indeed have sufficient time to leave, stock up or get to shelter (such as it is). Of course it is too late now for what appears to be several hundred thousand people in NO and we should help them. I hope others living elsewhere will take note of this situation and act accordingly. I know my family has."

I am certain that there were some irresponsible people in New Orleans. I am certain that there were some who'd heard wolf cried so many times that they decided, this time, not to listen.

I am also certain that there are people who were unable to leave because they could not afford to miss work, or could not afford to stay in a hotel in a distant city, or did not have a car, or tried to get a flight out only to find the airport closed, or were unable to lay in supplies in the 24 hours between when the storm went from potentially dangerous to life threatening.

Moreover, even those that managed to lay in supplies might not find them accessible--after all, there's a lot of water covering some parts of the city. How many people have found the supplies they'd so carefully set aside buried under gallons of stinking, putrid flood water?
9.1.2005 4:36pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
A "looter" is someone stealing property without the threat of force. If they use the threat of force (as some are doing, in order to steal drugs from hospitals), then they are not "looters" but robbers.

Robbers should be shot, preferably by those under threat, but if by someone else, there's no moral or legal problem. A robber has already announced that he considers the victim's property more valuable than the victim's life by threatening violence. The robber is therefore in no position to assert that the robber's life is more valuable than the victim's property.

I can't see a strong moral argument for shooting looters--but at least if they are stealing non-necessities under these circumstances, I can't see a strong argument against it, either. If someone is stealing food or other necessities of life, under what are necessarily extreme circumstances, I'm not even sure that I can be very critical of their actions. If they are stealing non-necessities (such as televisions or jewelry) under such circumstances, they have announced loudly to all that the law of the jungle now applies: what Hobbes called "the war of all against all." They really don't deserve the protections of the law anymore, and shooting such a looter as an encouragement to civilized behavior by the rest doesn't seem particularly absurd.
9.1.2005 4:37pm
Owen Courrèges (mail) (www):
Shelby,

It's just not practical to evacuate a city that size every time a tropical storm, or even hurricane, comes near. There have been repeated close calls that didn't result in major damage.

By Saturday, officials were asking people to evacuate. It was obvious that the hurricane was extremely likely to hit, and that the city was going to shut down regardless. I evacuated Saturday afternoon, although the latest I had planned to leave was Sunday morning. I was there; people knew that an evacutation was necessary by Saturday afternoon. Anybody who waited much longer than that, absent a compelling reason, was reckless.

Some people are physically incapable of evacuating themselves -- sick, elderly, hospitalized, etc. The logistics of moving them are even tougher, making point 1 even more applicable.

I agree, but we're talking about looters. I haven't seen any elderly, sick, or hospitalized looters.

People stay to care for those in point 2. Should we condemn the nurses who stayed to care for cancer patients, especially in solid, up-to-date facilities that have withstood prior hurricanes?

No, but I haven't seen nurses looting either.

One drawback of having a sophisticated public-transit system is that people will rely on it and not keep cars. The system then cannot handle the last-minute crush resulting from point 1.

New Orleans doesn't have a very sophisticated public transit system. People only rely on it because New Orleans is a poor city. In any case, though, my points about people needing to leave if possible, get to a shelter otherwise, and stock up on provisions, all still apply.

So, ease off on the sanctimony, willya?

I won't. The "need-based looting" arguments just don't sway me, and I still say that many of those who stayed behind were irresponsible. That being said, New Orleans needs assistance regardless; irresponsible people deserve help as well. It just doesn't give the entire city a license to run hog wild, contrary to what some might think.
9.1.2005 4:37pm
flaime:
My question for Mr. Kopel is:

How do you distinguish, on sight, the difference between the looter and the person who might have a legitimate reason to be removing items from that particular location (say, a store owner retrieving valuable merchandise to prevent looting, or a nurse retreiving narcotics from a hospital to convey them to another hospital)? If you have clear and unfailingly accurate ways to do this, them by all means, shoot. I, however, am not convinced that there is any reasonable way to make this determination. And it is incorrect to assume all such people are looters.
9.1.2005 4:42pm
Yule (mail):
Even the poor could have gotten provisions; a few days worth of food can be obtained for little more than a few dollars if you're thrifty.

Wow. Let's say you have a family of 3 and couldn't get out of town for some reason. The storm hit Monday morning, so almost 4 full days ago. It's what, 90+ degrees in NO these days and there's absolutely no potable water. Even if the average person needs only a gallon of water a day to survive in that heat (and could probably use a lot more), we're still talking about a heck of a lot of water alone for some to stock up on and keep safe and sanitary while they're cutting a hole in their roof to keep from drowning. And we assume these are people who didn't have cars in the first place. It would take a pretty impressive amount of preparation, especially when there are runs on supplies, etc. and it's basically hitting the fan all around you. So I strongly second the idea of easing off on the sanctimony.
9.1.2005 4:45pm
will sawyer (mail):
Flame says:
And it is incorrect to assume all such people are looters.

Sorry, what such people? Specify, please.
9.1.2005 4:48pm
JoeSlater (mail):
As to the claim that "there's no moral/legal problem with shooting people to protect property," while statutes may have altered this rule in some places, every first year torts students reads the Katko case (or something similar) and learns that the common law rule was that deadly force was *not* allowed to defend property. Folks can disagree with that rule, but it was/is a long-established rule in at least most places, so it's worth addressing.
9.1.2005 4:56pm
Owen Courrèges (mail) (www):
Yule,

First of all, the "looting for necessities" started immediately after the storm. Secondly, three-quarters of the "poor" own vehicles. Thirdly, I tend to doubt that many of the people remaining in the city got provisions, but are running out. It seems that they never got them to begin with. Lest we forget, the exception doesn't disprove the general rule.

My point is not that everyone is totally and utterly blameworthy, but only that most were irresponsible by either not leaving or failing to prepare. That's all. It would not have been impossible or even that difficult to buy four days of provisions, and many of those remaining had the means to leave, but did not. That's not sanctimony; it's just honesty.

To get back on topic, though, I don't believe that a person taking what isn't theirs deserves any expectation of safety, regardless of their reasons. At the same time, resorting to roving groups of vigilantes will probably make New Orleans less safe, not more. So I agree with Kerr's overall point, just not the argument regarding need-based looting.
9.1.2005 4:57pm
MDJD2B (mail):
"Why not hold people who live below sea-level in a hurricane zone to the same standard? A family of four can get enough to survive for a week for $100."

Houses with provisions get flooded out or destroyed. People choose to stay for all sorts of reasons, good and bad. They are reluctant to abandon their disabled or hospitalized relatives. Their cars break down. We should show mercy to these flood victims and give them the benefit of doubt when we can.
9.1.2005 5:08pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
as a legal matter, we all know that you can shoot someone to defend your person, but not to defend your property.

Perhaps you'd care to provide a cite? Because here's one for you: "Homicide is also justifiable when committed...[i]n the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he is."

OK, that's WA State law (with which I am familiar) instead of LA law but as property crimes, including grand larceny if a pickpocket is taking your overstuffed wallet, can be felonies, it rather contradicts your claim.

I mention the National Guard because they're a reasonably well-organized group with the resources to protect one another and sort out looters from other people.

And what magical power is it that enables NG troops to sort out looters from others? This is a very weird argument indeed.

Indeed, I suspect that local residents will find it easier to sort out who is a neighbor removing his valuables to higher ground and who is an outsider stealing stuff than guardsmen from out of town.
9.1.2005 5:12pm
Clay Hellman (mail):
Isn't the point being missed here that this is essentially an extra-legal situation. More accurately in many cases it's a literal state of anarchy.

In this situation there is literally a bubble wherein there is no law(which is not to say no morality). Under such circumstances a band of armed citizens willing to group together in order to protect others lives and property are not vigilantes. They are establishing law and order and goverment in a temporary and ad hoc fashion. Provided that they are prepared to surrender their moral authority to the proper authorities when the law returns I don't have a problem with this.

As to the claim that roving gangs of looters will claim that they are shooting looters, well duh, that's what bads do, they lie. As to what their culpability would be if they could be identified once law and order is restored. I think they should be punished if their villany can be established. But I'll leave it to someone else to reason out why.
9.1.2005 5:20pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
All this death and horror, and we're supposed to worry about shooting some guys stealing TV's?

Priorities? Hello?

Anybody busy bundling off high-end electronics is somebody who's *not* shooting at rescuers or sacking hospitals. Give these guys the keys to Best Buy, if it keeps them occupied.
9.1.2005 5:23pm
Dick King:
tdsj, the difference between "looting" and "finding" is that the word "looting" came from the Associated Press, while the word "finding" came from a french news service and was translated.

AFP very seldom uses the word "loot" on their site in any context and certainly shows no pictures of black people stealing stuff with a caption describing "looters", at least according to a brief Yahoo search .

Lest you think we don't index enough AFP documents, ... here is a Yahoo Search for several words I judge to be common in news reports. They do have RSS feed, which we use to index their pages [as well as using it to fill out the cited Yahoo news presentation].

Of course this may become another liberal holy writ like the superbowl/violence against women thing or the 50% bankruptcies caused by medical expenses thing. tdsk, did you get this from dvorak?

-dk
9.1.2005 5:33pm
Monkberrymoon (mail):
Guess you're not much for that "broken windows" theory, are you?
9.1.2005 5:34pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
Anderson, I think you've hit on a very good point. In terms of looting, I was thinking more about my neighborhood and home, which I would be inclined to protect vigorously against outsiders. Personally, I'd never waste a bullet for Best Buy's benefit.
9.1.2005 5:36pm
Monkberrymoon (mail):
"the common law rule was that deadly force was *not* allowed to defend property."

Uh, who gives a crap? I don't live in a common law jurisdiction. Fortunately my legislature, at some time in the distant past, woke up and realized that people need to be able to defend their property. The more moral course, I would argue.
9.1.2005 5:36pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
In terms of looting, I was thinking more about my neighborhood and home, which I would be inclined to protect vigorously against outsiders.

Well, if I'm in my home and looters come in, then AFAIC, it's burglary, and they're dead. Definitional ambiguity, I guess; I always think of "looters" as breaking into stores, etc., like during the great NYC blackout.

(Yes, I know, common-law burglary's at night.)
9.1.2005 5:41pm
Mr. X (www):
Self-defense is cool. Deputizing oneself is not.

Focusing citizen efforts on trying to curb property crimes is misguided.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...just saying...
9.1.2005 5:47pm
Dem:
All this obsession with shooting looters to "establish law and order" (as Clay said) is really shocking and unfortunate. What kind of person can read the newspaper articles and think: hmm, let's figure out how to protect the property! People are still stranded in New Orleans for God's sake. I think Anderson is right on.

Also, Noah Snyder made a key point that I don't think anyone has responded to here. We're talking, in many of these cases (and especially with food), property that will be destroyed anyway. I mean, really, who in their right mind could spend even a moment worrying about the loss to a supermarket that will occur from someone stealing food that will be destroyed anyway? NO won't be inhabitable for *months* according to all the reports. Who cares if property that will likely be destroyed anyway is "looted" now by people who are still stranded in NO, trying to survive in a nightmare scenario that none of us could possibly imagine?
9.1.2005 5:47pm
tdsj:
Perhaps you'd care to provide a cite?


yes, perhaps I spoke to loosely, just citing the common law rule. Obviously, different states have different rules with different nuances about when deadly force is justifiable.

Louisiana's law is La. Rev. Stat. 14:20.

A homicide is justifiable:


(1) When committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.


(2) When committed for the purpose of preventing a violent or forcible felony involving danger to life or of great bodily harm by one who reasonably believes that such an offense is about to be committed and that such action is necessary for its prevention. The circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fear of a reasonable person that there would be serious danger to his own life or person if he attempted to prevent the felony without the killing.


(3) When committed against a person whom one reasonably believes to be likely to use any unlawful force against a person present in a dwelling or a place of business, or when committed against a person whom one reasonably believes is attempting to use any unlawful force against a person present in a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), while committing or attempting to commit a burglary or robbery of such dwelling, business, or motor vehicle. The homicide shall be justifiable even though the person does not retreat from the encounter.


(4)(a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle. The homicide shall be justifiable even though the person committing the homicide does not retreat from the encounter.


my quick read of that suggest that defense of property, by itself, does not justify deadly force in Louisiana. A quick glance at the case annotations on Westlaw suggest that the touchstone is a "reasonable belief in danger."
9.1.2005 5:55pm
tdsj:
"Of course this may become another liberal holy writ like the superbowl/violence against women thing or the 50% bankruptcies caused by medical expenses thing. tdsk, did you get this from dvorak? "

No, I didn't get it from Dvorak. (Who's Dvorak?) But thanks for the clarification about translations -- the world seems slightly less wacky than it did an hour ago.
9.1.2005 5:57pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
Agreed that LA statutes don't seem to support killing for property.
9.1.2005 6:02pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
It's sad that David Kopel has to use what is going on in NO to push his political point of view re guns. I hope an pray he never finds himself in a situation like what is going on in NO --- perhaps if he were poor and starving, he would not be so quick to encourage that "looters" should be "shot on sight" when there is a good chance that these bands of "armed citizens" are criminals as well and will not distinguish between the looters and those just trying to get something to eat.
9.1.2005 6:18pm
chris (mail):
Dem writes

All this obsession with shooting looters to "establish law and order" (as Clay said) is really shocking and unfortunate. What kind of person can read the newspaper articles and think: hmm, let's figure out how to protect the property!

The problem with this logic is law and order is the prerequisite through which every other good follows. You can't bring boats in if you can't trust that the boats will be not be hijacked. No medic is going to go in if he thinks he will be shot. These armed criminals are killing innocents just by their effect on those who would help the innocents.

The early talk by the governor saying "we won't worry about crime, we're going to worry about saving lives" was extremely harmful to the cause of saving lives. Hundreds of extra people may die because of it. To paraphrase Ted Frank (via Instapundit),

somebody is going to suffer unjustly when society breaks down. I don't understand why it preferable for the law-abiding citizens to be the cost-bearers. History has shown repeatedly that the way to stop an anarchic riot is an early display of substantial force.
9.1.2005 6:20pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Shorter version of Owen Courrèges: Those silly black people in New Orleans deserve to die.
9.1.2005 6:23pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I'm recalling that Louisiana's where the fellow shot and killed a trick-or-treating Japanese exchange student who rang his doorbell, and was acquitted by a jury on his defense that he "felt threatened."

Just the culture where we want vigilante patrols going after "looters."

(I went on my honeymoon in N.O., did a year of grad school at Tulane, and this horror is just breaking my heart. I have no clue what we've been preparing for since 9/11, but evidently it wasn't "taking care of a devastated city.")
9.1.2005 6:23pm
Shelby (mail):
I've seen several accounts saying evacuations were being hampered by "nearby shooting," apparently meaning the sounds of nearby gunfire led to a clampdown. Obviously, were people shooting looters, that would be indistinguishable by sound from any other gunplay and thus make evacuation more difficult.

I suspect most of the gunfire is by looters, shooting at (a) one another, (b) police, or (c) nothing in particular but it's fun to shoot a gun. If the police or National Guard are going around looking for shooters, they may share my suspicions. This is probably not a good time for civilians to openly carry guns in most of New Orleans.
9.1.2005 6:24pm
lucia (mail) (www):
tdsj asked
can anyone tell me, in these two photos, what the difference is between "looting" and "finding"?

http://news.yahoo.com/photo/050830/480/ladm10208301530

http://news.yahoo.com/photo/050830/photos_ts_afp/
050830071810_shxwaoma_photo1


It's very simple. The "looter" took Pepsi, which is a sugary junk food. Therefor not a necessity.

The "finders" took white bread, which is a staple and therefor a necessity.
9.1.2005 6:25pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
(3) When committed against a person whom one reasonably believes to be likely to use any unlawful force against a person present in a dwelling or a place of business, or when committed against a person whom one reasonably believes is attempting to use any unlawful force against a person present in a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), while committing or attempting to commit a burglary or robbery of such dwelling, business, or motor vehicle. The homicide shall be justifiable even though the person does not retreat from the encounter.


My reading of this is that you do have the right to use deadly force against someone using any lawful force in order to attempt to commit robbery or burglary so long as you’re in a dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle. In other words, homeowners, shop keepers, and motorists (as well as any who are present and helping them) can shoot looters and carjackers.
9.1.2005 6:26pm
RKV (mail):
"I don't understand why it preferable for the law-abiding citizens to be the cost-bearers. History has shown repeatedly that the way to stop an anarchic riot is an early display of substantial force." Worth repeating. An unintended consequence of ignoring property crimes turns out to be crimes against persons.
9.1.2005 6:28pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
From Instapundit (not exactly the most "liberal" source) re the people who, according to this Owen Courrageous character, are the people who deserve to die, because they were too stupid and "irresponsible" to leave the City. "So who's left behind in New Orleans right now, you are talking about tens of thousands of people who are left behind, and those are the sickest, the oldest, poorest, the youngest, the people with disabilities and the like, and the plan was that everybody should leave" http://instapundit.com/archives/025279.php
9.1.2005 6:32pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
(4)(a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle. The homicide shall be justifiable even though the person committing the homicide does not retreat from the encounter.


This section permits the use of deadly force to prevent someone from entering or against some who has unlawfully entered a dwelling, place of business or motor vehicle which IMO would seem to cover looters.
9.1.2005 6:36pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
Thorley, as I understood the debate, it wasn't about shopkeepers or homeowners defending their own. I think that has close to universal support. The issue is: should I drive from my home to Best Buy and shoot at people taking TVs? I don't see justification in the LA statutes, inasmuch as my own entry into Best Buy is of questionable legality.

Also, the "while committing" language in your 5:26 post is not joined by an "or" to the previous clause, which mentions force. (I read the "shoot the carjacker" clause, which does have an "or," as being a poorly drafted insertion, although I don't know the legislative history) I read that to mean you can shoot someone using force against you, not someone stealing a TV.
9.1.2005 6:46pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I'm recalling that Louisiana's where the fellow shot and killed a trick-or-treating Japanese exchange student who rang his doorbell, and was acquitted by a jury on his defense that he "felt threatened."
You are leaving out the rather important details that are why the jury acquitted.

1. The Japanese student was going to a costume party. He went to the wrong address after dark in a not very safe section of Baton Rouge (are there nice sections?) and rang the front doorbell. His English was less than perfect, and he was refused entry. It is possible that he didn't understand that he was at the wrong address.

2. He then went to another door into the house, through the carport, and rang the bell again. Second mistake.

3. This student was partial to running up to complete strangers, taking pictures, while screaming in Japanese, apparently because of the reaction from strangers. Ordinarily, this would not be a very nice thing to do, but under the circumstances, this became mistake number three.

4. The resident of the house, having now had a stranger in costume attempt entry twice, began to suspect some sort of home invasion attempt--which was not a completely ridiculous assumption. At this point, he made a tragic error--he stepped outside the door, and apparently while the Japanese student was rushing towards him, shouting in Japanese, assumed that he was under attack, and fired. This was mistake number four.

If either party had avoided any of these four mistakes, there would have been no death that night. The most severe mistake was when the resident left the safety of his home to deal with what he believed was an attack. This mistake is why he lost the civil suit, but the jury in the criminal case found him innocent. There simply wasn't evidence of malice aforethought beyond a reasonable doubt, and I suspect that the jury looked at the circumstances and concluded that this did not rise to the level of criminal negligence.
9.1.2005 6:47pm
Splunge (mail):
'Twould seem the camps divided into an "elitist" camp, which only trusts guns in the hands of the "right" people, and an "egalitarian" camp, which believes that a sufficient majority of ordinary citizens is reasonable that one can trust citizens, as a category, to carry weapons and enforce social order.

Being infused since birth with American egalitarianism -- not at all to be mistaken with a fatuous "equal outcome" moral relativism -- I suppose I fall naturally into the latter camp. I have not yet heard that the National Guard or police issue magic Evil-Detecting Spectacles to their men, so that they can distinguish criminals from innocents so much better than J. Random Citizen can.

Hence, I suppose I figure that if we trust 12 ordinary citizens sitting on a jury to decide whether a shooting is justifiable or not, then there's no great reason not to trust them when they are instead out on the street undertaking a vigilante patrol. Of course, I'd be happier if such folk took clear steps to establish their bona fide intentions: e.g. some kind of insignia, regular group patrols, routine discipline, reliable command structure, that sort of thing. Became Minutemen, that is. That would make it easier when it comes time, afterward, for the rest of us to sort things out and adjudge who was honestly preserving social structure and who was just an opportunistic scuz.

I do wonder, sometimes, how the "elitist" camp, which greatly fears we regular joes wielding guns, copes with, say, highway driving, where we regular joes wield deadly speeding hulks of metal with a minimal level of training and no command oversight at all. Or with buying food from supermarkets, when some joe in the supply chain might've slipped in some deadly poison, or some slob might've forgotten to wash his hands and introduced deadly E. coli into the pork chops.

Fact is, our lives are in our neighbors' hands every day of the year, not just on days on which they are carrying guns and looking to keep madness from breaking out in a flooded city.
9.1.2005 6:49pm
Kris:
"tdsj, the difference between "looting" and "finding" is that the word "looting" came from the Associated Press, while the word "finding" came from a french news service and was translated."

Thank you for making this point. Additionally, it's fine for us to call us thieves. It is NOT fine for a foreign news service to call us thieves. I'm sure whoever originally wrote the French caption, and whoever translated it, was aware of this fact.
9.1.2005 6:50pm
Owen Courrèges (mail) (www):
Greedy Clerk,

From Instapundit (not exactly the most "liberal" source) re the people who, according to this Owen Courrageous character, are the people who deserve to die, because they were too stupid and "irresponsible" to leave the City.

This is a total strawman. I never said that they "deserve to die." Far from it; I've lauded the relief efforts. I don't want my neighbors dead, even if they were irresponsible in failing to evacuate. Nor did I call them "stupid." Stop shoving words down my throat.
9.1.2005 6:51pm
tdsj:
Thorley,

Subsection (3) requires that the intruder appears likely to use unlawful force against a person. In other words, the mere fact that they're trying to steal isn't enough.

Subsection (4) requires that you're trying to prevent entry or compel the person to leave. It's basically an immediacy requirement. In other words, if you just see someone on the street who has apparently stolen something, you can't shoot them. It does not give a general license to shoot someone simply because they have, at some point, unlawfully entered a dwelling or business.
9.1.2005 6:51pm
tdsj:
The photo is (sort of) off-topic, but having raised it:

the difference between "finding" and "looting" had nothing to do with translation.

They said that in the "looting" photo, the photographer had actually seen the person enter the store. They said that in the "finding" photo, they hadn't.

Asked how, then, the photogropher knew that the folks had "found" that food (as opposed to, say, just taking it from their own house), Bridget Russel of Getty said, "The only thing I can tell you is they don't assume one way or another."

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/09/01/
photo_controversy/
9.1.2005 7:08pm
RKV (mail):
Well said Splunge. Hear. Hear.
9.1.2005 7:19pm
frank cross (mail):
Clayton, your description of the case is what I recall.

But doesn't it illustrate my point of the dangers of letting ordinary citizens make decisions about when gunplay is appropriate? That innocents will be killed. I would think the danger is even greater in the case where one is encouraged to shoot apparent looters, not just those who appear to be making repeated attempts to break into one's home.
9.1.2005 7:29pm
Dem:
chris: I never said that people should be allowed to hijack boats. I said we shouldn't be worried about unarmed looters (as opposed to armed robbers, or violent criminals), given what's going on. To the extent that stealing a tv or some food somehow causes problems, I don't see how encouraging non-looters to shoot people on sight helps at all. It strikes me that the more shooting that goes on in NO (by anyone who is not a police officer) the less inclined rescue teams will be to go in. Therefore, my solution is: don't worry about looting. As long as no one is threatening violence, let them take what they want: (a) much of it will probably be destroyed anyway and (b) there are more important things to worry about, like rescuing people from the city. Violent crime, of course, should remain a concern.
9.1.2005 7:35pm
A. Nonymous (mail):

But doesn't it illustrate my point of the dangers of letting ordinary citizens make decisions about when gunplay is appropriate? That innocents will be killed.


We are past the point of worrying about if innocents are going to be killed. Innocents ARE being killed and will continue to do so until some sort of order comes back into play.

No modern looting of this magnitude has ever stopped without the firing on the looters by either armed forces of the population en masse.

Recall the Korean store owners in the LA riots armed and on their roofs, for example.

There is only one sort of force that the looters will understand at this point.

Wagging your finger and giving a frown is not it.
9.1.2005 7:35pm
Shelby (mail):
frank,

The problem with your concern over "the dangers of letting ordinary citizens make decisions about when gunplay is appropriate" is that often the appropriate time for gunplay does not coincide with the presence of law enforcement officers. Home invasions do indeed happen; people in those homes get murdered all the time. If I believe (I hope reasonably) that someone is in the process of invading my house, I reserve the right to shoot to kill. And, being a nice egalitarian fellow, I recognize that everyone else has that right.

We do not live in a world where others can protect us all the time. We need to use caution in our self-defense, but we also need the right and ability to defend ourselves.
9.1.2005 7:35pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
The point of the Japanese-student story was, as Frank recognizes, the perils of untrained judgment. Leaving aside the merits of that case (and I don't see how the guy escaped a lesser-included offense), we at least like to think that police are police because they have "training" and "experience" that civilians lack. (Not that I expect the diehard libertarians to agree.)
9.1.2005 7:50pm
Columbienne:
How did this morph into a discussion of self-defense? Kopel was calling for something very different -- armed vigilantes in the streets shooting at will to defend property. That's worlds apart from defending a violent home invasion.
9.1.2005 7:53pm
A. Nonymous (mail):

Kopel was calling for something very different -- armed vigilantes in the streets shooting at will to defend property. That's worlds apart from defending a violent home invasion.


Not really, no.

By arguing the victims should not be armed, you have arged against the right of self-defense.

By arguing that efforts to stop looting (and yes, at this point the only way to stop it is by firing) are wrong, you are against the defense of self by extention. How? Because when lawlessness against PROPERTY is allowed, lawlessness against PERSONS is right behind. Witness the reports of mass rapes in the Superdome running on CNN. Witness the reports of snipers firing on Charity Hospital on CNN.

Name the mass looting in modern times that was stopped on its own accord and WITHOUT some shooting of the looters. (Hint: you won't find it.)


Give the person with the axe hacking into a door of a hospital to loot a hug. That'll stop him.

Give the person driving a forklift into a store front to loot a stern lecture. That's the ticket.

Give the thief a wag of your finger. Because that will be all it takes to stop the looting. After all, that's what has stopped looting before, right?
9.1.2005 7:55pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
A. Nonymous, isn't it just a little intellectually embarrassing to have to completely distort your opponents' viewpoint in order to conduct an argument?

I mean, obviously you have little confidence in your position if you have to resort to that. Just sayin'.
9.1.2005 8:00pm
Columbienne:
You know would have been a really good idea? Not to have had weapons sitting around in Walmart to be looted.
9.1.2005 8:02pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
Anderson: I didn't distort a thing. I went so far as to quote the section in question.
Columbienne: I see, so your argument isn't about looting, it is about allowing fire arms to be sold at all from Walmarts or (perhaps) anywhere? If anything, the events of the last few days have shown the need for the people to carry firearms for those cases where law enforcement cannot defend them.
9.1.2005 8:10pm
Columbienne:
I see that A. Nonymous's brain is stretched to the limit by the added complexity of guns as looted objects. Looting bad, guns good ... ??!!
9.1.2005 8:17pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Columbienne

The number of guns at the local WalMarts was de minimis. My memory is that the average WalMart has maybe a dozen or two long guns, split fairly evenly between rifles and shotguns, sitting in two revolving gun cases (usually, one for each). And, each gun is locked with a trigger lock. I don't remember seeing pistols, and if they do have them, they don't have very many.

So, you have maybe 15-20 (tops) guns per WalMart, locked with trigger locks. And how many vulnerable WallMart's? Can't be that many.

Then contrast this with the number of people in LA who have guns. I don't know the actual number, but nationally, there are almost as many guns as people in this country, and this is the South, so I would expect the ratio of guns/person to be somewhat higher than the national average. So, conservatively, I think you can expect at least a 1:1 ratio. Probably higher. That means probably millions of guns in the area.
9.1.2005 8:19pm
David Berke:
A. Nonymous,

I'm a little uncertain here, so I pose a question. What about those people who are unjustifiably shot under such a policy? Is the value of those mistaken and intentionally wrong deaths (which, at the end of the day, may outnumber the number of jusitifed deaths) so much less than the property they steal? Than the resulting effect on a city which will probably be fully evacuated in not too long?

What is the limit to your argument? Does it only apply in the event of a disaster? Should everyone everywhere always have the right to shoot others who are destroying or taking property which belongs to another? Should I execute the next person I see inscribing his or her name on a park bench?

Furthermore, I'm not sure that shooting the guy who's trying to break into an empty Wal-Mart and get some water (or for that matter, a new MP3 player) is morally justified. There should be a certain proportionality in the law, a reasonable relationship between the crime and the punishment. That is not present here.

To the extent that we are speaking of someone attempting to rob or injure another, I am fully in favor of shooting that person. But, that is not the situation here. As previously defined, looting requires the absence of interpersonal force.
9.1.2005 8:29pm
gr (www):
Thorley:

"This section permits the use of deadly force to prevent someone from entering or against some who has unlawfully entered a dwelling, place of business or motor vehicle which IMO would seem to cover looters."

It permits the shooting by someone who is already lawfully inside the business, dwelling, or car. Ie, the owner or someone with their permission, who is inside.
9.1.2005 8:38pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
David Berke: At this point it is a harsh and cruel math. Yes, I honestly believe the number of those innocent killed would be much less than the number of those innocent killed if nothing were done at all. Whenever force is used, there is always the chance it will be misused, that is not and argument never to use force.

As for the limit, by no means am I suggesting it be permitted anytime. In events such as these, at a time when the only force that will be understood is more force, then it is sadly required.

As for proportionality, it is proportional to the impact it has. Mass looting and anarchy in pursuit of HDTVs and DVD players leads to much more. As I noted before: when there is a total abandonment for the respect for property, there will be a total lack of respect for person shortly thereafter. Yes, it is a for of the "Broken windows" effect writ large. You accept "only" or "merely" mass looting, you give the impression the rapes and sniper attacks on hospitals and rescue teams are acceptable.

Again, history has shown these things do not "burn themselves out". Small scale rioting or looting sure: we've all seen what happens when sports fans go on a one night rampage.

But when there is no sense of order, you cannot hope for adherence to law. So you restore order, yes violently and emphatically, and then you can get on to the niceties of which particular law it may or may not violate.
9.1.2005 8:46pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
I've resisted commenting on most of this thread until I came this comment by Owen:

...three-quarters of the "poor" own vehicles...

This pretty much speaks for itself. I don't know what the point is of arguing with someone who holds such beliefs. It's not the neighbors who are stupid...

As for Kopel's analysis, he shows convincingly why NRA is the wrong organization to represent gun owners' rights. Gun owners' rights should be protected but not by gun-toting lunatics who want to shoot someone else on sight at the slightest provocation (usually an imaginary one). I thought lawyers--who tend to be well-educated--would know better. I guess, I was wrong.
9.1.2005 8:52pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
Uh Buck, Owen's right. 62 percent of "poor" households own a car; 14 percent own two or more cars.
9.1.2005 8:54pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
Lot of people angry with Kopel's statement. I'm going to review why I agree with it.

"My view on the looting is that it is reasonable, under the legal excuse of Necessity, for a person to take food from a store, if no other food is available in the disaster zone. Such a person would be obligated to remember the value of the food, and to make payment for what he took as soon as practically possible."

So far, so good and I agree. But note: this is a form of looting for self-preservation. Food.

"However, the looting of concern in New Orleans isn't Jean Valjean taking bread for his children; the looting involves attacks on hospitals to steal their narcotics, and attacks on stores or homes which have nothing to do with acquiring necessities for short-term survival."

THIS is the form of looting he is refering to: non-self-presevation. Many here in order to try and make a point are blurring the distinction. Kopel is reference those people who are making ATTACKS on hospitals to steal NARCOTICS; those who make ATTACKS on stores for things NOT necessities. Food and water and needed. That new XBox is not.

"Given the absence of a sufficient police presence in order to stop the looters, I strongly agree with Glenn Reynolds that such looters should be shot on sight by armed citizens."

Again, Kopel is referencing the second type of looter, not the first. And no, not "all looters are looters". The law of Louisiana (and Necessity as Kopel noted) makes the taking of food &water licit and permissible, the first type of looter. Kopel limits his comment to the second type and then only because of "the absence of a sufficient police presence in order to stop the looters".

So, how about addressing what Kopel actually SAID, not what you want to think he said?
9.1.2005 9:08pm
Columbienne:
I'm perplexed, Nonymous, why you and Kopel think that people looting for non-essentials is somehow more dangerous than people looting for essentials? Just because the looting might be excused by a necessity defense doesn't make it any less dangerous. In fact, I would think that people truly desperate for food and water would be more dangerous. If the goal is restoring civil order, then maybe everyone should be shot.
9.1.2005 9:18pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Oh, lordy:

Give the person with the axe hacking into a door of a hospital to loot a hug. That'll stop him.

Give the person driving a forklift into a store front to loot a stern lecture. That's the ticket.


Who advocated such things? People trying to loot hospitals (&presumably threatening the occupants) should be shot. That's not the issue. As for Forklift Person, who cares at this point? Let him play with his toys. Lives are at stake.

Uh Buck, Owen's right. 62 percent of "poor" households own a car; 14 percent own two or more cars.

Your national (?) statistics are useless. When the gov't gamed this situation a few months back ("Hurricane Pam"), they noted that there are over 100,000 households in N.O. without vehicles.

The contempt for the victims in N.O. is all too palpable on this thread. God forbid that any of you are in their shoes and at the mercy of officials applying "harsh and cruel math." God forbid.
9.1.2005 9:22pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Oh, my source for the # w/o vehicles was a Times Pic guy on NPR's Marketplace.
9.1.2005 9:23pm
Rick Ballard (mail):
"I'm perplexed, Nonymous, why you and Kopel think that people looting for non-essentials is somehow more dangerous than people looting for essentials?"

Intent, perhaps? The discussion is moot, though. There aren't enough vigilantes left in New Orleans to stem the tide. I'm now curious as to the ROE under which the Guard will be operating tonight. I doubt that there will be many patrols tonight but I don't doubt that they will be fired upon. Will they be allowed to fire back?

Tonight may be the last night of full predation and the predators know it. I would guess that looting the looters will be the order of the night, along with a bit of rape, murder and arson to spice up the evening.

Nice dissection of the appropriate statutes. Maybe a preacher can be talked into working them into his homily at the funeral of one of the murder victims? I'm sure the victim's families would find comfort in the thought that the legitimate use of force was properly debated.
9.1.2005 9:43pm
Sam B (mail):
Looting in Iraq—— veryyyy bad, leads to the anarchy
Looting in NO—— not toooo bad and probably justified.

Both premises are wrong and superficial.
9.1.2005 9:47pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Okay, Sam B, and let's continue:

Looting in Iraq and in N.O.---both utterly predictable effects, and both utterly unplanned for by those charged with planning.
9.1.2005 9:51pm
Milhouse (www):
The caption on the AFP photo came from the photographer himself. He says he wrote that the people "found" the stuff they were carrying, because that's what he saw. The store was completely flooded, and hundreds of items had floated out of it, and were floating on the water. It was obvious that these people had seen something floating by that looked as if it might be usable, and had taken it. At that point it is not looting, it's salvaging literal flotsam, and perfectly justified.
9.1.2005 9:54pm
David Berke:
A. Nonymous,

You said that "I honestly believe the number of those innocent killed would be much less than the number of those innocent killed if nothing were done at all. Whenever force is used, there is always the chance it will be misused, that is not and argument never to use force. "

I ask this:

(1) How is agreeing that self defense and defense of one's own property the equivalent of "doing nothing"?

(2) If the argument that force may be misused (a risk, which I believe you will admit is higher here than usual) is not an argument never to use force, is it at least an argument that calls for a greater reluctance to use force?

I also disagree that if "You accept "only" or "merely" mass looting, you give the impression the rapes and sniper attacks on hospitals and rescue teams are acceptable." If all attacks on people and their property are met with force, how does this give such an impression?

Also, to the extent which Kopel is referring to shooting those who are attacking stores and hospitals, those are occupied locations where the attacking individuals are clearly and directly threatening the life of those inside. That is not looting so much as mob attacks, robbery, etc. It would not appear to include attacks on an empty Best Buy to grab a new HDTV.
9.1.2005 10:00pm
Sam B (mail):
Anderson, I agree on both instances. I, too, would shoot a home invader. (I have). I also carry a permit legal concealed weapon, but doubt(and hope) I will ever have to use it outside the house. In my town there have been more legal shootings by citizens than by the protectors of society.
9.1.2005 10:02pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Trying to calm down---I have never been so outraged at my gov't, which is saying a good deal---I think that maybe some of this "shoot the looters!" talk stems from an understandable frustration.

We are helpless to do anything for these poor people in N.O., and it's comforting to think that pulling some triggers would "do something." That's always been a big allure of firearms. Dirty Harry could sure fix this mess, couldn't he?
9.1.2005 10:04pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Glad to concur with you on all counts, Sam B., and on that rare note, I will bow out &try to read a book and forget a while about the horrors downriver from me.
9.1.2005 10:05pm
Perseus (mail):
I agree with Clay Hellman's comment. Since there is no effective governmental authority (and precious little social order) in many of these areas, they are effectually in a state of nature (and more like a Hobbesian state of war in certain areas), which means that the full executive power of the law of nature reverts to each and every individual until governmental authority is restored. Frankly, I find it absurd to talk about what the law requires in such circumstances.
9.1.2005 10:26pm
frank cross (mail):
Why is it so hard for people to provide evidence in these threads. Nonymous asserts that lots of innocents are being killed by unrestrained looters. If that were in fact the case, I might agree with him. But he provides no evidence, just an assertion. If you've got evidence to support your point, provide it. You might actually convince people.
9.1.2005 10:35pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
frank cross: I assumed everyone was familiar with the dozens of news reports of murders and rapes going on in NO. That's why I didn't link.

Here

And here
9.1.2005 10:49pm
Paul Gowder (mail):
Orin: if there's ever a time to throw aside your civility rule, it's now. Kopel's spew, and Reynolds, is beneath civility. Civility dignifies it. The notion of introducing more weapons in the hands of civilians into that cespool of violence is so patantly absurd as to be laughable if it weren't so twisted.
9.1.2005 11:57pm
RKV (mail):
Paul, Innocent civilians are at the mercy of criminals now as we speak. Government is unable to protect them. I take it that you want them disarmed and defenseless. That sounds pretty twisted to me.
9.2.2005 12:03am
Paul Gowder (mail):
RKV: and so you'd prefer there to be open gun battles in the street between untrained civilians and other untrained civilians, all desparate and hungry? Bullets flying everywhere? And what happens when one of your vigalantes is killed, huh? Their gun goes to the next looter. Good idea.

Let the National Guard troops do their work.

(To say nothing about where these weapons in the hands of civilians would come from. The people who are being terrorized obviously aren't armed, or presumably they'd be shooting back. So we're not talking about the terrorized civilians at all, we're talking about organized groups. And are there really organized armed groups roaming New Orleans that aren't either (a) looters or (b) cops and soldiers? I think not. Unless you propose shipping some vigalantes in, perhaps instead of actual troops who have some damn training and orders?)
9.2.2005 12:16am
Paul Gowder (mail):
vigilantes, I mean.
9.2.2005 12:17am
RKV (mail):
Paul, How many have to die while waiting for help? You place way too much faith in authorities. I trust the average citizen to be able to figure things out, morally and otherwise. An average person can learn to use a shotgun to defend their own homes and lives in 5 minutes. We regularly trust our fellow citizens do drive around with the equivalent of three sticks of dynamite (that's about what a tank of gasoline in a car is energy-wise), how come you want them to wait for others to take control of their own lives? I'd personally rather take my chances with a gun battle in the street than be murdered while watching my wife and daughter raped. And that is what is happening right now in NO. All the choices have some risk, but which one is the least worse?
9.2.2005 12:49am
Paul Gowder (mail):
Nobody disagrees with shooting people who are raping one's family. However, the idea that creating roaming vigilante bands is somehow going to work better to track down/deter said rapists than real law enforcement and soldiers is ridiculous on its face.
9.2.2005 12:52am
Adam (mail) (www):
I always remember People v Ceballos from crim law. Guy sets up a spring gun to protect his garage from thieves; teenagers open the garage door and are automatically shot. Defendant's conviction for assault with a deadly weapon is upheld because deadly force is not authorized against non-violent felonies.
9.2.2005 1:39am
Adam (mail) (www):
I always remember People v Ceballos from crim law. Guy sets up a spring gun to protect his garage from thieves; teenagers open the garage door and are automatically shot. Defendant's conviction for assault with a deadly weapon is upheld because deadly force is not authorized against non-violent felonies.
9.2.2005 1:39am
clamwacker:
Would you prefer to set up a courtboat and have it float around to try all of the suspected looters, onsite? We could have the judge, jury and executioner batten down the hatches and go vigilante, if that's what you'd like.

Just take down the violent people. The ones stealing TVs aren't doing any harm; the only thing they would see on TV is themselves, acting like fools, LIVE. They would need only open their eyes to witness that.
9.2.2005 4:50am
jgshapiro (mail):
This may be slightly off-topic, but has there been any discussion of declaring martial law in New Orleans until order is restored?

What happens when the soldiers arrive in the next two days? It appears that the courts and judges have fled the city, the police stations are demolished or otherwise uninhabitable, and the rampant looting has given way to (as CNN is reporting) armed gangs of teenage boys assaulting people and raping women in the streets.

Even if you had the necessary law enforcement to arrest all of the looters and the rapists, I don't know how you could interrogate, confine or arraign them, let alone try them in any reasonable amount of time.

This has got to be as large a social meltdown as has ever happened in the United States. Even the 60's riots were not accompanied by massive flooding, loss of power and phone, sweltering temperatures, no food or water, and near-total disruption in transportation. New Orleans right now makes Beirut circa 1985 look like a pleasant alternative.

I wonder if either President Bush or Governor Blanco have the legal authority to declare martial law, and if that would not assist (at least psychologically) in restoring order?
9.2.2005 5:01am
Anderson (mail) (www):
I wonder if either President Bush or Governor Blanco have the legal authority to declare martial law, and if that would not assist (at least psychologically) in restoring order?

The news stories I've seen, stated that the La. constitution forbids "martial law." (No link, it's 3:30 a.m. &insomnia has driven me back to the PC.)

Whether the feds can trump that somehow, I do not know.

The origins of such a provision might be interesting; before this week, when N.O. thought "martial law," it probably thought of the notorious occupation by Union troops under Ben Butler, who advised Confederate belles that any woman treating his troops with contempt would be treated as a common prostitute.

(OT, Gen. Butler is also said to have justified his rejection of Christian living by an appeal to the Calvinist doctrine of the predestined elect, said to be a small minority: "I don't like the odds.")
9.2.2005 5:42am
Anon7 (mail):
New Orleans also might have thought of 1934, when Governor Huey Long sent the Louisiana National Guard into New Orleans to remove the mayor, a political opponent of Long, from power. They ended up staying for more than a year. (In the course of which Long had his men set up a machine gun nest in the building next to City Hall, with the gun aimed directly through the window of the mayor's office)
9.2.2005 8:05am
Larry (mail) (www):
I am against shooting looters, because a lot of the looters are police, themselves, and unlike some I am definitely against violence against the police. For a cute photo of police stealing CDs, see here.
9.2.2005 9:36am
Paul Gowder (mail):
jgs: assuming they clear the city in any reasonable stretch of time, the rampagers ("looters" is a term that's been bent and broken here) can be put on prison buses and taken to Baton Rouge to be tried. There are a lot of prison buses in Louisiana. They can be
9.2.2005 9:37am
Paul Gowder (mail):
[whoops, sorry]

They can be arraigned, tried, etc. later. I'm sure the speedy trial clause can be stretched to deal with this situation.
9.2.2005 9:38am
Larry (mail):
We could just give up on New Orleans. After all, it pretty much has been anarchy for the past 100 years anyway. People were given fair warning about leaving. Perhaps we should just not bother helping and let things go back to their natural state.
9.2.2005 12:14pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Concerning the Hattori case, Frank Cross writes:
Clayton, your description of the case is what I recall.

But doesn't it illustrate my point of the dangers of letting ordinary citizens make decisions about when gunplay is appropriate? That innocents will be killed. I would think the danger is even greater in the case where one is encouraged to shoot apparent looters, not just those who appear to be making repeated attempts to break into one's home.
The Hattori case is about as strong an argument for your position as Michael Jackson is for prohibiting rock stars from having plastic surgery. This was a pretty exceptional case--and there are hundreds of thousands of civilians a year in the U.S. who use a gun in self-defense. I run a blog which consists of nothing but news accounts of such lawful defensive uses--and there's new articles every day.
9.2.2005 12:50pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Paul Gowder writes:
The notion of introducing more weapons in the hands of civilians into that cespool of violence is so patantly absurd as to be laughable if it weren't so twisted.
Who is talking about "introducing" more weapons? I would be surprised if there is less than one gun for every three households remaining in New Orleans. The guns are already present in large numbers, and it seems likely that the looters of non-essentials are disproportionately armed, and disproportionately willing to use them.
9.2.2005 12:53pm
Mister Thorne (mail) (www):
I don't see how you can solve a problem by aggravating it. Looting is lawlessness. Vigilantes shooting looters is just more lawlessness. It just adds to the tragedy.

I'd really like to explore ways to prevent this (looting stores, raping women, sniping at hospitals, etc.) from ever happening again.

I'll throw out one idea, though I don't believe it would have any effect. The idea is to make it a federal crime to loot in a place that's been declared part of a national disaster area. Rather than dismiss the 100s or 1,000s of looters when order resumes, give them a year in jail. Make it a reality TV show, so we can see the consequence of such low behavior.

I know it's a stupid idea. Let's hear some better ideas.
9.2.2005 2:01pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Dem and Milhouse suggest that the goods being looted were already abandoned, flotsam, or otherwise lost. I agree.

Breaking into a store because the cops are otherwise occupied for the night is looting. Taking stuff that the owners, or their insurance companies, are never going to recover (especially if it's perishable) is very different. Even in times not of crisis, people have made honest livings through garbage picking.

Mr. Kopel distinguishes between taking necessities and taking luxury items. If I were in New Orleans and had nothing (because not only was my house washed away, not, by the way, by the storm, but by water from a failed levee, and because the shelter to which I reported didn't have the supplies) I'd rather have cigarettes, or CDs, or jewelry, any of which I might be able to later trade for food or water, than nothing.

Anderson writes: I have no clue what we've been preparing for since 9/11, but evidently it wasn't "taking care of a devastated city."

Indeed. Levees break, earthquakes happen, people figure out how to use loaded airliners as incendiary bombs, someday somebody will get an actual nuke. The response is not right. Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System allows us to get convoys from anywhere in the country to anywhere in the country in a day or two. Why is it taking this long to get food, water, and medicine down there, by truck, by media van, or by helicopter?
9.2.2005 4:48pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
I suspect that I can explain many of A.Nonymous's conclusions with a simple observation.

Owen wrote:
...three-quarters of the "poor" own vehicles...


A.Nonymous added in response to my objection:
Uh Buck, Owen's right. 62 percent of "poor" households own a car

Do the arithmetic, folks. Then you'll understand how these people interpret facts.
9.3.2005 2:54am