Bills filed to shoot first, retreat later in self-defense By Jim Vertuno/The Associated Press February 12, 2007 AUSTIN (AP) — Castle Doctrine sounds like a medieval warning to invaders: Cross this moat and suffer the consequences. A pair of Republican state lawmakers now want to use it to revise Texas’ modern-day self-defense laws. Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio and Rep. Joe Driver of Garland have sponsored bills to have Texas join more than a dozen states with the so-called "Castle Doctrine," a sort of shoot-first, retreat-later approach to defending hearth, home, truck and business. Essentially, the Castle Doctrine is born out of the common-law theory that a man’s home is his castle and he has a right to defend it. And although Texas already has some of the broadest self-defense laws in the country, Wentworth says his bill would expand the legal rights of crime victims to protect themselves, their relatives and their property from intruders in their home, occupied vehicles or business. It would create a legal presumption that an intruder is there to cause death or great bodily harm and that victims have the right to use deadly force. He says current law in some instances imposes a duty to retreat before using potentially deadly force on an intruder. "I believe Texans who are attacked in their homes, their businesses, their vehicles or anywhere else have a right to defend themselves from attack without fear of being prosecuted and face possible civil suits alleging wrongful injury or death," Wentworth said. More than a dozen other states have written the Castle Doctrine into law and the National Rifle Association is among those pushing for Texas to join them. "It is fundamental that honest, law-abiding citizens know the law is on their side if ever they are faced with danger from criminal attack," said Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist in Washington, D.C. But critics deride it as a "shoot-to-kill" bill that allows for more violence and removes a tool from prosecutors. "It’s not Castle Doctrine. That’s in the home and you have a right to defend the home," said Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "This is the Kingdom Doctrine and you can kill someone anywhere in public. That’s a far cry from the home." Legal experts wonder if they change is really needed. Jerry Dowling, a criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University, said state law already protects self-defense of life and property, particularly in one’s home, or castle. "I’ve lived in Texas 30-plus years and I would be astounded to hear of a Texas jury that convicted someone who blasted a guy who was in his house," Dowling said. "It would just be anathema to the culture down here."