Don’t Fear Me

Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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229 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    Great post.  Like a lot of people, I’ve been following this story over at TNC’s joint.  It seems to me to be a bit more cut and dry than it does to you, but then it looks like you’re doing better homework and getting info from multiple sources.

    Still, I’m glad one of us is touching on this case.Report

  2. BSK says:

    I think that instigating the interaction should immediately remove any claims to self-defense.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to BSK says:

      Absolutely. You aren’t standing your ground if you’re giving chase while the police with whom you are on the phone are telling you to knock it off.

      This seems to me to be a clear-cut case of a racist (and perhaps crazy) guy committing Murder One.Report

      • Ethan Gach in reply to Jaybird says:

        And the problem with gun laws is that they assume no sane person will ever go crazy.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Ethan Gach says:

          Make webcams illegal, it will help prevent hate suicides!Report

          • MikeSchilling in reply to Jaybird says:

            And since the only use of webcams is to spy on people, the analogy is exact!Report

          • Katherine in reply to Jaybird says:

            Webcams have multiple uses, Jaybird.

            Handguns (as opposed to hunting guns) exist for the purpose of shooting people.  They don’t really have a non-violent application.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Katherine says:

              The Olympics disagree with you, as do several million recreational shooters in the U.S.

              Objects don’t have purpose, without someone to provide it.  You might as well say that katanas and nunchucks have no non-violent application either, but there’s tens of thousands of martial artists who would never think of killing another human being (in self defense or otherwise) who practice with them every day.  Likewise, there are probably a very large number of people who target shoot compared to a very small number of people who would actually deploy a gun in self-defense, to an even smaller number who would deploy a gun offensively.

              I know, this sounds an awful lot like, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.  It’s trite and oversimplistic, but it’s not entirely untrue, either.

              If handguns only existed for the purpose of shooting people, with a hundred plus million handguns in the country we’d have a lot more than 10-14,000 gun related murders in a year.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                How many of those activities require concealed carry?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to MikeSchilling says:


                I am not a fan of Concealed Carry, myself.  On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that more people are shot unjustly by cops than are shot unjustly by people with concealed carry permits, so I’m uncertain how big of an actual deal this is.

                Gun laws are murky stuff.Report

              • Katherine in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Katanas and nunchucks are a lot less capable of doing mass damage in the hands of an ordinary person than guns are.  (Nunchucks are probably more likely to do harm to the user, in the hands of someone untrained.  And if a person’s trained enough to use a nunchuk effectively, they’re probably trained enough to kill you with their bare hands.)  And they’re not ranged, also reducing the danger substantially.

                When sword crime becomes anywhere near the problem gun crime is, I’ll start thinking about the degree of equivalency.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Katherine says:

                Katanas and nunchucks are a lot less capable of doing mass damage in the hands of an ordinary person than guns are.

                If this is the standard, you should worry about cars.

                It’s a hell of a lot easier to kill a bunch of people in a car than it is with a firearm.  And they’re everywhere.

                I will grant that there is a psychology effect here; crazy people will prefer to go out guns a blazin’ than perhaps mowing down pedestrians at a farmer’s market.  But the logic that is required for your implicit position to work… is that taking away handguns is going to just prevent this from happening.  I don’t see any particular reason to believe that this is the case; spree killings are not correlated with levels of gun control.

                I think it is far more likely that it will lead to crazy people going out with improvised explosives and cars, and actually killing far more people than they would with a firearm.  Granted, it could also lead to them running amok, or going juramentado with like some Moros did in the Philippines,  But, ah, relative body counts don’t exactly point to “more people survive when crazy people don’t have guns”; the body counts from spree killings with melee weapons are historically pretty remarkable.

                Unfortunately, since you’re talking about a relatively infrequent occurrence in a very large population, it would be very difficult to test either theory empirically.Report

              • LaurNo in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Zimmerman would not have killed Trayvon with a car. (But if he had there would have been an investigation. The police knew all he had to say was “self-defense” and he had a Go Home Free card) Trayvon would be alive if Zimmerman was not allowed, nevermind encouraged, to carry a gun ‘for protection’. Even knowing there was a law specially passed to protect him after killing someone he could plausibly call ‘scary’ probably contributed to Trayvon’s murder.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to LaurNo says:

                You’re making a lot of specific assertions there that are not borne out by the evidence we have at this point.

                I’m talking about generalities.  Spree killing has been around for centuries; it didn’t start with Charles Whitman, despite everyone in the U.S. being obsessed with that event as some sort of “kickoff of moral degeneracy”.

                Zimmerman sounds like he’s (probably, evidence still out and all that) crazy enough and with enough suppressed violent tendencies and aggression problems that he’s a likely candidate for a breaking moment.  There are a whole population of people like this, in this country, and there will be a whole population of people like this tomorrow, and again 50 years from now.  Some of them will crack due to outside forces and when they crack they do terrible things.

                Different things trigger different ones of them to do different types of atrocities.  But getting rid of guns is not going to get rid of spree killing.

                Even if it were politically possible, which it isn’t.

                You don’t like guns, I get that.  I don’t own any myself, and I certainly wouldn’t carry one for protection.  But people in this country have the right to do both, just like people in this country have a right to get an abortion, or picket a funeral, or do any one of a number of other things that I don’t like.

                If your assertions hold, why aren’t there lots *more* shootings on the streets in Florida?  We can extrapolate from data about how many guns there are in Florida, and there are a *lot* of them.

                Crazy people are pretty common.  Crazy people who are potentially violent are still pretty common.  Crazy people who actually flip out and start killing people are really uncommon.  They are not frequent enough to represent anything resembling a statistically significant percentage of the population.

                You cannot reasonably state any sort of predictive model regarding spree killers.Report

            • Jason in reply to Katherine says:

              Except, of course, for entertainment (such as my weekly IDPA matches), mental, physical, and emotional training (done properly, there are few better training opportunities that holding a potentially lethal implement and employing it responsibly),  and defense of your life and the lives of those you hold dear.  I know, none of those uses matter.Report

              • Katherine in reply to Jason says:

                The last actually implicitly involves the use of a weapon to shoot another person; I wasn’t commenting on the circumstances or reasons one might shoot someone, just that a gun would be used for that.

                I also don’t see why shooting at a target for entertainment can’t as easily be done with a less-typical-lethal item rather than with a common handgun.Report

            • Scott in reply to Katherine says:


              I would much rather go to the range for some target practice to relax then go hit a bucket of balls at the driving range. As if golf clubs never killed anyone.  But since we brought up cars, Teddy Kennedy’s car killed more folks than any of my guns.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Scott says:

                To every tool there is a task to which it is suited.
                The tool is known by the task in which it functions best.
                Thus pliers are for gripping and not for hammering nails.
                Pistols likewise are a tool.
                Their function is to wield deadly force against another human being.Report

              • Scott in reply to Will H. says:


                Sorry the purpose of a handgun is the accelerate a small piece of lead to a high velocity. The end to which the user puts that ability is soley up to the user. You could harm another person, hunt game or put holes in paper, etc.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Scott says:

                In other words, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Scott says:

                I can think of an awful lot of people that hunt with a bow, but none that hunt with a pistol.
                The only use for a pistol in hunting that I know of is as a backup safety for the big game hunting of predators, notably bear. If you hunt bear, you carry a pistol in case the rifle shot didn’t affect the kill.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Will H. says:

                Will H,

                I know a few people to like to hunt with a pistol occasionally. I have a friend who took a nice deer with a .45 a few years back. I’ve toyed with the idea of squirrel hunting with a competition-style .22. But you are right, it’s rare. Pistols are usually for backup.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                Your friend likely has a lot of brush to get close enough to a deer to take one with a pistol. I’ve heard of it being done before, but the fellow had just taken one and didn’t have time to reload when the other came down the same track.

                I’ve toyed with the idea of squirrel hunting with a competition-style .22.

                I am officially impressed.
                That’s some nice shooting.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Will H. says:

                In the K-Y we hunt close woods most of the time. A pistol gives you almost the same range as a bow. See here:




              • Artor in reply to Will H. says:

                If I recall, the kid in Arkansas (?) a few years back who took down a 9′ wild boar did it with a .45 handgun.Report

              • Artor in reply to Will H. says:

                I was taught that every tool is a hammer, except for a screwdriver, which is a chisel.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

        Actually, I remember a case from a few years ago where the 911 call was played by some talk radio show host I heard.  An older gentleman saw two young black kids breaking into the house of a neighbor, and called 911.  While on the phone, he told the 911 operator that he had a gun and could sneak up on the guy and kill him when he was leaving the house.  The operator kept telling him not to, and that he needed to wait for the police and if they weren’t quick enough to let the suspect go.  FInally you heard the guy saying the kids were leaving and then you heard the door, and then you heard the gunshot.  The guy shot the kids in the back as he was running away.  I remember that according to the laws of Texas this was considered “self-defense.”  You can hear the call here, but a warning that it is fairly disturbing and fished up thing to hear.

        It’s a different state, and in this case a crime was being committed, but since this case I’ve ceased to be surprised by what the law might consider self-defense.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          From nothing more than what you’ve said in your comment, it seems to me that there is enough evidence in the 911 call to establish a preponderance of evidence in a civil case that the two kids had their civil rights violated.

          The guy was not under threat, the cops told him to not do anything, he went out and shot them anyway… *AND* they had him on tape.


          • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

            Actually, no.  It appears that in Texas it is simply legal and considered “self-defense” to kill someone who has committed a crime fleeing from a crime scene.  As I recall, the police actually did file charges against this guy, and quickly lost because he had done nothing illegal.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              A criminal case not being able to go through (for any of multiple reasons) is something that has happened before. Federal civil rights legislation doesn’t share the same limitations as criminal law here.

              (If you’d want to have an argument about “double jeopardy”, I’d probably hem and haw and beg off.)Report

              • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

                It depends on whether the family accepts the district attorney’s word as final.
                The appropriate cause of action is section 1983 of title 42. This covers violations of civil rights under color of law.
                Succinctly, there are two types of rights that section 1983 covers; those granted by the Constitution and its Amendments, and those conferred by federal statute.
                I’m not sure of all the parameters, but the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments might be a good place to start looking.Report

            • BSK in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              They lost in court?  Because as far as I know it, self-defense is an affirmative defense and must be proven through a trial.

              Now, if the law actually says, “Shooting people in the back who are fleeing a crime scene is not illegal,”… well, just wow then.  And that doesn’t even factor in that the “people” here were “teens” and that the shooter was not the victim of the crime or even present at the actual crime scene.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I don’t really have a problem with this in principle. Burglary is a serious crime. It creates a dangerous situation that can result in innocent people being killed. When a burglar goes free, there’s a small but non-negligible chance that an innocent person will die as a result, and I don’t think that it’s worth taking that chance just to save the life of a burglar. And that’s not even taking into account the very real costs in property loss and the psychic cost to the neighborhood residents. If a burglar can be captured alive, great. That’s the first-best outcome. But as far as I’m concerned, the second-best outcome is that he’s captured dead, not that he escapes.

          I say “in principle” because I’m a bit worried about someone committing murder and setting it up to look like a thwarted burglary. I’m not sure how realistic that is.


          • Will H. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            The direction of movement was away from the shooter.
            There was a case in Tennessee where a cop did the same thing.
            It’s a violation of civil rights.
            I’ll see if I can find the case later.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Will H. says:

              When you commit a felony–a real one, with a victim–you don’t have a civil right to escape to commit another one.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Tennessee v. Garner

                More in-depth analysis here.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Is belief that a felony has been committed sufficient grounds for deadly force, even in the absence of threat or involvement in the alleged felony?  Wen it comes to homicide, I’m not a big fan of the “oops” defense.Report

              • Will H. in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                No, they can’t shoot just because a felony has been committed.
                If, on the other hand, they believe that they might prevent a felony from being committed, then they can shoot.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Will H. says:

                The case you cited seems pretty violently in conflict with the Texas law Tod described.Report

              • Will H. in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I know it.
                The people in Texas didn’t have a good attorney.
                Federal rights are to be asserted at the federal level.
                From a legal standpoint, the big difference is that the shooter in Texas was not a police officer. That means that the Board of Police Commissioners doesn’t get sued for sub-par training, which happens to be a big part of the caselaw surrounding section 1983 (part of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 actually; amazing how these things develop).

                I’m no attorney over here. I’ve been a party in one federal case where there was an incredible amount of witness intimidation going on under color of law. I’m talking about things like wire fraud, extortion, etc.
                The feds will sit back and let the local authorities handle it, until they prove that they can’t.
                See Doreen Proctor.
                Now, I’m a witness in another federal case involving a police shooting. Same old witness intimidation under color of law again.
                I see no way out of it other than: 1) Walk in to the Charles Evans Whitaker Federal Courthouse and inform US District Judge Greg F. Kays that I am not allowed to speak or give testimony due to the incredible amount of witness intimidation which has already occurred under color of law; or 2) I take the initiative and file suit in US District Court.
                I’m working on #2, because I don’t care for all of the possibilities that #1 leaves hanging wide open.
                But that’s why I know all these laws.
                I was directed by the Office of a US Senator to provide a complete report with supporting documentation, and I’ve been working on that for the last couple of months.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                That sounds like a giant ball of suck.Report

              • Will H. in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                It’s not a comfortable position; I’ll grant you that.

                I went for 40 years without being a party to a federal case.
                Now it’s 3 times in 4 years.
                I don’t care for the trend.Report

              • Artor in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                You do, however, have a right to due process and a fair trial. Getting shot in the back kinda negates that.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            why bother? just set it up to look like a stupid accident…

            Unarmed burglarly is hardly a “serious crime” in the sense that you’re using… Most burglars are unarmed, and attempt — quite hard — to find houses that are unoccupied.

            Cell phones save more lives than guns.Report

            • Jason in reply to Kimmi says:

              This sets up an interesting philosophical argument.  In the case of burglary, you submit it as ‘hardly a serious crime’.  However, when you consider that the owners of the property being stolen traded part of their life (the time spent earning to wherewithal to purchase the property) in order to obtain that property, the burglar is, in essence, stealing life.  Extend that to the eventual end, and the question is, at what point do you take so much ‘life’ that you should forfeit your own?  Do you believe that burglars are generally one-time-and-done criminals?Report

              • Ethan Gach in reply to Jason says:

                In that case it’s a good thing that “life” =/= property.  Being able to exchange two things does not make them equal/substitutable.  Helps smooth out those potential wrinkles.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Ethan Gach says:

                I wanted to address this belatedly because of the side issues.

                I basically agree with Jason’s position here, though I would phrase it in different terms.
                There’s a saying that, “A man is made of time,” and I don’t dispute the truth of that.
                As a union man, the “sweat of the brow” is a primary consideration. There is a finite amount of sweat reserved in the brow of any man. A man owns those little beads of sweat on his forehead, and no one toils without an end.
                I had just formulated the basis of that particular right a moment ago, but now it slips my mind. I got lost. Mind drifting.
                At any rate, I believe that replacement costs, rather than FMV, should be used in determining award of damages.
                FMV seems to assume that every person is willing to sell off everything they own at a garage sale.Report

              • Ethan Gach in reply to Will H. says:

                What compelling argument is there for saying that a life is reducible to (or equatable with) the property acquired during it?

                For one, it seems disturbingly atomistic, and two, entirely too complex to sort out.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Ethan Gach says:

                Every person has the right to the prosperity they have created through lawful means.

                For one, it seems disturbingly atomistic, and two, entirely too complex to sort out.

                I know it.
                The application is more clear when large quantities are in question.

                I’ll come back later when I gather my thoughts.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Jason says:


                That’s why it’s legitimate to make the criminal sacrifice part of their life–as time spent in prison.  But no matter how much someone steals from me they have not taken my entire life, so the answer to your question is, there is no point at which someone has taken so much of my life through theft of the things I’ve worked for that they have forfeited their entire life.Report

              • Will H. in reply to James Hanley says:

                A writ of replevin is the appropriate manner to address custody of property at issue.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

                Did this just justify the death penalty in the case of murder?Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                Why go as far as murder?  Criminal negligence that results in deaths fills the bill.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                Of if they have, look for people who, say, foreclose on property to which they have no clear title, or misrepresent junk CDOs as first-class investments, not the ones who grab the odd TV set here and there.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                “I have a device that steals life, but it’s nothing so clumsy as the suction machine from The Princess Bride.  It’s more like the computer program from Superman III or Office Space: it just steals tiny bits of life from everybody.  So little they don’t even notice it.  But with 7 billion people on the planet, stealing two seconds from everybody gives me 443.93708 (ish) years of extra life!”Report

          • LaurNo in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Wow. Really. You think killing teenagers in cold blood is defensible if the emotional distress the people not even home may experience is considered? No wonder we have an ungodly percentage of our citizens wasting away in prisons. Other people’s lives have no intrinsic value to some people. I hope you don’t ever join a neighborhood watch.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        You aren’t standing your ground if you’re giving chase while the police with whom you are on the phone are telling you to knock it off.

        This.  In addition, you’re not standing “your” grand when you shooting an unarmed person on “their” property.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to BSK says:

      Depends on what interaction is being instigated, but I’ve seen little here that makes a self-defense claim morally viable*. And I typically have a pretty broad interpretation of what qualifies as self-defense (I suppose castle laws, for instance).

      * – The only hesitation I have is that, in the past, I have come to conclusions too quickly based on early news reports and found out that there is more to the story. So I’m assuming that the early reports here are accurate, but I am not declaring them so.Report

      • Michelle in reply to Will Truman says:

        If the news report is correct and Zimmerman got out of his car to confront Martin, there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable claim for self-defense.  Zimmerman could have easily left the scene. Martin was just walking around–he wasn’t committing any crime. But I don’t know the specifics of the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law. I’d hate to think it makes this kind of behavior legal.Report

        • Will H. in reply to Michelle says:

          Florida enacted a lot of tough laws a number of years ago to target carjackers.
          Those laws are still on the books.

          I’ve always said that making better people is more effective than making better laws.
          Making more laws is just taking the easy way out.
          It addresses the symptom and not the cause.Report

          • Michelle in reply to Will H. says:

            Yes. My understanding of self-defense laws is that you can defend yourself with lethal force in any situation where you reasonably fear that you’re in imminent danger of being killed or seriously injured by another, no matter what your location. I don’t know why states would feel compelled to pass “Stand Your Ground” laws.Report

            • Jason in reply to Michelle says:

              I agree with the idea of ‘make better people, not better laws.’  By that standard, we wouldn’t need MOST of our current laws.  There’s no need for any gun control laws, because everything bad that you can do with a gun is inherently illegal (murder, robbery, rape, assault, etc).  Going with the simple idea that only malum in se violations are worth legislating would make our laws much simpler, and leave the decision on ‘was this a justified instance to hurt someone’ up to the jury tasked with deliberating on that very issue, without the side issue of ‘was he guilty of violating some ridiculous regulatory issue.’Report

              • Will H. in reply to Jason says:

                [E]verything bad that you can do with a gun is inherently illegal

                I wanted to address that, because that really is the same as my position.
                This situation isn’t so much an issue of more guns/less guns, in my view. It’s about the circumstances justifying the use of deadly force.
                In the case of a burglary discussed above, say the homeowner didn’t have a pistol, but a bat. Homeowner sneaks up behind the burglar and clocks him with the bat.
                Something typical in assessing the elements: 1) The burglar did not pose a threat to the homeowner at that time, and in fact was unaware of his presence; 2) This was the first point of physical contact between the two parties. That’s it. Homeowner goes to jail.
                Was it justifiable? I’d say so.
                But the courts have a long history of interpreting law away from the intent of the legislature.
                Legislatures have a long history of over-reacting to such things.
                I think that’s how we got here.
                Reading from various cases of shootings after this stand your ground law was passed, I have to wonder if increasing the use of deadly force to the point of trivializing it was really the legislatures intent.
                If it wasn’t then they have some more work to do.Report

            • FridayNext in reply to Michelle says:

              The difference is that the Florida law does NOT include a burden on a person to de-escalate by other means. My understanding of “traditional” self-defense laws is that they typically contain a provision that the person claiming self-defense must show evidence of trying other remedies and not just going straight for the kill. That is no longer the case.  That’s why they are called “stand your ground” laws. You are no longer required to show evidence of trying to get away if threatened.

              Also, and I am less clear on this and welcome clarification and/or contradiction, but the Florida law establishes self-defense not as an affirmation defense at trial, but a grant of immunity from prosecution in the first place. This is why, as outrageous as it sounds, the initial statement by the police that they didn’t have enough evidence to disprove Zimmerman’s claim is legally valid (if factually false, as seems the case). Apparently, and again correct me if I am wrong, once someone invokes self-defense and can show a prima facie case for it, it is the state’s responsibility to disprove it. In this case the prima facie case seems to be strange black boy in gated community dead with no ID wearing a hoodie.Report

  3. Ethan Gach says:

    I think you beat me to the punch in editing the image Tod, though I unfortunately might have undone that by accident.Report

  4. joey jo jo says:

    just my opinion, but the legislative angle is not as interesting as the police conduct angle.  where in the heck is trayvon’s cell phone?Report

    • I’ve been meaning to write about the police/prosecutorial conduct angle here, but haven’t had time this week.   The more I look into this, the less it seems to me that the Stand Your Ground law is relevant here.  It seems instead to be more of a post-hoc justification for investigative misconduct that doesn’t really fit the facts.Report

      • My feeling is that it’s relevant as a reflection of the shoot first, ask questions later mentality.

        Everyone cares about investigative conduct except the person who’s dead.Report

        • Fair enough.  I’m just not at all sure that these types of laws have a real effect on individuals’ mentality in the moment, regardless of whether they are bad laws (and I very much think “Stand Your Ground” is a terrible law even if it turns out to be irrelevant here).Report

          • I agree on that Mark, which is why I think it’s more a social issue than a legal/racial one.

            And I didn’t get this across well, but it’s the leap from castle laws to anywhere laws, and how comfortable with that enough people seem, that gets me.

            Sam Harris wrote a long post on self-defense from a practical point of view some months ago.  He noted that even if you have a gun, and your home is being broken into, you’re primary concern should still be escape, and the gun should be an avenue toward that.

            But there seems a large, deeply embedded territorial element in all of this that is extremely dangerous, as demonstrated here by the problems with taking a Wild West approach to community watch.Report

            • This makes sense to me.  I appreciate the clarification.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Ethan Gach says:

              Yes. Anyone who owns a gun shouldn’t be trying to hunt someone in their own home. it’s dumb, bloody and messy if it works.

              If you’re in a home, your priority should be to escape. Failing that, your priority should be to make enough noise to make the robber escape (who wants to be in a home that’s occupied? at that point, you’ve already lost. take your shekels and run!) — preferably with the implication that you have already called the cops.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kimmi says:

                Amazingly, I’ve heard it reported that the sound of a pump-action shotgun chambering a round will set a bad guy to running much faster than a home alarm or a barking dog.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                As with anything, it depends on the bad guy. Making noise and shit? That’s if you expect someone stupid — or at least smart enough to run.

                You chamber a round on me, if I’m armed and in your house (an admittedly unlikely scenario?)? I drop to the ground, and find a weapon. Then I find the door which you’ll be coming from. [I’d have to be awful desperate to be in your house in the first place, of course]Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kimmi says:

                As I said before, you garden variety home invader is looking for compliant victims, not a gun fight from an aggressive homeowner.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                I assume, lacking stats, that home invaders, as opposed to burglars, are relatively few and far between.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Kimmi says:

                That’s one thing that I really like about crossbows.

                And if I ever do shoot somebody, they’re going to be trying to yank out an arrow sticking out of them.
                I think I’d like the visuals as well.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will H. says:

                my more martially minded friend likes sound grenades. nothing like leaving everyone on the ground with their eardrums ruptured to end a fight.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will H. says:

                Or the puke light, dazzle them until they are heaving dinner on the groundReport

              • Jason in reply to Kimmi says:

                Absolutely not.  Your first priority should be to keep unwanted invaders OUT of your house.  The second priority should be to remove them from your house.  Anything less, is allowing anyone who so desires to have your life for the taking, as you trade massive parts of your life to acquire your home.

                Anyone who will take my life, does not deserve my respect for their life.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Ethan Gach says:

              Here’s part of the problem for me.

              I do not want to encode into law the idea that if someone is breaking into my house, I have an obligation to worry about their welfare.

              I certainly do not want to encode into law the idea that a home invasion would carry less of a criminal penalty than defending one’s home from a criminal invasion.

              It seems to me that one of the unintended consequences of enacting into law the idea that “even if you have a gun, and your home is being broken into, you’re primary concern should still be escape, and the gun should be an avenue toward that” puts moral obligations on the guy trying to sleep in his own bed that appear to be primary to the moral obligations on the guy breaking into someone else’s house.

              That’s downright perverse.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yeah, this.

                Ethically, I think one ought to get oneself up and out of the house and call the police, and not just because you’re worried about executing some guy for property crime but because you’re not trained to take out a potentially armed intruder in a low light environment.

                But legally, if someone breaks into your home, whatever happens between then and when the cops show up should be all on the guy breaking into your home.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I grew up in New Mexico, and the laws there state that you can’t kill a person over property.
                The idea is that no piece of property is worth a human life.
                If you are in your home and someone breaks in, you can shoot them but you can’t kill them unless you were threatened with a weapon.
                People tend to use bird shot for home defense.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will H. says:

                this seems solid enough. i presume bird shot stops most people.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Kimmi says:

                You can fit bird shot in a .38 and have a fairly broad blast radius across a room.
                It’s not going to go through the wall and into the next house to kill some grandmother like .357 will.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Will H. says:

                This seems wrong, to me, for the same reason Jaybird points out elsewhere on this thread: it shifts the *legal* burden onto the victim of the initial crime.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Just ask yourself how you would feel, if you, as an unarmed man, was breaking into his friend’s house (without their knowledge, if perhaps with their permission) to give them some money (possibly repay a debt).

                Should he be allowed to kill you?

                Something is probably notably weird in that the aforementioned situation is not a hypothetical to me.Report

              • Isn’t that viewing the second crime (killing someone) only derivative, rather than a seperate and unique matter to be judged on its own terms?

                Is property part of the self I’m defending?Report

              • Will H. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Exactly what Ethan said.
                Lots of people are victims of property crimes without ever killing anyone.
                The decision to use deadly force– not force, but deadly force– to intentionally take the life of another– requires something a bit more than property at issue.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                The decision to use deadly force– not force, but deadly force– to intentionally take the life of another– requires something a bit more than property at issue.

                I agree, from an ethics/morality standpoint.

                However, from a legal encoding standpoint, this strikes me as a very bad problem space.  We have a presumption of innocence baseline in this country.  And yet “I killed that man in self-defense” is, as has been pointed out elsewhere on this thread, a case where the burden of proof falls upon the person being accused.

                I have zero problem whatsoever with this being the default out on the pubic sphere.  If I’m walking down the street, and I see an altercation and decide to intercede with a threat of force, I’m out in the public sphere and the public has all the right in the world to say what should be considered the default, and if the default is, “you must justify the use of force before implementing it”, I’m totally okay with that.  You’re in the public sphere, so you should have a pretty easy time defending your actions: if someone else is being threatened with violence and you intercede on their behalf, you have a witness in your favor.  If nobody else is being threatened with violence and you put *yourself* in a situation where a violent outcome is likely, that’s on you; you’re not a cop.

                I have some problems with it when it comes to people coming in out of the public sphere and entering someone else’s private property.  I’m with Mike: it’s totally reasonable for anyone to regard an intruder in their home as a potential threat to life and limb and respond with *that* as the default, not the other way around.  For one thing, unlike the public sphere scenario: you’re much less likely to have witnesses in your defense, and thus the judgement of your actions is much, much more likely to be based upon a subjective jury.  I’m not okay with shifting the burden of proof onto the defense in this sort of scenario.Report

              • If a woman shoots a home invader, would she get a level of “benefit of the doubt” when it comes to her fears regarding her own bodily integrity?

                Should she?Report

              • Will H. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m sorry, Patrick, but it has to be in this case, from a procedural angle.
                “Self-defense” doesn’t mean that no crime was committed; it’s an affirmative defense. It says, “Yes, I did it, and here’s why…”
                The Supreme Court has already upheld the Constitutionality of affirmative defenses. Exactly why that was appealed, I really don’t understand.
                There are usually a number of criteria to consider in an affirmative defense. I’ve yet to see one with only one element.Report

              • In a court, by a jury of her peers, sure.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                There are no peers.
                Voir dire is the science of extracting the most gullible people from a group.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                @ Will

                Oh, I get that from a procedural standpoint.

                I’m just saying the baseline for determining what is “reasonable” for “I felt fear for myself and/or the persons in my care” should be different from the case of defending the home vs. the case of interacting with a potential criminal out on the street.

                Personally, I would be hard pressed to find anyone guilty of shooting someone who invades their home while they’re still inside, whether or not they were armed.  I think it’s reasonable for people to be freakin’ terrified when someone breaks into their house, and I don’t expect people to be rational actors in such a case.

                I don’t expect the same thing out on the street.  You should not fear for *your* safety if you see someone break into a car.Report

              • The Force vs Deadly Force distinction strikes me as problematic in the heat of the moment. You can shoot him in the leg, but not in a place that’s likely to kill him. Then, of course, you’re hoping that he doesn’t have a pistol tucked away or that you can shoot him a second time by the time he pulls it. This is placing a substantial burden on the person whose home has been invaded.

                Shooting someone who is breaking in to return money is unfortunate, but falls under the category of an accident.

                I’m a fan of The Practice, which was one of the best shows on television. One of the things that drove me crazy was, in a couple home intrusion scenarios, the defense had to be demonstrating that not only was a stranger in their home, with a weapon, but was actually moving towards the homeowner (or resident or guest) at the time he was killed (Massachusetts law, I guess). From an abstract standpoint, this makes sense. But it adds a burden to the defense that I consider problematic. Both in terms of the state of mind of the homeowner and putting the burden on the homeowner to be able to demonstrate that he wouldn’t be hurt.

                On the other hand, I don’t have as much of a problem when we’re talking about someone who was shot in the back, possibly actually moving away from the homeowner.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Patrick, I think we can all agree that many different behaviors are unacceptable in the pubic sphere.  😀


                Will:  He was moving away when you shot him?  Just walk around to the other side!  Now he was moving towards you.  Problem solved!Report

              • Liberty60 in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                In these home invasion scenarios, there seems to be the assumption that the killing is done in panic and the heat of the moment. In that case, having the default that you can kill any intruder makes an intuitive sense.

                But the point of having to show actual threat is based on the moral precept that there has to be a real threat to life, not just property.

                So if an intruder is advancing, its one thing.

                But what if I point a gun at him and he holds his hands up; is killing justified?

                What if he kneels and begs for his life?

                What if I hold him at gunpoint, smoke  a cigarette, drink a glass of wine, then 20 minutes later shoot him?


              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                So if an intruder is advancing, its one thing.  But what if I point a gun at him and he holds his hands up; is killing justified?  What if he kneels and begs for his life?

                What if I hold him at gunpoint, smoke  a cigarette, drink a glass of wine, then 20 minutes later shoot him?

                Morally/ethically, the answer is of course obvious (I would think), and I doubt you and I are much apart from each other.

                However, the point of the distinction between “in the home” vs. “in the public sphere” is that there is very little reasonable assumption that sufficient physical evidence will exist to show an outside observer which of the four cases is the one that took place inside that house. Unless the homeowner has installed a CCTV system in his home, complete with audio, or he takes the home invader down into his basement dungeon and ritually slaughters him, most cases will fall in the “insufficient physical evidence exists to support anything resembling a reasonable judgement”.  Not all.  But most.

                The likelihood does go up as you go down the line, of course… in that last case, it should be pretty easy to show a jury that the shooter’s story doesn’t line up with the facts, but in the first two, it would be extremely difficult to provide a compelling case that the shooting was justified or not, based upon a lack of direct observation.

                Some phenomena are unfortunately not easily subjected to readily measurable observations.

                In your house, I think you deserve the benefit of the doubt, barring evidence to the contrary.

                Outside your house, I think you deserve the burden of proof.

                That’s just how I come down on it.Report

              • Liberty60,


                But the point of having to show actual threat is based on the moral precept that there has to be a real threat to life, not just property.

                So if an intruder is advancing, its one thing.

                But what if I point a gun at him and he holds his hands up; is killing justified?

                I wouldn’t mind making these distinctions. What hesitation I have, though, is when prosecutors say “Well, how do we know he wasn’t holding up his hands in surrender? All we *know* is that you shot an unarmed or underarmed man (if all he had was a knife – which he might have already dropped in surrender!) who wasn’t advancing.” (According to The Practice, they can tell if someone was advancing or not by how they fall. I assume this is true. If they can’t do it reliably, then we absolutely shouldn’t be convincting people based on guesses.)

                In cases where there is some sort of videotape evidence, I wouldn’t mind saying “Okay, that’s illegal if he had his hands up” if that didn’t open the door up in ambiguous cases where the homeowner erroneously thought he was advancing or they aren’t sure but he might not have been advancing and can the homeowner prove that he was?

                I am approaching this from a legal standpoint. From a moral standpoint, if you shoot someone you do not believe to be a threat to life, you’re a bad person or a person who did a very bad thing.Report

      • joey jo jo in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        good on ya Mark.  i look forward to seeing it.Report

  5. Patrick Cahalan says:

    In order for someone carrying one of these tools around to use it on me, and be justified in doing so, they need only feel afraid.

    Which is an awesome default to have in America, where people are afraid of every goddamn thing possible.Report

    • Michelle in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      Especially suspicious-looking black kids in a predominately white neighborhood.Report

    • Y’know what would be nice?  If we could ask, and seriously analyze as a society in an attempt to answer, why the hell we’re so afraid.

      Pity that will never occur.  Would’ve been useful info for future civilizations to have long after this one collapsed.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to b-psycho says:

        We’re afraid because we’re bombarded with fearful images and content.   A while back, someone did a study on what children found scary on television.   Turns out to be the local evening news.   It always leads with a house fire or some accident, or a child abduction, always with some picture of a smiling little kid or some gruesome murder.

        If it bleeds, it leads.

        The human heart can only take so much of that sort of thing

        We are closed in, and the key is turned
        On our uncertainty; somewhere
        A man is killed, or a house burned.
        Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
        Come build in the empty house of the stare.

        A barricade of stone or of wood;
        Some fourteen days of civil war:
        Last night they trundled down the road
        That dead young soldier in his blood:
        Come build in the empty house of the stare.

        We had fed the heart on fantasies,
        The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
        More substance in our enmities
        Than in our love; O honey-bees,
        Come build in the empty house of the stare.Report

        • Will H. in reply to BlaiseP says:

          I used to be a news junkie until I went to Liberal, Ks.
          I could get the evening news from Wichita, Ok City, or Amarillo.
          I turned on the news one night at my room, and they were talking about arresting someone in some neighborhood that could have been anyplace.
          And I realized that the news is the same all over.
          The specifics don’t really seem to matter until they touch home.Report

  6. Kimmi says:

    If you make someone afraid for their life, you have committed a crime. I do not believe this crime should be punishable with death.


  7. Tod Kelly says:

    This is a quote from Duck from another post about another guy, but every time I read reports about what went down over the 911 call n Sanford I think of this quote – so apologies to DD for quoting him out of context:

    ” the kind of guy who was all set for someone to jump out of the bushes and yell “yer money or yer life!”, and spent his life in a state of barely-contained rage that it hadn’t actuallyhappened yet.”Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Actually, I think the quote probably applies here, too.  Thanks for digging it up 😀

      It’s been my experience that people who say “an armed society is a polite society” never stop to consider the possibility that they’re the impolite ones.Report

  8. Mike Dwyer says:

     From Ethan: I have never fired a gun, much less been trained in how to properly use one.  But I doubt that everyone who has a permit for one has been trained on when it should be employed against another human being, or more to the point, precisely when it should NOT be.

    Assuming that you are talking about Concealed Carry Permits, in almost every state that allows concealed carry you are required to take a class first. The majority of the instruction time is not about shooting but about the laws surrounding self-defense, when deadly force is justified, etc. For that reason my understanding is that very few people who use a gun in self-defense find themselves charged with a crime because the shootings are almost always justified under the legal code.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


      Have you taken a CC class?  Logistics question: do CC classes typically talk about the laws only in their own state, or do they cover legal ramifications in all states?

      California, for example, has no Stand Your Ground law (in practice, “The right of self-defense ceases when there is no further danger from an assailant.” means generally shooting someone in the back while they’re running away means you are going to the Big House).  In fact, my reading of California’s gun law summary is that one ought to be running away pretty much in all cases unless you want to defend your actions in a court of law, and maybe lose.Report

      • While I get Mike’s point, and Ethan’s as well, judging from what I’ve read about this particular case I’m not entirely sure that the issue was training, and doubt very much whether more or less training would have prevented what kind of feels like a confrontation an armed person really, really wanted to have.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Oh, in this particular case I’m fairly certain the issue was about training, as in, “he wasn’t following it”.  You don’t generally get to be a Neighborhood Watch captain without having read a couple copies of the manual.Report

        • Ethan Gach in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I agree that the current avaliable evidence points toward someone looking for a fight.  But it also feels like too many people have guns in case they need to use them at some point, rather than having guns so they’ll never have to use them.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Ethan Gach says:

            I think it’s fair to look at the cities where guns (even specifically handguns) have been regulated heavily (if not outlawed) and compare to crime in the cities where guns have not been.

            If crime is significant in the one and less prevalent in the other, it’s fair to ask if this particular premeditated murder ought to be blamed on the prevalence of guns.Report

            • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Jaybird says:

              Hint: The more liberal the right to own & carry, generally the lower the violent crime rate.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                (cough, cough)

                Citation needed.

                Generally speaking, it’s my understanding that the more liberal the right to own and carry states are highly correlated with more rural and less urban states.  I suspect it’s possible there’s a correlation there without causation.

                (note: I’m not trying to haul us off into the gun control weeds, primarily because it’s hard to substantiate any real set of claims in that space)Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                The stats are there, although they are correlative, not causative (FBI Crime reports).  The reason to point it out is that more legal firearms in the hands on law-abiding citizens does lead to everyday shoot-outs in the streets over trivial matters.

                As I said below, Zimmerman is an anomaly, and likely would have done something like this, liberal self-defense laws or not.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Oh, granted.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                I haven’t seen that in my experience. I believe what you’re seeing is that places that tend towards violence also tend towards trying to restrict handguns.

                If you look at places where handguns flow freely, regardless of law! You find that the places with the most guns are probably the worst in violence.

                If you want to prove me wrong, cite me sources on the number of buildings hit with grenades.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                The Stand Your Ground laws lower the violent crime rate as well. The Trayvon Martin case is just the latest example.Report

            • Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

              Jaybird – gun crime IS generally higher in cities with less tolerant gun laws (Chicago, Baltimore, NYC) but I don’t think the linkage is relevant. It’s really a cultural thing. If there’s a large gang culture you will see more gun crime. Period.

              This is probably waaay off topic so my apologies to Ethan if I’ve gone too far astray but, the truth is that gangs are more of a threat to the safety of U.S. citizens than Al Qadea. The murder rate in most American cities is at least 50% attributable to gang violence. Guns are a tool they use but if you outlawed them they would just switch to knives (i.e. Europe).

              Unfortunately we can’t target gangs like we do Al Qadea.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                If we’re willing to say that we shouldn’t focus on a link between gun laws and gun crime, then I am willing to go with that up until the moment someone suggests that we should start passing gun laws in response to gun crime.

                At that point, I find it very much worth focusing on in earnest.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                Is “Shooting unarmed people is illegal”  a gun law we could both agree on?Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                God no. Someone is in my house, I am going to assume bad intent. Period.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Will it apply to cops too?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                No.  Sorry, Mike, but I’ve seen guys with brain damage from nothing more than a closed fist.

                As long as we, as a society, recognize that the individual retains a right to self-defense, then we ought to allow them to use whatever tools are available to defend themselves.

                There isn’t any such thing as a necessarily “fun fight”, in my book.  I realize that this is not a universal outlook.  If two guys want to punch each other for fun, that’s all well and good.  Just because someone wants to punch someone else for fun doesn’t mean that the other guy can’t look upon that activity as an intent to cause grievous injury or death… and I think claiming that it’s unreasonable for that to *not* be the default is unnecessarily prejudicing the law.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                As long as we, as a society, recognize that the individual retains a right to self-defense, then we ought to allow them to use whatever tools are available to defend themselves.

                I think that mixes things up a bit. Mike’s talking about shooting an unarmed person. You’re response is that it’s justified just as long as we have a right to self-defense. And what constitutes what about confusions/uncertainties/disagreements regarding imminent threat? But also, what about shooting an unarmed person while defending property? I think that’s where lots of the discussion gets murky, no? Is shooting an unarmed person justified to defend your own property? And what level of property, under what circumstances? In the normal course of events, it’s not the property that justifies the killing – it seems to me – it’s that the property is in our own home. And that colors things a bit.

                And other questions: Is a person justified in killing to defend another person’s property? Are we justified in killing if someone takes our property when it’s not in our own home? And if so, then doesn’t this require that property be understood as indistinguishable from a person’s life, as was talked about upthread?

                And to Patrick and everyone else, this is an awesome thread.


              • Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Well, that comment was hopelessly garbled. Eh…Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Is shooting an unarmed person justified to defend your own property?

                In my opinion?  Ethically?  No.

                But there’s a difference between what I think I *ought* to do, in a given set of circumstances, and what I feel like I *have* to do, given the actualization of those circumstances.. and an another difference between both of those two things and how I think society ought to encode those things in law.

                Having someone break into your home is invading some pretty severe safe zones.  You cannot know how people will react when that level of security is violated.  I do not think it is acceptable to charge them with the legal outcome of the event.  I’m not even entirely certain that I can levy a charge of moral opprobrium against someone who kills somebody else to defend property inside their home.

                You cannot expect people to act rationally in such a scenario.  The onus falls upon the home invader for creating a scenario where the homeowner cannot be expected to act rationally.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                even I’m not that dramatic. shooting an unarmed person who is not attempting to put you in immediate danger, sure (if he’s bumrushing you, you can shoot, if your body’s in danger — if he’s within punching range, and looks like he’s gonna, you absolutely can shoot.)Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                If we’re willing to say that we shouldn’t focus on a link between gun laws and gun crime, then I am willing to go with that up until the moment someone suggests that we should start passing gun laws in response to gun crime.

                I’m all for focusing on a “link” between gun laws and gun crime.  if you can convince me (or, say, a panel of me, you, and ten other randomly selected people) there is a causal relationship from the former promoting the latter, I am happy to focus on that in (re)fomring my views on both.  And if you can’t, I’ll ask you to focus on that fact in the same way I would the other one.Report

            • Katherine in reply to Jaybird says:

              I’m pretty sure violent crime is lower in Canadian cities than US ones.  And Canada has pretty strict regulations of guns in urban areas.  But you can chalk that up to cultural differences if you like.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Katherine says:

                Yes, definitely.
                Most every time you hear of someone beating another person to death with a tire iron in upstate New York, it’s a Canadian.
                Solved that gun violence problem though.Report

      • Colorado is part of a state conglomerate that recognizes CC permits. That is, if you have a CC issued from Colorado, it’s good in Utah, Wyoming, and the other states that signed up.

        I’m 99.44% sure that California is *NOT* a member of the club.Report

        • Ethan Gach in reply to Jaybird says:

          Also, on an unrelated note,

          Jaybird, when will you be writing at length about BioWare screwing over your character import?  Please tell me soon. (unless I already missed it).Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Ethan Gach says:

            Hrm. It seemed too much of a trifling thing to mention more than a whiny Saturday! post on MD. (For the most part, I want to keep away from being to much of a downer in any given non-Wednesday! post…)

            Hrm. Now that I think about it, I suppose there’s at least a sidebar post on what they’ve done wrong and what, exactly, was avoidable…Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

          I’m 99.44% sure that California is *NOT* a member of the club.

          I’m 100% sure.  For most practical uses of the word “get”, you can’t get a CCW permit in CA.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Patrick – I have. When I took mine (late 90s) the CC laws were very similar across the country because it was still a relatively new thing. These days the classes are generally going to focus on laws in that state because they can vary so much from location to location.  KY is on the more liberal end of the spectrum in terms of what we allow. I can keep a loaded gun in my glovebox without a permit. If I cross the bridge into Indiana and get pulled over it’s going to be a very unpleasant conversation with the police officer.

        In my CC classes they made it clear that the person had to be physically moving towards you OR pointing a gun in your direction before we could legally fire. They also stressed that in the former case, if he was unarmed you should flee or use your fists. It’s hard to explain why you put three rounds in a guy that was just looking to have a boxing match.

        My grandfather had 40 years on the police force here in Louisville. I remember asking him once if you could shoot a burglar as they flee your house. His response was that if you do, you better drag them back into the house.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          It’s hard to explain why you put three rounds in a guy that was just looking to have a boxing match.

          “I thought he had a knife in a reverse grip”.Report

  9. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    First of all, understand that this is an anomaly, not a normal occurrence.  Hundreds of thousands of FL residents (with similar numbers in other states) have carry permits & carry guns without ever brandishing or firing them in public (including me).  For 99+% of the population, taking a life is a big deal & is something to be avoided at all costs, gun or no gun.

    We should not strip the rights of all because of the actions of a few.

    As for the “Stand Your Ground” laws, or the “Castle Defense” laws, the actual legal definitions are pretty clear.  You can not just gun a person down & claim you were afraid (unless you are a cop, then it’s OK).  There has to be some clear evidence that you had a reason to be afraid.

    From what I’ve read, I expect Zimmerman to be charged with manslaughter or worse.  I will happily eat crow if he isn’t.

    PS Ethan – I hope you have a similar disdain for cops who gun down people who were holding a cell phone or a wallet.


    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      As for the “Stand Your Ground” laws, or the “Castle Defense” laws, the actual legal definitions are pretty clear.  You can not just gun a person down & claim you were afraid (unless you are a cop, then it’s OK).  There has to be some clear evidence that you had a reason to be afraid.

      Yes, but that’s actually not terribly clear, and it is very, very subjective.

      I have to be honest, I’m not a big fan of Stand Your Ground laws.  Castle Defense laws I have more sympathy towards, but there’s a difference between my legal stance and my actual practical ethical stance.  California’s standard for self-defense seems incredibly contradictory to me… I’ve seen enough real punching to know that if someone – anyone! – with even a modicum of training comes at me there’s a possibility that the fight could end in grievous bodily injury or death, so the “you must meet force with reasonable force” part seems, on the face of it, to be messed up.  If you’re allowed to defend your property at all, you should be allowed to defend your property with any and all means at your disposal.Report

    • Will in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Get a knife and fork, then.


      Zimmerman wasn’t charged. The local cops did not arrest him. They investigated, and then chose not to charge him. Although he was standing over a corpse when the cops found him, they did not test him for drugs or alcohol (which is standard procedure), and accepted his explanation at face value despite (a) Zimmerman’s 911 call, (b) the neighbors’ 911 calls, (c) the screaming & the begging heard on the 911 tape, (d) the accounts of witnesses, (e) Zimmerman’s record, and (f) the absence of any factual support for Zimmerman’s claims.


      It was only after the national media noticed the case that the State AG and the Feds got involved. If this case had not ended up becoming a national issue, then Zimmerman would have nothing to worry about.


      Also, note the change in the number of “justified” killings since the passage of the law:

      From 2000 to 2005, an average of 13 killings by private citizens were deemed justified each year. Between 2006 and 2010 that average increased to 36 killings per year. The highest was in 2009 at 45.


      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will says:

        Got something not quite so steeped in bias?  Maybe a press release by the police or the DA stating that they do not intend to charge Zimmerman?Report

        • BSK in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Why do yo presume that a press release from the police is any less steeped in bias?  If anything, they have the greatest reason to be biased… CYA and all that…Report

        • Will in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Sorry, everything I found is from the NYTimes, Reuters, the AP, USA Today, CNN, ABC, and local news agencies. So… clearly all liberal tools, and of no actual factual value.

          However, should you care what those commies say, it appears that prior to 3/13 (or 3/16, sources differ), the police conducted their own investigation and consistently maintained that under state law they could not arrest George Zimmerman as they did not believe there was any probable cause.

          “The evidence doesn’t establish so far that Mr. Zimmerman did not act in self-defense,” Chief Bill Lee of the Sanford police said this week, responding to why Mr. Zimmerman had not been arrested. He said he would welcome a federal investigation. “We don’t have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense at this point.”

          On 3/13 (or 3/16) they changed their tune and referred the case to the state’s attorney. At that point, Assistant State Attorney Pat Whitaker stated that the “investigation of the Sanford police needs to be greatly supplemented.” On 3/19 both the Feds (DOJ and FBI) and the FL Gov got involved. The Governor ordered the Florida Dep’t of Law Enforcement to get involved. Apparently, the Florida Dep’t of Law Enforcement is different from the state AG.


          Simply put: if the national media had not noticed this case, then Zimmerman would be free and clear.Report

          • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will says:

            Fair enough (Nom nom nom, Oh this crow is GoOoOoOoD!)

            So here’s a question then for all.  I just read over the law in question (found here), and while IANAL, I do believe my initial statement was true, that the person claiming self-defense has to be able to demonstrate that they had a good reason to be in fear of their life/safety.  If the police/DA were not willing to press charges, then I figure that one or more of these reasons why must be in play:

            1) There is evidence not released to the public that give the police reason to believe Zimmerman’s story.
            2) The police, for some reason, have no desire to charge Zimmerman (he’s a friend, or politically connected, they didn’t like Trayvon, etc.)
            3) The authorities have their own agenda & Zimmerman himself is little more than a pawn to that (e.g. the police like the law & don’t want to pursue people claiming it, or they don’t like the law & want to hide behind it to muster outrage as killers walk free)

            We give the police considerable latitude when it comes to who to charge with what.  We shouldn’t be surprised when they exercise that latitude for their own reasons.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              There’s a subtle difference between “they have considerable latitude” and “we gave it to them”.

              I mean, if we “gave” it to them, then national outcry wouldn’t change anything either.  There’s a non either-or thing going on in there.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                If we didn’t give it to them, how could they have it?Report

              • Will H. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I think it’s fairly clear the finding was in error.

                (3)?A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
                (emphasis added)

                We can be reasonably sure that the kid did not threaten the shooter with death, nor was he committing a forcible felony.
                So, it comes down to how narrow the term “great bodily harm” is under Florida caselaw.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will H. says:


                (Keep in mind, I have no desire to see Zimmerman walk based upon the info I can find in the news.  Maybe the police have exculpatory evidence, but I haven’t seen it yet).Report

            • MikeSchilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              According to the Sentinel piece, these cases often aren’t charged,

              Also, what you’ve cited is only part of the law.  Go back one subsection to this:

              However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

              (1)?He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
              (2)?Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013

              You linked to what’s referred to in clause 2.  Clause 1 leaves far more room for interpretation.Report

  10. BSK says:

    This Zimmerman character seems scary. And clearly a threat to life. Could I shot him on sight and hide behind the same law?Report

  11. Ethan Gach says:

    Perhaps a fundamental thread for the extent of self-defense discussion might be “are self-defense and killing always distinct things?”

    Because it seems like justifying killing someone is different than saying I have a right to kill someone in X circumstance.

    Then there’s the problem of uncertainty and incomplete knowledge that is always inherent in civilian self-defense.  Someone might break into you’re home, or you might have only thought they were “breaking in” but really you left the door unlocked and they are confused/mentally ill.  Does one’s uncertainty regarding the situation justify them killing another person?


    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Ethan Gach says:

      You’re going to want to make a distinction between legally, ethically, and morally on such a thread.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Ethan Gach says:

      Why is this limited to civilian self-defense?  If the police have the right to use guns to defend themselves, why shouldn’t the rest of the population (assuming that by civilian you mean persons not in the military in a war zone and police on duty)?Report

      • I’ll stress that I think Police should both be paid more, and held to a higher degree of danger tolerance (like a fireman who is expected to put themselves at more risk than other community members, by virtue of the role they have signed up for).  But, as members of the community designated to protect themselves and others, I would also maintain that they have a greater degree (though still very constrained) when it comes to using lethal force because they, unlike myself who can flee, must actually apprehend/engage with them.

        That’s the only reason I note “civilian,” to seperate it from the different conditions that pertain.Report

        • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Ethan Gach says:

          Except the police are not, as per the SCOTUS, expected to legally put themselves in any danger.  A police is not legally obligated any more so than you to protect me or my interests.  They are expected to help prevent crime, and to respond to crime, and investigate crime, but never to defend people.  The only time they are in danger is during apprehension, and most of the time, that is a planned event where the police can arrive with overwhelming force.  Yet we hold them to a much lower standard of violence during all interactions with the public (not just during arrest).

          My point is this, if Zimmerman was a cop (on duty or otherwise), we wouldn’t be having this discussion.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            If Zimmerman were a cop, the cover-up and ass-covering feel to the local police would at least be explicable.

            As it is, I can’t understand why they’re going out of their way to white-wash a guy that — by all accounts — has been pestering the cops with paranoid worries and constantly calling them out for, well, nothing.

            This wasn’t the first innocent “suspicious guy” Zimmerman had seen. Just the first he followed, got out of his car, and shot — rather than calling the police and complaining.

            I did read that the neighborhood had gone from fairly lily-white to quite mixed, as a result of foreclosures and the collapse of the Florida real estate market. I can’t help but feel that if that is indeed the case, it offers a useful explanatory tool.

            But I wouldn’t reduce Zimmerman to just a racist angry at the wrong sort moving into a formerly good neighborhood. He really does read as the sort who got a gun hoping to use it to teach a fatal lesson to some “criminal” or “low life thug”.

            Hang around gun owners long enough, you’ll meet the sort. The kind you figure WILL end up shooting some innocent person because they’re just so ready for action, dreaming about it. I’m not sure if they’re better or worse than the ones most likely to shoot their spouse, kid, or dog because they’re that terrified of home invasion.Report

          • MikeSchilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            We (and much of the rest of the country) spent a lot of time talking about the tear-gassing at Davis.

            On the other hand, if it had been a cop, Radley Balko would have written about it by now.Report

            • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to MikeSchilling says:

              Sure, lots of discussion, but no calls for new laws, or to repeal laws, or re-write laws to stop further acts by the police.  Just calls to police chiefs & DAs to police themselves better or we’ll talk bad about you some more.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

                Sure, lots of discussion

                I think I’m missing your point.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Two different discussions.  The first is how the police are permitted to use lethal force in self defense without question, while private citizens are scrutinized in detail every time they do so.  IMHO, the police should be subjected to the same scrutiny a private citizen is.

                Second is how when a private citizen oversteps the law designed to protect rights, calls are made to restrict those rights, but when the police do it, there is a lot of discussion, but not calls for legislators to crank down on the power of the police.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                The talk doesn’t mean a lot. It’s the talk that gets followed through with action that counts.
                The DOJ has a civil rights division that is aggressively investigating several police departments across the nation.
                Most of the changes come from private parties suing in federal court.
                Actually, that’s what got the whole kick of section 1983 going anyway.
                In 1961 in Chicago, the police entered an apartment and took custody of a suspect. They kept his wife and something like 13 children standing around for about three hours (iirc) while they searched the apartment. They took the suspect to the police station and questioned him. They later released him without filing charges.
                That was the beginning of it. Monroe v. Pape
                This was the first case where it was held that it was not necessary that an officer’s actions comport with state law to bring a claim under section 1983. That is, if an officer’s actions are unlawful according to state law, then relief under 1983 may still be sought.

                Here’s a couple of links:
                A Guide to Civil Rights Liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
                Typical Section 1983 Claims
                It’s good stuff to know.
                And it’s not about exhausting remedies at the state level. Concurrent jurisdiction is another matter entirely.
                Every one of those cases came at extraordinary personal costs.
                But that’s the system we have in place.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will H. says:


  12. Rufus F. says:

    Been reading Locke recently and this reminds me of his distinction between the rational state of nature and the state of war. I think in that situation, you could destroy the offender who has transgressed the state of nature. I’m actually pretty sure that you can kill a highwayman in Locke. However, the big qualifier is that all of that ends with the development of civil society and the law, which prevents the state of war as well as the self-interest involved with people prosecuting their own feuds. In other words, this strikes me more as the state abdicating its role altogether.Report

  13. Morat20 says:

    I suspect one reason this is getting such big news is that there appear to be absolutely NO mitigating factors to hang a hat on.

    The kid didn’t have a history of violence of drug use, or a criminal past. There were no drugs involved, no gangs, no recent nasty crime he could have conceivably been running from or suspected of. (Other than, apparently, the ones in Zimmerman’s head).

    There’s no excuses, really, not to face up to the fact that Zimmerman saw someone he felt was “suspicious”, called the cops, ignored what the cops told him, followed the kid, and…ended up standing over an unarmed kid’s corpse. And the cops response was, effectively, a big fat yawn and let the guy go his merry way.

    And since then, every detail that’s come out makes Zimmerman look worse — and thus makes the initial decision to not charge him look even more and more unbelievable.

    The kid has no criminal history — Zimmerman does, as well as a history of constantly calling 9/11 with effectively paranoid fantasies about suspicious characters. The kid was totally unarmed and outmassed by a good hundred pounds. The kid looks better and better, Zimmerman worse and worse — and yet the police still let him go!

    Getting into the other stuff swirling around — the 911 call flatly contradicting the police’s initial line (“The 911 tapes show Zimmerman was blameless”) — which were released by the mayor. Reports from neighbors about police trying to coach statements.

    And worst of all — absolutely WORST OF ALL — is it looks like, under Florida law, Zimmerman might not have actually committed a crime. Paranoia or not, it boils down to whether he can reasonably claim to be slightly afraid — and that’s all that’s needed to lawfully end the life of a good kid.

    And then you add in race — and the fact that, let’s face it — suspicious black guy is in a hell of a lot more danger in most places than suspicious white guy. So now we have older white male shoots blameless black teen, and cops covering it up.

    There’s no fig leaf to pull over this, so far.

    And yeah — the whole thing about going through life waiting to be the hero, for some thug to jump out and demand your wallet and GET TAUGHT A LESSON! — that machismo crap — yeah, that fits right in, doesn’t it? Because I know enough gun enthusiasts to know that there’s always a few who have guns because they’re terrified — or because they’re dying to get a chance to use one “for real”.

    So, yeah — it’s a case study in racism and racial fear, resentment, and the ugly side of gun ownership.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Morat20 says:

      Is George Zimmerman a white guy?  He looks kind of swarthy.  I’m operating on nothing more than prejudice here, but he looks more Latino than white.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to DensityDuck says:

        His family claims he’s hispanic. Apparently they firmly believe only white people can be racist. The cops kept putting him down as white, so if we’re going to reduce the race issue to what the real question “what color do people think you are” (reality gets no vote. When it comes to race relations, very few people care what race you are — just what race they percieve you as) then apparently he’s white.

        In any case, I’m not sure what’s more appalling — the police white-wash, or the possibility that what he did wasn’t actually a crime.Report

        • MikeSchilling in reply to Morat20 says:

          I’m sure at this point that he’ll be charged with a federal crime.  And now that the state of Florida is involved, probably homicide as well.  What’s worrying me now is that evidence might have been lost or tainted by the half-assed initial investigation.Report

        • bobby in reply to Morat20 says:

          You’re saying that his family “claims” he’s hispanic? Seriously? Look at the photo …

          • BSK in reply to bobby says:

            Someone can be white AND Hispanic. And all races are capale of prejudice and racism. That is part of the insidiousness of institutuional and socially promoted racism… It infects us all.Report

  14. AllenGrey says:

    No reason to get erudite about this. The kid was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The watcher did nothing illegal. And that is that. People in these states need to start OC and CC if they can. Looks like you have to protect yourself from regular citizenry now too. lol. The point is nobody cares. Next article please.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to AllenGrey says:

      troll, troll, troll your boat

      gently down the stream

      merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

      fuck off and diiiiiie

      love, DensityDuckReport

      • AllenGrey in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Not really. I’m telling the truth. Start learning how to shoot and get permits to carry. This is America now and it’s not going to change. When my state has this law enacted I will definitely be carrying. I will not be a victim like that poor kid was. Have a nice day DensityDuck.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to AllenGrey says:

          Hiya allen, mr. magic twinkletoes who thinks he’s faster on the draw than everyone else.

          You aren’t Trigun. Check it.Report

          • AllenGrey in reply to Kimmi says:

            I’m not saying I wont be badly wounded or killed. I don’t think I’m John Wayne. I do like Trigun though. Cool anime. It just seems to be the law of the land. No one is doing anything about it in Florida. So for people in the South who whine about government spending seem to think it’s okay for the Feds or some high court to come in and figure this mess out for these immature people. All paid by my tax dollars. We need better well written laws. Not this vague “he scareded me! So’s I shots ’em good and ded, I did.”. And the people who are suppose to “Serve and protect” can’t do anything to help someone if they have been wrongfully shot and killed. I’m not a fan of shoot first and ask questions later. But what am I suppose to do as a politically moderate citizen who lives in these kinds of extreme states suppose to do. But pack a weapon and hope for the best I don’t run into a Zimmerman.Report

  15. Mike Dwyer says:

    So the update I heard this evening was that Zimmerman called 911 for various disturbances something like 45 times in the last few months.

    Pretty much every call was about black youths. That’s where the federal involvement comes in. They are going to turn this into a hate crime.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Hell, you call 911 45 times in this burg and I imagine the Pasadena police are going to make your life very uncomfortable.

      The wind vane is pointing more strongly at “he crazy”.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        I think he’s probably a jumpy guy and maybe a cop groupie. Maybe he’s specifically scared of blacks or maybe it just happens to be a lot of black kids that ‘loiter’ around his neighborhood. It sounds to me like the shooting was him getting caught up in the moment and someone who was too high-strung to have been carying a gun.

        My take on the federal involvement is that it’s bad if they actually charge him. If they are just getting involved to push FL prosecutors to do the job they should have done weeks ago, then I’m fine with it. At this point there’s probably going to be an ugly public dialogue about race no matter what. But the problem here based on my current assesment is probably with Florida’s self-defense laws and police misconduct, not with race.Report

  16. Scott says:


    “First of all because many of them are in dispute, but more importantly because none of them really matter, or at least shouldn’t.”

    Why even bother posting of the details don’t matter?  Is this just some liberal emotion puff piece without any substance?  The details make the difference between a crime and no crimeReport

  17. ppnl says:

    Has anyone here ever actually killed anyone? With all the theoretical and hypothetical discussions of moral justification I’m guessing probably not. It turns out that for most people killing is a very difficult thing to do. Even in war time the military has to use behavioral training to get people to actually kill each other. It is a biological fact of our species.

    The world will be a better place if killing remains a physically and psychologically difficult act. And those who have been forced to kill may often find that they have lost more of themselves from this than from any property damage.

    Instead of asking when you are morally justified in killing maybe you should ask when you would be physically capable of killing. That’s what defines you as a person. And you probably don’t know the answer to that.






    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to ppnl says:

      Six degrees of separation between any human being and someone Blaise has killed with his bare hands.  Only four if weapons are allowed.Report

      • Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Tom, this is my favorite post of yours ever. I’d give you a high five, but I’m afraid I’d dislodge your sunglasses accidentally.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        and two if you count murder by spreadsheet.


        • BlaiseP in reply to Kimmi says:

          I don’t murder with spreadsheets.  Spreadsheets are for weenies incapable of writing code.

          public double findTension() {
          double mu;
          double Ten1 = w;
          double Ten2 = w * xPole * yPole;
          for (mu = (Ten1 + Ten2) / 2.0;
          Math.abs(Ten1 – Ten2) > epsilon;
          mu = (Ten1 + Ten2) / 2.0)
          if (f(Ten1) * f(mu) <= 0.0)
          // If func crosses zero in left sub
          Ten2 = mu; // Use left subinterval
          Ten1 = mu; // Use right subinterval
          return mu;

    • Kimmi in reply to ppnl says:

      ya know, I know someone who tried to kill someone else. Only reason he didn’t was that he was such a crappy shot. He has on other occasions been the death of people (occasionally on purpose).

      That ain’t what gets him up screaming in the middle of the night.Report

    • Jeff Wong in reply to ppnl says:

      I was bullied as a child and then as an adult. I probably could. I don’t even think I’d have to dehumanize anyone in order to do it.

      Well, as long as it doesn’t involve any kind of physical altercation or mess. Phasers perhaps?Report

  18. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    FYI – From an lawyer in Florida Re: Stand Your Ground

    The only thing the  “Stand Your Ground Law” really changed from earlier law was to correct a serious problem in the self defense law – because forcing someone to retreat in the myriad of impossible situations that arose in self defense – and especially in trying to stop a forcible felony – made it very difficult to legally defend yourself no matter how justified the lethal force situation was.  Quite frankly,  Florida law is a lot tougher on penalties than most other states — and is very similar to the self defense laws of other states — except that the “retreat rule” has been eliminated.   (which — is also the trend, and has been passed in many other states besides Florida).


    As I said before, from what I can see from the nose bleed seats out here in WA, it looks like Zimmerman was in the wrong & at the very least the evidence should be heard by a Grand Jury.  I worry that the police & DAs, who a great many of went on record opposing the SYG law, are neglecting to prosecute such cases because they want to stir up outrage against such laws.Report

  19. Jesse Ewiak says:

    Who was it on this site that thought McMegan was a smart person again?Report

    • Which part do you disagree with, Jesse.  I’m not crazy about the “expensive” part, but the rest holds together.  Regardless of the unrest now, an acquittal would create more.


      I’m making a much narrower argument: if prosecutors don’t think they’ve got a decent shot at winning the case, they shouldn’t bring it. How would bringing the case and losing, be better? Wouldn’t that kind of ratify the decision we’re complaining about now?

      Based on what I’ve read, so far, if I were on the jury, I’d have to acquit. Is Zimmerman a racist idiot? Almost certainly (though do remember that the media accounts are not always 100% of the story; they tend to mostly consist of leaks from one side or another).

      But could there be a scenario where he–wildly inappropriately–followed this guy, and brandished his gun, and then much to his surprise, the teenager tried to wrestle the gun away, and in the ensuing struggle, he got shot?

      Does that seem the most likely explanation to me? No. Could I rule it out? Also no. And that’s reasonable doubt. It’s why good rape cases are often hard to win, and why some criminals go free. But no, I don’t think that we should put criminals through unwinnable trials because it makes us feel better. Trials are expensive, and more importantly, a very scarce resource. I’d much rather reserve them for prisoners who there is a reasonable chance of conviction.

      Moreover, I’m generally very uncomfortable that prosecutors should choose their prosecutions based on public outrage (for all that I’m aware that they already do). There have been a lot of remarkably shitty convictions secured that way, mostly against young black men.


      Why you should want to insult McArdle’s intelligence is beyond me, Mr. Ewiak, but that’s how some people roll, I guess.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        No, it’s stupid, because her argument boils down to, “If I can make up any implausible scenario, based on wholly invented facts that are inconsistent with the known evidence, that would cause any juror to maybe acquit, then charges ought not be brought.”

        But despite this, even assuming her scenario is absolutely correct, when you’re an aggressor and the person being persued gets shot as he tries to defend himself from an unprovoked assault, it’s still a kindness to only charge you with only manslaughter.

        If she had argued that the reason not to charge Zimmerman is that the Florida law is so screwy that he might be clear or  there was an actual evidence that Zimmerman fired accidentally, fine. But she didn’t. It’s because she can imagine a scenario. I can imagine a scenario where Martin was a hitman for the Black Panther’s and I have about as much evidence of that as she does.Report

  20. Safetyfirst says:

    Not sure if this was mentioned yet…but steak knives, chainsaws, pointy sticks, rocks (big and small if you subscribe to David v. Goliath), cars and many items you wouldn’t even consider are items with non-violent purposes and in many cases, such as cars (32k in 2010), are still involved in many deaths. In 2005 the CDC shows approx. 30k deaths due to firearms, about 17k were suicides, 600 or so ‘justified shootings’ for self defense and about 12k were actual violent criminals committing a crime. Just because something tragic happened somewhere, mostly due to someone being ignorant does not mean we need to submit to a knee jerk reaction against guns. The self defense law is too vague, yes. I love the idea posted by BSK that initiating a confrontation should negate any claim of self defense. However, outlawing guns because someone may get hurt is not the answer.

    I’m all for gun owner ship as long as it’s responsible. I agree with gun control laws to keep them out of the hands of criminals, kids, and ignorant asses. I would love to see a test needed to buy a gun similar to driving tests. Make it necessary for you to get your gun and the safety device (trigger lock, safe, etc.) used for the weapon every so many years. Hell, make it so I have to fire at a range every 1-3 years with my gun and then clean it properly in front of a certified instructor (like I have to do in the military anyway). If I can’t show someone that I understand gun safety, have the proper safety devices to keep kids/thieves from  using it, as well as the ability to fire it safely (not looking for a marksman, but I’d hope you can hit the paper target if you own a gun) before letting me keep it. That ought to cut down on some of the people that buy hand cannons and bazookas because they can afford it and it looks cool.Report

  21. Mark says:

    Reports I have read was that the 911 dispatcher did NOT tell Zimmerman to not follow the kid, rather that he didn’t need to.

    Also, witness and physical evidence place the 17 3/4 year old 6’2″ football playing kid on top of Zimmerman pounding away with his fists (which have been lethal weapons for a very long time) before he was shot.

    What I have not seen is the sequence of events between Zimmerman getting out of his car and the fight occurring.

    Now, we can all say that the kid was unarmed all we want to, but if Zimmerman felt his life was in danger, well then, the benefit of the doubt needs to go to the victim. This is NOT to say that Zimmerman should have gotten out of the car, but then, we still do not know what happened after he did so, other than somehow or another they got into a physical altercation.

    What really gets me is the level out outrage being displayed in the media. Where were they when  the Carr brothers committed their acts of barbarism? Or how about this case? Where was the nationwide media outrage then?
    Oh, that’s right, doesn’t fit the narrative.Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Mark says:

      Sounds like someone be trollin’.  Any links to back up his height and where a witness said he had jumped and wast beating up the larger Zimmerman?Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Mark says:

      The narrative that the cops had the suspect and literally did nothing? IN both those links you provided, suspects were arrested, put on trial and found guilty. The only reason this is a media story is because the cops didn’t do their fucking jobs.Report