Expanding the Right to Self-Defense in Florida

[Imported from Whale Oil Beef Hooked on Blogger]

I have long been an opponent of gun control in New Zealand.

I can remember having an argument with a prominent member of the National Party who happened to be an ex-cop regarding the then proposed changes in the Firearms Act.

I stated to him that all their proposals were going to do was limit the rights of legimate shooters like myself to enjoy what they had been enjoying for many years. His arguments revolved around access by criminals to guns. We went round and round and round until finally I shouted at him…”You don’t get it do you….laws won’t stop criminals, that is why they are criminals”.

Finally he said to me “Well what would you do then?.

It was that sunny afternoon on my parents deck that I saw first hand how laws are made.

He, to his eternal credit actually listened and then implemented the changes exactly as I explained. If it wasn’t for that afternoon I think New Zealand would have ended up witht he most un-workable and un-sustainable gun control laws ever seen.

Still one must be always vigilant lest some wowser (like so called gun expert Philip Alpers) out there wants to take my guns. So it was with interest that I read this article at RealClearPolitics by Steve Chapman.

He begins by talking about the “experiment” in Florida, which has some of the most lax gun-control laws in the US.

When Florida passed a law in 1987 making it easier for citizens to get licenses to carry concealed firearms, opponents predicted that blood would run in the streets. “When you have 10 times as many people carrying guns as you do now, and they get into an argument and tempers flash, you’re going to have people taking out guns and killing people,” one gun control activist said.

Since the law was passed, it turns out, Florida’s murder rate has been cut in half. Instead of becoming more dangerous, the state has become considerably safer.

With rare exceptions, the people carrying guns have done so responsibly. In the last 18 years, the state has granted more than 1 million conceal-carry permits. Only 155 people have had their licenses revoked for crimes involving firearms — one for every 7,000 licenses issued.

Florida has recently passed laws given citizens more protection when they act in self defense. This of course alarmed the anti-gun wowsers of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which describes the policy as “shoot first, ask questions never.”

The new law, which took effect Oct. 1, gives greater protection to citizens who feel compelled to use deadly force when they are attacked in a public place. Before, someone facing “imminent death or great bodily harm” had an obligation to retreat if possible. Under the new rule, as David Kopel of the Colorado-based Independence Institute puts it, “If a gang tries to mug you while you are walking down a dark street, and you draw a gun and shoot one of the gangsters, a prosecutor cannot argue that you should have tried to run away.”

Clearly the anti-gun wowsers who say stupid things like;

“I can picture a stressed-out Tampa soccer mom drawing a bead on an approaching panhandler and shrieking, ‘Go ahead, make my day!’” fantasized Time magazine columnist Michelle Cottle.

Haven’t read the law, which clearly;

doesn’t say you can shoot anyone who approaches you on the street, or anyone who annoys you. It says you may resort to deadly force only if 1) you are attacked or threatened with violence and 2) you have good reason to fear being killed or badly hurt. If a panhandler asks you for spare change, or even curses you, that wouldn’t qualify. If a beefy, hostile biker screams that he’s going to stomp you, or rape you, that probably would.

So, how is this different from elsewhere in the US? Old hat apparently, so why the fuss?

Why shouldn’t people who are attacked have to look for an escape route before fighting back? One reason is that a victim may expose herself to additional risk by trying to flee from a criminal who is larger and faster than she is.

Another problem with the old rule is that if she makes the wrong decision and defends herself when she might arguably have gotten away, she can end up in prison. She can also be sued. Judging whether it’s safe to flee is a split-second, life-and-death decision, and the penalty for being wrong — at least in the eyes of the police — can be heavy.

Supporters of the law think victims shouldn’t be punished for acting in self-defense against a serious threat. The change reflects the view that it would not be a bad thing for criminals to face greater risks when they resort to violence. And it embraces the proposition — anathema to gun control advocates — that self-defense is the fundamental right of every person.

It may be that the new law errs on the side of giving too much protection to victims of violent crime. But that beats erring on the side of giving them too little.

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