Fact Check: Texas Lawmaker Did NOT Say Theft Is 'Equitable Distribution' And Criminals' Guns 'Provide An Incentive To Cooperate'

Fact Check

  • by: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: Texas Lawmaker Did NOT Say Theft Is 'Equitable Distribution' And Criminals' Guns 'Provide An Incentive To Cooperate' Satiric Quote

Did state Rep. Terry Meza support her proposed amendment to Texas' "Stand Your Ground" law by saying robberies are "equitable distribution of wealth" and that home intruders only carry guns "to provide an incentive to cooperate"? No, that's not true. The quotes were fabricated to satirize Meza's proposal to require residents to exhaust all efforts to flee before turning to the use of deadly force to defend themselves or their property. Texas in 1995 and 2007 codified the "Stand Your Ground" or "Castle" doctrine, spelling out in law the right to use firearms in defense of yourself or your property.

The fabricated quotes appeared in a post (archived here) published in Facebook on February 27, 2021. It opened:

It hard for me to believe someone thinks this stupidly!

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Mar 12 17:03:41 2021 UTC)

The quotes, which satirize Meza as prioritizing the rights of intruders over people whose homes are broken into, have been cited as real political rhetoric by people critical of HB 196, the draft legislation filed by Meza on November 9, 2020.

According to the Texas Municipal League, the bill:

would, among other things, amend current law to provide that: (1) a person is not justified in using deadly force against another individual: (a) if the person is able to safely retreat, unless the person is in his or her own habitation; or (b) to prevent the individual's imminent commission of robbery or aggravated robbery.

Almost immediately, postings on social media started stating that the measure would repeal the state law that grants people a right to use deadly force to protect against bodily harm and protect property.

Meza and her staff have insisted her proposal would modify, not repeal, those rights.

The state representative took to Twitter on November 19, 2020 to make her case:

My bill HB 196 and my position on the Texas Castle Doctrine has been misrepresented in the news as of late.

It does not repeal the Castle Doctrine, and it does not restrict homeowners from using firearms in self-defense as applicable to current Texas stand your ground laws.

What my bill would do if passed, would require a homeowner to exhaust the potential of safely retreating into their habitation before using deadly force in defense of themselves or their property.

I filed this bill because the castle doctrine as it currently exists emboldens people to take justice into their own hands. While theft is obviously wrong, we have laws to address that. I don't believe that stealing someone's lawn ornament should be an offense punishable by death.

Those efforts by Meza to clarify her intent were not enough, though. Among scores of social media postings, the measure also was satirized by John Semmens in a December 5, 2020 post on the Free Republic site under the headline: Bill to Outlaw "Castle Doctrine [semi-satire]." The posting said:

In Texas, State Representative Terry Meza (D-Irving) has introduced HB196. Her bill would repeal the state's "castle doctrine." This doctrine allows a homeowner to use deadly force against an armed intruder who breaks into his home.

"I'm not saying that stealing is okay," Meza explained. "All I'm saying is that it doesn't warrant a death penalty. Thieves only carry weapons for self-protection and to provide the householder an incentive to cooperate. They just want to get their loot and get away. When the resident tries to resist is when people get hurt. If only one side is armed fewer people will be killed."

Meza was quick to reassure that her bill "would not totally prevent homeowners from defending themselves. Under the new law the homeowner's obligation is to flee the home at the first sign of intrusion. If fleeing is not possible he must cooperate with the intruder. But if violence breaks out it is the homeowner's responsibility to make sure no one gets hurt. The best way to achieve this is to use the minimum non-lethal force possible because intruders will be able to sue for any injuries they receive at the hands of the homeowner."

"In most instances the thief needs the money more than the homeowner does," Meza reasoned. "The homeowner's insurance we reimburse his losses. On balance, the transfer of property is likely to lead to a more equitable distribution of wealth. If my bill can help make this transfer a peaceful one so much the better."

Those quotes, which are not real, have been widely disseminated on social media platforms.

Meza's chief of staff Vince Leibowitz declined to comment to Lead Stories in a March 10, 2021 telephone conversation on any aspect of the proposed bill or its repercussions.

But Leibowitz told Reuters in a December 11, 2020 story:

These quotes are 100 percent FALSE and completely fabricated. Rep. Meza NEVER said any of these things.

Semmens told Lead Stories in a March 12, 2021 email that he did not mischaracterize the bill, though he admitted to fabricating the quotes:

My piece was semi-satire.

The quotes I attributed to Meza were an extrapolation of her bill's requirement that a homeowner has an obligation to retreat from a home invader rather than use deadly force to defend his or her home. In this respect, while I took some creative license, I don't think my creativity mischaracterized the intent of her bill.

The bill was referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and had its first reading on February 25, 2021. Leibowitz said Meza's office will not ask for a public hearing. Gov. Greg Abbott has declared he will not sign the bill. When this was written, there was no Senate companion bill, another necessity if legislation is to pass both chambers on its way to enactment.

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