JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The case involving a St. Louis couple and recent protests has renewed debate over gun rights in Missouri and across the country, with leaders on different sides of the issue pointing to different laws.
But which one applies in this case?
Mark and Patricia McCloskey were charged on July 20 after pointing guns with protesters who they allege broke into their property. That claim has been disputed.
Missouri’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, said he is entering the case against a St. Louis couple and seeking a dismissal in a Twitter video shortly after the couple were charged.
“The right to keep and bear arms is given the highest level of protection and our laws, which I am charged with protecting,” Schmitt said in the video. “This includes the Missouri ‘Castle Doctrine,’ which provides broad rights to Missourians to protect and defend their personal safety and property against those who intend to do them harm.”
The question is whether the doctrine applies in this circumstance. Missouri law states that deadly force is allowed “against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle.” A person does not have to retreat from their house before using deadly force.
However, Missouri law also defines felony unlawful use of a weapon as displaying “in the presence of one or more persons, any weapon readily capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner.”
St. Louis’ top prosecutor, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, charged the couple with that.
“It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner — that is unlawful in the city of St. Louis,” Gardner said in a statement with the charges.
However, there may not be a clear answer if it doesn’t play out in court. Schmitt could potentially dismiss the case before it ever gets to trial. Gov. Mike Parson also said he would likely pardon the couple of any related charges.
“Enough is enough,” Schmitt said in the video. “As Missouri’s chief law enforcement officer, I simply will not stand by while a Missouri law is being ignored. That’s why I am entering this case and seeking the dismissal of this case,” Schmitt said. “A political prosecution, such as this one, would have a chilling effect on Missourian’s exercising the right of self-defense. The law is clear and must be protected.”
Charges remain against the couple as of July 30.