OMG! A Stand Your Ground Law! In Massachusetts! OMG!

Anti-gun groups have seized on the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, operating under the assumption that you should never let a good firearms-related tragedy go to waste. Regardless of the facts. The resulting media meme: the Sunshine State has “lax” gun laws brought into being by the evil gun lobby. As Paul Valone wrote, if George Zimmerman didn’t shoot Martin Trayvon in self-defense, Florida’s vilified Stand Your Ground (SYG) law has nothing to do with it. If he did, the law “grants immunity from litigation and malicious prosecution for people who justifiably use deadly force.” As it should. Right? Not if you’re from Massachusetts . . .

Here’s the text of Massachusetts’ “Common Defense Bill,” sponsored by Democratic State Sen. Stephen Brewer.

Section 8A. It shall be an act of lawful defense if a person, who is an occupant of a dwelling or in any place that they have a right to be, used deadly force, or less than deadly force, if he or she acted in the reasonable belief that an assailant was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon themselves or upon another person who also had a right to be in the location. There shall be no duty on a person to retreat from any place that they have a right to be. An act of lawful defense as outlined in this section shall not be cause for arrest or prosecution. Further, an act of lawful defense under this section shall not be cause for the revocation of a license issued under sections, 122, 123, 129B or 131 of Chapter 140.

Click here to listen to a WBUR radio interview with Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League, about the bill. You know; in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. You want to talk about informed, objective journalism or reasoned debate? Go somewhere else, ’cause here’s the text of the interviewer’s first question:

So Mr. Wallace it does seem that the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black boy [!] who was carrying a box of Skittles is exactly the kind of tragic outcome that this kind of law would encourage. Why is it a good idea?

Jimbo parries well. Unfortunately, he fails to make it completely clear that a self-defense shooter’s belief that their life was in danger at the time of a shooting isn’t enough under this or any other SYG law. The shooter’s belief must pass legal review.

By the same token, it’s critical to note that the “reasonable person” test for justifiable ballistic self-defense doesn’t refer to the shooter; it’s the DA and (perhaps) the jury that determines what’s reasonable in any given set of circumstances.

The WBUR interview is pretty bad, complete with ye olde Wild West analogy, “the cops are against SYG so you’re on the wrong side of the issue” and only cops are qualified to use armed self-defense shtick.

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald gives voice to a Trayvon-fuelled anti-gun activist appalled by the possibility of a Massachusetts SYG law.

“It’s an excuse to kill without accountability. We don’t need it in Massachusetts, and shame on Steve Brewer for proposing it,” said John Rosenthal, the head of Stop Handgun Violence. “Look no farther than Trayvon Martin.”

Better yet, blue state Bay Staters shouldn’t think for themselves. Or, God forbid, consider the facts of the matter. Otherwise, they might form an entirely different opinion than the one promoted by the not-entirely-unpredictable confluence of race baiters and gun grabbers who see Martin’s death as their time to shine.

As for Brewer’s SYG bill, Massachusetts governor Duvall Patrick has the final word: “It won’t get past my desk.”

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

15 Responses to OMG! A Stand Your Ground Law! In Massachusetts! OMG!

  1. avatarkarlb says:

    Another question of the Best and Brightest. I have often read on this forum that English Common Law is the source of our 2nd Ammendment rights, so any attempt to limit gun ownership is an affront to over a millennium of legal tradition. Yet stand your ground laws remove the idea that the person who is in fear for his or her live must retreat if possible. Why is this change to Common Law acceptable when changes that are more restrictive are not?

    • avatarRalph says:

      karlb, statutory changes to Common Law are permitted and not unconstitutional just because they change common law. The rule is that statutes in derogation of common law are to be strictly construed, but they’re perfectly valid.

      • avatarkarlb says:

        I agree that they are legally valid. I guess I was searching for a more foundational answer. Why is the age-old idea that one must try to avoid violence if possible out of date?

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          The notion that “one must try to retreat from violence if possible” is not age-old, but a creature of the 20th century, with few exceptions. What is age-old is the idea that one should not start a fight, throw the first punch, though even that rule had modifications in many jurisdictions, such as the now-antiquated “fighting words” concept and the often complete affirmative defense that you’d just caught your wife in bed with another man (VT). Another antiquated notion which seems to be quickly fading is that somehow an attack with fists and feet is less lethal than a shot from a pistol. People across the world kill every day merely with their hands and feet, while many survive a bullet or two.

        • avatarkarlb says:

          According to the work No Duty to Retreat: Violence and Values in American History and Society, by Richard Maxwell Brown, the duty to retreat is a centuries old Common Law expectation. Instead, much more recent is the idea of stand your ground.

          I am not sure if you are really arguing that hands and feet are equally dangerous to firearms. If this is true, I have no idea why anyone needs a weapon. You are absolutely correct that people are killed every day by fists and feet and that people survive gunshots, but does that actually make them equivalent?

        • avatarKendahl says:

          Ropingdown isn’t saying that fists and feet are equivalent to a gun. His point is that they are capable of damage far greater than a bloody nose or a split lip. An attack by an unarmed assailant can justifiably be countered with deadly force when the victim is smaller, weaker and/or less skilled.

        • avatarkarlb says:

          Here is his quotation: “Another antiquated notion which seems to be quickly fading is that somehow an attack with fists and feet is less lethal than a shot from a pistol.” that seems to clearly say hands and feet are as lethal as a handgun.

        • avatarDarren says:

          SYG is simply strengthening of self-defense law to prevent aggressive prosecutors from adding legal bills and criminal jeopardy to the trauma of being placed in the position of fearing for your life and being forced to defend yourself. I’m fine with it as long as it’s not used as an excuse to forego a police investigation.

          The concept of justifiable homicide has been present in Common Law as well. SYG laws strengthen the ability to claim justifiable homicide when the situation is appropriate.

    • avatarMoonshine7102 says:

      Wait. Hold up. Full stop. You want the law to make sense?! You’re not from around here, are you? ;)

  2. avatarSlappy says:

    For those who do not live in the WBUR listening area, I’d like to point out the fact that it is an NPR radio station. In other words, a tax-payer funded, left-wing liberal, moonbat propoganda outlet.

    I’m not at all surprised that Mr. Wallace’s interview was skewed against the proposed SYG law.

    Even without considering the rabid situation surrounding the Trayvon Martin case, a SYG law will never see the light of day in loony-bin Massachusetts.

  3. avatarMark Kimball says:

    People like John Rosenthal are the reason why Adolf Hitler was able to round up 6 million Jews, and exterminate them in death camps. Despite the horrific loss of innocent life, the Rosenthals of the world have learned nothing from that sacrifice.

    Perhaps if more Jews acted like their brethren who fought in the Warsaw ghetto, Germany would have decided that herding the Jews off to death camps was too much bother. If two Germans were killed for every Jew taken into custody, they might have focused their attention on somebody else. Sure, they might have annihilated the Jews anyway, but there would have been a lot more dead Germans as a result. And maybe the piling up of dead Germans would have caused Hitler and the rest of his evil regime to reconsider.

    The Jews always retort “Never again” when the subject of the Holocaust comes up. With folks like Rosenthal making policy, “Never again” becomes “maybe tomorrow”.

  4. avatarTom says:

    As for Brewer’s SYG bill, Massachusetts governor Duvall Patrick has the final word: “It won’t get past my desk.”
    No surprise in this State.

  5. avatarBob says:

    I have suffered 2 heart attacks and have a bad knee which makes it impossible for me to run, so why should I have to retreat if I am doing nothing wrong? I am in the right, then I should be able to to defend myself right where I stand, period.

    • avatarkarlb says:

      Common law says retreat if possible. If one cannot retreat or avoid the confrontation, then one may defend him or herself.

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