Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stand your ground??

Florida authorities have picked 17 people to tackle a heated question brought on by the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin: whether the state's "stand your ground law" should be changed.

A question: Does "stand your ground" mean that it's legal to shoot an unarmed person?

Another question: Does not having a "stand your ground" law mean that if someone comes up and is verbally abusive and physically threatening to you while you are in a public place that you have no recourse and must surrender and walk away?

A third question: Do you wonder why everybody is always on edge and unwilling to meet your eyes?

So, here's the point: remember back in the 18th and 19th centuries in the US when some of our up and coming leaders were killed in duels and eventually duels were outlawed and eventually people mostly stopped challenging others to duel and just started shooting or stabbing them in the back instead?

I haven't been a teenaged boy for nearly fifty years and I haven't been in the military for just a bit over forty-five years, but I wonder what you people are thinking and I don't know exactly what the law says anymore, if I ever did.

But, here's how it is: If we're on a public sidewalk and I'm hobbling along and you ask me to move, if I can, I will.  If, however, you order me to move and make a threat of it you should expect to have to back up the threat. And, that's without reference to any law.

I don't know what happened between Mr. Zimmerman and the late Mr. Martin.  I have heard though that young Mr. Martin was unarmed and was shot to death by Mr. Zimmerman.  To me that screams: arrest and at the least a hearing, even if the shooting occurred inside Zimmerman's house and the damned door had been kicked in.  Why would a man shoot an unarmed man or boy unless he either was in fear of his life or just wanted to and thought he could get away with something?

If someone attacks you with a knife, you don't have to pull your knife and carefully measure the blade to meet the attack with equal force.  If you are threatened with deadly force you are justified in applying the maximum chill-factor that's available.  And, having been there a couple of times as a young man, it's nearly automatic anyway - if you actually stopped to think about it you probably would be killed - but I wasn't carrying a firearm either time, so both assailants survived.

Being attacked, whether physically or only verbally, by an unarmed person is quite different; it will make you angry or afraid, or both, it's not really clear what steps you can take beyond hitting the guy back if he strikes you, or yelling for help.  There's the scenario where you're the abusive badass and you hit the intended victim, and he steps back slightly and gets a really big smile on his face.  Run!

That's why I say it calls for a hearing, an inquest or some official inquiry if you decide to shoot the guy.  It could be justified, but probably would be a hard sell.  Refusing to back down is one thing, whipping out your Glock and perforating the guy is a different type of thing - it's homocide and not involuntary, either. 

Even shading it into manslaughter would take some redefining.  If he lives you're looking at aggravated assault with intent to kill.  You'd need to make a damned good case for being in fear of imminent death at his hands, which is a hard sell if he isn't armed or doesn't outweigh you by 75 or a hundred pounds.

And, in case you hadn't noticed, these are the same - within a narrow range - as the rules that would apply to a sworn peace-officer.

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