June 29, 2020
By Mark Chesnut
A situation in Saint Louis on Sunday in which a couple guarded their home with firearms is quickly becoming the most cussed and discussed event on the internet, with opinions widely divided on the legality. Unfortunately, most involved in the discussion have little interest in finding out what Missouri state law actually says about armed self-defense.
When an unruly crowd broke open a gate into the couple’s private neighborhood, ostensibly to find Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house and call for her resignation, the couple, which owns a St. Louis law firm, reportedly called police to report the intrusion. As yelling trespassers by the dozen streamed through the gate, which was marked with a sign that read “Private Property, No Trespassing,” the couple armed themselves and stood in front of their home.
While some consider that to be taunting the “protesters,” it’s important to understand what had happened in St. Louis not far from the home just a day earlier. At a protest aimed at tearing down a 100-year-old statue of King Louis IX of France on Saturday, protesters turned violent and reportedly attacked a man who was with a group of Catholics who had gathered at the statue to pray for peace.
As one of the groups told CBN News, “We allowed them to spit on us, call us names, put their finger in our faces, push us and antagonize us. But we did not retaliate. We continued to pray peacefully.” The protest officially became a riot when a couple of the protesters reportedly began punching and beating an elderly white man who was with the group praying.
Fast-forward to the very next day when the couple didn’t know how violent the crowd might be that was trespassing in their neighborhood. While anti-gunners and those bent on anarchy cried “foul” over the armed self-defense incident, a look at the state’s laws as they pertain to armed self-defense proves that to be incorrect.
First of all, Missouri recognizes the “castle doctrine” and allows residents to use deadly force against intruders based on the notion that a person’s home is his castle and he has the right to defend it. The doctrine assumes that if an invader disrupts the sanctity of your home, he or she intends to do you harm and, consequently, you should be able to protect yourself or others against an attack.
Interestingly, Missouri's law is more extensive than similar laws in many other states because it allows you to use deadly force to attack an intruder to protect any private property that you own, in addition to yourself or another individual. This means that if someone illegally enters your front porch or backyard, you can use deadly force against them without first retreating.
In addition, Missouri has a Stand Your Ground law that has been in effect since 2017. Before that law was passed and implemented, Missouri residents who were facing a safety threat from another party had a duty of retreat if at all possible, and could only use deadly force if retreat was not possible. Under the Stand Your Ground law, If a person is in a place where he or she is permitted to be, whether it is at home or in public, he or she has the right to use deadly force in self-defense or in defense of another innocent party—even if there is an opportunity to safely retreat.
Multiple attempts by Firearmsnews.com to contact the couple via phone and email on Monday were unsuccessful. In fact, the law firm’s website appeared to be taken down following the incident and email addresses related to the business were also disabled. McCloskey did, however, grant an interview to News 4, a local news station, "A mob of at least 100 smashed through the historic wrought-iron gates of Portland Place [private-property association], destroying them, rushed towards my home where my family was having dinner outside and put us in fear of our lives," he told News 4 on Monday.
While many have voiced the opinion that the couple should face some legal ramifications for the armed self-defense episode, just the opposite appears to be the case. In fact, a police report released Monday afternoon states that at least one unknown suspect has been charged with trespassing and intimidation during the altercation.
The report lists the couple as “victim 1” and “victim 2,” and said that some individuals within the group of protesters were also armed. According to the report, the couple said the large group yelled obscenities and threatened to harm them after the couple told them they were trespassing and told protesters to leave because they were on a private street.
Still, the situation is a developing one, and there’s little doubt some politically minded “public servants” will continue to place First Amendment rights ahead of those protected by the Second Amendment. In fact, late Monday afternoon St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner seemed to do just that, seemingly referring to the incident as an attempt to quell “peaceful protests.”
“I am alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend, where peaceful protesters were met by guns and a violent assault,” Gardner said in a statement. “We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated.”
As legal and constitutional protests continue to turn into riots and violent attacks around the country, it’s more important than ever for all lawful gun owners to understand the self-defense laws in place in their states. In fact, being aware of self-defense laws is just as important as training for armed self-defense scenarios to ensure you don’t face grave legal consequences afterward.
Don’t believe what some guy said on Facebook or rely on legal advice from your buddy who “knows a lot about guns.” Do some real research and arm yourself with knowledge before such a situation occurs so you’ll be able to protect yourself and your family safely, effectively and—no less important—legally.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.