Friday, April 4, 2014

The Hard Truth About Stand Your Ground: A License to Shoot More People

Is this standing your ground? (That's nine shots, by my count.)

Let's go back to before the concept of stand-your-ground. I don't know the dates or the whens or wheres, but let's just look at the larger picture:
  • The basic premise in the past, when confronted by violence, was "a duty to retreat."
  • This didn't abrogate the longstanding "Castle" doctrine, which is the idea that inside your home you have a larger right to self-defense, though your rights were still wrapped in a "try not to kill somebody" sensibility.
  • Stand-your-ground essentially does two things: one, it doesn't require you to retreat, and, two, it doesn't require you to be in your home.
Which leads to what we see today: a former cop feels he has the right to shoot someone in a movie theater during an incident that started with texting; a man in a parked car pumps two shots into an SUV full of black teenagers with rap music blasting, then empties his gun into the SUV as it speeds away; a man talks on 911 for eight minutes while watching two men break into a neighbor's house, and despite the 911 operator's entreaty to stay inside, the man takes his shotgun and kills both suspects, seconds before the police arrive at the scene. Both burglars were shot in the back.

That man was never charged. The man who emptied his clip into the teens' SUV got life for shooting and missing, but the jury hung on the murder charge for the one boy he managed to kill. We await the trial for the movie/texting case. Of course, I don't even need to cite George Zimmerman or the fact that he was acquitted.

The larger point is: What have we gained? Is it a net plus or minus to have a right to plug someone anywhere, anytime, if we can establish a reasonable fear of bodily harm? Or is it a road down which we'll find only more violence and death?

Clearly, my point of view is that it's a net loss. A duty to retreat when it is possible to do so makes ultimate sense to me. Stand your ground only makes sense if you've watched too many "Die Hard" movies. And I'm only being slightly facetious.

On a more serious note, I feel that stand-your-ground is a direct reaction to the isolation whites, especially, white males, are feeling as minorities surge in this country. This endangered group, whites who feel marginalized, are making a stand. And since crime statistics have been falling steadily for decades, the stand these white folks are taking is against a rather nebulous foe. It's a pity.

It's worth mentioning that stand-your-ground empowers black people, as well, to fire at will. But it's white legislatures in Republican states that are driving stand-your-ground, concealed-carry-everywhere, and other gun-rights-expanding laws.

We may be left to have this stand-your-ground, my-gun-is-bigger-than-your-gun, my-religious-rights-trump-yours effect ripple and flail its way through our society. It's quite retrograde, but we're stuck there for now. Like I said, it's a pity.

A final thought: I suppose a case for stand-your-ground is that once the new normal sets in, violence will go down, in a kind of "once the fuckers know I mean business" sense. But I can hardly imagine it. More likely a " fuck you no fuck you" conversation will end up in death by gunshot instead of the usual busted lip, especially since-concealed-carry-anywhere-you-want is also making its way through the legislatures in the several Bible- and Sun-belt states. Best of luck with that.

The movie-theater-texting shooter: Doesn't look like Bruce Willis to me.

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