Gun Owners of America thinks the National Rifle Association is too soft. That might give you a hint of where the D.C.-based lobbying organization stands regarding Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and the task force that Gov. Rick Scott has set up to begin looking at the controversial statute in the wake of the slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in February.
In a hyperventilating post on the group’s web site, GOA, which claims 300,000 members, warns that the task force may seek repeal of the Stand Your Ground statute, of other self-defense laws and of the state’s law regarding the issuing of permits to carry a concealed firearm. It urges readers to sign its petition telling the governor not “to reject efforts to repeal the state’s pro-self-defense laws and to stand firmly in support of the Second Amendment.” But the petition, according to Toluse Olorunnipa of the Miami Herald‘s “Naked Politics” blog, is filled with errors. Deliberate errors, it seems.
The petition states: “WHEREAS anti-gun zealots would take us back the “bad ol’ days” in 2003 — when a 78 year-old man was taken through the wringer by the legal system because he shot a man breaking into his trailer…”
But that’s not the case. The 77-year-old James Workman wasn’t arrested and was never charged in the 2004 shooting, which was ruled justifiable. There was no legal “wringer.” Even though the “justifiable” decision took place under Florida’s then-existing self-defense laws, the shooting became the poster-child for an NRA-backed effort spurring the state to pass the Stand Your Ground law.
The petition states: “WHEREAS in the four years for which we have statistics since the Stand Your Ground law was passed in Florida, homicides have dropped by 16.1%;“
In fact, according to state crime statistics, since the SYG law passed in 2005, firearm-involved homicides are up 28 percent while overall crime is down 19 percent. Total homicides have risen 12 percent, from 881 in 2005 to 987 in 2010, the most recent statistics available.
The GOA petitioners claim that “drop” in homicides has been faster than the national average. In fact, the 12 percent increase in Florida compares with a nationwide decrease of 9 percent.
The petitioners claim: “WHEREAS this means that many – perhaps hundreds – of Floridians are alive today because criminals have had to pause before robbing or killing them;”
No data back this up. The law has been invoked in cases involving a fatality some 70 times since 2005. And many of these are ruled “justifiable.” They include outrageous cases like this:
2010 incident in Town ‘N Country in which a man on a jog about 1 a.m. was punched in the face by a teenager. The man thought he was being robbed so he pulled a gun, and the teen started to run. The man fired eight shots. Four hit the teen. The man was not charged with a crime. His court file says “justifiable homicide.”
All but the most ardent of pacifists agrees that every person is entitled to self-defense. “Life” is an inalienable right enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. But self-defense must be reasonable and proportionate to the threat. The question for the governor’s task force on Stand Your Ground is whether that law as it is currently written, or perhaps however it is written, encourages unreasonable, disproportionate responses.
A tripling of justifiable homicide rulings since 2005, some like the Town N County incident cited above, indicates that changes or outright repeal of the law are badly needed. But, in spite of the Gun Owners of America’s distorted propaganda, the make-up of the task force, which includes strong advocates of the law as it currently stands, means the chances of big changes are not all that likely.