The Stand Your Ground law in Florida is on the books in 23 states. It is sometimes referred to as the “Make My Day” law or the “Shoot First” law. Whatever they call it, the law shifts the burden of proof away from the actions of the shooter and places it on the actions of the victim. Police state the reason George Zimmerman wasn’t arrested is that he claimed self-defense under the law after scuffling with Trayvon.
How and when the law applies has been brought into sharp focus. What used to be known as the “Castle Doctrine” – where people were allowed to use deadly force to protect themselves in their homes, or cars or workplace – has been taken to the streets. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has lobbied hard for the Stand Your Ground concept. When the law passed the legislature, the NRA said that this bill was a victory for gun activists everywhere.
Why is this law a victory for gun activists? It doesn’t affect their right to own a gun, buy a gun, have a concealed carry permit – nothing of that nature. It simply gives them the right to shoot that gun at another human being without fear of consequences.
THE NRA LOBBY
Guns don’t kill people – people kill people. That is the NRA’s pat response on the issue of gun control. At the same time, they take great affront to any effort that might help keep guns from getting into the hands of the “killer people.” They have fought waiting periods, background checks, the ban on assault rifles – the list goes on and on. But most of those challenges have been hidden behind the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
The Stand Your Ground law is about your right to use them without fear of criminal prosecution. There is nothing in the Second Amendment about that.
When Ronald Reagan was shot – a long-term member of the NRA, he did not support any changes in gun control laws. James Brady – not so lucky in his recovery as President Reagan – went on to form the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
One of the few defeats delivered to the NRA was the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, requiring waiting periods for gun purchases and regulating interstate commerce of weapons. But the NRA lobbyists fought back, funding lawsuits in Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Wyoming that said the background checks were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court eventually agreed, but generally upheld the Brady Bill.
The majority of states utilize the FBI’s instantaneous criminal background check system known as NICS before allowing gun purchases. According to Wikipedia, from 1994 through 2009, over 107 million Brady background checks were conducted. During this period 1.9 million attempted firearm purchases were blocked by the Brady background check system, or 1.4 percent. The Brady Bill did not apply to gun shows or flea markets, and so it is no surprise that gun sales in those venues grew exponentially.
As years went on, Reagan changed his tune, with this speech on the 10th anniversary of the assassination attempt:
” This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now – the Brady bill – had been law back in 1981… If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land. And there would be a lot fewer families facing anniversaries such as the Bradys, Delahantys, McCarthys and Reagans face every March 30th.”
Here is a link to an excellent history of the NRA, showing how a club to improve marksmanship ended up becoming one of the most powerful lobbies in the country.
THE PARANOIA PRINCIPLE
I respect that gun owners feel very strongly about their right to own and carry weapons. I too have strong opinions about my rights in this country and will fight for them. What I have little respect for are lobbyists. Lobbyists NEED a fight to justify their existence. If the battle is won, the soldiers have to go home. The NRA is not willing for the war to end.
The NRA promotes its existence through paranoia. “THEY” are coming for your guns. Who “THEY” are really doesn’t matter. For example, President Obama has never made gun control an issue and has put forth no policies that might impact gun owners. Yet the NRA has fanatically promoted the idea that his silence is simply part of a secret plot to eventually come after their beloved guns.
It’s a great way to whip up a frenzy – a black man who wants people unarmed and unprotected, unable to defend their own homes. Where is the evidence of this conspiracy? Ahhh, but isn’t that the very essence of this type of argument – there is no evidence, which of course is evidence that it exists.
The Stand Your Ground law is about more than the right to bear arms. George Zimmerman stalked a young boy in his car. When the boy ran from him, he chased him down. When the boy challenged him, he got pissed. When this kid, who weighed 140 pounds to Zimmerman’s 240, tried to defend himself, he was shot to death. So is it the NRA’s position that only gun owners are allowed to defend themselves?
Here’s an interesting text from Statute 776.013:
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 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.
That sounds a lot more like Trayvon Martin’s situation than George Zimmerman’s. But Trayvon wasn’t the one with the gun and the dead can’t speak for themselves. That’s why we have a criminal justice system, however flawed it might be.
The right to bear arms is guaranteed by our constitution. I will defend it, whether I am a gun owner or not. But being a gun owner cannot and should not be a “get-out-of-jail-free-card.” Circumventing the criminal justice system has nothing to do with owning guns – it is about promoting irresponsible gun use and encouraging “discretionary” use of deadly force without any fear of consequence.
Surely the NRA should stand against such legislation? After all, it’s not guns that kill people. People kill people.
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