New Missouri Law May Have Legalized Dueling, Lawyer Says



In today's polarized political climate, one thing has become abundantly clear to all parties: We need to bring back dueling.

Drunk uncle offended your sensibilities at the Thanksgiving dinner table? Challenge that uncouth bastard to a duel! Stuck-up little nephew won't stop crying about about your political hot-takes? Demand satisfaction from the scrawny dweeb!

Family gatherings would be more tolerable. Social media would be more tolerable. There are those who maintain that "an armed society is a polite society." It stands to reason, then, that a society whose citizens are constantly shooting at one another is a really, really polite one. It's a win-win.

The St. Louis area even has its own unique dueling history. In the 1800s, an island in the Mississippi River dubbed "Bloody Island" was used specifically for the purpose. Some noteworthy duels took place here, with participants including Abraham Lincoln and two former Missouri governors. The line of thinking at the time was that, since the piece of land was technically located in neither Missouri nor Illinois, it was under the official jurisdiction of neither, and therefore none of the dueling parties could be prosecuted.

But now, such legal loopholes may be unnecessary. With the recent passing of Missouri's new gun laws and stand your ground statutes, some legal experts are arguing that dueling may, from a scholarly standpoint, have been legalized.

Bret Narayan of Narayan Attorneys at Law (7927 Forsyth Boulevard, 314-754-8710) is one such expert. In an email to the RFT, he lays out the case for legal dueling:
I want to be clear and start off by saying, “Don’t duel.”

That being said, Missouri has a new use of force doctrine, codified in section 563.031.1 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. Under this statute, a person may use physical force, including deadly force, against a person to the extent that he or she reasonably believes the force necessary to protect themselves, as long as the person is not the initial aggressor and is in a place where he or she has a legal right to be.

This means that, effectively, Guy A could challenge Guy B to a duel at a time certain at a date certain in a public place, or better yet a 3rd party could lay out the terms of the duel in, say, Forest Park, where both Guy A and B have a legal right to be. If at high noon both Guy A and Guy B reach for their guns, neither is the initial aggressor because they are each reacting to the other reaching for a gun, and each has a reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to protect himself from the other. The jury is literally still out on this, as this use of force statute only went into effect in October of this year and we don’t have many rulings from the Court on the matter at this point, but it certainly could be interpreted to permit dueling.

Of course, this is a crazy law school-esque hypothetical and it is likely that the prosecutor’s office would charge both parties regardless of the statute, but either party could assert that he was in a place that he had a right to be, and that he had a reasonable belief that force was necessary to protect himself against serious physical injury or death. If a duel participant asserted this defense, the State would then carry the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant did not reasonably believe that his use of force was necessary to defend against what he reasonably believed was the imminent use of unlawful force.

Again, I don’t think that anybody should be dueling, but maybe, if the legislature doesn’t intend to clean up this statute, Forest Park Forever can set aside some funding to install a dueling ground at the park, since Bloody Island is no more. Also, don’t duel. Seriously. No dueling. 

You heard the man: We should start dueling again!

The first person we'd like to challenge is Andrew Fitzpatrick, best known as the beat-boxing guy from this summer's absolutely insufferable Charter commercial. Take heed of this challenge, Fitzpatrick, or face a life without honor. We hereby officially demand satisfaction. The streets will run red with the blood of the beatboxer!

Now, there may be an uptight few of you who might think that dueling is irresponsible, dangerous, has no place in modern times, etc. To that, all we can say is: Take it up with the members of the Missouri legislature who passed the laws.

Maybe at a neutral place, at a time agreed upon in advance....

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