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Response to BlueCaliDem (Reply #106)

Mon Apr 22, 2013, 11:49 PM

127. Utterly wrong. You just don't understand the law.

 

It's not your fault, I'm sure you're not a lawyer.

Before I begin, let me say a few things. 1) I am a progressive. I just happen to be pro-gun. 2) I am NOT a member of the NRA or any other gun rights group. 3) What you understand of the stand your ground laws is based upon what you've read in newspapers, written by journalists. And sadly, many journalists are as dumb as rocks. To illustrate this point, Sarah Palin has a journalism degree. Journalists tend to be as wrong on gun laws as they are on scientific matters like say climate change.

Now onto your points: Do a google search. Zimmerman's legal team declined to use the Stand Your Ground defense. There's a reason for this. He would lose such a defense.

Here's the deal: The law is very specific about when you're legally allowed to use your gun for self-defense and when you can't. I know my own state's gun laws the best, so I'll start there. Under Virginia state law, I am legally prohibited from even taking my gun out of it's holster when I'm in public unless two legal criteria are met.

1) I reasonably feared for my life.
2) I can demonstrate to a reasonable person, that if I did not act with deadly force, I would have likely been killed or seriously injured.

Suppose I look out my window at 2 am and see someone trying to break into my car. I am explicitly prohibited by law to use my gun to prevent this crime from happening. I can't shoot the guy. I can't scare him off with my gun. All I can do is call the cops.

Now suppose my wife is in the car at the time. Then I can use my gun. Why? Because her life may be in danger.

If someone breaks into my home I can use my gun. Under the castle doctrine, anyone who breaks into my home is someone who automatically is determined, under the law, is someone who is trying to harm me. Out in public, that's the different story. Out in public, those legal tests I mentioned come into play.

Suppose I'm at the grocery store putting groceries into my car, and someone approaches me and hurls an insult at me. I am not legally allowed to use my gun. I must demonstrate those legal tests. If that person says, "I'm gonna kill you!", and that person is a 5'4 100 pound girl, then I'm not legally allowed to use my gun. Force of numbers, Force of size come into play. Those are legal definitions. Suppose the person who says this is 6'5 and looks like a body builder. Then I'm on better legal footing using a gun. Force of numbers doctrine. Suppose the person is a male, 5'8 and of average body size. Not so clear legal footing. Suppose average body size guy says, "I'm gonna kill you" and he's holding a knife pointed in my direction. Then those legal tests have been met. Suppose same guy is holding a knife, but it's not pointing in my direction and he doesn't say a word to me. Then I can't use a gun.

Suppose instead I'm putting groceries into my car, and someone hurls an insult at me. I say nothing. The person shouts more things at me, and pulls out a knife and says he's gonna kill me. I can shoot him, but I will be arrested. Once I'm arrested, I will plead a "justifiable homicide" defense. Under the law, this is the same as pleading guilty (to murder), and I must prove my innocence. I have to prove those two tests.

Suppose instead, I'm putting groceries into my car, and someone insults me, and I insult them back. They say something else, and I say something else too. Things escalate, and guy pulls out a knife and says he's going to kill me. Am I allowed to use my gun? No. Why? Because by arguing with the guy, I escalated the situation. I am legally not allowed to use my gun. If I do, I will go to jail for murder. Instead, I must do two things, under the law:

1) I must retreat. Run away. Run until I can't run any more. If then, I am still being attacked I must
2) Tell my attacker that I'm surrendering. I give up. I'm not fighting anymore. If then I'm still being attacked, then, and only then can I use a gun for self defense. Even then, I am not legally allowed to plead "justifiable homicide". Rather, I must plead "excusable homicide". This is far less in my favor legally, much harder to prove in court, and thus more costly to defend. This is when you get into the 6 figure legal fees that later force you to declare bankruptcy. Trust me, it's not shoot first. It's shoot as a last option.

For these reasons, I always carry myself in a polite and courteous manner. I never road rage. I never say anything mean to anyone. Why? Because I have a gun on me. If I behave rudely to anyone, and they get angry, I'm in big do-do.

Under Florida state law, they have a Stand Your Ground law. Virginia has long standing laws on using guns in public, but other states do not. 20 years ago, most states didn't have concealed carry laws. What Stand Your Ground laws do is bring the Castle Doctrine out into public. It is not a shoot first ask questions later sort of thing.

Under Florida law, I am allowed to use a gun to protect my property, even if no one's life is threatened. For instance, if someone is trying to break into my car in Florida, then I can use a gun to prevent that. However, I can only do this if I am the sole owner of the car. If I'm paying the car off, then I'm not allowed to do this. If I own the car with someone else I can't do this. If I have kids and the kids grandmother stops by the house, I'm not allowed to use a gun in self-defense, even if she stops over in the middle of the night. There are a number of other exceptions all laid out in the law.

Now let's get to the Zimmberman case. Under the law, Zimmerman cannot claim stand your ground. Why? Because Zimmerman approached Trayvon Martin. This is what led to the events of that day. Had Zimmerman not approached Martin, that tragedy wouldn't have happened. By approaching him, under the law, Zimmerman was the aggressor. That is why his lawyers smartly decided not to plea a Stand Your Ground defense. He would have lost.

Now there's been some people who say that this gives a drug dealer the ability to say, "I shot this guy in self defense", when the drug dealer was committing a criminal act. That it lets murderers off the hook. But the reality is that murderers have been pleading defenses like this for a very long time. It's the "I didn't do it" or "they did it to me" or "I'm innocent and I promise I'll never do it again, just let me go" defense. That's been used forever, and smart investigators have always been able to get their convictions anyway.

I hope you can see, that the law on these matters is quite complex. And it's perfectly understandable to be irate by your understanding of the law given the media reports of them. But journalists aren't lawyers. They're not scientists either. And most of them are pretty dumb.

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EarlG Apr 2013 OP
Hoyt Apr 2013 #1
BlueCaliDem Apr 2013 #14
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BlueCaliDem Apr 2013 #106
LineLineLineLineLineLineLineReply Utterly wrong. You just don't understand the law.
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BlueCaliDem Apr 2013 #134
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