Just how nutso is the Missouri state legislature? This is how nutso: This week one of the legilators introduced a bill to legalize murder.
State Sen. Eric Burlison, a Republican lawmaker from near Springfield, wants to give qualified immunity to suspected murderers. Here’s his proposed law: “A person who uses or threatens to use force in self-defense is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless such force was used against a law enforcement officer who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the person reasonably knew or should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer.”
Burlison believes it is OK for a person to use physical or deadly force by simply fearing for their life — a “presumption of reasonableness,” his bill calls it. The proposed law prohibits police from even detaining those suspected of violence. In effect, killers would be rewarded. And he’s not the only supporter. The measure has already advanced to the Missouri Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee.
Here’s the text of the bill, SB 666. Seriously. I’m not making this up.
So if I came to seriously dislike somebody and decide to eliminate them, I can shoot and kill that person and be safe from prosecution as long as there are no witnesses? I can just say it was self-defense and go my merry way? Okay.
It may not surprise you to learn that some people think this is a grand idea.
Mark McCloskey, an attorney and pardonee-turned-Senate candidate, is leveraging his gun-hero status to support a Missouri bill nicknamed the “Make Murder Legal Act” by its opponents. The legislation, which happens to be numbered S.B. 666, is a Republican-driven effort to upend one of the most standard procedures in criminal law and to expand Missouri’s “Castle Doctrine.”
The McCloskeys are in Jefferson City this morning – front row for a Senate hearing on a bill by Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, that would strengthen self-defense arguments in MO #moleg https://t.co/KO6cx8TlAG pic.twitter.com/jG4xyuyae7
— Galen Bacharier (@galenbacharier) February 1, 2022
Missouri already has a “stand your ground” law that requires defendants to prove they reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to defend themselves.
This Law & Crime article explains that, normally, defendants claiming self-defense “must prove that they feared for their safety or the safety of another person, that the fear was objectively reasonable under the circumstances, and that they used force in response to their belief that force was necessary to protect themself or others.”
The “objectively reasonable” standard, normally, “measures whether the situation as a whole should have been perceived as fearful by someone thinking logically in the defendant’s shoes. A defendant whose fears were unreasonable, exaggerated, or blown out of proportion will lose a self-defense claim.”
But under SB 666, it’s presumed that fears were reasonable and up to the prosecutor to show that they weren’t. So, as I said, if there are no witnesses or surveillance videos the prosecutor may be helpless to prove the act of violence wasn’t self-defense. Several of the state’s prosecutors have spoken up to call SB 666 the “Make Murder Legal” act.
And then there’s our senator, Josh Hawley. A few days ago Sen. Hawley sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on the Biden administration to drop longstanding U.S. support for Ukraine’s eventual membership in NATO. In other words, give Vladimir Putin what he wants. When I heard this I promptly sent an email to Hawley’s office telling him that Neville Chamberlain would be proud.
Hawley’s letter argues, in brief, that if we’re messing around defending Ukraine’s right to join NATO we’d be taking our eye off China. Certainly it would be nice if Ukraine keeps its independence, but “we must aid Ukraine in a manner that aligns with the American interests at stake and preserves our ability to deny Chinese hegemony in the Indo-Pacific.” Apparently we can’t support Ukraine’s eventual acceptance into NATO and keep an eye on the Indo-Pacific at the same time.
And then he adds a couple of paragraphs about how other NATO countries aren’t paying their “fair share” of collective defense expenses, which was an ignorant argument when Trump made it, and it hasn’t improved.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger responded to the letter by calling Hawley “one of the worst human beings, and a self egrandizing con artist,” and I can’t argue with that.
And then Hawley tweeted this:
If Russia invades Ukraine, the Biden Administration can blame one person above all: Joe Biden. He’s given Putin his own slush fund in Nord Stream 2 and failed to aid Ukraine when he could have. No amount of name calling will hide his abject failureshttps://t.co/SvIcfK9ULB
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) February 2, 2022
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial in response headlined Hawley posts a fist-pump to ignorance with his position on Ukraine.
Perhaps the young senator should be forgiven for his naivete regarding Russia. He wasn’t even born during the worst years of the Cold War, and he was still in diapers when Moscow invaded Afghanistan and dominated half of Europe. So he might not remember why containing Russian expansionism remains such a big deal for older Americans. Republicans these days seem averse to reading any history that makes them feel bad about themselves, which could explain why Hawley’s ignorance is so embarrassingly on display in Washington.
First-rate snark there, Post-Dispatch. Bravo.
A short history lesson is in order. Biden became president a year ago. Before that, Donald Trump was president. Trump is the one who denied military aid to Ukraine to extort its leader into helping with Trump’s reelection effort. The person who failed Ukraine was Trump, and it earned him an impeachment. Biden in the past year has shipped around $650 million in military aid to Ukraine as Russia amasses more than 100,000 troops on its border. So Kinzinger’s “con man” critique of Hawley seems precisely on target.
Hawley describes Europe as a “secondary theater” and suggests that the only international situation worthy of administration attention is China. He outlined his limited understanding of world affairs in a three-page letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Hawley was “parroting” Moscow’s talking points and “digesting Russian misinformation.”
The right-wing echo chamber is all-in on the idea that Russia’s threats to Ukraine are really Joe Biden’s fault, but I’ve seen some on the Left repeat the same thing. Let’s just hope Putin stands down.