Ladd Everitt, the Director of Communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, is earning his pay once again. His latest screed, Why ‘Stand Your Ground’ is really ‘Kill at Will’, is a breathtaking example of the antis’ stock in trade: half-truths, untruths and flat out lies with a liberal sprinkling of logical fallacies. To wit: “What do you call a law that allows a person to shoot and kill another human being when they could otherwise walk away safely? I can only call it immoral.” When he starts the journey that way, you know it’s going to be a bumpy ride . . .
This particular fallacy is what is called a false dichotomy or false dilemma: By offering only two options (shoot or walk away safely) Laddie ignores a broad spectrum of other possible choices, including (but not limited to) walk away and get killed yourself. We could quite easily flip the question around and ask:
What do you call a law that requires the accused to prove their innocence of a crime instead of making prosecutors prove guilt?
I can only call it immoral and unConstitutional.
See how easy that is? The main difference, however, is that I’m not presenting a false dichotomy; what I presented is the all too real nightmare facing law-abiding citizens in states which do not have SYG or its equivalent in case law. Law-abiding citizens who’ve had to use deadly force to defend themselves or a loved one and are now face decades in prison if they cannot convince a jury that they acted in self-defense.
With George Zimmerman soon headed to a pre-trial hearing to evaluate whether he will be protected by the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, it is important to understand exactly how the law has made permissible the use of lethal force and legalized acts of murder that previously never would have been deemed “justifiable homicides.”
I’m sorry; I have to digress briefly to talk about “justifiable homicides.” That term actually has a very specific meaning which can be found in the DoJ’s Uniform Crime Report:
In the UCR Program, justifiable homicide is defined as and limited to:
- The killing of a felon by a peace officer in the line of duty.
- The killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen. Because these killings are determined through law enforcement investigation to be justifiable, they are tabulated separately from murder and nonnegligent manslaughter.
This, BTW, is why the antis are always very careful to talk about justifiable homicide instead of self-defense shootings or DGUs (see above about “half-truths”) because unless it is determined that the criminal was committing a felony when killed, a DGU by a citizen is not counted as a “justifiable homicide”.
Okay end of digression…on to schooling the morons professionals at CSGV about what passage of Florida’s SYG law did and did not change when it comes to using deadly force. In Florida the bill which created SYG, SB436, changed nothing in the standards for the lawful use of deadly force. Before SB436 passed, 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
Once the bill was passed and took effect, 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 keep that in mind as Laddie-boy explains how the law has made permissible the use of lethal force and legalized acts of murder that previously never would have been deemed “justifiable homicides.”
In the wake of Zimmerman’s slaying of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, I have frequently heard people claim, “The ‘Stand Your Ground’ law does not allow you follow someone!” Often, the people claiming this are the ones responsible for the law, like the bill’s sponsor, Florida House Representative Dennis Baxley and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who signed it into law.
Ladd is actually displaying two different but related logical fallacies here: The first is argumentum ad populum or as it is sometimes called the bandwagon fallacy. Just because a bunch of people are saying something doesn’t make it true. The second fallacy shown here is argumentum ad verecundiam or argument from authority; just because the former governor and the bill’s sponsor say something does not make it true.
And in fact the law does not say anything about “following someone”. The part which I believe Ladd is referring to states that the SYG defense is not generally available if someone [i]nitially provokes the use of force against himself or herself. Of course the nice thing about argumenta ad verecundiam or ad populum is that when someone catches you lying your ass off misrepresenting the facts they can aver that they never said any such thing, they were just quoting what some other people said. So now Ladd swoops in with some pretty nasty character assassination/insinuation and the gotcha!:
But, of course, Zimmerman had been carrying a gun and following — some would say stalking — young black men in his community for months before he ever encountered Trayvon Martin.
See if George was following people, and following people was illegal then he obviously was an evil racist bigot murderer-in-waiting. But this was not the case; this was a member of the Neighborhood Watch working to become the extra “eyes and ears” of law enforcement personnel. In fact that phrase, Eyes and Ears, is used 5 separate times in the manual, describing how to effect the crime reduction part of the Neighborhood Watch’s mission.
Some would say stalking? Seriously? Stalking? According to eHow.com, in Florida:
Misdemeanor stalking in the first degree involves the repeated, persistent and malicious harassment or following of a person. The harassment of the victim must cause significant emotional distress to satisfy the legal definition.
That is a far cry from mentoring at risk (black) youths in Orlando, spending countless hours trying to raise community awareness and seek justice for a homeless (black) man who was beaten by the (white) son of a police officer, or being the sole volunteer when your HOA wanted to form a neighborhood watch.
This sentence also presents not one but two more logical fallacies: argumentum ad metum or an appeal to fear and argumentum a anonymi auctoritate or argument from anonymous authority. The appeal to fear is quite obvious; George was stalking poor innocent youths of color (and Ladd ignores the inconvenient facts that George himself was a ‘person of color’ and that the solved crimes in the neighborhood virtually all involved ‘youths of color’). The appeal to anonymous authority is subtler; the shadowy some who would call it stalking is right up there with the government experts who tell us that public safety will not be affected by the nuclear plant.
Finally we get to that last bit of argumentum ad metum where Laddie tells us that George carried a gun. And we all know that anyone who carries a gun is paranoid and probably a conspiracy nut. Unfortunately for Ladd all the viewing with alarm in the world will not change the simple fact that George and his wife carried guns because of problems they’d had with an aggressive pit bull in the neighborhood. Originally George carried pepper spray to deal with the threat until a SPD officer urged him to get a gun instead.
But Mr. Everitt continues, telling us that while George was stalking following urban youths in his neighborhood:
He even notified police when he did so.
OMG! He notified police?!? (Wait, isn’t that what the antis say you are supposed to do when you see something suspicious?)
If you follow that link, you find out that George Zimmerman made forty-six 911 calls. And if you don’t look too closely it is easy to miss the fact that he made those calls over a period of 7½ years for an average of a little more than one call every two months.
Included in the totals are 2 calls to report fire alarms going off, 3 repeat/follow-up calls for the same incident, 2 calls when his house alarm went off when he wasn’t home, calls for garage doors left open, disturbances . . . if you winnow through the chaff you find 9 reports of suspicious persons or behavior. Nine calls in 7½ years doesn’t sound nearly as over-the-top as 46 though.
Unmentioned in the linked story is the fact that police had been called to the community four hundred and two times in the 13 months preceding the shooting (11 of those calls (or 2.7%) were from Zimmerman). Also unmentioned in the linked story is the fact that the Sanford PD’s community programs coordinator Wendy Dorival told Zimmerman (and others) at a Neighborhood Watch meeting “If it’s someone you don’t recognize, call us. We’ll figure it out.” Hardly sounds like the SPD thought George called them too many times.
But finally Ladd addresses the real problem with the law:
The law did, however, require individuals to retreat from physical confrontations in public if they could safely do so. If you were cornered in an alley, pinned to the ground or otherwise out of options to retreat, you could defend yourself with lethal force.
Aye, there’s the rub as Hamlet said; who gets to decide whether or not you could have safely retreated? When the law says you have the duty to retreat (DTR) before you can use deadly force, it’s the prosecutor who decides and G-d help you if s/he is anti-gun or wants to polish up the “tough-on-crime” credentials in preparation for a run at higher office.
Don’t believe that could happen in the good old U.S.A.? Well buckle up and read about Jay Lewis of West Des Moines Iowa. The prosecutor dropped most of the charges and Jay was eventually acquitted of all the rest, but in the interim he lost his job, was evicted from his apartment and lost most of his possessions. Why did the prosecutor go all the way to trial?
“We just don’t allow people to go shoot people,” [Polk County Attorney John Sarcone] said. “Using deadly force is a last resort. It shouldn’t be the first resort.”
This parody of justice actually took place while the IA State Legislature was debating SYG (which would have given Mr. Lewis the presumption of innocence). Mr. Sarcone was (and remains) opposed to such laws because I don’t know why people are afraid of jury trials. I’m not. (And in case you hadn’t already guessed it, yes John is white, Jay is black and Jay’s assailants were white.)
Another problem with DTR is the classic Monday Morning Quarterback syndrome, as played by the police and prosecutors. In the cold clear light of day they will be asking: Why didn’t you retreat down this alley, why didn’t you hide in that building, there was a patrol car two blocks away why didn’t you call for help . . . etc. ad nauseum. Even the Supreme Court has recognized the difficulties with duty to retreat. In Brown v. United States, 256 US 335 (1921) Justice Holmes, writing for the majority, gave us the classic [d]etached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife. I think, however, that the following sentence is even more apropos for the SYG/DTR debate:
Therefore in this Court, at least, it is not a condition of immunity that one in that situation should pause to consider whether a reasonable man might not think it possible to fly with safety or to disable his assailant rather than to kill him.
Ladd, however, is letting his mask slip more and more as he continues:
But if it’s possible to just turn around and walk away, go home and sleep it off, and avoid escalating the conflict, the law required you to do so.
That’s no longer the case in the 25 states that have enacted “Stand Your Ground” laws at the behest of the National Rifle Association (NRA) … In those states, if you’ve had a terrible day, if you just don’t like the other guy very much or if you want to try out that new handgun you just bought, you can feel free to escalate the level of violence in a physical altercation by shooting him.
So according to Ladd I, and gun owners like me, are sociopaths; nothing but seething cauldrons of homicidal rage and hate, so morally bankrupt that our burning desire to ‘slap leather’ and gun someone down is only held in check by possible legal consequences. If I had my way I would joyfully murder people left and right. Bump into me at the mall? BLAM! You’re toast. Walk on my lawn and I’ll fertilize it with your blood. Got too many bullets in my gun? I’ll down a cop.
But why oh why is the NRA ‘behesting’ SYG laws? Besides the whole, you know, restoring the presumption of innocence to defendants and ensuring that criminal scumbags and their families can’t profit by suing the law-abiding citizen who put an end to said scumbag’s career. Ladd explains:
Why is the NRA pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws? For the same reason it pushes a number of other laws meant to deregulate the purchase, possession and use of firearms — to sell more guns. Gun ownership has declined dramatically in the past 30 years, to the point that only one in five Americans now owns a firearm (and only one in 10 women). The gun industry’s challenge is to sell to men who already own multiple firearms. Industry marketing is focused on doing this by aggressively promoting military-style firearms (such as semiautomatic AR-15s and AK-47s) and “carry” guns (compact, semiautomatic handguns with “stopping power”).
How silly of me. It’s the Eee-vil Gun Lobby® trying to bolster their profits. Everyone knows that gun sales have been steadily dropping ever since President Obama took office (just ask Josh Horwitz, he’ll explain why increased NICS checks actually mean lower sales). I guess that makes the folks over at Gallup shills for the Eee-vil Gun Lobby® when their October 2011 poll found that slightly more than a third (34%) of American adults personally owned a gun, men 2:1 over women at 46% and 23% respectively (hardly the 20% vs. 10% Ladd claims). As the Gallup release says in their Bottom Line:
A clear societal change took place regarding gun ownership in the early 1990s, when the percentage of Americans saying there was a gun in their home or on their property dropped from the low to mid-50s into the low to mid-40s and remained at that level for the next 15 years. Whether this reflected a true decline in gun ownership or a cultural shift in Americans’ willingness to say they had guns is unclear. However, the new data suggest that attitudes may again be changing. At 47%, reported gun ownership is the highest it has been in nearly two decades … [emphasis added]
Well trying to sell more guns explains why the Eee-vil Gun Lobby® has been pushing “shall-issue” laws all over the country (if you ignore the civil rights arguments and the fact that 62% of the peer-reviewed national studies by criminologists and economists show these laws reduce crime, 34% show no change and less than 4% (only 1 in fact) shows even a temporary slight increase in one category of crime). Although, given the subsequent drop in crime rates (note I said subsequent, not consequent) such a strategy would seem counterproductive since you would think as crime goes down gun sales go down. But Ladd can make the connection:
By pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws, the NRA sends a clear message to the hotrods and wannabe vigilantes that’s[sic] it’s okay to buy yourself that new carry gun, bring it out into public and even use it without fear of legal repercussions. Then, when the rest of us realize that we are walking our streets surrounded by armed individuals with questionable backgrounds and terrible judgment (like Zimmerman), the NRA is hoping that we too will feel compelled to arm ourselves in public. It is a strategy that is both cunning and sick.
Wow, okay, what to say in the fact of such invincible ignorance: To start with, who here thinks George Zimmerman isn’t facing legal repercussions? And why, given the state of the economy, would I want to buy another carry weapon (remember, Ladd says that [t]he gun industry’s challenge is to sell to men who already own multiple firearms)? As for George’s terrible judgment I think if I were a 5’9” and 200 pound man, on my back with a broken nose, two black eyes and a 6-foot tall 160 pound teen banging my head against the concrete “MMA style” I would be displaying terrible judgment if I didn’t shoot him! As for Ladd’s insinuation that permit holders are (pardon the expression) loose cannons, let’s look at the facts, shall we?
The state of Florida has almost 25 years of data on permits and their revocations. For the mathematically challenged I already crunched the data, Florida permit holders have a 0.3% overall revocation rate and a 0.008% revocation rate for firearm related crimes. So much for Laddie-buck’s armed individuals with questionable backgrounds and terrible judgment. And speaking of sick and cunning, Ladd continues:
The NRA has shown us a roadmap to a society that relies solely on private violence — and the threat of private violence — to keep its citizens in line. Such a society absolves people of the responsibility to learn how to manage conflicts nonviolently, without escalating them.
Again Ladd seems to think that anyone who takes responsibility for their own safety by exercising the freedom to own and carry the weapon of their choice; a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right (subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility) is some sort of sociopath who would prefer to commit murder than walk away from a confrontation (this is sometimes referred to as projection).
However, setting that aside, let’s look at the unstated assumptions that Laddie is trotting out; primarily the one that more guns = more crime. First of all, Dr. Lott and his associates have fairly thoroughly quashed that one. Second, I know it may be hard for Ladd to grasp, but DGUs save twice as many lives annually as are lost to CGUs. Hang on, because there’s math . . .
According to a study performed by Drs. Kleck and Gertz in the early 1990s there are between 2.1 and 2.5 million DGUs annually. Now there are a lot of people out there who deride this number as ludicrous so (without questioning its validity) let’s go ahead and throw the K-G number out in favor of a more conservative one. Let’s use the numbers from the study which was commissioned by the Clinton DoJ shortly after the K-G study came out (to refute the K-G numbers maybe? If so: Oops!). That study, conducted by Drs. Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig (both of whom are very strong proponents of very strict gun control) concluded that there were 1.46 million DGUs per year.
Now some people may find even this lower number dubious, preferring to rely on the numbers from the National Crime Victimization Surveys which show between 50,000 and 100,000 DGUs per year. Unfortunately the way the NCVS is structured means that it seriously undercounts the number of DGUs. I’ll let Tom Smith explain:
First, it appears that the estimates of the NCVSs are too low. There are two chief reasons for this. First, only DGUs that are reported as part of a victim’s response to a specified crime are potentially covered. While most major felonies are covered by the NCVSs, a number of crimes such as trespassing, vandalism, and malicious mischief are not. DGUs in response to these and other events beyond the scope of the NCVSs are missed.
Second, the NCVSs do not directly inquire about DGUs. After a covered crime has been reported, the victim is asked if he or she “did or tried to do [anything] about the incident while it was going on.” Indirect questions that rely on a respondent volunteering a specific element as part of a broad and unfocused inquiry uniformly lead to undercounts of the particular of interest.
The other problem with the failure to inquire directly about DGUs is that the DGU question is only triggered by someone saying they were the victim of a crime. If a thug came towards me with a knife saying “Gimme your wallet,” and I put my hand on my weapon and replied “I don’t think so, Scooter,” causing the assailant to retreat, was I actually the victim of a crime? Before I started researching these issues I would have told the NCVS interviewer that no, I hadn’t been the victim of a crime so they never would have learned of my DGU.
So to try to figure out how many lives were saved, I turn once again to Kleck and Gertz’s article Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun. They found that 15.7% of people involved in a DGU believed that they “almost certainly” saved their life of someone else’s. That might strike some people as being an awfully large percentage, but most states require someone to be in “reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm” before you can lawfully threaten or use deadly force, the number seems more feasible. In addition to the “almost certainly” pool, The K-G study also found that 14.6% of respondents believed that someone “probably would have” been killed if not for their DGU.
Because I want my numbers to be distinctly conservative let’s say that 9 out of 10 of the “almost certainly” folks were wrong, and let’s say that 99 out of 100 of the “probably” people were also incorrect. So I can state with a fair degree of certainty that at least 1.716% of the 1.46 million DGUs saved a life. Doing the math that translates to over 25,000 lives that are saved annually by guns.
So we’ve determined that at least 25,000 lives per year are saved by DGUs, and according to the CDC, between 1999 and 2009 there were an average of 11,800 gun-related homicides annually, which means that for every criminal homicide with a firearm there were more than two lives saved by DGUs.
It’s not a society I want to see my daughters grow up in.
You know Ladd, I couple the DGU/CGU rates with the facts (from Gun Facts ver. 6.1 pp. 42-44) that women are far less likely to be injured in a criminal attack and are a tenth as likely to be successfully raped when they defend themselves with a gun as when they are unarmed and I think it is a society I want to see my sisters, nieces and step-daughters grow up in.
 Defensive Gun Uses
 In fact on the 911 call, Jay can be heard repeatedly telling his assailants to leave him alone
 Before the Brady Campaign soils themselves, it’s a cultural reference: The Last Boy Scout
 Criminal Gun Uses