Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Trayvon Martin Case: Blame a Stupid Florida Law

In Murdock, FL, ca. May, 1986, admiring one of my middle brother's favorite rifles in his collection. No, I am not a "gun-hater" only a hater of stupid laws!

The news that the Special Prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin killing will not bring it before a Grand Jury, or seek capital punishment for the shooter- George Zimmerman- must have millions beside themselves and in a state of confusion and shock. However, what people really need to put their focus on is the idiotic, deranged Florida law ('Stand Your Ground") that has been responsible for nearly 40 homicides the past 6-plus years not being prosecuted as such. (In the year before the law went into effect, 2004, Florida authorities deemed 8 homicides "justifiable" compared to 40 deemed such by 2010).

And, so long as this law remains on the books, another "Trayvon" (maybe even a white kid) may not be long in arriving.

According to a TIME article ('The Law Heard Around the World', April 9, p. 36) the threshold for proof of felony homicide is so low with this law on the books, it's almost impossible to prosecute anyone for capital murder. (Which, of course, is why the Special Prosecutor, Ms. Corey, opted not to pursue it and backed away from a Grand Jury.)

Even more perverse, as the TIME piece observes, is that you're invariably better off firing your gun once it's drawn. According to the article:

"Even though 'Stand Your Ground' excuses with the barest of evidence, Florida punishes the crime of simply pointing a gun at someone with a mandatory minimum of three years in prison. In other words, you can point a gun and go to prison, or you can fire your gun and go free under 'Stand Your Ground'."

Zimmerman most likely knew this law, at least as a supposed law and order wannabe-buff, so you might expect him to know he'd be tagged with 3 years at Raiford if he merely drew his gun on Trayvon and didn't fire. In other words, it's plausible a knowledge of 'Stand Your Ground' made him realize he'd have a better chance getting off Scot-free using his weapon than if he'd merely pointed his weapon at Trayvon and not fired. As the article put it:

"One can imagine that Zimmerman was not racist but merely hasty when he drew his Kel-Tec PF pistol"

Indeed. And once he'd drawn in haste, Zimmerman would have realized he'd have to fire it if he had any chance of escaping prison. This is why 'Stand Your Ground' is so perverse.

Under the Florida state statutes, the law goes by "776.013". Basically then, in 2005, Florida - the swamp state- became the first state in the nation to expand the rule known as "the Castle doctrine". This is a version of the old common law from the Middle Ages that states if a stranger enters your home without permission you may use deadly force to defend yourself. (Colorado also has a version of this called 'Make My Day')

The problem was that unlike Colorado's more conservative 'Make My Day' law - which only permits you to kill an intruder in your home- Florida's lawmakers opted to expand the purview not only to the easement or sidewalk outside your home but to "any place where the citizen has a right to be". Thus, bowling alleys, churches, movie theaters, parties....the Everglades....you name it.

Moreover the underpinnings for triggering the law were murky. Say you're at a party and just feeling threatened by a 280-lb. jock type and you fear he will waylay you and even cause brain injury, then you can pull the gun and fire basing your actions on 'Stand Your Ground'. Yet as TIME notes, despite its vast breadth only 20 of Florida's 153 lawmakers opposed the law. Thus did Repuke Gubernator Jeb Bush sign it into law on April 26, 2005 even as the NRA got a major Jones - having fought like rabid ferrets to get the law passed since the late 80s. (The NRA used as the face of its legal push one Marion Hammer, a white- haired granny and the first female president of the organization, who once declared that the key to winning the gun debate was to "get rid of all liberals").

Fortunately, more recent rational voices appear to be emerging such as Buddy Jacobs (General Counsel of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association) in an op-ed published in the March 27 Orlando Sentinel. Jacobs correctly noted that Florida legislators ought to reconsider the law.

Meanwhile, imagine a situation in the land where 2 million "George Zimmermans" may be able to carry their Kel-Tec PF pistols to any gun control states such as California and New York. This will occur if enough wussie Democrats in the Senate cave-in to help pass the "National Right to Carry Recpirocity Act" .

This law will command all the gun control states to allow inhabitants of the fancy free, 'stand Your Ground' gun -loose states such as Florida, to tote their weapons anywhere they want ....whether in Times Square...or on Hollywood Boulevard. And given these "swamp denizens" - as TIME columnist Joe Klein calls them in his op-ed ('Triumph of the Gun Fetishists')in the same TIME issue - will likely have some version of their states' 'Stand Your Ground' embedded in their craniums, watch out!

Am I a gun-hater? Not at all (see photo). But there is a difference between gun fetishism and sound, rational gun ownership and this nation crossed it when - in 2009, it allowed weapons to be carried into national parks (as part of an amendment to passing a credit card law). Now, these 'Stand Your Ground' laws have made the distinction between justifiable homicide and blatant homicide carried out under cover of the law almost impossible for even a King Solomon to parse.

Let us hope Florida wakes up before it's too late, and hope at least enough Dems in the Senate aren't so spooked by the NRA gun lobby that they give this one up to the crazies too!

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