Staying Cool in Florida

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The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence recently began handing out fliers at Miami International Airport warning visitors that a new Florida law allows crime victims to stand their ground against attackers instead of fleeing. According to the Brady Campaign, this law means that routine arguments are apt to end in deadly violence, as gun-toting Floridians blow people away for tailgating or bumping into them in nightclubs. (The group seems unfazed by the fact that similar predictions following the passage of Florda's right-to-carry law proved completely unfounded.) "Do not argue unnecessarily with local people," the Brady Campaign flier advises. "If someone appears to be angry with you, maintain to the best of your ability a positive attitude and do not shout or make threatening gestures." In response, Patrick Semmens proposes a flier for distribution at airports serving Washington, D.C., that warns about the dangers posed by the city's gun ban.

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  1. “”If someone appears to be angry with you, maintain to the best of your ability a positive attitude and do not shout or make threatening gestures.””

    Er. Hmmm.

  2. “An armed society… ”

    Well, you know the rest.

  3. “”If someone appears to be angry with you, maintain to the best of your ability a positive attitude and do not shout or make threatening gestures.””
    isnt that a better idea, than say, punching him in the nose? from a point of civil socity and what not?

  4. I expect Friday Night Florida Senior Citizen Quick Draw Showdown on Spike-TV.

  5. “…warning visitors that a new Florida allows crime victims…”

    Wow, a brand new Florida!? Cool! That old one was starting to smell a little bit, anyway…

    Good god, first, they let crime victims defend themselves. What’s next? Are they gonna start allowing people to speak/print freely without government prosecution? Doesn’t anyone see the slippery slope here?

    According to the Brady Campaign, this law means that routine arguments are apt to end in deadly violence, as gun-toting Floridians blow people away for tailgating or bumping into them in nightclubs.

    My guess is, if you’re in-fucking-sane enough to shoot someone over a routine disagreement, then, you’re probably not the kinda guy who’s gonna be deterred by gun laws in the first place. But what do I know?

    “Do not argue unnecessarily with local people,”

    In effect, what the Brady group is implying is that, if guns were still outlawed, that it would be a good idea to argue unnecessarily with locals. I don’t know about anyone else, but, me, I tend to avoid arguing with “locals” if at all possible, regardless of whether they have a sidearm or not.

  6. Or in other words:

    “Since you’re an uncultured foreign rube who doesn’t know how to act around your betters, let us announce to you that you’re in America now, bub. Don’t go throwing your weight around, and above all, don’t assume that any of us cowboys will protect your ass if you get into a jam.”

    Nice PR for our side, eh? But we already knew they hated America.

  7. Now if only the law allowed you to shoot veal complected Euro-tourist that insist on wearing Speedos to the beach. That would be progress.

  8. Why do they call it TOURIST SEASON if we’re not allowed to shot them?

  9. Why do they call it TOURIST SEASON if we’re not allowed to shot them?

  10. Read that pamphlet again. “..allows crime victims…” Easy solution: don’t commit crime!

    An armed society is a polite society. Most of the suggestions should apply regardless of the gun laws.

    And remember, guns don’t kill people, gaping holes in vital organs kill people.

  11. Yeah, yeah, plenty of room to demogogue this issue.

    The issue at the heart of this debate is an interesting one, once you get past the shrieking. It has long been the law that a person has a responsibily to attempt to escape a confrontation before resorting to deadly force. If there’s a guy with a knife running at you as you sit in your car, and you can just lock your doors and drive off, the law has required you to do that before shooting him dead.

    This presumption started to be repealed for people in their homes – the “castle doctrine” – based on the argument that you shouldn’t be expected to flee your own home, but that you should be allowed to stand your ground there.

    Florida’s new law took this several steps further, stating that a person in a public place should be able to use deadly force if they percieve themselves to be in danger, even if the opportunity to escape is readily available.

    And, it treats the subjective mindset of the shooter as the final arbiter of whether deadly force was an appropriate reaction.

  12. And, it treats the subjective mindset of the shooter as the final arbiter of whether deadly force was an appropriate reaction.

    This is pretty common, although in reality it is more of a mixed test.

    First, did the defender (subjectively) feel that they were threatened with death or bodily harm, and

    Second, how (objectively) reasonable was this fear.

    In reality, you are never going to get away from the objective test, because cops, prosecutors, and juries are going to be evaluating your claim that you felt The Fear.

    This will also backstop the retreat doctrine, to some extent. If you have a readily available escape, then how reasonable is your fear?

    Self-defense law is a constant balancing act, and is very fact-driven. On the whole, though, the benefit of the doubt should go to the person who is not the aggressor. Florida law moves the needle a little in the direction of the defender, but its not beyond the pale.

  13. I moved to DC in 1995. My the end of 1996, I had been held up at gunpoint twice, had my home broken into once (while I was home!) my girlfriend’s house broken into while we were away, her landlord’s car stolen from in front of the house a few days later during his 15-minute visit to inspect the damage, and the burglar returned a few days later to pick up stuff he didn’t get the first time.

    All this was within a six-block radius of the Capitol Buildng, which is the patrol area of the Capitol Police.

    By contrast, over the many years I have lived in Florida and Virginia I have been the victim of violent crime exactly -zero- times. Once when I was three my parents’ house was broken into, but that was on a military base and I’m pretty sure they at least caught the perps.

  14. I moved to DC in 1995. My the end of 1996, I had been held up at gunpoint twice, had my home broken into once (while I was home!) my girlfriend’s house broken into while we were away, her landlord’s car stolen from in front of the house a few days later during his 15-minute visit to inspect the damage, and the burglar returned a few days later to pick up stuff he didn’t get the first time.

    All this was within a six-block radius of the Capitol Buildng, which is the patrol area of the Capitol Police.

    By contrast, over the many years I have lived in Florida and Virginia I have been the victim of violent crime exactly -zero- times. Once when I was three my parents’ house was broken into, but that was on a military base and I’m pretty sure they at least caught the perps.

  15. And, it treats the subjective mindset of the shooter as the final arbiter of whether deadly force was an appropriate reaction.

    Yes, but given the exceedingly low percentage of legal concealed carry permit holders who are ever actually convicted of any crime (let alone a violent one) I find it highly unlikely that said demographic is likely to just simply blaze away, subjective mindset or not.

  16. Ever since the Florida concealed carry law mentioned was being debated in the mid 80s, the anti-gun folks have greeted every mention of civilians and guns with predictions of doom.

    • Fender-benders will turn into firefights!
    • Concealed carry will leave blood flowing in the streets!
    • Armed pilots will abandon their cockpits and gun down passengers!
    • “Assault rifles” will stack bodies like cordwood!
    • Fifty caliber rifles will knock airliners down like flies!
    • Off-duty police officers with guns will blow away civilians and cause huge liability lawsuits!
    • Letting kids hunt will turn them into Charles Mansons!

    Out of all of those dozens of predictions over two decades, they’ve been dead wrong every time.

    In this case, however, there is a small grain of truth. Back when FLs concealed carry law went into effect there was a noticible increase in assaults on tourists. It seems that airport rental cars in Florida were marked as such. The criminals figured out that someone driving one was probably a tourist instead of a licensee, and therefore much less likely to be armed. So they targeted them.

    Florida’s legislature hastily solved the problem by requiring rental cars not be conspicuously marked.

  17. Florida’s legislature hastily solved the problem by requiring rental cars not be conspicuously marked.

    That’s fascinating. You mean they actually looked at the fine details rather than just saying “More guns, more crime, pass a gun law”?

    How did the legislative debate unfold? Did assaults on tourists indeed decline after the rental markers were removed? Did assaults on non-tourists decline when concealed carry was approved?

    I’m truly surprised by this.

    Regarding the obligation to retreat, in theory I can see how shifting the burden might help a handful of assholes who want to be tough and keep escalating a situation rather than do the smart thing and get the hell out when something looks like it will get ugly. But it also means less second-guessing for those who defended themselves appropriately. There will always be gray areas and marginal cases. My inclination is to give the benefit of the doubt to people who had to defend themselves. But I would, of course, change my mind if it worked out in practice that the good guys weren’t benefiting but the bad guys were.

    My hunch is that if somebody is really a stupid asshole who decides to escalate a situation and then winds up using his gun, the cops and prosecutors will find abundant grounds for prosecution even under this new law.

    And, from what I can tell, the vast majority of law-abiding gun owners are not wannabe tough guys. I’m sure they’re out there, but they seem to be rare. I doubt this change in the law will bring significant numbers of new tough guys out of the woodwork.

  18. has anyone else seen the latest real time with bill maher show? ben affleck, of all people, supported the florida law and criticized the Brady Campaign for being alarmists. in fact, he made quite a few intelligent points during the show.

    i wasn’t quite sure how to react. i was at once impressed with his non-hollywood politics, and depressed that i agreed with an actor about something.

  19. Zach, I didn’t see it, but have read about it. *shrugs shoulders* Anyone who rubs Bill Maher’s smarmy mug in his own shit is cool in my book.

  20. “Do not argue unnecessarily with local people,”

    Warning-Do not taunt Happy-Fun Ball.

  21. RC,

    “First, did the defender (subjectively) feel that they were threatened with death or bodily harm, and

    Second, how (objectively) reasonable was this fear.”

    What makes this bill particularly radical is the degree to which it defers to the shooter to answer the second question. The presumption language from castle doctrine bills – someone breaking into your home is presumed to be a threat to your life and limb, and therefore can legally be shot – is reworked, such that someone who you find yourself in a confrontation with is treated with a similar presumption.

    “This will also backstop the retreat doctrine, to some extent. If you have a readily available escape, then how reasonable is your fear?” No, it doesn’t backstop the retreat doctrine. It removes the responsibility to retreat, replacing it with a “stand your ground” doctrine. If you google some stories about this bill, its supporters are quite explicit about this.

    The positions staked out by RC, thoreau, and mediageek are pretty reasonable – a hell of a lot moreso than the bill itself.

  22. Larry A,

    Well, wrongdoers could still target people with out-of-state plates, which would be a more successful strategy, I think. After all, a person renting a car in Miami may well be from Pensacola…

  23. No, it doesn’t backstop the retreat doctrine. It removes the responsibility to retreat, replacing it with a “stand your ground” doctrine.

    i don’t see the reason for a legal responsibility to retreat. when faced with a legitimately dangerous situation, most people will retreat if possible, simply out of instinct. sometimes, a gun will help this happen. requiring the victim to attempt a retreat before using their gun, as two separate acts, could have the result of causing said retreat to be unsuccessful. yes, there may be a few “tough guys” who would rather have a firefight than run away, but as thoreau pointed out, such individuals are likely to be not only rare, but identifiable and prosecutable on the grounds that they were, in a sense, the aggressor. basically, the law must assume that the the victim is sane.

    what’s “radical” about the law is that it gives the victim the benefit of the doubt, and most importantly, the responsibility of deciding how to react in a dangerous situation, rather than having a legally-mandated sequence of actions that may or may not be smart, depending on the situation.

  24. “No, it doesn’t backstop the retreat doctrine. It removes the responsibility to retreat, replacing it with a “stand your ground” doctrine. If you google some stories about this bill, its supporters are quite explicit about this.”

    The retreat doctrine is pretty hairy. It complicates what should be a straightforward consideration. In most states you can only pull the trigger if you reasonably fear for your or (in a more complicated way) someone else’s life. The available option to retreat is not at all clear in most cases. There is an alley, do I have to go down there? I have a kid with me. What are my retreat options? I’m in the 7-11 close to the door and someone comes in and kicks off a round into the ceiling. I might be able to get out the door…

    To me, by the time you have recognition enough to deploy a weapon, things are pretty far south. I’m not advocating that a shoot is always justified, but I do believe that if evidence points to an aggressor, he does not get the benefit of the doubt. The reality is that you don’t have any significant amount of time to decide once you are already in a lethal force scenario.

    Let the lethal force justification of ‘reasonable fear for your life’ take care of the whole scenario.

  25. that whole responsibility to retreat thing seems kinda strange.

  26. Florida’s legislature hastily solved the problem by requiring rental cars not be conspicuously marked.

    Prior to the change rental and lease cars had tags beginning with the letter Z (and also Y IIRC). If you were a tourist targeted for a robbery it was said that your car had been “zeed”.

    Interestingly enough it is still easy to pick out rentals. They all have Sarasota County tags.

    Also IIRC the rash of robberies predated the concealed carry law. The concealed carry law actually standardized issue statewide. Prior to that permits were issued by the counties. Some counties (Broward, in particular) were notorious for rejecting applications. The new law transferred licensing to the Secretary of State.

  27. zach, “what’s “radical” about the law is that it gives the victim the benefit of the doubt” No, you’re still not getting it. The law doesn’t say that someone who shoots instead of leaving should be given the benefit of the doubt when he says he couldn’t leave the situation. The law says that you have no responsibility to attempt to leave first. Think of the “castle doctrine,” which states that you are allowed to shoot first, even if there is the opportunity to leave, when you are in your home. This bill extends this doctrine to all public places. You can shoot first, whether there is an opportunity to go to a safe place, anywhere.

    “Benefit of the doubt” and “rebuttable preseumption” are reasonable standards. They are not, however, the standards written into this bill.

    dhex, “that whole responsibility to retreat thing seems kinda strange.” Only if you consider the preservation of life, including those of bystanders, to be an arcane concept.

  28. So does this mean that if we start yelling at the Brady people, they’ll give up and go away?

  29. joe,

    So, explain to me again why we’re supposed to be concerned with the safety of people who go into a public place and threaten people with a weapon?

  30. “dhex, “that whole responsibility to retreat thing seems kinda strange.” Only if you consider the preservation of life, including those of bystanders, to be an arcane concept.”

    well, i mean as a general rule. not the idea that someone who is armed should show restraint – that’s more than obvious.

    but that someone like myself, who is larger than average person and a decent fighter, can get in stupendously deep shit if i maul someone who attacks me, even if they do so with a weapon. that puzzles the fuck out of me.

    and because, like, huh? if i go out of my way to attack someone, why would i expect mercy? it would seem to be encouraging predation. were i more conspiracy-minded, i would begin to think that it indeed is encouraging predation, so that the world can be divided into cops, criminals and victims.

  31. What Jason Ligon said at October 10, 2005 02:39 PM. Word.

    “Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

    And even though mattc already made the point up at the top of the thread, let’s make it a bit more explicit.

    The Brady Campaign finally agrees with the old adage: An armed society leads to a more polite society.

    (I would like the NRA or Gun Owners of America to start distributing a flier with that headline.)

  32. The law doesn’t say that someone who shoots instead of leaving should be given the benefit of the doubt when he says he couldn’t leave the situation. The law says that you have no responsibility to attempt to leave first.

    yes, i understand. i think you’re misreading my post; i recognize that the law takes away the legal responsibility to try and escape before shooting, and i stated why i think that’s a good thing.

    when i say “benefit of the doubt”, i’m not talking about a legal standard in applying the law; but simply that the point of the law is giving the victim enough credit to allow them to judge the situation and respond accordingly, rather than assuming that they are incapable of doing so (or are overly violent), and thus mandating a prescribed sequence of responses.

  33. Arguing with Joe is like arguing with the “stealth troll” beta I tested last week for SAIC. (Don’t ask why, but it does have applications.)

    Don’t do it – it’s simply impossible to win. Not because his arguments are good, but because he’s tenacious and inevitably shifts his terrain. I sometimes suspect he’s a Raytheon product or perhaps some code from DARPA.

  34. What makes this bill particularly radical is the degree to which it defers to the shooter to answer the second question.

    Not as much as it may look like, joe. The cops, the prosecutors, and juries are always going to make their own determination about reasonableness, whether you dress it up as applying an objective “reasonably man” test, or simply as an assessment of the defender’s credibility in claiming that he felt The Fear.

    Similarly with the retreat doctrine. All the law says is that your defense (to the charge of murder) of self-defense will not be negated by a reasonably opportunity to retreat. But the basic requirement that you fear for your life or well-being is still there, and in application it will still have an objective element, regardless of what the law says. An open avenue of escape will undercut any claim that you felt The Fear.

    It moves the needle in favor of armed self-defense, sure, but its not the license to kill that joe seems to think it is. Putting a bullet in someone is still homicide. Self-defense is a legal defense to that charge. Cops, prosecutors, and juries of various sizes are still going to give it a good looking-over.

    Someone who’s drunk off their ass, who gets into a shouting match with someone, and who can easily get away from that someone, but shoots them anyway, is still going down, even if they say all the right words to the cops.

  35. crimethink, “So, explain to me again why we’re supposed to be concerned with the safety of people who go into a public place and threaten people with a weapon?”

    No weapon need be involved. An unarmed person larger than yourself, or someone “acting crazy” could make someone sufficiently afraid to justify deadly force under this bill.

    dhex, you don’t have to be actually attacked under this bill. You only need to, subjectively, fear for your safety.

    RC, I don’t often see such faith accorded to the police and prosecutors on this forum.

    BTW, I am so incredibly fascinated by what people have to say about my argmentation. As, I’m sure, is everyone else. Please, can you do my diction next? Because that would really add to the thread.

  36. The requirement to retreat is only part of the equation. The main deterrent to using force or deadly force is the requirement that it be justified.

    In Texas, for instance, you can’t justify the use of force, much less deadly force, in response to verbal provocation alone, or if you provoked the incident in question. (Among other things.) You can’t justify deadly force unless the other person is threatening unlawful deadly force or about to commit a serious crime.

    Joe, if you are saying that the Florida “stand your ground” law goes too far, how would you contrast it to the BCPGV implied position of “do whatever the criminal wants and, if you survive, report it to the police?”

  37. ok, i’m trying to find the actual text of this law, because at first glance it would seem joe is seriously off base in this. i’ve only seen mentions of “meeting force with force” etc.

    as much as it sickens me preliminarily, i have to agree with jeb the younger: the handgun control inc people are assholes. i may downgrade that later.

  38. joe-

    I don’t think anybody is expressing faith in cops and prosecutors here. Or at least not expressing faith that they’ll always get the bad guys.

    R C Dean says that they just can’t use the availability of a possible/reasonable/whatever-legalese escape route as an easy way to prosecute somebody. This law takes away a tool that might be used to prosecute people, while still leaving in place the core issue of whether you were justified in using lethal force.

    If anything, he’s saying it’s a good thing that this law takes one tool away from prosecutors (hardly a sign of deep and abiding faith in prosecutors), while expressing confidence that if a shooting is unjustified they’ll still find a way to prosecute it.

    I’m no lawyer, so I’m deferring to R C Dean here, but if what he says is true then this bill is a good thing: Don’t give the prosecutors any easy outs, make them focus on the core questions of whether the shooting was truly an act of self-defense.

  39. But the big question here is, why should we as a society consider it preferable for someone to leave a dangerous situation, rather than continuing or escalating the confrontation?

    In the original castle doctrine, the answer was pretty clear: because of the rights someone has in his home. It wasn’t just the legalistic answer – that an intruder in your home was presumed to be a threat. C’mon, that’s just an excuse. The actual answer is that we wanted a homeowner to be master of his home, and not have to retreat before invaders there. We were even willing to err on the side of the occasional unnecessary homicide, rather than erring on the side of homeowners being pushed around by intruders.

    But taking this doctrine into the public sphere brings with it some problems. The first is the much greater likelihood of bystanders. If you use deadly force in a legal self-defense situation, you will almost certaily get away with hitting the wrong person. He was terrified, your honor, and he was perfectly justified in shooting. Does he deserve to go to prison for missing? Putting this doctrine in place in circumstances with a greatly increased chance of bystanders being present ups the risk considerably.

    Second, the harm of someone being forced to leave a public place is significantly less than that of someone being forced to leave his own home. The presumption behind the castle doctrine is that someone tresspassing in your home is “asking for it.” Now, we’re talking about someone in a public place. The sanctity of the home doesn’t come into play, so it would seem that being compelled to leave would be less of a harm.

  40. No weapon need be involved. An unarmed person larger than yourself, or someone “acting crazy” could make someone sufficiently afraid to justify deadly force under this bill.

    do you (or does anyone else) have a link to the actual language of the bill? because you’re painting it as if it dramatically changes the criterea for what does and does not constitute a life-threatening situation; where, as i understand it, it only lifts restrictions on what one can do in said situation, leaving the pre-existing criterea intact.

    or is it your argument that the pre-existing criterea are now insufficient, if victims can now shoot before trying to retreat?

  41. dhex, this part is the new language:

    “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.”

  42. In light of the word “attacked,” I have to withdraw my response to dhex.

  43. But the big question here is, why should we as a society consider it preferable for someone to leave a dangerous situation, rather than continuing or escalating the confrontation?

    I do consider it preferable to flee the dangerous situation. I guess we need to ask what the practical effects of this law will be. If it turns out that the practical effect is to protect any idiot who thinks it’s a badge of dishonor to steer clear of trouble, then I’ll agree with you.

    But if the practical effect is to deny prosecutors any easy tool for prosecuting somebody without accounting for the full circumstances (e.g. anybody who isn’t surrounded is automatically convicted, or whatever), then this law is a good thing: It will give juries more flexibility to look at the full set of circumstances.

    Can anybody tell me what the practical outcome has been in other states with similar laws on the books?

  44. Larry A,

    “Leaving the situation” is not “doing whatever the criminal says, and if you survive, report it to the police.” Under the old doctrine, people who could not successfully retreat were allowed to use deadly force.

  45. thoreau, are you under the impression that Florida, of all places, has been experiencing a problem with people being sent to prison for protecting their lives?

    To give you the lay of the land, in a recent case, a kid out playing pranks was shot in the back and killed by a homeowner who told the police he thought he saw the kid starting to turn towards him. The homeowner was sentenced to 52 weekends of community service.

  46. i may be a total asshole joe, but that seems fairly reasonable to me. the likelihood of harming bystanders is indeed a reasonable question – does someone go to jail if they miss and hit someone else? (i would think so under current law, right?) – but it would also seem to be a deterrence benefit to this, or at least one can hope. what’s happened with florida’s violent crime rates since they allowed concealed carry? or is that part of that whole black hole of gibberish data, a la abortion or any other contentious issue?

    as a side note, florida’s senate webpages suck monkey balls.

    anyway, here’s volokh link, just for kicks.

  47. But taking this doctrine into the public sphere brings with it some problems. The first is the much greater likelihood of bystanders. If you use deadly force in a legal self-defense situation, you will almost certaily get away with hitting the wrong person. He was terrified, your honor, and he was perfectly justified in shooting. Does he deserve to go to prison for missing? Putting this doctrine in place in circumstances with a greatly increased chance of bystanders being present ups the risk considerably.

    Second, the harm of someone being forced to leave a public place is significantly less than that of someone being forced to leave his own home. The presumption behind the castle doctrine is that someone tresspassing in your home is “asking for it.” Now, we’re talking about someone in a public place. The sanctity of the home doesn’t come into play, so it would seem that being compelled to leave would be less of a harm.

    well now we’re getting somewhere. these are good points, but they both assume that because they now have the freedom, people will rather involve themselves in a firefight than escape, and thus, great numbers of shootouts will occur where they wouldn’t have before. obviously, i don’t think this is the case. as i said before, reasonable people will still try to escape if possible; it simply won’t be a legal requirement. it will still be a crime to shoot someone if you’re not in danger, unless (again) the language of the law actually changes the criterea for a life-threatening situation dramatically. (which judging from your excerpt, it doesn’t.)

    basically, you used to have to run away until you couldn’t any more, then you could turn and shoot. whether you were being shot at or chased by a guy with a knife was immaterial, unless it could proven that there was no realistic way for you to escape. now, you can be the judge of whether or not running away will actually save your life, or whether simply shooting back is more appropriate. also, you can fire off one or two rounds to stave off the aggressor(s) before running, rather than the other way around.

  48. Let’s make this concrete with 2 situations:

    1) Say that some idiot is standing at a bus stop. He has a concealed weapon. The local street gang shows up and decides that they don’t like him. They tell him to leave their bus stop. He isn’t surrounded, they aren’t close up, they aren’t displaying weapons, and there are some open stores that he can duck into. Me, I’d just back away (don’t turn my back, of course), get into a store, call the cops. No point in picking a fight. Even if you don’t care about what the law says, or don’t see anything wrong with shooting the thugs, it’s just not a good situation to risk your life in.

    But he feels cocky (he’s got a big gun in his pants!). So he says that he doesn’t feel like leaving. They start threatening him, he tells them he’s not going anywhere, they pull knives and tell him to leave, one of them lunges, he pulls a gun, gang-banger ends up dead.

    I don’t think the idiot should do life in prison, but he decided to be macho rather than smart. He should be punished in some way.

    2) Some guy’s at a bus stop. The local street gang shows up and starts taunting him. He says nothing, since the bus is supposed to be there any second, and he figures if he doesn’t do anything to escalate it they might get tired of having their fun. But one of them suddenly pulls a knife and lunges. He pulls his gun quickly and shoots.

    The prosecutors shouldn’t be able to go after him on the grounds that he could have turned and run as soon as the knife came out.

  49. Just so you know, concealed carry laws have no significant effect whatsoever, positive or negative (ceterus paribus of course) on crime rates. Seeing as how this is the case, why not err on the side of liberty?

    PS John Lott is a douche bag and I am a homosexual.

  50. dhex, you are only partially an asshole. 😉

    “does someone go to jail if they miss and hit someone else?” If I understand correctly, the answer is, only if his actions are negligent. By itself, firing at your attacker when you have a legal right to do so is not negligent. If you miss, it’s an accident. There would have to be some other action or inaction on your part that makes your actions negligent.

    But shooting a gun always carries with it the possibility of missing. Given this, when there is an option not to fire the gun, isn’t that a better option? Particularly in a public place?

    zach, “it will still be a crime to shoot someone if you’re not in danger” I disagree. If you can leave the situation, you’re not in danger. Deadly force should be a last resort. This makes it, legally, a first resort. You can shoot an attacker even if you don’t have to. That’s my problem with the law.

    btw, the concept of ‘retreat’ involves removing yourself from harm’s way. If you are being shot at, running away doesn’t remove yourself from harm’s way. If your attacker can pursue you, such that you are still in danger of attack, that wouldn’t remove yourself from harm’s way, either.

  51. I don’t think the idiot should do life in prison, but he decided to be macho rather than smart. He should be punished in some way.

    it is pretty murky territory. it can’t be the law that you have to do what a criminal says, otherwise you’re partially responsible for whatever violence results from the situation; that’s basically legal empowerment of gangs. but at the same time, you can’t participate in escalating the situation and not be held partially responsible.

    it’s a tricky question, the kind that i believe is addressed in courts all the time, but the kind which this law doesn’t really address. once the knives have come out, that’s when this law kicks in.

  52. “I don’t think the idiot should do life in prison, but he decided to be macho rather than smart. He should be punished in some way.”

    as reasonable as you usually are, thoreau, i have to disagree. the macho folk were the gang with knives. he was merely foolish and lucky.

  53. Well, wrongdoers could still target people with out-of-state plates, which would be a more successful strategy, I think.

    They better be careful not to target folks from states like Texas, that Florida has reciprocity with.

    Joe: “Leaving the situation” is not “doing whatever the criminal says, and if you survive, report it to the police.” Under the old doctrine, people who could not successfully retreat were allowed to use deadly force.

    I specifically referenced the Brady Campaign solution. I.e. use the law to prevent law-abiding people from having anything deadly to use.

  54. Indeed. A society that lives in fear of fellow citizens surely is a polite society. Could that guy be carrying a gun? Could my neighbor be an informer? Tyranny’s OK if it’s the tyranny of the individual, right guys?

  55. dhex-

    Maybe I didn’t give a very good example. Now, if when he refused to leave he talked some smack, and kept on talking smack as it got uglier and uglier, then he’s partially responsible for the situation. Yeah, they pulled weapons first, but he had other options besides making the situation worse.

    I’m not saying he should receive the stiffest punishment on the books, but he should face some sort of consequences.

    Anyway, my main point was to compare two cases where retreat was at least a possibility, and suggest that the availability of an escape route should not be the main factor under consideration.

  56. But he feels cocky (he’s got a big gun in his pants!). So he says that he doesn’t feel like leaving. They start threatening him, he tells them he’s not going anywhere, they pull knives and tell him to leave, one of them lunges, he pulls a gun, gang-banger ends up dead. I don’t think the idiot should do life in prison, but he decided to be macho rather than smart. He should be punished in some way.

    I have to disagree with you on this one, Thoreau. Basically what you’re saying is if a gang tells you to leave, you HAVE to leave. I don’t call this action macho, I call this standing your ground.

    And the world is richer for the gang-banger’s loss.

  57. Now, if when he refused to leave he talked some smack, and kept on talking smack as it got uglier and uglier, then he’s partially responsible for the situation. Yeah, they pulled weapons first, but he had other options besides making the situation worse.

    Even so, aren’t you kind of assuming that people have an obligation to either obey gang members or at least treat them with respect, when they’re obviously not doing that for you?

  58. Jennifer, a reasonable person knows that if he talks trash to a gang the situation will probably escalate. One or more people could end up dead, including innocent people hit by stray bullets.

    Would you view the situation any differently if the guy at the bus stop was from a different gang, and he talked trash? Regardless of who he is, he knows that if he talks trash in response there will almost certainly be a violent confrontation. He chooses the path that will almost certainly lead to a violent confrontation.

  59. btw, the concept of ‘retreat’ involves removing yourself from harm’s way. If you are being shot at, running away doesn’t remove yourself from harm’s way. If your attacker can pursue you, such that you are still in danger of attack, that wouldn’t remove yourself from harm’s way, either.

    in what situation would the attacker be unable to pursue you; unless, say, you (or someone else) shot him? and how will you know whether or not he will try and chase you beforehand? i think this is the point of the law; simply trying to run away can sometimes do more harm than good, so let’s take away that obligation.

    i suppose in a sense this does have the effect of making violence a legal “first resort”, but only in the event that you are actually being attacked. again, it gives the victim that choice, rather than tell them what they can or cannot do in response to someone who obviously doesn’t give a shit. it’s not as if it legalizes murder.

  60. Would you view the situation any differently if the guy at the bus stop was from a different gang, and he talked trash?

    if i were on the jury, i would certainly find that piece of information relevant.

  61. Well, wrongdoers could still target people with out-of-state plates, which would be a more successful strategy, I think.

    They better be careful not to target folks from states like Texas, that Florida has reciprocity with.

    Actualy, anyone (who qualifies) can get a Florida permit regardless of what state you reside in. I live in California and have one. It’s no good here in CA, but it is if I visit Florida or any other state that has reciprocity with Florida for that matter.

  62. The armed vs. unarmed threat is always a consideration, castle doctrine or no. My wife can get away with more than I can, and reasonably so. It is established law that if an assailant attempts to grab a lawfully held weapon, you have a green light.

    Every shooter is always responsible for every bullet. You are accountable for your misses under current law in KY and OH for sure, and everywhere else, I’d imagine.

    What I don’t like about a requirement to retreat is that it puts a person defending his life in the position of going to prison for manslaughter for what was in every way a moral act based on some highly subjective notion about when you can retreat.

    I would highly suggest any CCW permit holder go through some scenario training against live targets to see how this plays out. There are many, many circumstances where you just have to shoot to preserve a life saving tactical advantage. Do you leave cover to go out the door? Do you put bystanders between you and the target knowing you can’t shoot through them? Do you have to close the distance between you and the target to exit? All of those things suck, and I don’t know that a jury instructed that I must ‘prove’ that I couldn’t retreat is gonna get the nuances.

  63. Herrick lives in Illinois where there is no concealed carry law, but Herrick also thinks that the best solution for a state like Illinois is to devolve the issue to counties and municipalities.

  64. Joe, presumably you can cite some study showing just how often citizens fire at criminals and kill innocent bystanders by mistake? And while you’re at HCI’s website, maybe how that rate compares to the police? If the reality existed, so would the data. The gun-hating extreme left would be certain to provide numbers, however questionable. The studies I’ve seen, from you know, like real researchers, suggest the wild west analogies are make-believe. Here is good Gary Kleck site:
    http://www.pulpless.com/gunclock/kleck2.html
    Kleck is very intertesting (to whom I’ve linked before). He is a researcher that started out indifferent to the gun issue, but of the mind that if gun control helped one bit, then it was good (pretty much the, “if it saves just one life” sort of thinking). But then he looked at the data…

    Here’s a good couple paragraphs from the link:

    Most uses of guns for either criminal or defensive purposes are less dramatic or consequential than one might think. Only 3% of criminal gun assaults involves anyone actually being wounded, even nonfatally, and the same is true of defensive gun uses. More commonly, guns are merely pointed at another person, or perhaps only referred to (“I’ve got a gun”) or displayed, and this is sufficient to accomplish the ends of the user, whether criminal or non- criminal. Nevertheless, most gun owners questioned in surveys assert that they would be willing to shoot criminals under the right circumstances. A 1989 Time/CNN survey found that 78% of gun owners said they would shoot a burglar if they felt threatened by that person.

    Despite this stated willingness of gun owners to shoot under certain circumstances, most defensive uses of guns do not in fact involve shooting anyone. Data from the National Self-Defense Survey indicate that no more than 8% of the 2.5 million annual defensive gun uses involved a defender who claimed to have shot their adversaries, or about 200,000 total. The 8% figure, however, should be taken with a grain of salt because it is based on a sample of only 213 cases, 17 of whom reported a wounding, and because the respondants were not asked how they knew they had wounded the criminals. In cases where the criminal escaped, these reports may often have been based on favorable guesses about the shooter?s marksmanship skills. As Marc Gertz and I noted, the claimed ?hit rate? of shooters in the National-Self-Defense-Survey-reported incidents was higher than that of police officers, an unlikely level of shooting skill under stress.

  65. But shooting a gun always carries with it the possibility of missing. Given this, when there is an option not to fire the gun, isn’t that a better option? Particularly in a public place?

    it depends. sometimes inaction (or running away) can be more harmful down the stretch than doing something.

  66. “As Marc Gertz and I noted, the claimed ?hit rate? of shooters in the National-Self-Defense-Survey-reported incidents was higher than that of police officers, an unlikely level of shooting skill under stress.”

    The biggest joke of all – cops who can shoot are the exception. Academy qualification standards can be done blindfolded and you don’t have to do that very often.

  67. Larry A, I think the Brady Campaign is a little loopy. They’re like MADD – once they won their big victories (background checks), the normal people wandered off, and the loonies went whole hog.

  68. zach, “in what situation would the attacker be unable to pursue you; unless, say, you (or someone else) shot him?” For example, if you could duck into a bank with security. Or if someone approaches you as you are sitting in an idling car. Or if you can simply close and lock a door, and make rude gestures through the window.

    “and how will you know whether or not he will try and chase you beforehand?” You don’t. You try to make yourself safe in a manner that doesn’t involve anybody being killed. If that doesn’t work, you use deadly force.

    “i think this is the point of the law; simply trying to run away can sometimes do more harm than good, so let’s take away that obligation.” When would running away do more harm than killing someone?

  69. bigbigslacker, I think you’re making some big assumptions about my beliefs.

    And my beliefs about issues that aren’t relevant to the topic under discussion.

  70. When would running away do more harm than killing someone?

    Luby’s, Killeen Texas, c1994. After George Hinnard drove his pickup in the front door and started shooting people someone picked up a table and broke out one of the rear windows, allowing a number of patrons to retreat. One of them was Susanna Gratia, whose handgun was out in her pickup truck because of existing Texas law.

    Had she been armed she could easily have shot Hinnard and saved several lives, including both her parents.

    Should she have retreated instead?

    Of course it’s not a question we’ll probably have to answer, since almost all such incidents occur in locations where licensees are still prohibited from carrying.

  71. So it wasn’t the retreating that was the problem then.

  72. joe –

    retreating wasn’t the problem in that specific case, no. (of course. nice facetious question.) however, had she hypthetically been armed, her decision not to retreat, even though able, could have saved many lives.

  73. he knows that if he talks trash in response there will almost certainly be a violent confrontation. He chooses the path that will almost certainly lead to a violent confrontation.

    Well, that’s where my viewpoint and yours differ here, Thoreau. The way I see it, it’s the gang members who chose the path leading to a violent confrontation, by choosing to disturb someone who was simply minding his own business. With the arguments you’re making, it’s like saying people have a legal obligation to either obey gang members ofr at least go out of their way to not offend them (read: do exactly what they tell you and be meek and mild should you need to talk to them.)

  74. When would running away do more harm than killing someone?
    when that person is killing other people, or when running away leaves you vulnerable to being killed yourself. this is obvious, and presumably the reason why the law was passed. rather than run away from a dangerous criminal, law-abiding people can stand their ground and end the threat.

    You try to make yourself safe in a manner that doesn’t involve anybody being killed. If that doesn’t work, you use deadly force.
    unless you’re already dead or injured. which is all that “doesn’t work” can mean in this situation (other than someone else being dead or injured). dealing with problems peacefully obviously remains the goal, but remember, this law only applies when you’re already being attacked.

    For example, if you could duck into a bank with security. Or if someone approaches you as you are sitting in an idling car. Or if you can simply close and lock a door, and make rude gestures through the window.
    heh, good point.

  75. What about liability insurance of CCW permit holders? I’ve heard such a thing exists. It basically covers your ass if you end up harming someone or their property in a self defense situation. Along with a law like Florida’s, that would be a pretty clear opening for nearly civil-risk free self defense.

    I am pro CCW, although I don’t feel the need to have one myself. I agree with the notion that only an unreasonable person would misuse a concealed weapons permit. I’ve often worried about that myself because of all the gung-ho moralists I know. However, I’ve realized that these people wouldn’t callously shoot someone for looking at them the wrong way. I also feel that carrying a weapon in public is a great responsibility that I don’t want to have. After all, sometimes the mere presence of a firearm in a violent confrontation justifies the use of lethal force whether or not the aggressor actually intended to use deadly force. In that respect, its the CCW holder that must use restraint and better judgement, much like police officers are supposed to.

    Marksmanship in a handgun fight is pretty irrelevant for the most part. A handgun is a close combat weapon not intended for accuracy at ranges beyond 50 yds. (realistically 7-15 yds.). In fact, a person armed with a big knife has the advantage in a hand to hand combat situation. Also, fear, adrenaline, and quick movements are not the same as going to the range and shooting a paper target. I honestly believe that most CCW holders couldn’t realistically shoot an attacker under actual “fend for your life” circumstances. I think its the brandishing and firing of a gun that counts for most of the success these people have fending off attackers regardless of whether or not they actually hit their intended target. In other words, the same result could occur with a replica shooting blanks. I don’t honestly believe that carrying a gun makes you immune from successful violent assualt. It is just a really good deterent.

  76. crom,

    OK, now I follow. I don’t know about the case law, but I would say that, in that situation, her retreat would not have removed the victims from harms way, and thus, deadly force would have been perfectly legal. Remember, deadly force is allowed in defense of yourself, or of another.

    zach, “when that person is killing other people, or when running away leaves you vulnerable to being killed yourself.” See above about “killing other people.” As far as “leaves you vulnerable…,” as I wrote earlier, it’s not a retreat if it doesn’t remove you from harm’s way.

    But there are two senses of the phrase “end the threat.” One is, he can chase me, and I’m still in danger. I think I’ve answered this. The second his, he could go out and mug somebody else tomorrow. Our legal system doesn’t allow preventive force.

    “unless you’re already dead or injured. which is all that “doesn’t work” can mean in this situation” If you don’t have a clear avenue of escape, you were allowed to use deadly force. The only way anyone would be convicted prior to this is if it could be shown, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they didn’t have an avenue of escape. Remember, we’re talking about charging a victim-with-a-gun with a homicide crime, and the burden was always on that state to prove that crime. Now, even if it can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim could have escaped without anyone being harmed, he is still allowed to kill his assailant. Do you really think that’s right?

  77. Joe, I know you are not a gun nazi. Not a major one anyway:) My point was that 90% of the time, one can “use” a gun that is never discharged. I think that is an important data point to keep in mind when considering the danger to passsers by. The odds are already heavily in favor of no shots fired. But in order to pull the gun we need to have the confidence of knowing we will not go to prison if moron B doesn’t back down and deadly force becomes necessary. If a prosecutor has it out for you (say you just 10-ringed the anti-social shit-bag son of a local politician) she can always make a claim you were “Dirty Harry” waiting to happen. This law gives protection from that. I don’t think the odds of needing to discharge the weapon, AND hitting the wrong person are any greater than those of, for example, performing a bad CPR job on a heart attack victim, or other similar injury-causing attempts to remedy aid in an emergency situation. And, Gary Kleck kicks ass, so any excuse to link to his stuff…

    I recall some data on the odds of innocent people getting shot by the POLEice vs. the odds of being shot by either criminals or homeowners. I couldn’t find it with some googling at work, and uh…I’m off the clock now.

  78. Jennifer –

    perhaps we should give throeau’s christmas gift early this year: the eight week self defense course REX KWAN DO!

  79. “Now, even if it can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim could have escaped without anyone being harmed, he is still allowed to kill his assailant. Do you really think that’s right?”

    Yes, because the victim did not initiate the violence. If you attack me with deadly force, having displayed the intent to kill me if I do not comply with your wishes, I will certainly try to kill you if I can. Running away is not an option, as you will either simply kill me as I flee or attack someone weaker than I.

    In fact, Jewish law commands (compels) one to save the live of one who is being murdered (this includes oneself) even if it is necessary to do so at the expense of the life of the murderer; the Talmud commands that one should have no mercy on the murderer and take his life if needed – indeed this is true even if the murderer could not be punished by a court for his crime after the fact (for example, if the murderer were a minor).

  80. Jennifer-

    I will go so far as to concede that the example I picked was a gray area. Let me ask you this: What if a gang member with no criminal record (hasn’t been busted for anything yet) goes into rival gang territory wearing his colors, responds to their taunting in a confrontational manner, but he isn’t the first one to pull a weapon? Is he acting in self-defense, or is he partially responsible for the violence that ensued?

    Keep in mind that, in the eyes of the law, prior to that incident he’s been a law-abiding citizen. (We’ll leave aside, for now, the issue of whether he can lawfully carry a concealed firearm, by assuming that this incident occurs in a place where it’s not an issue. Maybe Vermont has a bad neighborhood somewhere. Recall that VT has the nation’s most lenient concealed carry laws.)

    So, what should happen in that case?

  81. My $0.02:

    The previous law put the onus on the person being attacked to prove in court that he had no option to retreat. He had to prove a negative in a situation that may look very different in the cold detached hindsight of the courtroom than it did in the heat of the moment. The current law instead puts the onus on the prosecutor to prove that the attacker posed no real threat. To me the former law looks a lot like the state presuming guilt and the defendent having to prove his innocence. The new law reestablishes the idea of “innocent until proven guilty”, anyway you slice it, this law is an expansion of civil rights.

  82. thoreau,

    is our legal system enforcing gang territory claims now? Seriously, you’re just adding more irrelevant details and asking if that changes the situation. The situation is quite simple IMO: the person who first credibly threatens deadly force is the one responsible for whatever violence ensues. It doesn’t matter whose feelings have been hurt, or who has a grudge against whom.

  83. Apostate Jew,

    Thank you for a serious, thoughtful post.

    MJ, “The previous law put the onus on the person being attacked to prove in court that he had no option to retreat.” No, it didn’t. The only way for a victim/shooter to be punished was for the state to convict him of a violent crime. As such, the burden of proof was on the state, not on him. He did not have to prove a negative. The state had to prove an affirmative – that he had the option to retreat and chose to shoot instead. What’s more, they had to prove that he acted with intent.

  84. crimethink-

    You make a very good argument. There’s no getting around the fact that one person ultimately pulled a weapon on the other.

    I guess what I’m looking for is some appropriate way to deal with an idiot who thinks that having a gun means you don’t have to use your head and avoid trouble. I’m not suggesting that anybody should be convicted of murder for defending himself in a situation that smarter people would have avoided. I would be perfectly happy if there was some minor charge available, for which the maximum penalty is some community service and several years’ suspension of his gun rights. Same thing for other stupid behavior with a gun.

    I know that keeping and bearing arms is a right, but rights come with responsibilities. I have no sympathy for idiots who act recklessly when exercising the right to use deadly force.

    And I know Jennifer will say that nobody should have to back down from a gang member. I would say that the whole point of civilized society is to avoid situations that can only be resolved with deadly force.

  85. “I guess what I’m looking for is some appropriate way to deal with an idiot who thinks that having a gun means you don’t have to use your head and avoid trouble.”

    Not to be cruel but, couldn’t you substitute a lot of other material objects for “gun”? If you’re going to have liberty, you’re going to have to live with the fact that some (many, most?) people are stupid. You might have to suffer for it as well. Liberty is risky, but I’ll take it over the alternatives.

    Free Labor, Free Minds

  86. I’ll go along with thoreau on this one. Standing one’s ground over a bus stop does not seem wise, even if I am armed.

    Perhaps the wise way to assess the situation is to assume neither gang bangers nor I were armed, and make a judgement there.

  87. THOREAU, I’m late to this thread, but I’ll echo previous wristslaps, while granting that perhaps your only sin is a poor offering of scenarios.

    If dude is standing at a bus stop (and legitimately waiting on a bus), he’s on public property and need answer to no one.

    The fact he has a concealed firearm could very well mean little difference from someone who is simply very well trained in physical combat or martial arts.

    If a fresh person(s) enters the scene and initiates a violent confrontration using a knife or other deadly weapon, he is not being “cocky” when he pulls his piece and fires.

    He’s simply being aptly defensive.

    Disclaimer – I live in Florida, do not own and have never previously owned a firearm of any kind. I also don’t forsee any time in the future I would be inclined to own a firearm. But I have no problem with anyone else carrying one, provided they do not initiate a criminal or other violent act against another without true cause to fear harm.

    In that sense, I am troubled by the recent law here in Florida, but do not share the Brady Bunch’s angst about the potential for significant problems.

    Hell, if a half dozen or dozen folks got shot and killed under very questionable circumstances, a couple of them would be bound to be Republican and then a future legislature would just reword the law more to my liking.

  88. Thoreau–

    Well, your second case is a gray area, too. I don’t want guys with guns to go around looking for trouble; I’m just saying they shouldn’t have to back down from it when they’re just going about their daily routine.

  89. “Arguing with Joe is like arguing with the ‘stealth troll’ beta I tested last week for SAIC. (Don’t ask why, but it does have applications.)

    Don’t do it – it’s simply impossible to win. Not because his arguments are good, but because he’s tenacious and inevitably shifts his terrain. I sometimes suspect he’s a Raytheon product or perhaps some code from DARPA.” – Bored Government Contractor and Dedicated Lurker

    Funniest. Analysis. Ever.

    The Funny thing is that he’s not a troll, he just acts like one at times. (Don’t we all, tho? I’ve let loose with the evil comments on occasion myself…)

  90. i’m still unclear as to whether or not, under the previous law, the victim had to make some attempt at escape, no matter how ill-advised, before he was allowed to start shooting under the law. that’s what i thought was the case, and most of my defense of the new law has been based on that assumption. until someone has a link to the language of both laws there’s not much further we can go with that… but now, onto the deeper question:

    Now, even if it can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim could have escaped without anyone being harmed, he is still allowed to kill his assailant. Do you really think that’s right?

    first of all, he still wouldn’t be allowed to kill his assailant in the “10 shots to the head” sense. he would simply be allowed to defend himself without running away. once the response exceeded self-defense and became retaliatory homicide, the “victim” would still be in trouble.

    now, to the paraphrased question, “he is still allowed to shoot his assailant; do you really think that’s right?”, my honest answer is, yes. part of the reason i feel people ought to be allowed to be armed is that in this way, society can fend for itself, to some extent, without requiring government to do it for them in every case. requiring then that armed citizens run away whenever they or someone else is being attacked makes that element of gun ownership pointless. this way, violent aggressors are always in charge, until the cops show up, or until they corner someone. why use the law to keep the abiding citizen at the bottom of the proverbial food chain? are we that incapable of making intelligent decisions?

    vigilantism, of course, is wrong; but we’re not talking about seeking out a criminal and “dishing out justice”. we’re talking about responding to a situation in which you’re already being attacked. if criminals know they can’t attack citizens with impunity, i think they will be less likely to attack them at all.

  91. STATISTICS:

    Some of you were looking for this statistic earlier. In a shoot-out, police officers are actually 5.5 times more likely to shoot the wrong person than a civilian shooter is.

    I do not have a direct link at this time, but I read it in a review of The Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy: Should America Adopt the Gun Controls of Other Democracies? by David B. Kopel. I remembered that figure, because it is startling.

    Although, on second thought, it isn’t. Because usually a police officer will be running to the scene of a crime n progress. Upon arrival, he may not be able to identify, on sight, who the bad guy(s), victim(s) and innocent bystander(s) are. A civilian shooter is likely to either be the victim or a witness who was in the vicinity when the crime went down — and therefore, has better information than the cop about who needs shooting.

    (For further discussion, I hereby cite myself.) (Note: This excerpt quotes me as making noices of frustration because my fellow dialoguer AlanH [not quoted] unconsciously switched the point of the discussion from “civilians have an advantage over cops when it comes to distinguishing aggressors from innocent bystanders” to “gee, it’s not fair to compare the record of cops to that of civilian shooters because civilians have this advantage over cops.”

  92. There’s no glory in piling onto thoreau, but in my opinion, if you have a legal right to do “X,” then you have the legal right to do “X” even if it predictably offends certain parties.

    Moreover, if certain offended parties go to the point of physically attacking you, then you MUST also have the LEGAL right to use force in defending your right to do “X.” I will also add that right is on your side because you’re helping to protect the legal right to do “X” — for yourself and everyone else.

    Here’s my example: I would say that a black man has a legal right to walk through Main Street after dark in Rednecklynchertown, even if he expects to be accosted by rednecks, and he has the right to defend himself with force even if he is physically accosted.

    I would say he has the right even if he hopes to be accosted, because he wants an opportunity to establish and defend the right of a black person to walk through Rednecklynchertown unmolested.

    I would think he even has the right to say, as he walks down Main Street, “‘Evening, white boys. Check this out — a Negro walking through Rednecklynchertown. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?” Right to free speech and all that. I would also tend think he has the right to say, “Howdy, white boys! I’m going to visit your sister! Ha ha!” However, at some point, there may be laws about disturbing the peace and provocative speech that may apply here, based on decibel level if not necessarily content. I’m willing to negotiate the point a little at this point.

    But in the main, I think that the right to defend your legal right to do “X” — whether “X” is standing at a bus stop after midnight, or wearing red clothes on Crips turf, or whatever — is an intrinsic part of your legal right to do “X” in the first place. And if anyone decides that you, exercising your legal right, “provokes” them into attacking you, then they — not you — are entirely in the legal wrong. Any concession to your legal right to defend doing “X” is tantamount to conceding your right to do “X” in the first place.

    PS: I’m using “X” here as a variable to stand for “any legal act.” I’m not talking about doing Ecstacy here. Just thought I’d clear that up.

  93. he still wouldn’t be allowed to kill his assailant in the “10 shots to the head” sense.

    If this thread isn’t dead perhaps I’ll get an answer to this question: I read somewhere (and for the life of me I can’t remember if it was book or Internet, fiction or non-fiction. . . no clue) that if you shoot someone, and the cops are trying to figure out whether it was homicide or justifiable self-defense, more shots makes you look better. The idea was, if you kill a guy with a single shot to the head you look cold-blooded, but if you shoot and keep shooting until you’re out of ammo that makes you look more like someone in fear for her life. Anybody know if that’s true? Or is that one of those “conditional” things–i.e., a tiny woman like me could probably get away with more in that regard than a big muscular guy?

  94. Stevo-

    I concede that I was mostly wrong. I still think that stupidity while carrying a gun is unforgivable, but I need to think more carefully before I decide whether the kind of stupidity that I’m thinking of can, or even should, be criminalized.

    Jennifer-

    My own limited reading on the subject suggests that it’s dangerous to try to out-think the cops when you defend yourself. Good decision-making counts for far more than any effort to shape the appearance. If you keep shooting after the person is no longer a threat to you then you’ll look like you were shooting a person who was no longer a threat to you. They’ll probably be able to tell which shots entered the bad guy while he was on the ground.

    Use as much force as needed to protect yourself but no more. That seems to be the basic rule. For specific situations consult the experts, but don’t start thinking that you should follow certain “tricks” to make yourself look better. Especially if the tricks seem to defy common sense and basic safety. (“Keep firing! And don’t open the action or remove the magazine, just leave the loaded gun lying around!”)

    The other thing I’ve heard is that no matter how upset you are after defending yourself, the only thing you should say to the cops (and as politely as possible) is “Officer, I understand that you will need to ask me questions, and I will be glad to cooperate fully, but I would be more comfortable answering questions with the assistance of a lawyer.” Say that, and only that.

  95. Thank you, Thoreau, and I sincerely hope I never have to use your advice.

  96. Jennifer-

    To give you an idea of the sorts of weird stuff you’ll encounter when you start talking to people about this, I’ve been reading on another forum about legal aspects of self-defense. Some of the people there actually suggested that following basic safety rules looks bad because it means you weren’t scared or nervous.

    Me, I figure that no matter what I do I’ll be asked a question about it. I’d rather say “I did what I was trained to do as a matter of safety” rather than “Some guy on the internet told me that doing the dangerous thing will make it easier to avoid a murder conviction.”

  97. I concede that I was mostly wrong.

    I’m sorry, thoreau, but you’re not allowed to post those words, or any similar words, in this forum.

    Correct form is to draw my attention to something else I’ve said that is stupid, and attack that. Bonus points for pointing out that there is no legal right to do “X” as in Ecstasy, and that I misspelled “Rednecklynchertowne” — and Grand Slam Winner-Take-All Prize for recommending that I acquaint myself with an atlas before I embarass myself any further.

  98. Stevo, if all you can do is make jokes at the expense of people who aren’t here to defend themselves then I suggest that you shut up and go pray to your god that doesn’t exist, before you embarass yourself any further. Really, you theists are so stupid and unoriginal.

    *chuckle*

  99. I mean, your Cat-lick Church actually acknowledges a puppy as its leader. A puppy!

  100. Anyway, I only said that I was “mostly wrong.” I’m still right on some things. More right than you puppy-worshippers.

  101. The Catholic Church is made of papal!

    PAAAAPAAAALLLLL!

  102. Steve O’Darkly,

    “Some of you were looking for this statistic earlier. In a shoot-out, police officers are actually 5.5 times more likely to shoot the wrong person than a civilian shooter is.”

    Do you think that the much greater latitude the law offers to a police officer plays a role here?

    And do you see why this question is relevant to the issue at hand?

  103. joe, I don’t get what you are driving at.

    Police officers are under a handicap that civilians already at the crime scene aren’t — they don’t immediately know who is the bad guy and who is the good guy. Therefore they are more likely to shoot the wrong person.

    Are you thinking that police officers are simply careless because they know the law will let them get away with shooting the wrong person? I don’t think I’d go that far.

    Or are you arguing that this law is extra-good because it takes the straitjacket off the civilian on the scene, who is more likely to shoot the right person if he really needs to, versus leaving it to a cop who is more likely make an error when he arrives?

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