Skip to comments.‘Stand your ground’ laws recall the Wild West
Posted on 04/21/2012 10:44:28 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
The so-called stand your ground law that allowed neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman to shoot and kill Treyvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., without an initial arrest once was a principle that nearly every American believed in.
And we were reminded of its key provision every Saturday night in prime time when watching Gunsmoke, among the nations longest-running and most popular TV programs.
Each episode began with the same scene on Main Street in Dodge City, Kan., with Marshal Matt Dillon, played by James Arness, in a gun duel, staring at another man who stood 60 yards away. After several seconds of music and tension, the other man would reach for the handgun in his holster, which prompted Dillon to draw his gun faster and shoot him first.
No need for any investigation or police inquiry to determine whether it was a justified shooting because whichever cowboy drew last was standing his ground in self-defense.
Only two problems with this allusion. The first is that TV viewers understood that the law was needed in the West of the 19th century when lawlessness prevailed, when you could not dial 911 and when every man carried a six-shooter or a rifle out in the open. Such circumstances, of course, did not apply to the America that watched westerns in the movie theater or on TV in the 1960s.
The second problem was that it was universally accepted that lethal self-defense was justifiable only against someone who was armed. Had Matt Dillon or Wyatt Earp or Lucas McCain of The Rifleman show tried to claim self-defense against an opponent who possessed only a club, slingshot or a bag of Skittles, not only would his reputation as a hero be jeopardized, hed be thrown in jail and possibly sentenced to hang by Judge Roy Bean.
Fast forward 37 years, well past the last broadcast episode of Gunsmoke: Thanks to the National Rifle Association and its close friends like Florida Gov. Rick Scott, citizens are packing just like in the Wild West. In the state with the fewest gun restrictions in the country, Zimmermans right to carry the weapon he drew on Martin hasnt been questioned.
But Floridas NRA-loving legislators went the Wild West even one better freeing pistol packers to fire on any man, woman or child, even if theyre not carrying a gun, as long as the shooter feared for his or her life.
I was not a resident of Florida in 2005 when Gov. Jeb Bush issued this license-to-kill en masse. So I am going to give its legislators the benefit of the doubt, confident that more than one must have pointed out that the law could be far too loosely interpreted not only by bigots and paranoids but also by normal folks who happen to be temporarily disgruntled, disoriented, nervous or just naturally fearful of, say, teenagers, homeless people or strangers with moustaches, black hats or hooded sweatshirts.
What was everyone else thinking?
In the movie Shane, among the most highly acclaimed westerns of the aforementioned era, Jack Wilson, a kind of neighborhood watch captain hired by cattlemen, and played by Jack Palance, regularly got away with murder. He followed and confronted the poor homesteaders, threatening them with his malevolent grin and emasculating insults, driving them to make a move for a weapon out of fear and desperation, a move that cued their instant execution by the much-faster Wilson.
But even that sinister hit man was more regulated than Zimmerman, insofar as Wilson had to be careful not to shoot a homesteader who had only a hoe or a buggy whip or a can of iced tea.
After more than a month of protests and media debate, due process finally has been followed, with Special Prosecutor Angela Corey filing charges of second-degree murder against Zimmerman.
Whatever happens in the ensuing plea or trial, the next step should be repeal of the stand your ground law that permits people to act as judge, jury and executioner and that has led to the tripling of the number of so-called self-defense killings in Florida since its inception.
The law must be stricken from the books not only in Florida but also in each of the other dozen or so states where legislators passed it while apparently temporarily insane.
David McGrath is an emeritus professor of English at the College of DuPage and author of The Territory, a story collection.
The author seems to ignore the fact this particular case disproves his assumption that dialing 911 is adequate to defend the victim from an attacker.
GZ was attacked while he was in the due process of defending a community from burglaries. GZ had just spoken with 911, giving them a several minute head start to arrive at the scene. That still was inadequate time to prevent Trayvon from attacking GZ and begin smashing his head against concrete.
We still have not heard of what permanent neurological damages have been caused by Trayvon’s unwarranted assault upon GZ.
Especially corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.
This guy’s an idiot.
I'd love for the "perfesser" to put that in his pipe and choke on it.
The State's investigator said under oath on the stand that he had no evidence that contradicted Zimmerman's story. So, that story is the story that stands. What was that story?
Zimmerman was returning to his truck on advice of the 911 dispatcher to stop following the suspicious person. Trayvon could've returned to his dad's condo easily. He turned around, came back, cold-cocked Zimmerman and was beating the crap out of him, threatening to kill Zimmerman, when he got himself shot and killed.
"Stand your ground" has zero to do with this incident. Zimmerman was on his back and could not retreat.
Why is it, that so many "professors" are so stupid and uninformed?
Does he mean like present day Chicago?
Funny. Statistically speaking, the Wild West was a lot safer and more peaceful than a lot of cities.
I wouldn't say zero. The "Stand your ground" law will give Zimmerman an opportunity to win immunity from prosecution and lawsuit for this justifiable homicide. An important provision of the law that is being invoked in this case.
I must be lost, from what I understand Zimmerman fired in self-defense. Not sure why all the drama about the “stand your ground” law it shouldn’t be the issue. If someone has you down beating your head on the pavement your life is indeed in danger and you have the right to defend yourself. I have never heard that self-defense depended on the other person being armed- if someone is trying to kill you, with their bare hands you will be just as dead as if they shot or stabbed you if you can’t defend yourself. Isn’t self-defense allowed in every state in the U.S.? I would hope so.
As to the analogy to the western shows, yes you can now dial 911 but unless you are incredibly lucky- lottery winning lucky the response will not be fast enough to change the outcome if someone is trying to kill you.
Liberals have imposed an unjust and insane system of “zero tolerace” on public school children. Now they want to impose it on adults.
Zero tolerance makes the victim who defends himself with violence against a violent attacker equally guilty and equally punished for the violence.
This is what they do to Europeans who defend themselves and others from predators.
No, the innocent is not equally punished because the guilty guy goes unpunished while the victim is punished for "rising to the occasion." These euroscumsocialist brains are so addled you couldn't beat sense into them.
In the “wild west”, more men died from snake bite than from gunshot wounds.
An armed society is a polite society.
***No need for any investigation or police inquiry to determine whether it was a justified shooting because whichever cowboy drew last was standing his ground in self-defense. ***
Bunkum. In the REAL old West you were most likely to get shot in the back or from ambush.
Very few movie type gun fights happened.
The real fallacy with this article is the idea that a fit person can be “unarmed”. Perhaps, if literally they have no arms. That would still leave their legs, though.
Any reasonably fit person can train, in a short while, to kill even a physically superior opponent without much trouble, given the element of surprise. By the way, back in the Old West, there was much less knowledge of the science of hand-to-hand combat than there is today.
Many folks criticizing GZ in the TM shooting apparently have no idea of what a hand-to-hand encounter is like. Even if GZ shot TM unilaterally, he was having to make split-second, life-or-death decisions while being beat - and having my head beat on concrete would provide all the justification I would need to shoot, personally. There is also some indication that TM went for the gun, and it went off as he and GZ struggled for it.
If the scenario unfolded as described by GZ, “Stand Your Ground” is irrelevant, since GZ could not have retreated if he wanted to. Even where there is no such law, if you are physically prevented from retreating you have no obligation to do so.
It’s a shame that TM died, but I’m fairly convinced given what I’ve seen so far that he initiated the violence. From what I know right now, I think GZ will go free. If it was valid self-defense, I hope he gets immunity from further action as it looks like TM’s family and lawyer are out for money. Of course, GZ will have some lawsuit targets himself given some of the absolutely shameful media coverage of this case.
This article did have one positive outcome though - I’m going to have to watch “Shane” in the near future. ;-)
That article about made my nose bleed it was so ignorant, and in so many offhand and ridiculous ways. It could almost be called “humor/parody”.
Some of the most glaring boffos:
A gunfight at 60 yards? 180 feet? That doesn’t even work on TV, because of camera lens focus.
Second, the Old West very frequently had shooting inquests, and almost certainly when lawmen were involved. This is why we know so much about western history, because they were careful to document many of these events. Far more reliable than newspapers.
Much of modern American criminal law comes from the Old West, especially a deep concern about “real” justice instead of “letter of the law” justice. Western juries, when convinced of justifiable mitigation, were very forthright in acquittal, and not prone to convict someone who was just unpleasant or ugly. The vast majority were also not racist.
Third, lawlessness *never* prevailed for long in the Old West, as it was a priority for settlers to create and maintain as much civility as possible for as long as possible. Most gunfights only happened between “bad people” in “the bad part of town”, much as today.
Justice of the Peace Roy Bean, in his entire career, only sentenced two men to hang, one of which escaped before hanging.
At times there were mercenary hired guns, it is true, but unlike driving off “settlers”, the primary dispute was between cattle ranchers and immigrant shepherds. The most prominent of these was the “Pleasant Valley War”, aka “The Graham-Tewksbury Feud”, probably the second most vicious family feud behind the “Hatfield-McCoy Feud”, in West Virginia and Kentucky.
It was believed that one of the sides hired the notorious “lawman, scout, soldier, hired gunman, detective, outlaw and assassin” Tom Horn, as an assassin. Who *may* have killed somebody, or not. In any event, all members of both families were eventually killed off. Tom Horn was hung, likely because he needed hanging.
If anyone killed homesteaders, it was most likely “Native Americans”. And in all fairness, these were warrior tribes who were just as willing to attack Americans as they were to attack other tribes. Much of what the American army did in the Old West was to try and convince the Indians to “stop doing that”.
To put this into perspective, the major tribes of the time could field what amounted to serious and capable armies, and they rapidly adapted to and integrated about every technology they could get their hands on. About the only real advantage the US Army had for a long time was artillery.
In any event, back to the English teacher’s ignorance. He apparently not only doesn’t know history outside of TV, but he doesn’t know the law, either. The “Stand Your Ground” law is only a small portion of the law of self-defense, which has been around since at least the Magna Carta. And in this case isn’t even needed, because the shooting was entirely justified on other grounds.
I cannot take this guy seriously. The quality of the writing is terrible.
Trayvon was quite a bit bigger than Zimmerman. Zimmerman was measured at 5'8" 185 lbs at booking. Zimmerman is not a large man. Judging from the court photo, in a scrap between Zimmerman and say, Angela Corey, I would not bet against Angela Corey if both are unarmed.
The concept - no retreat from where you have a right to be - is clear. The APPLICATION of the concept to everyday situations is not so clear to me, and it's going to take some working out before it is.
The difference between SYG at home and SYG in public is that, at home, it is prima faciae reasonable to presume the home defender is without fault.
In many public situations, this is also true - but not all. If I understand the Florida SYG law, SYG confers immunity from arrest or prosecution. There are many brawls tha happen among ordinary people where "fault" is hard to figure out. It can't be right that if you don't avoid an avoidable fight, and the fight goes against you, that you can end it with a shot.
Discovery of the truth in confused situations belongs, as it has for centuries, to grand and petit juries. This process should not be overridden by across-the-board application of SYG.
I agree (mostly) with SYG, but not all young men are polite.
Some, I betcha, get LESS polite if they are packing and believe themselves immune from judgement by a jury of their peers.
I see this as a problem.
What about 10 Rod Road? Your observations on this.
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