“Florida’s 10-20-life statute is an ironclad reason that criminals should not use guns as a tool of the trade,” Tom Lyons at heraldtribune.com writers. “Even if the crime might otherwise result in a lesser sentence, carrying a gun assures a mandatory 10 years in prison, that law says. Fire that gun, no matter how harmlessly, and the mandatory minimum doubles. Hurt anyone with that shot and the required sentence becomes 25-to-life, Florida statute 775.087 specifies. So, by law, Michael Jordan Mitchell seems to have earned at least 25 years in prison. There is no apparent way around it for the Sarasota Military Academy student who shot another teenager in response to racial taunting. But that’s not the sentence Mitchell got, thanks to a trick prosecutors often use in plea deals. And I’m not complaining.” Yeah? Well I am. First, here’s the background . . .
Mitchell, then 18, was with friends last year outside a Main Street movie theater when they were approached by two white students who had just driven by while yelling and waving a large Confederate flag. When the pair approached on foot, still waving that flag and shouting what seemed to be race-baiting words, Mitchell, who is black, confronted them. He asked the loud pair if they were racists.
Daniel Adam Azeff, also 18, responded without really answering the question, it seems, saying they were exercising freedom of speech, police reports said.
The flag wavers were being jerks, but what happened next was terrible. Mitchell pulled a gun from his waistband — a .22-caliber pistol his family had no idea he owned — and shot Azeff in the chest.
Azeff recovered. Columnist Lyons goes on to give Mitchell’s 10-year (instead of 25-to-life) plea deal a thumbs up: “I agree with former prosecutor Wyndell Darville that this legal dodge resulted in a good balance of justice and mercy.”
Again, I couldn’t disagree more. First, Mitchell was carrying an illegal gun. Second, he was not responding to an imminent threat of death or grave bodily harm. Like any LEGAL gun owner, he should have simply walked or, if necessary, run away. But he didn’t. He fired a bullet into another human being.
The fact that his victim didn’t die was simply a matter of luck.
When you own a gun, you must understand when you can and can NOT use it. If someone calls you a name, that does not justify lethal force. And if you use your gun illegally, you deserve to face the consequences of the law. Period. That applies to me, you, law enforcement, the military and Michael Jordan Mitchell.
There are always extenuating circumstances. There is a clear difference between a hardened criminal and a law-abiding citizen walking down a public street (which doesn’t include Mitchell as that he was packing heat illegally). All these factors are taken into consideration by law enforcement, the district attorney, prosecutor, judge and/or jury.
But a mandatory sentence is not a deterrent unless it’s mandatory. And responsible gun owners have nothing to fear—if they act reasonably, responsibly and in good faith.