THE SCOTTISH VERDICT

The Scottish legal system is unique in that it offers juries three verdicts: guilty, not guilty, and not proven. The third, often referred to in legal circles as a "Scottish verdict", implies that judge and jury are not convinced that the accused is not guilty but there is insufficient evidence to prove guilt. Given the paucity of eyewitnesses and the disputed nature of what little evidence existed aside from the defendant's statement, the Zimmerman trial appeared from the very beginning to be headed for a Scottish verdict. The state simply was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the confrontation was initiated by Zimmerman and not Martin. In that sense, the verdict is unsurprising.

A great many proud centrists, Very Serious People, and secretly-elated observers on the right have sought refuge in the argument that "Everybody lost." While it is true that Mr. Zimmerman will suffer extrajudicial consequences, this statement is as insulting as it is facile. It is hardly splitting hairs to note that while everybody lost, the person who died lost quite a bit more than the one currently at home on his sofa.

In the larger sense this incident and trial are a glimpse into the endgame of the last four decades of gun politics, the logical result of a mindset that sees threats everywhere and believes that the Constitution guarantees each individual the right to respond to those threats, real or perceived, in any manner he sees fit. We insist not only that we have the right to be armed at all times in whatever manner we choose, but also, with the proliferation of "Stand Your Ground" laws, to be the sole judges of when using our arms is appropriate. In other words, the death of Trayvon Martin is exactly what is to be expected from a culture that arms every numbnuts who can afford a pawn shop pistol and believes that those same people are qualified as judges, juries, and executioners. "Feeling threatened" is the only requirement that must be met to justify a death sentence; if one happens to feel threatened whenever a black male is within 50 feet, so be it. We must allow each armed would-be vigilante to make that choice, because Freedom.

That, really, is at the heart of this incident: would a jury agree that being black, male, and hooded is sufficient to arouse suspicion? Even if that suspicion initiates a sequence of events that ends in death? If you weren't sure if the (all-white) jury would buy that argument, a refresher on the American judicial system might be in order. This has long been a society – including the courts – that considers some lives more valuable than others. The right to feel safe and secure in one's person and property has been particularly sensitive to the rankings of the social hierarchy over time.

That is why we create an ever-larger class of people walking around with guns – because our (mostly white, mostly male) courts and legislatures recognize how important it is for this (mostly white, mostly male) group to feel safe. If it so happens to make everyone else – black males, women, etc. – feel less safe, so be it. Every black male in America leaving his house wondering, "Is today the day I get shot for having my hand in my pocket?" is, legally and socially, a small and justified price to pay for the greater sense of security that carrying a concealed weapon provides insecure white people.

The biases of the legal system, like the society it reflects, are deeply ingrained. No one sits around rubbing his hands and chuckling, "Let's kill us some black guys!" like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon villain. It is a quiet, persistent, passive bias that enables things like this to continue to happen. It is every judge and jury that accepts without question that black male, especially when dressed In a Certain Way, is suspicious and threatening. It is every example of the benefit of doubt being given to the shooter in instances of self-defense, as though "self defense" is a well-defined concept independent of the judgment, prejudices, and irrationality of the shooter. It is everyone who insists that "It's not about race" to assuage their own guilt, irrespective of the fact that a similar verdict with the racial roles reversed could scarcely be imagined.

68 thoughts on “THE SCOTTISH VERDICT”

  • If you are a special person that still believes that race isn't an issue in the USA, and that it had nothing to do with this case, ask yourself a simple question.

    What if Trayvon Martin, the sole member of the 'neighborhood watch', had shot and killed the unarmed George Zimmerman who was walking home with a bag of skittles, after following him and exiting the vehicle to confront him after having been specifically instructed not to by the police dispatcher?

    Would the proceedings have looked any different?

  • We've been doing the same thing for years with the police when they interact with black males. It's only logical that we extend the same benefit of the doubt to every neighborhood watchman/vigilante with a chip on his shoulder.

  • If I shot somebody every time I "felt threatened" the streets would be littered with corpses.

    Heck, if I'd shot everyone who ever threw a punch at me the streets would be littered with corpses.

    When did we become such a terrified bunch of pants-wetters that we think we should be able to pull a gun every time some dusky hued individual looks at us cross-eyed?

  • Let's say for a minute that Trayvon Martin DID initiate the confrontation. Couldn't it be said that he was "standing his ground" against a threatening situation? These "stand your ground" laws are fucked up.

  • @Michael

    That's why the lesson of stand your ground is shoot first (otherwise they can claim stand your ground) , aim to kill (so they can't tell their side of the story), hope there are no witnesses. Worry about the back story later. Of course, it helps to be white.

  • This goes back to a long-ago posting about the definition of a "responsible" gun owner. It would pretty much include someone who doesn't frighten/provoke innocent people by following them down the street, then shoot them when they act frightened/provoked. Zimmerman failed the test.

  • Your post "this morning" was far more concise. The fact that there was more concern about riots, than about Ted getting his wish…

    The Right and these nut bags do not realise they are bringing upon themselves, and everyone around them, their own self fulfilling prophecy Society is becoming violent, so the answer is to promote violence. WASF!

  • "No one sits around rubbing his hands and chuckling, 'Let's kill us some black guys!' like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon villain."

    True, but that's the straw-man that Zimmerman defenders will use to explain why he's not a racist. Since Zimmerman didn't spend all his time burning crosses and reading Stormfront, he must therefore not have been motivated by racial animus.

    David Simon gets a little heavy with the brow-beating, but his comment in response to the verdict–"I can’t look an African-American parent in the eye for thinking about what they must tell their sons about what can happen to them on the streets of their country"–really hit home for some reason. Not that it's my place to look anyone in the eye and try to imagine what they're feeling (which is patronizing as hell, no matter how well-intentioned), but consider this:

    This verdict makes it abundantly clear that the following can happen. A young black man can go out one night. A white man can see him, declare him suspicious, confront him–and, hey, why not call him "boy" or "n*gger" while you're at it, just to be sure–and pick a fight. In fact, start the fight–shove him, punch him, kick him, just get him to stand up for himself–to throw a punch or two back. Then, the white man can take out his gun and kill the black man. Then, when the police arrive, the white man can claim self-defense. And that's the end of it.

    Is that what happened? Not necessarily. But it *absolutely* *positively* could have happened. That is an *entirely* plausible, realistic scenario under Florida law. Which means–and here's the kicker–there's absolutely no reason for it not to happen again. And again. And again. White men with guns can start fights, start to lose, and kill their black victims. Period.

    And when parents of black kids send them out at night, they must say, "Now, if someone starts something with you–just take it. Don't stop them. Don't fight back. Just let them do what they're gonna do, because otherwise, you're going to be killed and the killer will walk."

    We've essentially legalized lynching, provided it's one-on-one.

  • "No one sits around rubbing his hands and chuckling, "Let's kill us some black guys!" like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon villain."

    Actually, I think there are people who do just that. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/13/ann-coulter-george-zimmerman-verdict_n_3593018.html)

    And it doesn't just "help" to be white. Stand your ground laws are for the use of white* people. This didn't need to be spelled out at the time of debate and passage, and shouldn't need to be now. By their fruits ye shall know them. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57433184/fla-mom-gets-20-years-for-firing-warning-shots/)

    * "White", as always, being an imaginary construct with shifting boundaries.

  • There is now no means a person can use to move outside their house without 'possessing a dangerous weapon' — whether that be their car, or the sidewalk itself.

    Because, Freedom.

  • It's distinctly possible that GZ was acting more from his hero complex than from racism, but possible that the jury acquitted him because of racism.)

    Even if it *weren't* about race, though, it's worth noting that the structure of SYG laws does use prevalent biases and fears as the standard for when killing is murder.

    And certainly, that gives people a license to kill the lower-caste of these prevalent biases, even if they're not motivated by that prejudice.

    I confess that with all of the information, misinformation, and disinformation out there, I can no longer tell what the SYG laws change. More importantly, I don't know what sort of legal change would fix what's wrong, here…

  • The characterization of this case as relevant to "stand your ground" laws is somewhat disingenuous, I think. SYG came about so that if someone acted in self-defense, they couldn't be punished for not attempting to run away first, not so that someone could follow "suspicious" minorities around his neighborhood, confront them against the directives of police, provoke them into violence, and then shoot them. Even the guy who wrote Florida's SYG law came out and said that "stand your ground" means "standing your ground," not "following the guy and trying to start something."

    The real takeaway from this case, I think, is the general laziness of police and prosecutors when it comes to a dead black kid, and their tendency to overcorrect under media scrutiny. As Ed says at the beginning of this entry, this is an extremely tough case under which to prove murder. Martin may have initiated the actual violence, there's no real evidence that Zimmerman intended to shoot Martin from the beginning (i.e. it was not premeditated), etc. However, manslaughter seems to me an obvious choice–Zimmerman's wannabe cop routine initiated the confrontation and led directly and causally to the death of Martin, regardless of whether Martin threw the first punch or got the upper hand at some point–and while the jury could have ruled for manslaughter, it seems like that option was sort of an afterthought, and I suspect the jury was already in the mindset of "murder or not guilty" by the time the judge said "oh yeah you could also say manslaughter."

    Zimmerman should have been charged with manslaughter immediately upon his arrival at the police station the night of the shooting. The cops, however, didn't particularly care that a black kid got shot in a nice neighborhood, so they told Zimmerman to head on home. It was only after the public outcry over Martin's death that they had to charge something, and the media attention to the case made prosecutors decide to go for murder in order to look like they gave a shit after all, despite the fact that they didn't really have a case for it.

  • Here’s the data showing that stand-your-ground-laws enable a purer expression of our racism. That is, it’s already the case that white on black murder is excused at much higher rates than other combos – but it grows even more extreme with the stand-your-ground laws. (I don’t think SYG was legally invoked in this trial, but I think it plays its role nonetheless.)

  • Correlation != causation. SYG laws tend to be in more conservative states, in which juries are a) more likely to look favorably upon a defendant who claims self-defense (even defensive shootings by black people are more likely to be found justified in those states, albeit by a smaller margin), and b) more likely to be suspicious of minorities. I suspect if you looked at the rulings on justifiable shootings in Florida both before and after the SYG law passed, you'd find that redneck Floridians tended to be less concerned about a white guy shooting a black guy than the other way around regardless of whether or not SYG was in place at the time of the trial.

  • I read the phrase 'stand your ground' as meaning 'stand' not follow, not stalk, not chase and certainly not to do those things when the police dispatcher said not to.

    I'll grant the second degree murder charge may have been difficult to prove, but manslaughter seemed pretty easy to prove.

    Question for the group: If at sometime in the future, you met and got into an argument with George Zimmerman (fender-bender, you screwed up his food order, you over-billed him by mistake, etc. ) would you feel threatened?

    I would like to know.

  • Sluggo, I think if at any point he calls you a "fucking asshole," you're probably justified in shooting him.

  • I'm thinking the property management might have cause to worry,having allowed an armed vigilante to guard against petty theft with deadly force.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    When people say it's not about race, it's always about race for those people.

    And everything that's been going on for over 30 years, from voter suppression, to the anti-choice laws in so many states, to the right's reaction to the Zimmerman verdict, has been part of an orchestrated attempt by Conservatives to wrestle America back to The Gilded Age – a time when even the poorest white man could feel himself superior to the coloreds and the little ladies.

    They're basically waging a war against the 20th Century – and especially, against the results of the last two Presidential elections.

    And the ones who'll benefit from this, will be the rich white guys, laughing at everyone, from their mansions up on the hills.

  • @Nick,

    You're right that the data I've seen does not show how things change when SYG is introduced. The analysis claims that SYG laws allow juries more leeway to "give the benefit of the doubt" when otherwise they wouldn't feel empowered to do so. And since we know who gets and doesn't get the benefit of the doubt in this country, it gets that much harder to convict whites of killing young black men.

  • I haven't seen much evidence that, historically speaking, southern juries have felt a lack of leeway on giving the benefit of the doubt to whites who kill young black men. I don't think SYG makes much of a difference either way.

  • I wish you could write like this more often instead of the usual get-off-my-lawn ex-conservative routine.

  • Nancy the math teacher says:

    Sluggo: I would never willingly interact with George Zimmerman. His cowardice and fear make him a threat to everyone around him. I find it incomprehensible that he is considered competent to carry a weapon. Yes, I would feel threatened.

  • "No one sits around rubbing his hands and chuckling, "Let's kill us some black guys!""

    While I haven't known a lot of people with concealed carry permits, every one has confided to me, without prompting, that the main reason they had for carrying a handgun was the hope that they would have an opportunity to kill someone. No racial preference was expressed for their hoped for targets, so I can't in good conscience say that they were racists, but they were, in my estimation, nut jobs. Needless to say, I don't hang out with any of them any more.

  • As someone said on Yo, is this Racist, if Trayvon Martin had been white and George Zimmerman had been black, and this incident had occurred in a black neighborhood, white Trayvon Martin would be the most revered martyr in white history since Jesus Christ and black George Zimmerman would now be prepped for the first televised execution in United States history.

    Meanwhile, Marissa Alexander still has 19 years left to go on her sentence, even though the facts of her case precisely fit the requirements for Stand Your Ground and she didn't actually kill anyone. Of course, Marissa Alexander is a black woman. Guess Stand Your Ground was intended for white dudes only.

  • @Tom Amitai

    And every CCP holder I know believes that they have a serious responsibility to themselves and their community. Don't want to kill anybody.

    So does my anec-data cancel out yours?

    What does the real data say? CCP holders have an almost spotless record when it comes to almost any crime much less various flavors of murder and manslaughter.. A very low percentage of CCPs are revoked for cause.

    I know, I know…it's all a Cracker conspiriacy.

    //bb

  • Tom: I suspect, even if you're telling the truth and not at all exaggerating from what was said by the one person you've ever met with a CCP, that the kind of person who gets a permit so that they can shoot someone is the kind of person who would wind up shooting someone whether or not they had a permit.

    I have a concealed carry permit, as do many of my friends. The only person I've ever personally met who was carrying a gun and I thought that they should never be allowed to, was the guy who explained to me that he carried without having obtained a permit because "if I have to shoot someone that's nobody's business but mine." Somehow, I don't think SYG or any other gun law would have factored into his decision-making any more than the permit requirement did.

  • This post nailed it for me. Gun loonery really is just an attempt to codify male, white privilege at the expense of eveyrone else.

    That's why we need to change the terms. Guns should be seen as synonymous with "small, flaccid penis" — the same way Hummers were. They don't make Hummers any more, and the only ones I see on the road are driven by women.

  • "What does the real data say? CCP holders have an almost spotless record when it comes to almost any crime much less various flavors of murder and manslaughter."

    Want to back that up with some data? Because newspapers are filled with stories of irresponsible CCW gun owners leaving weapons lying around where children can find them, "forgetting" they have them in their luggage, involved in road range incidents, etc. etc.

    Just because a permit isn't revoked doesn't mean shit. They don't throw people in jail for leaving their guns lying around where a kid can find it and shoot mommy with it by accident. They should, but they don't.

    Jesus. On a thread about the Zimmerman shooting you want to use lack of prosecutions as evidence of something? Give me a break. Zimmerman wasn't even going to be charged initially, until it became national news and people started taking to the streets to demand action.

    Also, bb in GA: sorry to hear about your penis. Try Viagra next time. Worst that can happen is a 4-hour boner, not a dead kid.

  • Why lookie this just happened 2 days ago. Dang I didn't even have to crack a sweat to find a report of CCW holders behaving like assholes:

    Two Milwaukee men — each with a state permit to carry a concealed weapon — traded dozens of shots in a rolling shootout through two sides of town and down a freeway, the kind of scenario concealed-carry opponents feared would turn road rage incidents deadly.

    http://www.jsonline.com/news/crime/pair-of-men-with-concealed-carry-permits-engage-in-rolling-road-rage-shootout-b9953189z1-215267661.html

  • Hey Nick,

    You think the fact that black people were suddenly arming themselves in the '60s has anything to do with the raging paranoia of the racist right that led to the George Zimmermans of this country suddenly feeling justified in shooting any black kid in a hoodie? MAYBE?

    Eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

  • @southern beale

    Do you know any CCP holders? Most of the ones I know wouldn't be affected by your pop culture shift and……

    Oh, BTW, some of them have plumbing like you.

    //bb

  • Southern Beale: Ghandi also believed that, while nonviolence was the most effective form of resistance, violent resistance was better than passive acceptance.

    Just because your vision of a gun owner is a wild-eyed Aryan Nations member screaming about the gummint, doesn't mean that people of all races shouldn't have the right to defend themselves.

  • the unspoken racism American culture/history is enough reason to do away with ALEC's Stand Your Ground laws. no one has mentioned before this is a product of ALEC, the Right wing Group, aka Consevative Whites, forcing their laws on the rest of us.

    that Blacks are the target of most Southern White fears, after years of outright fears of rebellion since these people enslavement, is why Stand Your Ground and unspoken, accumulated Racsim against Blacks is just another basic underlying, unspoken "rule" of interaction between Whites and Blacks.

    This is just part and parcel of the Southern Strategy of the Republican Party's White against Black political rule started with Lee Atwater and, of course, the St. Reagan's Government is the Problem campaign. Focusing White people's anger against Blacks has worked so well for the last 30 years.

    There will be more Trayvon Martins due to the implicit fear used by these Republicans and their subgroup ALEC. and in the South, that is a blueprint for murder. White who actively want to kill Blacks can use this Stand Your Ground to do so.

    Most Southern History is a long tail of Whites stopping the Blacks from Rioting against Slavery. as it is now, White "expect" Blacks to riot every time things like this blatant "execution" happen. the Media loves this scenario. that is all we have heard since the "Not Guilty" verdict was announced.

    the Blacks are damned either way.

  • It’s so cute that pro-gun guys are suddenly interested in talking “data” and “facts” when they know damn well the NRA & GOP have blocked any real fact-based analysis on gun violence, gun accidents and gun deaths in this country in the first place. In the early 90s when studies started showing guns actually DON'T make you safer, the NRA went to Congress and demanded funding for any further studies get the axe. Hey what we know won't hurt us!

    Only until after 20 kids were slaughtered in Connecticut was Obama finally able to loosen the purse strings and get the CDC to start looking at this stuff again.

    Please, give me a fucking break.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/cdc-nra-kills-gun-violence-research-2013-1

    http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/01/14/blackout-how-the-nra-suppressed-gun-violence-research/

  • We are still rolling 'em up and smokin them anecdotal doobies here w/ a CCP doofus here and there. I am not gonna go look up the data that is there for anyone to find that CCP holders are overwhelmingly solid citizens.

    Silly assed ad hominems about male body parts don't change that.

    I am stopping this silliness for now, and go on and kill me some Johnson grass. My south pasture is overrun with large patches.

    //bb

  • Yes I actually DO know some CCW holders and every damn one of them is a fool who thinks the bad thing won’t happen to THEM. Nope, they’re different! They’re gonna be immune from tragedy. They’re the responsible ones! Hell, a bunch of them are in law enforcement, of course it’s not like that helped this family:

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/08/us/tennessee-gun-death/

    And I know just as many good ol’ boys who like to hunt, and who are appalled at the NRA and the lunacy and fearmongering they peddle for fun and profit. My father in law tore up his NRA membership card when they came out against banning cop-killer bullets, and that was nearly 30 years ago.

    The gun loonz in this country have been on a downward spiral for a generation.

    You guys are accidents waiting to happen. Stay the fuck away from me, I don't need your help, I don't need you to rescue me from some boogey man, go play hero somewhere else and I hope you don't shoot your fucking eye out while you're at it. God help us all.

  • Sure Nick, because guns are the ONLY way anyone can defend themselves.

    What's that saying? When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. You're nothing but a hammer, Nick.

  • bb in GA:

    My earlier comment on this is still stuck in moderation, but I’ll repost the part I think pertinent to your adorable little plea for a fact-based discussion:

    It’s so cute that pro-gun guys are suddenly interested in talking “data” and “facts” when they know damn well the NRA & GOP have blocked any real fact-based analysis on gun violence, gun accidents and gun deaths in this country in the first place. In the early 90s when studies started showing guns actually DON'T make you safer, the NRA went to Congress and demanded funding for any further studies get the axe. Hey what we don’t know won't hurt us!

    My comment had a bunch of links on there, which I suspect is what got it embargoed for moderation, so just Google it for yourself. Providing that's a trigger you can hit, of course.

    I have no intention of hijacking the thread here so I’ll be running along now, but please don’t pretend some of us have no clue about the tactics of the gun loons at the NRA.

  • It's neat how you assume everyone here loves everything the NRA says simply because we believe it's possible to own guns responsibly. Oh, and please define "cop-killer bullets," because that's a phrase that's meant about 10 different things in the last few decades, because anti-gun people love to come up with phrases that don't actually mean shit.

    I also like that your example of why gun ownership should be limited for civilians (i.e. people who aren't the police) involves a police officer being an idiot.

  • Also, I think it's pretty awesome how the person making the most ad-hominem-filled, fallacious, and hysteria-tinged posts in the thread is accusing anyone else here of being a "loon."

  • @bb: Of course concealed carry permit holders have a low incidence of being convicted of crimes. That's because when they commit them, they get away with them, as long as they're white and the victims black or brown.

  • The NRA does not represent the views of gun owners. It represents the interests of gun manufacturers. Most gun owners are to the left of the NRA, whether or not they realize it. That says much more about the NRA than it does about gun owners.

  • In the interest of accuracy, I'd like to point out that the six-person all-female jury was not all white, but it certainly was all non-black.

  • I believe that in no other Western democracy would Zimmerman have been acquitted, because the judicial implications of an acquittal are so blindingly obvious: that an armed person can shoot an unarmed person (thus handily eliminating the only witness), claim provocation, and walk free to do it again. And again.

    Hell, in most Western democracies a cop who killed an unarmed person would likely be found guilty of at least manslaughter, and any citizen most certainly would be.

    Last week my credulity was stretched by the Texas abortion idiocy, but this week's offering from the U.S beats that.

    I do think, however, that Zimmerman might be safer in jail about now…

  • "Do you know any CCP holders?"

    Well, there was the one guy in my Air National Guard unit. He was an American Airlines pilot who lived in Macon Georgia.

    He actually told about a road-rage incident he got into with a fellow driving a pickup truck.

    At some point during this whole incident, my friend pulled his legally concealed handgun and displayed it to the other driver.

    The other driver promptly pulled out a bigger one and laughed at him.

    Fortunately that's as far as it went.

  • "No one sits around rubbing his hands and chuckling, "Let's kill us some black guys!" like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon villain."

    So how does that jibe with with Nugent's "joke" South-Central LA?
    While he may not do it, it shows a sentiment that's flowing through the culture.

    How about Joe Horne from Texarse?
    http://youtu.be/IOP2TuanjMA

    You can hear the glee that he gets to finally shoot someone. At *no* point was his or anyone else's life endanger **until** he picked up his gun and went outside. Of course he was acquitted.

    I'll say this if I'm walking to the shops and someone starts following me, and then confronts me I'd sure as nuts try to defend myself. At no point has Martin's "Right" to defend himself and stand his ground under the act been raised. It's been, did he "attack" GZ?

    So Nick and //bb:
    Yes or No.

    Would GZ or anyone else who's used SYG been equally inclined to confront if they hadn't been armed in the first place?

    In Mjr's story do you believe either party would have been so ready to display aggression if neither had been armed?

  • HoosierPoli says:

    Rolling around your hood, heated and looking for trouble, is a hangable offense if you're black. If you're white (I'm sorry, Latino with the whitest name on earth), it's apparently a public service.

  • Oh, and I blame the violent video games. And the hip hop. And comic books. The president of the NRA loved pinning school shootings on video games, and everyone (rightfully) directed scorn his way. And then, of course, the president himself commissioned a study of violent video games.

    But that's OK, because OUR side is doing it. Then, and only then, is this ridiculousness tolerated. Because our guy says so.

    "In short, violating other people's rights is totally cool with most Americans, pending the conditioning effect of which party controls the process at a given moment."

    http://www.ginandtacos.com/2013/07/03/on-principle/

    We are totally OK with the batshit insane NRA propoganda when democrats spew it.

  • If you own a lawn mower, it may be assumed that you intend to cut grass. If you own a weapon for self defense, it may be assumed that you are prepared to shoot and kill someone. I don't know how you can walk around packing a deadly weapon with the expectation that, at any given moment, you may have to shoot and kill someone . I was born and raised in and about New York City, but never in my life did I ever feel the need to kill, even in circumstances like being mugged. I would rather give up the twenty bucks I was carrying than kill some young kid. It's a great big Thou Shalt Not for me, but I guess we need Jesus resurrected to restore that commandment.

  • Xynzee:

    "Would GZ or anyone else who's used SYG been equally inclined to confront if they hadn't been armed in the first place?"

    I think so, yes. Maybe not if they were completely unarmed, but if they'd had some kind of weapon (which they would have been–having met a couple of the cop wannabe types, both in and out of gun circles, they always have something, whether it's brass knuckles or an extending baton or a gun) then yes. These people have fantasies about what's going on in which they are the hero, and the hero doesn't get killed. That's why I honestly don't think Zimmerman expected what happened–I think in his head, he'd tell that young punk to get out of his town, and the young punk would a) respond with a cowed "yes massa" and turn tail, or b) the young punk would threaten him, at which point Zimmerman would pull a gun and call the police while giving the young punk a lecture on accountability. When Trayvon reacted by not backing down, and by being capable of kicking Zimmerman's ass wholesale, his worldview was that the young punk was going to kill him. I honestly believe Zimmerman feared for his life; I just think it was his hero fantasy that led to both the initial confrontation and to the mindset which caused that fear. And I think that given his hero fantasy, he'd have confronted Trayvon whether he had a gun or a blackjack (the latter being what Charlie Bronson used and therefore a superweapon).

    "In Mjr's story do you believe either party would have been so ready to display aggression if neither had been armed?"

    Similar to the above, but I have met a guy who responded to a driver tailgating and flashing his lights by waving a tire iron out the window. Macho bullshit is macho bullshit regardless of how it's expressed.

    Big dog: "If you own a weapon for self defense, it may be assumed that you are prepared to shoot and kill someone."

    That is generally true, though obviously nobody can really know if they are "prepared" to kill someone unless they're put in that situation. In fact, that knowledge is what drives many permit holders to be more responsible. The knowledge that this isn't some action movie where you will shoot the gun out of the bad guy's hands whilst diving through the air in slow motion, but is in fact reality, where if you screw up someone will die, makes it something to be considered. When I took my concealed carry class, the instructor emphasized this point strongly–if you take your gun out of its holster, you had better be prepared to kill someone; the flip side of that is that you never take the gun out of its holster unless it's a situation where you may need to use lethal force. I think the mindset of "I am prepared if necessary to end the life of another human being in order to protect my own" is a lot different from the mindset of "I'm just like a real cop!," the latter being the Zimmerman thought process. Unfortunately, there's no way to test for that; if there were an accurate an objective mall ninja test, even I'd be in favor of requiring it prior to a gun purchase.

  • "In the larger sense this incident and trial are a glimpse into the endgame of the last four decades of gun politics, the logical result of a mindset that sees threats everywhere and believes that the Constitution guarantees each individual the right to respond to those threats, real or perceived, in any manner he sees fit."

    There are some who think this way. Fortunately, they must be a small minority, otherwise our gun crime rate wouldn't have been in free fall for so long.

    "We insist not only that we have the right to be armed at all times"

    No we don't.

    "in whatever manner we choose, but also, with the proliferation of "Stand Your Ground" laws, to be the sole judges of when using our arms is appropriate."

    We are the sole judges of when using our arms is appropriate in every single instance of self defense, stand your ground or not. It's kind of hard to get an independent third party to weigh in on the situation during the commission of a violent crime.

    "In other words, the death of Trayvon Martin is exactly what is to be expected from a culture that arms every numbnuts who can afford a pawn shop pistol and believes that those same people are qualified as judges, juries, and executioners. "Feeling threatened" is the only requirement that must be met to justify a death sentence; if one happens to feel threatened whenever a black male is within 50 feet, so be it. We must allow each armed would-be vigilante to make that choice, because Freedom."

    Again, if this were true, I'd expect that crime would be rising dramatically; we now have almost one in thirty Americans possessing a concealed carry permit, that number was tiny only twenty years ago. No one I know who carries, no class I've taken, no column I've read has said anything other than using your gun is a last resort and that you should do everything possible to avoid it. This is one of the reasons I wish Florida had charged Zimmerman with some sort of negligence-based crime, as he has almost surely been exposed to the doctrine of non-escalation, a doctrine he pissed all over leading to the death of a kid.

    "That is why we create an ever-larger class of people walking around with guns

  • Nick, I appreciate your temperate response, but for the life of me (and thousands of others who will be shot) , I cannot fathom the fear that you live in that requires you to be prepared at all times to kill. Where do you live so I don't ever have to go there? Take a look at the stand your ground acquittals that have taken place in Florida where the idea of "threat"' seems to mean anything from get off my lawn to kicking someone's cat. Does all that make you feel safer ot does it inspire you to buy more guns?

  • The CCP doesn't mean I live in fear, any more than buckling up in the car or making sure I have a three-day emergency supply of food and water means I'm living in fear. I believe in being prepared for outlier scenarios. The truth is I will likely never have to use my gun anywhere but the range, and I hope that's how it plays out. But at the same time, there was an incident about a year ago at the grocery store down the street from my house where some nutjob went in, bought a kitchen knife, walked out to the parking lot, and started stabbing people at random until a guy with a CCP drew on him and got him to drop the knife and wait for police to arrive. All this happened about a half hour after I finished my grocery shopping. A couple years before that, at a mall near my parents' house, a guy walked in with a shotgun and an illegally purchased revolver and shot six people to death. Sometimes, crazy people do crazy shit, and recognizing and preparing that fact no more makes you paranoid than recognizing and preparing for an earthquake means you live in constant fear of tectonic shifts.

    Which acquittals are you referring to, beyond the Zimmerman case (which, as I said above, I believe largely happened because the prosecutors went for murder and overcompensated for their initial lack of interest in doing anything)? If someone uses lethal force when there is no threat that a reasonable person would consider legitimate, they should be charged with murder. If someone uses lethal force when there is such a threat, but the shooter instigated the situation, they should be charged with manslaughter. But that does not mean that the idea of having the right to self-defense in public is inherently a bad one. Any problem with SYG laws lies in uneven enforcement, which is the problem with a whole lot of laws in the South.

  • Nick….ProPublica says over 200 cases in Florida where SYG played a role. The AfricanAmerican blog gives seventeen examples. Google will find you a whole bunch of others

  • @Nick: I always appreciate debating with you.

    Yes the prosecution was lazy and uninterested. Yes the jury, because of a crap law, and the prosecution going for murder and not voluntary manslaughter, were forced to acquit.

    But how about Horne? He was acquitted. No one was threatened, he did not even give his victims a chance to surrender. He gleefully ran out and shot his Latino victims.

    Everyone asks, did Martin launch an " unprovoked attack" on Zimmerman? No one ever postulates that TM was Standing His Ground. The litmus test of said law being, "I *felt* afraid".
    Well, shit you start following me on a dark, wet night, get out and confront me, I'm going to try to kick your arse too.

    You keep saying anyone can use anything, well duh. Gun proponents have this philosophy of **all** or nothing. WT…!
    First off, life *is* fatal.
    You cannot prevent bad things from happening. You're argument is as logical as saying we should outlaw tornados.
    We cannot stop tornados ripping through schools, but we can certainly take steps to minimise and mitigate their effects. We can build shelters in them.

    We cannot stop **every** nut case from killing people. We can take the number of guns out of circulation. We can lift the bar. If you fail at trying to become a cop, well we now know you have cop fantasies so you're more likely to stalk and provoke an outcome. No gun for you!
    You've already said it yourself about the predilection of people you know who pack who have cop fantasies.
    But no! We cannot even pose that. Because like *all* things gun related it's always absolutist.
    Would GZ have stayed in the car if unarmed? Definitely. Would have gotten out if he had a night stick? Possibly. Would TM have died as a result? Less likely. In the hands of a well trained person with a night stick, you can contain neutralise their opponents in seconds. All without inflicting traumatic injury upon someone.

    Australia has some of the toughest gun laws in the world. Have we gotten to zero deaths? No. Have we gotten to zero gun deaths? No.
    Who's going to get killed in gun related violence? Those already involved in criminal activity. Ie. drug gangs, or getting shot by a cop.

  • Hmmm… Lost this…

    As for "outliers". Take the Clackamas Town Center shooting. My dad left there half an hour before the excitement happened. I know people who have CC. I can extrapolate that there would be a good number in the mall at that time. Did any get a shot off? Nope, it stopped when he shot his own damn self. Did we hear that anyone got their weapons out? Nope. So yup. CC did a fat lot of good.

    The idea is that if I'm less than likely to be armed, you don't have to carry. If you're less than likely to be armed, I don't have to carry.

    We then need to address the reasons *why* people feel so edgy. The every man for himself thing in the States is probably the number one cause of the US' collapse into devouring itself.

  • The problem with Joe Horn, and with most of the shootings like his, has very little to do with SYG or Castle Doctrine, and much more to do with race. The intent of Castle Doctrine is to codify that you have the right to defend your home with force against any intrusion, not that you have the right to go out on your lawn and shoot a couple guys who were breaking into your neighbor's place. The intent of SYG is that you cannot be prosecuted for not attempting to run away if confronted by someone against whom you have to defend yourself, not that you cannot be prosecuted for following around suspicious minorities, provoking them, and shooting them.

    Do you honestly think, in the absence of a SYG law, that a central Florida police department would be all that interested in prosecuting a guy who shot a suspicious looking black kid who he says was beating him up? Do you honestly think that, in the absence of Castle Doctrine, a Texas jury would be likely to convict a white guy who shot two Latino illegal immigrants in the process of a burglary, particularly once it came out that said immigrants had a history of drug trafficking? I don't think either of those is a likely scenario, whether or not you have laws codifying the right to self-defense in various situations.

    "We cannot stop **every** nut case from killing people. We can take the number of guns out of circulation. We can lift the bar. If you fail at trying to become a cop, well we now know you have cop fantasies so you're more likely to stalk and provoke an outcome. No gun for you!"

    The US already has about 300 million privately owned guns in circulation. Properly cared for, those guns will function for centuries. Attempt to remove guns from circulation to the point that it would make a difference is tilting at windmills. As for the failure to become a cop, I would be okay with barring people who failed due to the psych portion; I don't think a failure to do pushups should be a bar to owning firearms.

    Australia has a lower rate of pretty much all violent crime than the US does. Unless guns cause stabbings, there are other things that need to be addressed if we're serious about reducing violence. This ties into your next point of addressing the reasons why people feel so edgy. I think the biggest thing that we could do is eliminating the war on drugs. Legalize soft drugs, allow them to be distributed legitimately. Hard drugs, keep them illegal but focus on recovery and rehabilitation, not punishment. Fewer people in prison, less money to the pocket of the cartels and street gangs, less of a reward for being willing to use violence, fewer people making the choice to follow that path. Combine it with better education and a stronger social safety net so that people don't feel like their choices are McDonald's, gangs, or homelessness.

    As long as we have social and economic issues that give rise to high levels of violent crime, we'll have a media that salivates at the chance to report it–hence why a majority of people in the US think the crime rate has risen in recent decades when the opposite is true–and as long as that's the case, we'll have a certain segment of the population who goes beyond preparedness and straight into paranoia. That segment is the one that gives rise to Joe Horn, George Zimmerman, and the people willing to support, defend, and acquit them. The problem has to be attacked at the root, and bickering over SYG or Castle Doctrine when those likely have little to no relevance to the outcome is a waste of time.

  • Nick, I buy about nine tenths of your arguments. For the most part you sound so reasonable, we should put you in charge and then things would get so much better, you wouldn't have to be packing all the time, but no matter how you spin it, or slough it off as a "waste of time" SYG is an unprecedented license to kill. Just look at the cases where it is brought into play.

  • I maintain that, in the absence of a SYG law, the cases you're concerned about would very likely turn out exactly the same. I just don't see a mostly white Texas jury convicting a good ol' boy for shooting a couple illegals who were breaking into a neighbor's house. I really don't. And while SYG came into play in the initial question of whether or not to charge Zimmerman, it wasn't responsible for the prosecutor attempting to charge murder instead of manslaughter (if anything, SYG would have indicated the latter). I see SYG as mostly a message bill, and I think the attention it's received relative to the outcome of the trial is way out of proportion.

  • Nick, you need to take a few minutes to look at the facts relating to SYG. You keep citing the same case as if that is the only one, but there are hundreds of them, most of which border on outrage.

  • I'm not discounting other cases in which the shooter has been exonerated unjustly while claiming a self-defense/SYG/Castle Doctrine approach. My point is that even if all they had to stand on was simple self-defense, they probably still would have been exonerated, because there are a number of parts of this country that have historically not given all that many shits about why a white guy shot a black guy.

  • Not that I think SYG is particularly necessary; I don't really care if my state has SYG or not, I'm going to react to situations in the same way, because I'm not an asshole and would only draw if I had no other choice regardless. I just think that the attention being given to SYG makes it seem like "Oh, if it weren't for SYG, Southern states would be ALL ABOUT equal sentencing or lack thereof for shooters of all races," and it draws attention away from the conversation we should be having.

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