Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt late Monday filed a brief seeking to dismiss charges filed against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who wielded their guns as a crowd moved past their property last month.
The brief filing cites the Second Amendment and says that “the Attorney General respectfully requests that the Court dismiss this case at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Schmitt’s filing to dismiss charges comes just hours after the Circuit Attorney’s Office filed charges against the couple, which include felony charges of unlawful use of a weapon and a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree assault.
The McCloskeys had stepped outside their mansion on June 28 and wielded their guns after a group of activists entered their private neighborhood.
Gardner, a Democrat, said in a statement on Monday that it is “illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest.”
The McCloskeys’ lawyer, Joel Schwartz, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the charges were “disheartening as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed.”
In a prepared statement late Monday, Schmitt reiterated the Second Amendment rights of Missourians.
“The right to keep and bear arms is given the highest level of protection in our constitution and our laws, including the Castle Doctrine. This provides broad rights to Missourians who are protecting their property and lives from those who wish to do them harm,” Schmitt said.
“Despite this, Circuit Attorney Gardner filed charges against the McCloskeys, who, according to published reports, were defending their property and safety. As Missouri’s Chief law enforcement officer, I won’t stand by while Missouri law is being ignored—that’s why I entered this case to seek its dismissal, to protect the rights of Missourians to defend their property under Missouri’s Castle Doctrine.”
Schmitt reiterated his message on Twitter in a video, where he added an accompanying statement saying, “Citizens shouldn’t be targeted for exercising their [Second Amendment] right to self-defense.”
Citizens shouldn’t be targeted for exercising their #2A right to self-defense
STL prosecutor Kim Gardner is engaged in a political prosecution
As AG I’m entering the case seeking a dismissal & defend all Missourians’ right to protect their lives/property pic.twitter.com/kQLXOAhFIz
— Eric Schmitt (@Eric_Schmitt) July 20, 2020
Missouri’s statue, officially titled “Use of force in defense of persons” and typically referred to as the castle doctrine, permits people to employ deadly force if people enter their homes without consent.
It also says that a person doesn’t “have a duty to retreat from a dwelling, residence, or vehicle where the person is not unlawfully entering or unlawfully remaining” and “from private property that is owned or leased by such individual.”
According to a Missouri Law Review of property law (pdf), gated communities have been affirmed in courts as being able to bar entry to non-residents who don’t receive invitations to enter.
John Ammann, a professor of justice at Saint Louis University’s School of Law, had earlier told The Epoch Times that the couple shouldn’t have aimed their guns at the group.
“In Missouri, they can do open carry, so maybe holding the guns at their side was OK. But not aiming them,” he said in an email.
In the video footage captured last month, the McCloskeys were seen outside their property holding up guns while telling protesters to leave the area. The couple, who are both lawyers, said they were in fear for their lives at the time.
Mark McCloskey later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I believe in my heart of hearts that the only thing that kept those mobsters, that crowd, away from us is that we were standing there with guns.”
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, last week told a St. Louis radio station that he will likely pardon the couple if they are convicted.
Parson told the station that the McCloskeys “did what they legally should do,” reported The Hill. “A mob does not have the right to charge your property,” he said, according to the paper. “They had every right to protect themselves.”
Zachary Stieber and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.