Neither stand your ground nor acting like a thug is practical…

February 18, 2014

I was listening to a discussion of the legal stand-your-ground theory of self-defense in personal gun use. This was in light of the much-discussed Trayvon Martin case and then the two most recent killings in Florida in which it seems shooters used faulty judgment in killing their victims, with the theme of racism in at least a couple of the shootings.

I’m writing this without going back to specific references — just off the cuff, for if you keep up with the news at all then you are generally familiar with them.

Two things stand out in my mind: first it is absurd to allow people to carry guns around and at a whim decide they are in danger because someone seems threatening and then simply blast away. It is just not practical. I mean we all (I’m a baby boomer) used to watch those TV and movie westerns in which, well, people did that. But that was make believe and those were actors. It was like when we used to play cowboys and Indians. We faked our deaths and then got up and played some more. In real life that is not the way it works.

(Oh, and of course there are those popular movies where heroes go around vigilante style protecting and avenging the innocent — but it is supposed to be make believe.)

If I had more time here and ability at the moment to cite references and such I would go into a discussion about stand-your-ground and the theory of justifiable use of force in self defense. But I will just say I don’t think stand-your-ground is a good idea. I do feel, however, a person should have a general right to self defense by weapons and it should be interpreted liberally with a small l, that is to give the benefit of the doubt to the person defending him or herself.

Secondly, there is too much of an emphasis on this as a racial problem. The storyline is that white guys carry guns and when they see a black kid they get scared and start shooting. Yes racism does seem to play a part in some of these cases for sure, but it obscures the real story. The right to keep and bear arms guaranteed us all under our constitution is interpreted popularly as a personal right to own and use handguns and all types of weapons, not only to hunt or to target practice but as personal protection from bad people and the government. Now the legal analysis of the Second Amendment might differ from that, but as far as much of the public is concerned, we simply have a right to have guns and use them when necessary.

Well fine. But the problem is that a lot of people use them when it is neither necessary nor wise or justified. In one of the most recent incidents a retired cop killed a man in a theater over the fact the now dead man had been texting. Texting — is not that a silent thing? How was that affecting the shooter, other than he might have thought why did you come to the movie to text? Also it was said to be during the previews. And anyway no matter what the victim had been doing — even talking loudly during the feature presentation, as people often do, that would not make shooting him legitimate. Any one of us might say: “I felt like killing the guy” but it would be only a figure of speech. Trouble is a lot of hot heads turn a figure of speech into literal action when armed. And who knows? What would any of us do if we were armed? You get mad enough, sometimes something weird takes over.

And finally let me add this:

A black man (or woman) has as much right to wear anything he wants and comport himself anyway he wants. But it really makes no difference what your race. You act like a bad guy or a thug, and you will be perceived as one.

I was sitting in my truck the other day and a group of black teenagers came walking by. I perceived no threat, but I have to say, they wore the apparel that seemed to suggest they might be at least gang wannabes and the way they walked suggested they were trying to make some kind of statement — but I must quickly add that in reality teenagers of all races do this. It’s just something a lot of us go through. But it would not be wrong or racist to suggest that young people (of all races) need to be taught that appearance and perception mean a lot? (Okay, I know, they would not listen — but it should be reinforced nonetheless). But a black woman in the discussion kept decrying the fact she had to tell her son not to wear a hoody. Wear anything you want to, but just know people act on perceptions. It’s human nature, I’d say.

It would be a relief if to not be threatening were cool.


Oh, and one of the recent incidents had to do with a white guy who winds up shooting a black young man to death, basically over a beef about a car load of young people playing loud music. He claimed he thought a shot gun had been aimed at him but it seems the credibility of that statement is in doubt — no shotgun found and no other  testimony to back that up. He also failed to notify authorities in a timely manner that he had shot someone — went home and had a pizza instead.

I don’t care what the race or type of music — loud music (especially that base-pounding thing that is like an earthquake) pees me off too — and it is meant to, no doubt. Probably not a good idea to shoot someone over it though — ya think? And that makes me think — most of these incidents we hear about now seem to involve unbalanced people or at least people with mighty poor judgment carrying around hand guns.