Facing South

Trayvon Martin killing brings scrutiny to controversial self-defense laws

The U.S. Department of Justice announced late Monday that it would investigate the February deadly shooting of an unarmed black teen by a neighborhood watch vigilante in a gated community near Orlando, Fla.

The DOJ's announcement came in response to growing public anger over the fact that there's been no arrest in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Latino man, as Martin walked to his father's girlfriend's home in Sanford, Fla. after a trip to a nearby convenience store. The FBI is also investigating.

The DOJ is looking at whether the killing -- which Zimmerman said was done in self-defense -- constituted a federal civil rights violation:

"The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation. The department also is providing assistance to and cooperating with the state officials in their investigation into the incident. With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids -- the highest level of intent in criminal law.

"Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws."

Any effort to prosecute Zimmerman will be complicated by Florida's controversial 2005 "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law promoted by the National Rifle Association and signed by former Gov. Jeb Bush (R). The law extends the Castle Doctrine that allows self-defense inside one's abode to outside the home, eliminating the duty to retreat regardless of where an attack takes place. The law grants immunity from prosecution or a civil lawsuit if a person is considered to have acted in self-defense, as Zimmerman claims.

Since Florida adopted the Stand Your Ground law, the number of killings by private citizens deemed justified has skyrocketed, the Orlando Sentinel reports:

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.

In all, 17 states now have a version of the Stand Your Ground law, including eight in the South. Besides Florida, those states are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington.

When Florida's Stand Your Ground law was being considered seven years ago, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence -- which called it the "Shoot First" law -- distributed fliers warning tourists to avoid disputes. The group wrote in a recent blog post that Martin's killing "is exactly the kind of 'unspeakably tragic act of mayhem' that arises from the right to be armed in public places."

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Anger is not science. Emotion is not logic.

Please take the time to think it through.

The issue I have with all this controversy is how quick people are willing to make the case that there is a gun problem in the sunshine state pertaining to the legal firearm owners who do practice discretion and restraint everyday. Because one guy fucks up; the majority of an entire nation composed of 310 million (contemplate that number) wants blood. No, they want more then blood. Using racial anecdotes and fallacies to incite emotional rage which is then turned onto the millions of people who don't commit these crimes everyday. Yes, Zimmerman had a gun and yes; he fucked up.

I could use anecdotal examples about teenagers being locked up for a minimum of 10 years for being in possession of MDMA or marijuana and how the minimum mandatory sentence for rape and murder are less the same way people use all these archetypes like Trayvon's race, age, and the pack of skittles he was carrying to gather more emotional support to further their personal agendas. I could do so to further my own agenda of legalizing all drugs. Is it fair to society and good for it as a whole if I get my way? What about the facts about addiction and violence the suggest otherwise?

Personally I do not feel we should freely legalize any and all drugs and make them as available to anyone who has a desire to distribute them like skittles. I also don't feel it is right that we throw people in jail for having addictions that are as strong if not stronger then alcoholism and cigarettes. We punish the victims out of fear the same way people are trying to punish the victims of gun violence out of fear. The victims are people like MICHAEL WINGO who unfortunately have to live in a society where criminals and degenerates do exist and their existence must be acknowledged like disease. Your religious beliefs shouldn't deny him access to medical attention so why should your beliefs go as far as to deny assault and rape situations exist? Drug cartels exist and until something is done about those perverted elements of society nobody IMO should try and vilify the demograph of people who show themselves to be sane and responsible on a day to day basis. Who the fuck are you to decide for him his right to carry a weapon when you are ignorant of his true positive intent? Who the fuck are you to try and label and degrade him based of the actions of some guy who is getting a lot of media attention because he made a mistake? As if that man somehow represents the majority of gun owners in Florida, the US, or the world? Just because it's a compelling story and it is very tragic doesn't give people the right to decide for themselves what should be changed for society as a whole based off that and some other incidents. Every year, guns are used over 80x more often to protect a life than to take one. Every year guns are used as more of a deterrence then a weapon. Those are facts that nobody's opinion no matter how emotionally biased cannot change so who gave you the authority to try an do such?

I support stand your ground because it was enacted based on facts and reason.
We don't outlaw lighters and matches for personal/noncommercial use based off the amount of forest fires or apartment fires which can be attributed to that specific type of heating element. So why are people trying to discredit the hundreds of millions of gun owners in the US based of a minuscule percentage of them fucking up. I am not saying there isn't a gun problem.
I am not advocating that everyone must be armed. Rather, I, and others, are saying that “feels right” laws should not be enacted, willy-nilly, in an attempt to prevent a calamity, when they have not been shown to be effective. Moreover, a case can be made that such laws are counterproductive. Like the "assault weapons" ban.
We have a justice system that needs work. It's how we approach it that matters. Emotion is not logic.
I do not have a solution to forever end all the violence, because the simple answer is some sort of national mental health registry, and the thought of that makes my skin crawl.
Removing the stigma of mental health issues is far more difficult, yet far more important, and I suspect, would be far more effective than the Brady Campaign's (fear-mongering) to Prevent Gun Violence.

People who are not familiar with weapons have such unrealistic views of them.
Kitchen knives are being used in as many as half of all stabbings in the United Kingdom and has prompted a group of doctors to call for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives.
In America:
That's deterrence.

You want to deny them that ability?

Do the math.

A recent study published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy concluded that there is a negative correlation between gun ownership and violent crime in countries internationally (more guns = less crime).

Based upon Kleck & Gertz estimates of 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year.
A similar study in 1994 under President Clinton found this number to be 1.5 million, which would result in guns being used over 47x more often to defend a life than to take one.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 436,000 crimes were committed with a firearm in 2008 (Source). This would mean guns are used 5.7 or 3.4 times (using Kleck or Clinton respectively) more often to defend against a crime than to commit one.

In Sweden, annual deaths resulting from firearms total

2010: 138
In Sweden, the annual rate of all gun deaths per 100,000 population is

2010: 1.47

As one historian summarises: "Switzerland was created in battle, reached its present dimensions by conquest and defended its existence by armed neutrality thereafter." The experience of Swiss history has made national independence and power virtually synonymous with an armed citizenry.

Today, military service for Swiss males is universal. At about age 20, every Swiss male goes through 118 consecutive days of recruit training in the Rekrutenschule. This training may be a young man's first encounter with his countrymen who speak different languages. (Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch.)

Even before required training begins, young men and women may take optional courses with the Swiss army's M57 assault rifle. They keep that gun at home for three months and receive six half-day training sessions.
After discharge from service, the man is given a bolt rifle free from registration or obligation. Starting in the 1994, the government will give ex-reservists assault rifles. Officers carry pistols rather than rifles and are given their pistols the end of their service.

When the government adopts a new infantry rifle, it sells the old ones to the public.

Reservists are encouraged to buy military ammunition (7.5 and 5.6mm-5.56 mm in other countries-for rifles and 9 and 7.65 mm Luger for pistols, which is sold at cost by the government, for target practice Non-military ammunition for long-gun hunting and .22 Long Rifle (LR) ammo are not subsidised, but are subiect to no sales controls. Non-military non-hunting ammunition more powerful than .22 LR (such as .38 Spl.) is registered at the time of sale.
The army sells a variety of machine guns, submachine guns, anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft guns, howitzers and cannons. Purchasers of these weapons require an easily obtained cantonal license, and the weapons are registered, In a nation of six million people, there are at least two million guns, including 600,00 fully automatic assault rifles, half a million pistols, and numerous machine guns. Virtually every home has a gun.
There are no restrictions on the carrying of long guns. About half the cantons have strict permit procedures for carrying handguns, and the other half have no rules at all There is no discernible difference in the crime rate between the cantons as a result of the different policies.

Thanks to a lawsuit brought by the Swiss gun lobby, semi-automatic rifles require no purchase permit and are not registered by the government. Thus, the only long guns registered by the government are full automatics. (Three cantons do require collectors of more than 10 guns to register.)

Gun sales from one individual to another are regulated in five cantons and completely uncontrolled in all the rest.

Retail gun dealers do keep records of over-the-counter gun transactions; transactions are not reported to or collected by the government. (This is also the policy in the U.S. during those periods the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms feels like obeying the law.) In Switzerland, purchases from dealers of hunting long guns and of smallbore rifles are not even recorded by the dealer. In other words, the dealer would not record the sale of a .30-06 hunting rifle, but would record the sale of a .30-06 Garand.
Yet the only individuals who are "restricted" from buying handguns are children, the insane and ex-criminals.

If ever a nation had "a well-regulated militia," it is Switzerland. Nineteenth-century economist Adam Smith thought Switzerland the only place where the whole body of the people had successfully been drilled in militia skills.

Indeed, the militia is virtually synonymous with the nation. "The Swiss do not have an army, they are the army, says one government publication. Fully deployed, the Swiss army has 15.2 men per square kilometer; in contrast, the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. have only .2 soldiers per square kilometer. Switzerland is 76 times denser with soldiers than either superpower. Indeed, only Israel has more army per square kilometer.

Switzerland is also the only Western nation to provide shelters fully stocked with food and enough supplies to last a year for all its citizens in case of war. The banks and supermarkets subsidize much of the stockpiling. The banks also have plans to move their gold into the mountainous center of Switzerland in case of invasion.
Whatever the effect of Swiss guns abroad, they are not even a trivial crime problem domestically. Despite all the guns, the murder rate is a small fraction of the American rate, and is less than the rate in Canada or England, which strictly control guns, or in Japan, which virtually prohibits them. The gun crime rate is so low that statistics are not even kept.

Most democratic nations impose long prison terms more frequently than does America, but Switzerland does not. For all crimes except murder, the Swiss rarely inflict a prison term of more than a year; most serious offenders receive suspended sentences. As in Japan, the focus of the criminal justice system is on the reintegration of the offender into the community, rather than punishment.
As for the non-criminal Swiss, the saying is that everyone is his own policeman. Foreign visitors are surprised to see Swiss pedestrians always waiting at traffic lights, even when there is no traffic. The mass transit systems successfully depends on voluntary payment.

One problem with trying to advocate an anti-gun stance based on emotional opinion is no taking into account nations like north Korea who would sprint towards the opportunity to invade america if that opportunity presented itself. Although unfeasible due it its military and armed citizens, it is not impossible. It becomes more possible if anti-gun nuts can live their wet fantasy of depriving all citizens from being able to own a gun.

Frankly, you don’t need a gun to kill lots of people. Why not ban envelopes, fertilizer and diesel, or gasoline and matches? I could devise ways to kill a dozen people in a movie theater that require no firearms at all. Fortunately, I am not the Joker, so I’m not going to act out these ideas to prove a sociopathic point.
Personally, I see no harm in restricting access to "assault weapons". I also see no benefit.
People who collect them kinda worry me, but I don’t feel the need to have them arrested, just for being paranoid.
I own a firearm. Just one, a shotgun. Am I simply less paranoid? Maybe so.
A population of citizens with revolvers and deer rifles can still mount a revolution. That, I feel, is the key point of the 2nd Amendment.

What people forget is; a sport shooter can easily shoot 10 rounds, reload and accurately spit out another 10 in far less than 15 seconds. The equipment is not really the issue, it is the mental capacity of the population, how we identify and how we treat it.

Most of the firearms recovered from mexican crime scenes are either stolen from police departments in mexico, or from the military, or were sold by corrupt members of the same. Are anti-gun advocates like the Brady campaign asserting that in their hypothetical that if citizens were banned from possessing guns American criminals lack the ingenuity to simply steal or buy weapons as their Mexican counterparts have?
Mexico proves that even national bans on all firearms don’t work.

Switzerland proves that lenient licensing is all that is needed to stop gun crime.

Pro gun advocates should work to repeal laws which prohibit Americans from owning howitzers, anti-aircraft guns, and other military weapons. Switzerland allows ownership of these weapons by anyone who can meet the simple requirements for a handgun license. And thanks to the "howitzer licensing" system there is no howitzer crime in Switzerland. Since Swiss-style handgun licensing is the main reason Switzerland has no handgun crime (claims Handgun Control), a Swiss-style system of howitzer licensing would also be a good idea for America.
Also, people should work for repeal of America's ban on the possession of machine guns manufactured after 1986. We should push America to adopt the Swiss policy: having the government sell machine guns at discount prices to anyone with an easily obtained permit.

Although guns are more available to the Swiss, Swiss gun culture is more authoritarian than America's. Gun ownership is a mandatory community duty, not a matter of individual free choice. In Switzerland, defense of the nation is not a job for professional soldiers or for people who join the army to learn technical skills for civilian jobs. Defense of the nation is the responsibility of every male citizen.

Thus, American gun owners must win the gun control argument based on conditions in America, not conditions in Switzerland. The implicit argument of most American gun controllers is that while the Swiss may be responsible enough to own even the deadliest guns, Americans are not.

Before rejecting this argument, American gun owners might wonder if an unmanned American mass transit system could count on payment by the honor code. Further, America obviously has a large criminal class of gun abusers, and Switzerland does not.

If strict gun control could actually disarm that criminal element in America, there might be an argument for gun control. But as Josh Sugarmann, former communications director for the National Coalition to Ban Handguns (NCBH), wrote in The Washington Monthly: "handgun controls do little to stop criminals from obtaining handguns."
Ordinary American citizens use guns competently. Every 48 seconds, someone uses a handgun to defend himself against a crime (according to Florida State University's Gary Kleck, using data collected by liberal pollster Peter Hart in a poll paid for by the anti-gun lobby).
Regular American citizens do not shoot each other in moments of passion; the vast majority of such shootings are perpetrated by thugs with a record of violence and substance abuse.

And contrary to the claims of the anti-gun lobby, Americans are not so careless that they cannot be trusted with potentially dangerous objects like guns. Gun accidents account for less than 2% of the nation's 92,000 accidental deaths annually.

Suicides have little to do with gun availability. Japan has no guns, while Switzerland is deluged with every gun in the book, and both nations have the same suicide rate.

Of course the more that U.S. governments can do to make gun use in America even more responsible, the better. Switzerland shows how successful governments can be in promoting responsible gun use.

Elementary schools in America should have gun safety classes which teach children never to touch a gun unless a parent is present, and they should be taught to tell an adult if they see an unattended gun. The NRA actively promotes this idea, and the National Association of Chiefs of Police endorses it. But Handgun Control opposes this reasonable, sensible safety measure.
High schools and colleges wishing to offer target shooting as a sport should be allowed to do so. Unlike football or swimming, scholastic target shooting has never resulted in a fatality. The anti-gun groups oppose the sensible step of allowing the schools to offer students the safest sport ever invented. Have they gone off the deep end'? Finally, local governments should enact reasonable zoning laws, which allow the construction of indoor shooting ranges (properly ventilated and sound insulated) in urban areas. In some cases, governments should subsidies the building of ranges. At target ranges, Americans can take lessons in gun responsibility, and practice safe gun handling skills. As you might expect, the anti-gunners oppose this simple safety measure too. They've gone off the deep end.

What have we learned from Switzerland? Guns in themselves are not a cause of gun crime; if they were, everyone in Switzerland would long ago have been shot in a domestic quarrel.
Cultural conditions, not gun laws, are the most important factors in a nation's crime rate. Young adults in Washington, D.C., are subject to strict gun control, but no social control, and they commit a staggering amount of armed crime. Young adults in Zurich are subject to minimal gun control, but strict social control, and they commit almost no crime.

America-with its traditions of individual liberty-cannot import Switzerland's culture of social control. Teenagers, women, and almost everyone else have more freedom in America than in Switzerland.

What America can learn from Switzerland is that the best way to reduce gun misuse is to promote responsible gun ownership. While America cannot adopt the Swiss model, America can foster responsible gun ownership along more individualistic, American lines. Firearms safety classes in elementary schools, optional marksmanship classes in high schools and colleges, and the widespread availability of adult safety training at licensed shooting ranges are some of the ways that America can make its tradition of responsible gun use even stronger.

Not by demonizing the demograph of responsible people over the fatal mistakes of a few.

2010 CDC Report. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm
Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, "Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun," 86 The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Northwestern University School of Law, 1 (Fall 1995): http://www.saf.org/lawreviews/kleckandgertz1.htm
Kleck and Gertz, "Armed Resistance to Crime," at 185
U.S., Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, "The Armed Criminal in America: A Survey of Incarcerated Felons," Research Report (July 1985): 27.
"Homicide Statistics 2012". UNODC.
Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (pp. 649-694). Volume 30, Number 2: http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronlin...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/5712573/UK-is-viole... http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Euro...
BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4581871.stm
Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB841185795318576500.html
USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2012/12/25/gun-free-zone-john-lott...
Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm
Newsweek Magazine: Nov 14, 1993: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/1993/11/14/are-we-a-nation-of-cowa...
The Examiner: http://www.examiner.com/article/auditing-shooting-rampage-statistics
Kleck, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, (1991):111-116, 148.
Gary Kleck, "Crime Control Through the Private Use of Armed Force," Social Problems 35 (February 1988):15
City Rating: http://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/georgia/kennesaw.html#.UO5soYnjkz4[/font]

Trayvon Martin Killing

I think if you look at the transcripts of Zimmerman's 911 call, you'll see evidence that Zimmerman pursued Martin. The evidence also shows Martin was unarmed; Zimmerman obviously was.

How do you get a self-defense excuse out of that scenario?


Self defense is more than a gun

Firstly, there is a version of the Castle Doctrine in North Carolina in the form of HB 650 passed last year.



"Until ALL the facts are known about this incident in Florida where Trayvon Martin was killed justice is served best by restraint so that emotions do not over rule law & order."

What about until ALL the facts are known about a person in a hoodie, justice is served by restraint so that fears (and racism) do not kill a person?


Self defense is more than owning a firearm. If anything, owning a firearm as crutch for self defense will only falsely give you the confidence of safety in actually dangerous situations. Self defense is about exercising the body and the mind to make the most appropriate judgements in intense situations. Martial arts is a great way to build self defense skills because in established self defense training systems, both physical and mental training are emphasized to diffuse, rather than escalate situations. Introduction of a firearm in a confrontation will more likely escalate rather than diffuse possible hostilities.

There are also self defense systems designed for people of all sizes and strengths, so that people of smaller statures, women, and the elderly can at the same time maintain a healthy lifestyle and learn a skill that will enable them to diffuse and avoid some undesirable situations.

I agree completely with the

I agree completely with the previous poster and wish we had Stand Your Ground laws here in NC!

"Stand Your Ground"

Until ALL the facts are known about this incident in Florida where Trayvon Martin was killed justice is served best by restraint so that emotions do not over rule law & order.

I am in 100% agreement with the "Stand Your Ground/Castle" laws. I live in one of 17 states thank God.

From all of us who had our homes, properties, neighborhoods, pets and lives of our Families directly intimidated & threatened by the criminals & lawless individuals...I fully agree that ALL should be allowed to protect life, limb and property.

Firearms are the only equalizer that I have when I , as a older man, am placed in immediate physical jeopardy by someone who can harm me regardless of them being armed or not with a firearm themselves. I will not willingly allow myself to be beaten, stabbed, cut, shot or attacked in any manner as long as I have the power to resist the person(s) or animal(s),whether on my property or not.

My life and the lives of my Family & Friends are scared to me and I will defend them with my life. The firearm allows me the opportunity to thwart any such attack that otherwise, would overwhelm me physically to cause me bodily harm, injury or death.

I just want to be left alone to enjoy the peace from the many years of hard work & dedication thru which I toiled to have my home & possessions...and my health & life.

Let's let the process of law & order work. Every law abiding & sane person should be armed accordingly.

yes, you are scared

I noticed the typo where you said that "My life and the lives of my Family & Friends are scared to me." I believe you meant "sacred." Don't you think that everyone's life and family are sacred? How about the parents and friends of Trayvon? Do they have the right to kill Zimmerman because he took the life of a defenseless young man? What makes you think that this young man was going to deprive Zimmerman of anything? He was walking back from the store while young and Black. That is no more a crime than being old and White.

Don't you think that justice would best have been served if Zimmerman had also shown restraint"so that emotions do not over rule law & order?"

Thank you, as I did obviously

Thank you, as I did obviously intend for the word "scared" to be "sacred". Please note I did leave the words "black" and "white" or "brown" or "yellow" from my previous comments.

"...so emotions do not over rule law & order." As the media is now reporting the many death threats, bounties and even something like "...for everyone of us killed, we are going to do the same...". So more than likely more will be injured, maimed, or killed as the "fires are being fanned" so as to create the swelling tide of emotion for a lynching.

ALL the facts are yet to be presented and the "media jury" has already determined the guilty.

When the old ways of the lynch mobs have returned we will ALL pray for law & order to protect us and our homes.

Agreed, but in this case,

Agreed, but in this case, based on the facts that have been gathered and recorded, the restraint should be issued as an arrest of the over the emotional top - Zimmerman. Zimmerman takes on the profile of a killer threatened by anyone he deems foreboding (threatened by Skittles?). Why call 911 if you aren’t willing to follow the instructions of the police force? Zimmerman is a menace to all citizenry he is wary of, and only God know what that means in his mind. Lock that killer up until his madness is determined and can be appropriately dealt with! I pray for others who may end up as Zimmerman "suspects" should they too desire to go to the store.

This law is nothing but a

This law is nothing but a license to kill innocent bypassers. And why would the chief of police not collect evidence on Zimmerman the way they did on Trayvor Martin? With his history of calling 911 for every incident that he thought was an infraction, Zimmerman looks to be riding around constantly with his finger on the trigger, just looking to kill with protection under this law. Yeah, I'll never go to Florida again or any of the other states listed. I'm ashamed that Pennsylvania, where I am from, has passed this law.

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