Do you like to shoot people?
Then perhaps you’ll feel at home in Florida, where a new law (Bill S.0436) allows citizens to use deadly force in public if they have a license for a concealed weapon and feel threatened.
The new “stand your ground” law, which went into effect Oct. 1 of this year, makes it legal to stand your ground and “meet force with force.”
The new law protects people who use deadly force in situations where they fear for their lives, the lives of others, feel threatened and to prevent the “commission of a forcible felony.”
This is different than the generally accepted concept of self-defense where a person has a right to defend him or herself if there is no other recourse, because this law eliminates the right to retreat.
This replaces the original legal recourse where people are supposed to flee a dangerous situation.
This is intelligent because most ordinary citizens do not have the training to deal with dangerous people and to prevent unnecessary loss of life.
Under this new law people should no longer run away from a threatening or dangerous situation, but should instead go on the offense.
However, it is easy to say that you felt threatened after you have pulled the trigger.
It is not so easy to bring someone back to life after they have been shot in the heart.
This law does sound nice and heroic when you think of an ordinary citizen stopping some crazed killer.
However, that’s why there is a law about self-defense. If you have no other choice, then yes, you can use force to defend yourself.
What this law allows is a kind of preemptive force where anyone with a concealed weapon can decide that a situation is threatening to them and, in response, start shooting.
Admittedly there are only about 350,000 people in Florida with concealed weapon permits (they are the only group that is protected under the new law) but the most damaging aspect of this law is the kind of brutal overuse of force it encourages.
Let’s take a hypothetical example. Say that there is an argument between two men, named Bob and Frank, over a minor traffic accident.
Each claims it was the other’s fault and the argument gets quite heated. Frank threatens Bob with bodily harm.
Now Bob has a choice: he can either leave the situation or pull out his concealed weapon and shoot Frank because he feels threatened.
What is the right choice?
The ethical choice is to leave and not use force because it is wrong to harm other people unless there is no other possible action to take to protect yourself and others.
The difference between my example and a permissible case of self-defense is whether or not Bob could have left.
If he could not leave, then the choice he had was to use force or have force used on him.
This is what the law used to defend with the “right to retreat.”
This new law now defends Bob if he decides to shoot Frank, even if he could have just left the situation.
This is a terrible distortion of ethics and the law.
Take the case of Bob and multiply it by 350,000 and you can start to see what kind of overuse of force this law encourages.
It’s the same kind of brutal overuse of force that, in 1999, caused four New York City police officers to shoot at Amadou Diallo, who was unarmed and reaching into his pocket for his wallet.
This new law creates a kind of street justice where people with guns make split-second decisions that end other people’s lives.
No one has the right to take another person’s life unless there is absolutely no other recourse to save their own or others’ lives.
It may sound really macho and cool to think of yourself as a lone gunman standing against a criminal in the streets, but it’s a bad idea.
Vigilante justice is not justice.
This law creates an elite corps of gunmen, those 350,000 concealed weapon owners, who now have the right to use deadly force if they see fit.
These gun owners are not law enforcement agents and have no mandate from the people to use force against others.
This is the preemptive force doctrine, which has done us such good abroad, in our own nation.
When did we forget that killing people is something to be avoided?
If someone threatens you, the safest and best course of action is to leave and call the police.
It’s not that glamorous and you don’t get to “meet force with force” but we do not live in a Dirty Harry movie.
We live in the real world where if you shoot someone, they stay dead forever.
Information from – flsenate.gov/data, shootfirstlaw.org, “The shoot first state? Ads warn about new gun law” St. Petersburg Times,?Steve Bousquet?Sept. 29, 2005.?pg.?1.A, washingtonpost.com