The Fatal Flaw In The New York Times’ “Logic”

The New York Times has weighed in on the Trayvon Marin shooting. Unsurprisingly they are opposed to relaxed gun laws in general and Stand Your Ground (SYG) in particular. Before I start my dissection let’s get one thing perfectly clear: SB436, the bill which created SYG, changed nothing in the standards for the lawful use of deadly force. Before SYG, someone was only allowed to use deadly force if . . .

He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony

After SYG passed, someone was only allowed to use deadly force:

if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

What SYG did do was explicitly remove the any “duty to retreat”:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes etc.

So what is this “duty to retreat” that keeps popping up? Quite simply it is the method by which anti-gun and anti-self-defense prosecutors could punish law-abiding citizens who have the temerity to defend themselves (as Sean McClanahan details in Stand Your Ground, Lose Everything) instead of being raped and strangled/beaten and robbed or what have you.

Even if your local prosecutor is not an anti and isn’t trying to buff up his/her ‘tough on crime’ credentials in preparation for a run for Assemblyman or Governor, having a duty to retreat means you have to try and convince the cops, the prosecutors, the judge and ultimately a jury that you could not safely retreat from a confrontation. In football this is called “Monday morning quarterbacking”, where, with the advantage of hindsight, other people are going to judge your actions; except instead of taking flack from co-workers at the water cooler over your teams game play, you face 25 to life.

So what the NYTEB (too lazy to keep writing The New York… etc.) have to say on the subject?

As the investigation of the shooting death of the teenager Trayvon Martin by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman goes forward in Florida,

Okay, first I’m not sure that George Zimmerman was any kind of self-appointed anything; according to his father, George was driving to the store when he spotted someone acting suspiciously. Second, since when is it a bad thing to call the cops when you see something suspicious in a neighborhood that has seen more than its share of burglaries? Isn’t that what the government is always telling us to do? If You See Something, Say Something™, right? Anyway, the TEB (sorry, now I’m too lazy to write NYTEB) continues:

news accounts are reporting a toll of shootings, knifings and other violent homicides in which the state’s dangerous Stand Your Ground law was successfully claimed as a defense.

I’m not sure I am familiar with any homicides that weren’t violent, but we’ll let that little bit of hyperbole pass to address all the successful uses of this dangerous law. So we’ll start with the first example the TEB gives us which is the, um, just a second here . . . well gosh darn it! They don’t appear to give any examples other than:

The killings included domestic disputes, barroom brawls and drug violence, according to The Tampa Bay Times, which surveyed 130 cases in which the 2005 law has been invoked.

So domestic disputes like The Burning Bed? Or less spectacular ones where one spouse gets tired of being a punching bag for the other and so shoots him/her? Barroom brawls like the one my friend Steve almost got into where three drunk-ass rednecks took offense at his loafers and carefully coiffed hair (his mother’s a hairdresser and uses him as a training model), called him a faggot (which he definitely isn’t) and started to follow him out of the bar when he tried to leave (until he told them he had a gun)? That kind of barroom brawl? Or maybe this kind, where a drunk tried to knife a bouncer and was shot for his pains? Or this kind where three men tried to rob a bar and one was shot and killed?

As for drug violence, since Florida’s SYG specifically states:

776.013(3)  A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat etc.

SYG has no relevance to any of those cases. Really, you’d think that the TEB would have higher standards when it comes to fact-checking and not, well, lying. But they press on:

Seventy percent of the cases involved a fatality; more than half of the cases did not have to go to trial.

Again, why is that a bad thing and again what does that have to do with Stand Your Ground? Remember, SYG does not change the circumstances under which deadly force is allowed, it merely removed the duty to retreat. So what the TEB is saying here is that when the police determine that the person who used deadly force was reasonably in fear of death or great bodily harm, they should go to trial anyway? I guess that tells us how the TEB feels about law-abiding citizens being “allowed” to defend themselves.

But back to George and Trayvon:

So far, that is the laissez-faire situation in the Trayvon Martin slaying. The civilian shooter, George Zimmerman, ignored a 911 dispatcher’s instructions, tracked the teen he found suspicious, unholstered his gun and fired — and then claimed immunity under the law. With the boy dead, Mr. Zimmerman was taken at his word when he claimed that his life was threatened in a confrontation.

Yeah, well actually, not quite (see above about fact-checking). I would probably have written the paragraph this way:

So far, that is the laissez-faire situation in the Trayvon Martin slaying. The civilian shooter, George Zimmerman, ignored a 911 dispatcher’s comment that he didn’t need to follow the teen he found suspicious, but lost the boy. Upon returning to his car, he was accosted by the teen and knocked to the ground. According to a witness, Trayvon was on top of George, beating his head against the sidewalk while George was screaming for help. Fearing for his life, George unholstered his gun, which Trayvon grabbed. The gun went off (okay, no I would never write that) George fired — and then claimed he acted in self-defense. With all the available evidence supporting Mr. Zimmerman’s claims of being assaulted, he was taken back to the station and interviewed before being released.

How do I know Trayvon grabbed George’s gun? Because the fired casing was still in the chamber, indicating the slide was restrained (as if it were being held by someone). How do I know that the evidence supported George’s claim that he was assaulted? I read Officer Timothy Smith’s report (page 7 of this document) where he states that as he was disarming George, he noted the back of George’s jacket was wet and covered in grass. And that George was bleeding from the nose and back of the head. And that as he was sitting handcuffed in the back of the squad George said “I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me.”

See TEB, this is called “fact-checking” and if an OFWG sitting at his home computer can dig up all this information in less than an hour why the F%#K can’t “authorized journalists” with dedicated research departments and interns do the same?

The victim was unarmed, walking back from a store. A videotape of Mr. Zimmerman’s arrival handcuffed at the local police headquarters shows none of the cuts and bruises he claimed resulted from an attack by the teenager. Audio experts have been asked to analyze police tapes of screams from the scene and a possible racial epithet uttered by Mr. Zimmerman about the black teenager.

Actually although the best angles are (curiously enough) blocked by the ABC News logo. At time 1:06 you can see what looks like it could be a cut on the back of George’s head, and enhanced stills of the videotape more clearly show a 4-inch gash on the back of his head. In addition, at 0:51 on the tape you can see an officer examining the back of George’s head.

While the TEB mentions audio experts analyzing the “possible racial epithet,” they don’t mention the results. That’s curious because it took an OFWG on a three-year-old computer  using the home edition of SoundForge AudioStudio ver. 10.0 that he’s been playing around with for maybe a month about 5 minutes to answer that question. Which again leads me to ask: why the F%#K can’t “authorized journalists” do the same?

Reported differences between local and state investigators over whether to charge Mr. Zimmerman initially only underline the dangerous vagaries of Stand Your Ground laws passed at the demand of the gun lobby in a score of states. Their lethal flaw is the abolition of the traditional legal duty to retreat from a threat before resorting to deadly force.

“Dangerous vagaries”? What vagaries would those be? The law clearly states:

A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.

So again, the TEB just wants anyone who has used force to defend themselves or their loved ones from a forcible felony, great bodily harm or death to be arrested and thrown in the jug, even absent probable cause to believe that the law has been broken. Kind of a scary attitude coming from such a reputable big widely read self-important newspaper.

And there is no traditional duty to retreat; this so-called duty was the invention of late 19th and 20th Century jurists who, like the TEB, loathed the idea of uppity peasants (or ‘colored folks’) defending themselves from those who would do them harm.

Indeed, until recently it has been victims of domestic violence (burning beds aside) and minorities who have suffered most under the duty to retreat; women who killed stalkers or abusive spouses were told “you could have just run away”. A classic example of strong self-defense protections aiding minorities can be found in the case of Dr. Ossian Sweet who, with family and friends, defended his home from a racist mob. All were acquitted for their defensive actions.

The air of legalized mayhem stirred by the shooting is underscored by the separate news that Florida residents continue to flock in record numbers to obtain concealed-weapon permits. There are 900,000 residents licensed to carry guns in the state amid a population of 19 million people, with officials reporting 58,000 applications and renewals last month.

Ah, yes, because when lots of people have guns, there must be mayhem, right? Except according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services of the 2,145,632 CWPs issued since October 1, 1987 exactly 168 have been revoked for criminal use of a gun. For the mathematically challenged that is less than 8 out of 100,000. I’ll say it one more time: Permit holders are far more law-abiding than virtually any other demographic.

The TEB sums up:

The tragedy of Trayvon Martin is ongoing as political leaders nationally and in Florida extend personal sympathy while ducking the underlying gun-control issue. Stand Your Ground should be abolished from the land.

No, the tragedy of Trayvon Martin is an ongoing blood-dance of ever less relevant anti-gunners and their old-media puppets trying desperately to twist the killing of a 17 year-old boy into something to support their lackluster and failed agenda of victim disarmament.