I could write a novel as to why I’ve been so absent from my own blog these many months, but suffice it to say the six book manuscripts I’ve been married to at the job that actually pays me to edit has kept me non-stop busy since I got back from SHOT show in January. Oh, sure, I had all sorts of good intentions, still do, but, as they say, there are only so many hours in the day. Anyway, it looks like I have a short window in which to breathe and write for myself (and you), and a couple issue are sticking in my craw, as it were, so I’ll spare you the gory details of why I’ve been gone and get down to business.
First up is the Treyvon Martin tragedy. I know, I know, the ink rendered elsewhere by journalists of every ilk, and the voices bellowed by broadcasters, protesters, and supporters of all manner and all sides, seems unending. Indeed, I may be just one more moo in the herd, but I see little more than just raw emotions–on both sides–being aired. Thought I’d try to interject a little common sense, or, at the very least some food for thought.
To narrow the problem down to the basics, there are those who say Treyvon Martin was fleeing Zimmerman. The other camp says Zimmerman was attacked by Martin. The truth lies somewhere between the two, and maybe even firmly on one side or the other. But the only one alive who knows the truth is Zimmerman, and while he maintains the necessity of his actions, his “truth” probably won’t be known unless a reliable witness or four come forward and say, “I saw the whole thing, start to finish.”
These types of he-said/she-said things go on every day, in front of human resources in the work place, in front of the cop at the scene of a traffic accident and, certainly, in front of every judge, gavel in hand, presiding over a court. I don’t have anything to support one side or the other in the Treyvon Martin tragedy. I wasn’t there–just like the rest of you weren’t–but I am taking umbrage with the “Stand Your Ground” law that saw the collision of the two worlds that had independently before belonged each to Treyvon Martin and George Zimmerman.
I ran across an article on CNN.com today, one that highlighted the political contributions of Marion Hammer. (You can read the article here.) Marion, if you’ll recall, was the NRA’s first female president. Now in her 70s, she is still a stalwart of our 2nd Amendment rights, one of Florida’s most active gun lobbyists and, according to the article, was a crucial mover and shaker in getting Florida’s Stand Your Ground law enacted.
I’ve read quite a few editorials on Florida’s SYG law, and aside from the fact that I’d expect nothing less from the mainstream media, I am hugely disturbed that the spirit of the law has been twisted to accommodate terms such as “Make My Day Law,” “License to Kill Law,” “Murder at Will Law,” etc. You get the drift. While these sensationalized word strings speak to one side, it speaks more loudly to the level of disingenuousness some will stoop to to get their point across. More simply put, you don’t have to support gun carry or guy buying or gun anything, but I don’t think most rational adults (focus on the word “rational”, and I don’t the journalists penning those words, actually believe most other rational adults are just waiting for an opportunity to discharge a round into the torso of the next available foe. I know these writers are just doing their jobs and selling papers, but such a lack of integrity is a disservice to both them and their readers (rational or not).
The unnecessary and inflammatory rhetoric aside, the part of the CNN story that got stuck in my craw was a line in this paragraph:
Stand Your Ground was intended to give people under attack the benefit of the doubt, Baxley said. You no longer needed to retreat first, but the law wasn’t meant to apply to anyone who followed or chased after an attacker. Nor was it an excuse for police to stop fully investigating homicides when there’s a self-defense claim, he added.
You no longer need to retreat first. Why? Why?
I’ve just finished editing a book that’s about to go to press, Armed: The Essential Guide to Concealed Carry, by Bruce Eimer, Ph.D., and while there are dozens of books on the subject of CCW, this is an approach to the subject I’ve never seen before. The book has a wealth of useful information in it, but, in a nutshell, this is the thinking gun owner’s guide to concealed carry. Think about how, when, and what you carry, think through possible scenarios where you might have to use your gun to defend yourself or another, and think about the consequences of every action you take up to and including pulling the trigger. And do all this thinking before you buy your first gun and fifty-round box of ammunition and declare yourself armed. Throughout the book, Eimer emphasizes that you should always, always, try to avoid a situation where you would have to use deadly force. In fact, he says, it’s your responsibility, your obligation, to retreat if at all possible.
I agree with Eimer. His is a philosophy I’ve carried with me ever since I became a gun owner. Which makes me question the validity of Florida’s SYG law. It seems that, by negating the obligation to leave a threatening scene when possible, a person’s right to be in a place can supersede the life of another. Does it? If I can–and the operative word here is “can”–escape a place where my life is threatened and no life is loss on either side, good or evil, isn’t that, shouldn’t that be better than a lost life and all the agony and turmoil that both the Martin and Zimmerman families are going through?
Even if this SYG law stands and remains intact after the rigors that will now be the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, I’d suggest that a little common sense might be good for the American public, whether pro- or anti-gun. There will always be those who will make a mistake and misinterpret the intent of a law, any law–and those who will flat-out defy them. And, so, with guns, there will always be a few of the vigilante mindset who unnecessarily take matters of the gun as a means to justice into their own hands, just as there will always be kids with driver’s licenses who will race for pink slips down an almost empty city side street and accidentally kill themselves or the local bar owner just off his shift at 2 a.m. and stopping at the corner for the morning edition that doesn’t yet headline his death. You can’t stop either one, not through background checks, mental evaluations, or lie detector tests. You can not legislate morality, nor can you legislate away the possibility of people making mistakes, no matter how much good-intentioned “spirit” is behind a law.
We know these things to be true, yet it’s guns that are the pervasively polarizing tool we talk about, write about, fight about, scream about. Do we ever deeply question the deeds of the reckless driver and then demand harsher laws that take cars away. Of course we don’t. Instead, we accept it. “It’s part of life,” we say, “You have to take the bad with the good. Can’t let a few bad apples take cars away from the rest of us.” How come we never say that about guns?
Did George Zimmerman do the wrong thing? It appears a court will decide that. If I hedged a bet, he’s going down. Regardless the outcome, in the aftermath, what I really want to know is this: Will anyone have the balls to say, “It’s part of of life, you have to take the bad with the good”?