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Lefties are using the tragic death of Trayvon Martin as an occasion to call into question ‘stand your ground’ (SYG) laws. In the face of a legitimate threat, the duty to retreat is removed from citizens who have a right to be where they are, their right to self defense is explicitly affirmed and they’re shielded from prosecution. Disparaged by the anti-2A crowd as “shoot first” laws, these statutes are being blamed of a number of perceived injustices. What’s missing from these thoughtful meditations on SYG, though, is why the laws exist in the first place . . .

During the 2008 election, prosecutors from both St. Louis City and St. Louis County stepped up to be part of the so-called “Obama Truth Squad” to take on anyone who “…lies or runs a misleading TV ad during the presidential campaign.” Both Jennifer Joyce, Circuit Attorney for the City of St. Louis and Bob McCullough, St. Louis County prosecutor here in my home state of Missouri, were excoriated for their implicit willingness to use the power of their offices to intimidate people for exercising their First Amendment rights. At the time I thought it appalling that any public official would even think that was an acceptable idea, much less talk about it in public like it was no big deal.

If Democrat prosecutors like Joyce and McCullough would put it out there that I could be prosecuted for saying something about a political candidate that one of them believes is a lie, what would I expect to get if I were involved in a defensive gun use?

“Progressive” tools like Joyce and McCullough are every bit as contemptuous of the Second Amendment as they are the First. For decades, men and women have been forced to live under misguided laws that did nothing to reduce gun crime but made it safer to carjack, rob or invade the homes of otherwise law-abiding citizens. Progs don’t believe in self-defense if the exercise of self-defense runs afoul of a beloved shibboleth such as “all gun use is evil.”

Defending oneself is one of those no-brainer concepts that too many people with expensive educations can’t seem to understand. Because these highly educated types tend to get elected in areas where crime is a problem, they represent a very real threat to the liberty of law abiding citizens who defend themselves.

Stand your ground or castle doctrine laws such as those we have in Missouri only exist because the people demanded their representatives strip showboating prosecutors of the ability to heap injustice upon a citizen for doing what everyone knows is a natural right- defending his own life.

Inevitably, laws written to correct a lack of common sense will create situations where injustice can take place. While I haven’t seen a credible circumstance where a SYG or castle doctrine shielded someone who clearly committed murder from prosecution, I imagine it could happen. If or when it does, liberals will have no one to blame but themselves.

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  1. Every state should have castle or SYG laws on the books. It is a pipe dream I know.
    Might there be abuses of the law to try and hide behind, sure, just like any other law.
    The point is, despite these laws being on the books, I am sure there are many instances where some one clearly defended themselves or their home and was prosecuted. I remember a couple being posted here on TTAG.
    I live is CA so we are ass backwards. I can only imagine if someone came into my home in the middle of the night. We have six kids, and I don’t honestly think I would have time to grab my gun, wake them up, retreat to a safe room with locked door, and then dial 911. Of course if I shot the intruder coming up the stairs, would I be prosecuted?
    I would like to think that even if the intruder wasn’t armed with a fully automatic rifle in most cases the LEO would see that I was protecting my family. When you have little ones you don’t need a gun to cause them harm.
    It is a scary proposition to think my life could be ruined for nothing more than protecting my family.

    • Don’t worry. California law presumes that if someone breaks and enters your home, he/she intends to cause harm, thus justifying the use of deadly force. A successful prosecution would require the DA to prove that you were NOT acting in lawful self-defense. As you might imagine, prosecutions are rare. You should be protected as long as you are not firing shots outside the home, warning shots, or shots into the perp’s back, or worse yet, shooting one of your relatives.

      • What do relatives have to do with it?

        A relative breaking into your home can be just as dangerous as a stranger.

        • I think he means relatives that weren’t breaking into your home, such as a wife who got up to get a drink of water or a similar situation.

  2. As much as I agree with you that these people should have been thrown out of office for attempting to subvert the first amendment….

    ….I don’t think the post actually supports the thesis promised: namely that the actions of “liberal” prosecutors led to the enactment of Stand Your Ground laws. No citation is given indicating what sort of prosecutions Joyce & McCullough engaged in vis-a-vis allegedly defensive gun uses — or, indeed, anyone else.

    Sure, it sounds likely to me. But no, I’m not going to be part of an Amen chorus just because I like what you’re saying.

    • Totally agree! The title of this post has nothing to do with the body of it. It just sounds like McNabb is all wound up looking for connections that aren’t there. I agree with the principle but the argument is ineffective….

  3. “the so-called “Obama Truth Squad””

    Pravda is the new umbrella name for the American mass media.

  4. I am up for reasoned debate about SYG (although it’ll be pretty hard to turn me off of the idea), but the anti-2A scare tactics and gross misrepresentation of, well, everything, does nothing but muddy the water, and I’m confident that well intentioned people have gotten themselves in trouble because of it. A specific conversation I had once comes to mind. A buddy from FL and I were chatting and the Martin/Zimmerman shooting came up. My friend’s understanding of SYG was that it was a shoot-first/get out of jail policy “…because that’s what they were saying when they passed the law. Florida would become like the wild west because now it’s okay to kill anyone. That’s what they said on the news.” I pulled up the actual text of FL’s SYG law and corrected his thinking. He thanked me because he was about to get his permit and realized he might have ended up on the wrong end of a DGU. Everytime I hear someone say they support repealing SYG I pull out the text of GA’s justifiable homicide code and they change they’re tune because “the news said” CWPs were licenses to kill.

    • Point I’m making is “How many people have gone to jail because they believed misrepresentations made in the media (instead of knowing the actual laws of their jurisdiction like they should)?”

  5. I get confused about self-defense and other gun laws. It appears to me that a person is rewarded for shooting and killing a perpetrator, but if they miss or the perpetrator lives they seem to be punished. I’m not sure, so I will ask questions.

    How do you write laws to provide protection for victims without creating more victims? I mean, how do you protect a home owner from an invader versus a home owner shooting a visitor? Does it come down to testimony or hard evidence?

    Why are people punished for missing their target? Is it because the testimony proved they were not defending themselves? But if they had killed their target they would have been free?

    • This is all from my layman’s understanding. The lawyers who frequent this blog should please correct where I go astray:

      First of all the shooter’s story has to hold up. If you shoot a five-year-old who was holding a wiffle bat in living room, you’re going to fry. A 6’2″ 18-year-old with a tire iron and you’re probably going to be fine. The standard in most places is something like a reasonable fear of imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death. That means a “reasonable person” in the same situation would believe they might be seriously injured or killed.

      As for missing, I think a lot of that is situational. Warning shots are a horrible idea, because it undermines your claim of believing you feared serious injury or death. If you really feared that, why didn’t your shoot to stop the threat? Also, if they’re into the air or something like that, they’re irresponsible, because you don’t know where that bullet is going, and it could strike an innocent bystander. As for unintentional misses, other than hitting bystanders, I’ll have to leave it to others to answer, because I’m not sure what consequences could follow from that.

      • thanks for you input. So it’s about subjective interpretation of the facts. The facts are testimony of parties alive, and physical evidence on hand. Got it.

      • CarlosT, you did a great job on the “warning shot” issue. If someone has time for a warning shot, how can they be in fear of immediate harm? Instead of a warning shot, if there’s time a defender should yell his head off. A loud verbal warning is often effective all by itself, and even if it isn’t it helps to establish that the defender acted responsibly.

        As for missed shots in an otherwise justifiable shooting, the issue is where did the shot go. If someone kills his neighbor with a miss, he may be criminally responsible for the neighbor’s demise, and he certainly will be held responsible in a civil suit.

        Here’s some advice — don’t miss. And use hollow points.

        • In an effort to avoid firing shots that might miss and hit a neighbor, you should practice (without actually firing live rounds) what you would do and where you would go to defend yourself (and your family) in the event someone broke in. For me, I’ve picked out where in the bedroom I will set myself up, where I’ll send my wife, etc. While I realize it won’t always go this way, at least I have an idea what to do and where to go if the need arises.

  6. But if they repeal SYG laws, think of the support they will get from a certain segment of the population that benefits from crime. Hint: it isn’t taxpaying working folk.

  7. I think the brush is too broad here.

    “Progs don’t believe in self-defense if the exercise of self-defense runs afoul of a beloved shibboleth such as ‘all gun use is evil’.”

    I know plenty of “progs” in my wussy neck of the woods who are totally cool with armed self defense.

    “Defending oneself is one of those no-brainer concepts that too many people with expensive educations can’t seem to understand.”

    I have an expensive education. That’s why I gravitated to this realm of the Armed Intelligentsia. I understand the concept of self defense just fine.

    While it is true that there are many people out there who have been conditioned to be afraid of guns, my experience is that it is relatively easy to move an individual away from this fear by showing them how a virtuous gun owner talks about and handles firearms. And, of course, I have yet to meet any but the most hardened gun haters who would turn down an invitation to the range to handle some cool hardware.

    We are winning the gun debate:

    Let’s not push away people who are ready to support our view on the role guns play in the maintenance of civil life just because they are not conservies.

  8. I’ve been having a bit of a back and forth with a friend of mine about SYG. She’s one of those who’s misinformed about it, and believes it gives people the right to “hunt down” people they are suspicious of. Clearly this is bull, but her whole narrative of the Martin/Zimmerman affair is highly skewed and it’ll take more patience than I have to turn that whole mess around.

    But it’s an interesting window into a really distorted view of reality.

  9. It’s sort of like “mandatory minimum sentences”. Mostly, they came about because idiot judges didn’t want to give meaningful sentences to members of favored victim classes, but they also ultimately lead to some perverse results.

    • Anon in CT:
      “It’s sort of like “mandatory minimum sentences”. Mostly, they came about because idiot judges didn’t want to give meaningful sentences to members of favored victim classes, but they also ultimately lead to some perverse results.”

      Indeed – I think this is a commonsense connection as well.

  10. Please don’t use higher education as a straw man for politics with which you disagree. To say that someone who disagrees with you can only be doing so because of some personal failing or lack of moral character is terribly ignorant. These people are not despots and hacks because they went to college; that’s an ignorant and catastrophically oversimplified argument. Plenty of us hold university degrees and would be willing to shed blood if necessary to preserve essential and Constitutional rights.

    Being educated doesn’t make you a bad person anymore than being ignorant makes you a good one. The constant barrage of screeds against “intellectuals” is annoying and doesn’t really make any sense. Claiming that more education makes people dumber is, honestly, just plain stupid.

    Every time you say something about gun rights, you’re speaking for all of us, and you’re feeding your opponents the stew out of which they will pick choice bits to use in their counterarguments. When you claim ridiculous things like “people who have Ivy-League educations are incapable of logic”, you make us all look like the ignorant bumpkin caricature that the antis would like everyone to believe is an accurate portrayal of John Q Gunowner.

    There’s no reason to bend yourself so that nothing about you can offend your opponent, but it is equally inadvisable to feed them easily-refuted arguments full of logical fallacies so that they can tear apart your statements without having to address your arguments.

    Thank you, and thanks for fighting the good fight.

    • +1. I have an advanced degree, and I decry the constant attack on the educated and the intelligensia. Disagreement with positions taken is fine, but in a country that is starting to fall behind the growth curve in education, and thus is losing its forner pre-eminent position worldwide, attacks on education and the educated enforce a creed that “dumb is good.” The primary complaint of our public education system is that it no longer teaches to the middle, but instead to the lowest common denominator, dragging the rest of the class down as well. Intelligence and good education should be honored, not insulted.

    • “Claiming that more education makes people dumber is, honestly, just plain stupid.”

      This is not what I claimed. In fact, I would argue that if this is the best understanding of the First Amendment that these two can come up with, they are very poorly educated and are due a refund.

      I think it is inescapable that there is a certain type of idiocy that can only be attained by lengthy years of study at expensive schools. I am not anti-intellectual by any stretch of the imagination.

      If you have an expensive education and you are not an idiot, then I am not talking about you.

    • Every time you say something about gun rights, you’re speaking for all of us

      I’m calling bullshit on that statement. Nobody speaks for me but me. This whole notion of “collective guilt” is a form of insanity to which I do not subscribe.

    • Every time you say something about gun rights, you’re speaking for all of us

      There is a collectivist impulse loose in any society. On one hand, I am part of the community of gun owners and I have a platform larger than most. On the other hand, I am an individual, and generally think as an individual and speak as an individual.

      It is easy to lump folks into communities, then allow a tiny percentage to “speak” for all of them. I understand why this happens, but it isn’t always healthy.

  11. The Zimmerman/Martin case has nothing to do with the FL SYG provision. Even blogger LeftLaw and attorney/academic Alan Dershowitz agree on that, the race-baiters, journalists, and hoplophobic notwithstanding.

    The “expensive education” bit: It is wrong to equate the private views of professors with the average attitudes of their former students. With several reasonably fancy or expensive graduate degrees to my name I must clarify that I matriculated to learn the subject matter, not clone the personal preferences of the academics. I do note that PHI BETA KAPPA seems to have slipped off to the left and turned anti-soldier on me [Neil Shea in a recent American Scholar]. What should I do, pawn my PBK key?

    There is a problem which arose as politicians began to tout the glory of a college education for all: Once the state began to subsidize the college attendance of poor and middle-class dull children, treading the path that dull rich children had been able to follow for generations at their parents’ cost, we came to have a very large class of dull people with BA’s, even Phd’s or, more commonly, Ed.D.’s. Such is life. It has only boosted the prestige of known difficult majors completed at highly competitive schools. In other words the entire policy has just increased the desirability of a Top 30 or Ivy League degree. If in doubt, google “Legal Hiring 2012” or “Value of an MBA”.

    Now back to my Farnam Quips….

  12. Clayton E. Cramer has a pertinent article on ‘Domestic Violence and Stand Your Ground Laws’ in the June 1 edition of Shotgun News.
    Also info on his blog

    “Only two types of people really. Conservatives and ‘other than conservatives.’ We’re all born liberals, you know, some just never grow out of it.
    And BTW, anyone think a Nation can survive a government indenturing its citizens to a privately owned central bank, turning the population into factions — one designated group against another — and all the while transforming as many people as possible into total dependency on a failed government?
    Just asking.

  13. While I agree with the editorial, it would’ve been better without the author’s comments against “highly educated types”. Let’s not pretend that both sides of the aisle aren’t comprised of Ivy League grads. Turning support for 2A into class warfare is no different than what your hated “progressives tools” try to do on other issues.

  14. Florida Prosecutor Angela Corey has already repealed the parts of the SYG law that were inconvenient to her prosecution of GZ.


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