The Terrible Hours

You’re in a room.

Between you and the exit – any exit – is someone who is busily killing people.  So you’re not going anywhere.  Probably not, anyway.

You’re in the midst of a spree killing – sometimes called a rampage killing.  You’re surrounded by crowds of people, as someone – one person, most likely – is carrying out some deluded or diabolical plan to kill…

…well, lots of people.  Maybe you’re in a gay bar, and the killer’s faith hates gays.  Maybe you’re in a synogogue, and the killer hates Jews.  Maybe you’re in a classroom, and the killer hates classrooms?  Or you’re in a church basement, and the killer hates you, whether you be Episcopal or Black or Unitarian.  Maybe it’s just because you’re a westerner, and they’re there to make a point, and inflict terror upon the rest of us westerners.   Or maybe they’re just doing the bidding of the voices in their head.

Either way, here you are.  When you woke up this morning, you didn’t expect to be involved in a spree killing.  Only one person in the room did.

You’re not him.

But there’s no getting around it.  And barring some miracle, there’s no getting away from it;  There are two exits from the space you’re in – but the shooter can see both, and has been mowing down anyone trying to get to the exits for quite some time.  Once, he stopped to reload, and someone rushed him with the only weapon he had available, his bare hands and shoed feet; perhaps he didn’t realize one can reload with a round in the chamber; that bit of resistance, valiant as it was, ended with a body on the floor.

Seeing someone shot down trying to attack the attacker took the fight out of the rest of the people in the room with you.

You may be dimly aware that the room you’re in is a “gun free zone” – an irony that causes not a single laugh.   You’re probably not aware; you may be like most Americans, and have never considered making carrying a firearm part of your lifestyle.  You might have even been one of that tiny, dim little fraction of the population that thought those signs made you safer.

But here you are.


The first transcripts of the 911 traffic in and around the Pulse night club have been released.

These are preliminary transcripts – but if they’re even remotely accurate, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to reach a couple of inescapable conclusions.   And it’s not from the mainstream media, so it’s got that going for it.

I’ve included the entire list of transcripts below the jump.

In the opening moments of the massacre, Omar Matteen engaged the cop who was providing off-duty security.  The cop and Matteen exchanged fire; neither was hit, and Matteen retreated into the club, where the massacre continued.

It took six minutes for five or six officers to show up; they broke out a patio window and, armed with “patrol rifles” (it’s a marketing term for “pretty much the same gun Matteen had”, for police departments and city councils that don’t want to have to explain to their dimmer constituents why they’re buying “assault rifles”), entered the building.

And took cover, as the shots continued.

I’m not going to monday-morning-quarterback the cops.  I’d damn sure take cover if someone was in a room, shooting.

Standards and Practices:  At the Columbine massacre, the Jefferson County (CO) SWAT team, nervous about reports of bombs in the building, held up outside the high school for four hours before entering.  By this time, all the victims, and the two killers, were stone cold dead.

This caused some significant outcry at the time; why had the citizens of Jefferson County spent all that money lavishly outfitting a SWAT team to not one degree behind the current SOCOM fashion curve, only to have them turn out no more useful to saving lives than the Jefferson County VFW Drum and Bugle Corps?

And to their credit, law enforcement did some studying.  They found a couple of things about spree/rampage killers:

  • They tend to exist in a fantasy world.  In this fantasy, killing will make them…something. Important.  Martyrs.  Popular.  Something.
  • The planning for the attack tends to be extremely elaborate (by the planner’s standards, anyway).
  • That many rampage killers – not all, but most – carry out their final “mission” in a sort of reverie; this is the culmination of their entire fantasy life.
  • Breaking that reverie – by upsetting the plan, interfering with the fantasy, and “getting inside their decision loop” – is essential in thwarting an attack once it’s underway.
  • The best way to do this – or at least the best way available when prevention has ailed, andonce the shooting starts – is to shoot at the shooter.  And preferably hit him.  But any resistance will do, really.  Because…
  • …once the shooter meets resistance, their reverie usually breaks, and their long-fantasized plans go awry, they usually – not always, but usually – panic; they break off the attack, they give up or, frequently, they kill themselves.  Sometimes it doesn’t work – Matteen kept shooting after he met resistance (I’ll speculate that his terrorist motivations may be part of the reason for this).  Sometimes it works amazingly well; Nick Meli had only to point his gun at Jason Roberts (he checked fire out of worry that he’d hit a bystander), causing Roberts to withdraw into a nearby store and kill himself, still carrying hundreds of unspent rounds.   More according to the theory – Jeanne Assam shot and wounded Matthew Murray inside New Life Christian Center, after he’d already killed two (and two more at an earlier crime scene); Murray withdrew and ended his worthless life.
  • Because of this observation, the convention wisdom among law enforcement became to “get in there and engage active shooters”; rather than wait for SWAT teams and bomb squads to assemble and stage and come up with a plan, individual officers, armed with whatever was in their cars or on their persons – “patrol rifles”, shotguns, handguns – should move toward the shooting, and try to put some lead in and around the shooter.  To seize the initiative, to take control of the narrative.
  • While cops don’t say this in public, of course, it doesn’t really matter if the person putting that fire into and around the shooter has a badge or not; incoming bullets all sound the same. This blog has compiled a sizeable list of mass shooters thwarted by civilians with guns – currently 16 and counting.  From Nick Meli to Dr. Lee Silverman, the list of regular schnooks who’ve thwarted mass shooters is much, much longer than the media and the ignorant (pardon the redundancy) are willing to comprehend, much less admit.

Apparently, though, someone from Orlando didn’t get the memo.  Or, more likely – I’m guessing, here – the SWAT team, in a situation of immense stress and confusion, held off doing anything drastic while they figured out what to do.

When Seconds Count…:  As Bob Owens at Bearing Arms notes, around the point in the transcript where Mateen is reloading his magazines.  I’ll add emphasis:

The terrorist has been killing at will, unimpeded, for 20 minutes, longer than any mass shooting in recent American history [except possibly Columbine – Ed.] (in 1966 Charles Whitman, the University of Texas bell tower sniper was still active 20 minutes into his rampage, but civilians and police were actively firing on his position).  Virginia Tech was over in 12 minutes. Sandy Hook took five.

This terrorist was charging magazines, as the OPD waited and victims bled out on the dance floor and in bathrooms.

He had time to reload (as in “put more bullets in his magazines” – perhaps twice.

“High capacity magazines” were clearly irrelevant to this situation, by the way.  As they were at Virginia Tech, where the shooter used mundane handguns with regular (12-15 round) magazines.

Victims are bleeding out, no longer responding to the dispatchers they called to save their lives.  Other callers, including a nurse who is among the wounded, are warning that victims are losing too much blood.

No one is coming.

No one is coming. 

It isn’t until 38 minutes into the terrorist attack that the now-reloaded shooter calls Orlando PD and announces that he is a Islamic terrorist aligned with the Islamic State.

At this point, a competently trained SWAT command, having learned from the Russian experience at Beslan that terrorists call to “negotiate” only to stall for time and improve their positions to kill more people, should have recognized that the best option for a shooter in a confined space with hostages is to throw in flash-bang grenades and storm in while he was disoriented to take him down.

And yet they didn’t.

Why?  We don’t know, yet.  Maybe we never will.

At the end of the day, a cop wants to go home safe.

Who can blame ’em?

Defense:  Well, I’m no monday-morning quarterback.  If I’m a patrol cop, armed with a rifle I’ve rarely trained on, in a thin kevlar vest that might turn a pistol bullet or shotgun pellet but not a rifle round, going into a dark room full of screaming people, floors slick with blood, and the deafening sound of rifle fire in a confined space booming all around?  I might well take cover, and stay there.  Maybe hiding behind the brick I’d crap.

And the Supreme Court has ruled as much, saying that while it’s police’s job to try to protect you, they’re not really liable if they don’t.

On the other hand: the taxpayers of Orlando, like those of every major city, have spent years and millions outfitting police SWAT teams with all sorts of high-test body armor, flash-bang grenades and other right-with-the-SOCOM-fashion curve hostage rescue goodies, and the exquisitely expensive training that goes with with it (or so one hopes that’s where the money went).

Why did the Orlando SWAT team wait until 5:02AM – three hours after the first 911 call – to breach the wall and go into the club?  Why did it take fifteen more minutes to kill Mateen?    We don’t know.

How many died in those three hours?    Go through the transcript (below he jump), and count the number of people whom callers report expiring to blood loss as they huddled in piles on the dance floor, or to cell phone contacts quietly dropping off the line, leaving nothing but the sounds of gunshots and screaming in the background, as victims slowly bled out.

Go ahead.  Do it.

It sounds like an awful place.  Who can blame the SWAT team for being careful?


You.

You, huddled on the floor and playing dead in the room full of frantic people and a growing toll of wounded, maimed and dead bodies, can blame them.   As the hours tick by, as the blood on the floor gets sticky and dry, as the gunman reloads, kills another handful of people, reloads again and again.

It’s you who won’t be going home.

Could it have been different?   If one other person in the room with you had had the means to react in a meaningful, e.g. life-threatening, way?

Maybe.  There are no guarantees, least of all when bullets are flying.    Who knows – maybe they got hit before they had a chance to draw.  Maybe they’d draw, but get shot first.

Or maybe they’d trade fire with the killer, and lose – but un-nerve the killer, allowing at least a  few people to escape.

Or maybe, just maybe, the citizen with the gun would catch a few lucky breaks; the killer doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head, after all.  A couple of shots to the back while the killer was looking the other way, and suddenly it’s camera crews and yellow tape.

But as the hours drag on, it’s pretty clear – the only help that’s coming is from outside.

Sometime.  Maybe.  Hopefully before you join the dead.


NOTE:  While I intend my comment section as a discussion, and tolerate dissent and cognitive dissonance better than most, be advised; comments I deem stupid will not be deleted; they will be mutilated for my pleasure.  

The judgment of “stupidity” is all mine; it doesn’t mean “disagreement”; just stupidity.  I know it when I see it.

There will be no other warnings.

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Watch Mitch Berg DESTROY This Liberal Hamster’s Argument With This One Weird Trick

Check Out Paragraph Nine.  Mind Blown.

The website “Raw Story” is, in general , almost as useless as Buzzfeed; at least Buzzfeed has some really cool recipes, which Raw Story utterly lacks.

Raw Story (henceforth RS) is as useless as “The Awl”.  There.  Got it.

Anyway, they ran a piece last week about the Oregon shooting that claimed that guns were useless for defending against mass shootings because…

…one shooter has a solid sense of physical and legal self-preservation.

But they sure think they’re onto something, as evidenced by their cool-handed, measured, sober headline:

Armed vet destroys gun nuts’ argument on mass shooters by explaining why he didn’t attack Oregon killer

So let’s look at the story and see what gets “destroyed”.

Continue reading

The Odds: Why “Universal Background Checks” Don’t Work

Joe Doakes from Como Park writes about this piece (which started as a monologue on the NARN a few days before the blog post was published).

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Your end-of-show reading of Rep. Paymar’s column got me to thinking: we know background checks won’t work, but saying so doesn’t make it so. Can we better explain to Low Information Voters WHY they won’t work? Some thoughts for your future columns:

Background checks stop people from committing violence with guns, but only if (a) the shooter submits to the background check and (b) the database is accurate.

There are at least five kinds of gun violence. They occur for different reasons so they have different solutions.

Enterprise Violence is a business decision. When Al Capone found Bugs Moran taking over saloons to sell bootleg liquor in Capone’s territory, Capone didn’t have the option of bringing a lawsuit to restrain his competitor, as Microsoft might do today. He didn’t have the option of buying a city council members to grant him a city-wide franchise, as the cable company might do today. Capone was left with “alternative dispute resolution” to handle competitors: he shot them. Drug dealers today have the same business problem – illegal product, no recourse to courts – so when they have problems with competitors, they use the same business model that has proven so effective for the last 100 years: they shoot them.

Drug dealers by definition routinely import, manufacture, transport, buy and sell illegal items. If they’re successful, it’s because they have learned how to avoid law enforcement. Buying illegal guns presents no different logistical problems from buying illegal drugs.

The employee who pulls the trigger won’t be the guy who submits to the background check. Instead, the gang will use a person with a clean record – a new hire, or perhaps a wife or girlfriend – who can pass the background check to buy the weapon then hand the weapon to the eventual shooter. These “straw man” purchases will look completely legal on paper and even if law enforcement catches them, they’re just little fish, quickly replaced.

One solution to Enterprise Violence committed by dealers in illegal drugs may be the same as the solution to illegal liquor: repeal Prohibition. Background checks is not a solution.

Idiot Violence. Nizzel George was a 5-year old boy in North Minneapolis. He was sleeping on his grandmother’s couch when 17-year-old Stephon Shannon and 16-year-old Julian Anderson walked up the sidewalk and fired 10 shots from .40 caliber handguns at the house. One of the bullets punched through the siding and hit the sleeping child in the back. Shannon said he was a gang member and that he shot at the house in retaliation for the earlier shooting of a fellow gang member. He didn’t mean to kill Nizzel, didn’t even know he was in the house.

Hadiya Pendleton was a 15-year old girl from Chicago. She was an honor student and majorette who performed for President Obama’s inauguration. She was chatting with friends in Harsh Park on January 29, 2013 when she was struck by bullets fired by Michael Ward, age 18, also of Chicago. Ward and his getaway driver, Kenneth Williams, age 20 of Chicago, told police the shooting was in retaliation for earlier gang violence but Hadiya’s group was not the intended victims, her group was mistaken for other people.

President Obama mentioned Nizzel George and Hadiya Pendleton as reasons why new gun control laws are needed, including universal background checks but that makes no logical sense.

You must be 21 years old to buy a handgun. None of these shooters should have had one. Plainly, they didn’t submit to a background check. They most likely obtained their weapons the same way the Enterprise does – theft or straw purchase. They used guns to redress insults because that’s how things are done in their violent little sub-culture.

The solution to Idiot Violence may require massive social change to eliminate that violent sub-culture. Certainly, background checks alone won’t make any difference.

Mental Illness Violence. The Aurora Theater, Newtown School and Accent Signage shooters had histories of mental health problems but had not been formally committed. You cannot commit someone to a mental institution based on gossip or rumor or even the parent’s concerns because being committed for mental illness means the patient is locked up as securely as if he were being sent to prison. The law requires a judge to rule that the person is a danger to himself or others at that moment, based on admissible evidence from the patient’s history. Fear that the patient might someday snap is not admissible evidence. This sets a high standard of proof to deprive a person of his liberty and makes civil commitment difficult.

The background check database includes people who already have been committed for mental illness but these shooters hadn’t been committed so they wouldn’t be in the system. A background check would not have stopped them from buying weapons.

The solution to Mental Illness violence involves an overhaul of the mental health treatment system and re-evaluation of commitment law, none of which was included in Rep. Paymar’s proposal.

Suicide By Gun. There has been an increase in rates of suicide committed by middle-aged White men who are not drug dealers or gang members and had no prior history of mental illness. Nobody knows why although armchair psychologists speculate losing their life savings in the housing crash or job in the Recession make that generation of men feel like failures, or perhaps something unique to Baby Boomers (who already have higher rates of depression than earlier generations), or maybe a “tough-it-out” cultural reluctance to seeking mental health treatment. Since guns are the tool used, gun control advocates seek to control guns to reduce suicide rates.

The background check database does not include people who lost money or jobs. It does not include people who are depressed and decline treatment. Most middle-aged White men who commit suicide by firearm have owned their guns for years. The solution to Suicide By Gun might be similar to that for Mental Illness, but background checks won’t help.

Government Violence. Andrea Rebello, a 21-year old Hofstra University student, was being held hostage by a man who broke into her home when she was shot in the head by a cop, killing her instead of the man holding her. Ibragim Todashev was shot dead by an FBI agent in Orlando just as he was about to confess to helping the Boston Bomber commit murder.

Jeff Johnson, a laid-off employee, shot Steven Ercolino, the vice-president of the company, outside the Empire State Building. Police pursued Johnson and shot at him 16 times, killing Johnson and also wounding 9 innocent bystanders when bullets ricocheted off the stone building.

After Chris Dorner shot an off-duty cop in Los Angeles, police officers fired approximately 100 shots at a blue Toyota pickup truck in which Margie Carranza and her 71-year-old mother, Emma Hernandez, were delivering newspapers. The officers mistook their truck for the gray Nissan Titan Dorner was believed to be driving. Hernandez was hit and Carranza suffered injuries from flying glass. On the same morning, Torrance police opened fire on the truck of a surfer headed for the beach.

Vang Khang’s family counted 22 bullet holes when police raided the wrong home in Minneapolis in 2008. Roberto Franco’s family lost their dog and nearly a daughter to a diabetic reaction when police raided the wrong house in St. Paul in 2012, shot the family pet, handcuffed the children and denied the diabetic girl her medicine. When Alden Anderson killed a police dog named Toby earlier this year, St. Paul police shot Anderson to death.

Rodney Balko at Cato Institute has an interactive map online showing botched paramilitary raids are an epidemic and innocent deaths are frequent. If it were occurring in any other country, we’d be aghast at the level of violence government directs at its own people.

The solution to Government Violence probably involves de-militarizing ordinary police, ending the War on Drugs and extending personal liability to careless police officers, but none of these shootings would have been prevented by background checks.

I’m sure you can think of more categories and examples but perhaps the mental exercise of breaking gun violence into small units will make it easier to explain why a universal blanket solution not only won’t solve the problem, it will divert attention from real solutions.

 

Doug Grow, Narrative-Fluffer

I was down at the State Capitol yesterday for a press conference, as Representative Deb Hilstrom (DFL Brooklyn Park) introduced the gun bill/s we talked about yesterday.

The bills, as we noted yesterday, would exert the state to solve actual problems – close gaps in the background check system, add mandatory penalties for using guns in crimes or possessing them illegally…

…y’know.  Controversial stuff.

At the presser, I saw a big group of legislators from both chambers and both parties lining up to support Hilstrom’s proposal.  Reps, Senators, Democrats, Republicans – it was probably the most bipartisan assembly I’ve seen that wasn’t in the lounge at the Kelly Inn after hours.

Not just legislators; guys in uniform.  They weren’t just there for the fun of it – guys in uniform never are.  No, they were from the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.

And I saw media.  Oh, lord, did I see media.

And Heather Martens was there, naturally; where there is truth about the Second Amendment, Martens will be there.  To lie.  And lie and lie and lie (note to the media who bothered to speak to her; she has uttered not one substantial word of truth in her years at the capitol.  Ask me).

And the “groups” she represents put out a call for their “membership” to turn out in force to oppose this bill – probably remembering the hundreds of Second Amendment supporters who turned out daily to oppose the DFL’s gun grab bills a few weeks ago.

We’ll come back to them.

One person who was not there was Doug Grow, from the MInnPost.

To be fair, I haven’t seen Grow in person in over 20 years; I might not recognize him.

But judging by the story he wrote about the conference, and the bill itself, even if Grow was there, his story was pre-written, and would have appeared in exactly the same form had Mothra emerged from the Supreme Court chamber shooting flame from wherever Mothra did whatever he did, since I never watched the movie.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, has discovered again that there is no comfortable middle ground when the subject is guns.

At noon at the Capitol, Hilstrom, standing with Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek and Rep. Tony Cornish, the gun-toting legislator from Good Thunder, introduced a gun bill that she said “can bring people together’’ on the volatile subject of guns.

“Gun-toting”.

Scare quotes.

No, no bias here.

The Astroturf Consensus

Grow, like most of the Twin Cities mainstream media, labors under the delusion that there’s a large, organized mass of people supporting gun control, and that they were out in force yesterday.

Her words were still echoing in the Capitol when critics, who had hoped for much stronger actions from the Minnesota Legislature, lambasted the effort of Hilstrom and a bipartisan group of 69 other legislators to “close gaps’’ in current state gun law.

“This is just a band-aid over a huge problem,’’ said Jane Kay of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, an organization formed in the days following the mass shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn.

Only in America can a two-month old pressure group with fewer members than there were legislators standing behind Hilstrom get the breathless adoration of the media.  Which is what “Moms Demand Action” and “Protect Minnesota” both are; astroturf checkbook advocacy groups funded by liberal plutocrats with deep pockets – with “membership” numbers in the single digits.

Provided they share the goal of fluffing the left’s withering narrative on gun control.

Of course, Grow wasn’t the only offender; Pat Kessler of Channel 4 asked Hilstrom why the bill included no universal background check which, he asserted, “70% of Minnesotans oppose”.

The correct answer – the polls ask people about background checks without explaining the consequences of those checks as the DFL and Governor Messinger Dayton currently propose them; they will result in a de facto gun registry, which is a necessary first step to universal confiscation.

More on gun-related media polls in another piece soon.

The Pre-Written Story

But Grow himself is the real problem here.  His piece, while short on the sort of insight that actually engaging people on both sides of the issue might have given it, is long on  evidence that Grow wrote the story long before yesterday’s press conference.

There’s the inflammatory reference to every leftymedia member’s favorite boogyman:

 The bill has the support of the National Rifle Association, presumably because it does nothing to require background checks on all gun sales and because it does nothing to restrict sales of military-style weapons or even the quantity of rounds in ammunition magazines.

Well, no.

The bill has the support of gun-rights organizations because instead of wasting time and effort putting niggling restrictions on the rights of the law-abiding that didn’t affect crime in any way the first ten years they were tried, they actually address the real problem; criminals, the insane, the addled, and the holes in the data the state sends to the Feds for the background check system.

(And while the NRA makes a nice, recognizable, stereotyped boogeyman for the lazy propagandist, the NRA actually has very little to do with the day to day heavy lifting of the gun rights movement in Minnesota.  It’s the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance that turned out 500 or more people a day to attend the gun grab hearings a couple of weeks back.  Grow either doesn’t know that, or doesn’t want people to know that.  You know where my money is).

More evidence that Grow wrote the story entirely off of DFL and “Protect Minnesota” chanting points?

Despite the fact that it’s a bill that authors hoped would unite people, it seems to be dividing. Yes, there was a mix of Republican and DFL representatives standing with Hilstrom, Cornish and Stanek. But there were no law-enforcement organizations represented at the news conference where the proposal was unveiled.

That’s false.

Here’s the video of the press conference: 

 

See all those guys in uniforms?

Scroll in to 1:12.  That’s Sheriff Rich Stanek, Hennepin County Sheriff, speaking on behalf of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.

Either Grow is lying, or he wrote the entire story with no knowledge of the facts of the story.

Short On Fact, Long On Jamming Words Into Peoples’ Mouths

Grow follows by saying…:

There also were no DFL senators, though presumably the bill will be as attractive to outstate senators as it appears to be to many outstate DFL representatives.

Grow throws that in there as if it’s a substantive fact related to the bill itself.  It’s not.  While most outstate legislators no doubt remember the DFL debacle of 2002, it’s also more than plausible Tom Bakk wants to keep his powder dry.

In other words, presence of no DFL senators is a non-factor, unless you’re a low-information reader.

Grow next swerves through fact – and in so doing, undercuts his own premise.  I’ll add emphasis:

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, and the chairman of the House public safety committee, has indicated he has no desire to have the bill heard by his committee. Paymar is pushing a bill that would require purchasers of guns at flea markets and gun shows to go through background checks.

Yet, given the large number of co-authors with Hilstrom, there likely are ways for the bill to weave its way through the legislative process.

Yes.  There are a large number of co-authors; so many they had to submit it not one, not two, but three times to get them all on.  Over half of the House is signed on as authors of the bill.

Michael Paymar wants to thwart the will of the representatives of over half of Minnesota’s voters?

Putting Thirty Shots From An AR15 Into A Strawman

Finally, Grow takes his whacks at some of the legislators who’ve violated the DFL’s narrative:

[Representative Tony] Cornish, usually a lightning rod in the gun debate, said he was taking a different role regarding the fate of this bill.

“Several of my statements (in the past) have been controversial,’’ he said. “Today my role is to be a peacemaker.’’

No sooner had he said that than he uttered a statement that raises the hackles of those hoping for stronger gun measures.

“I want to thank the NRA for helping (on the bill),’’ he said. He went on to say that the bill “contains nothing for gun owners to fear.’’

Er, who’s “hackles” got “raised”, here?  And why?

Was it the involvement of the NRA?  Your dog whistles aren’t our problem.

Or was it the quote about gun owners having nothing to fear?  Is that the actual goal, here?

Hilstrom, in her seventh term, refused to talk about her true feelings of the bill. Rather, she kept speaking of the importance of “passing a bill that will solve real problems.’’

She did point out that she never has sought the endorsement of the NRA and that in the past she has received a “C,’’ “D,’’ and “F’’ from the NRA.

OK.

So what?

If she’s doing the right thing – which, for a majority of Minnesotans, is “solving problems”, rather than attacking the law-abiding gun owner – then I don’t care if she’s a life-time “F” rating.  And I don’t care about her true feelings; I don’t care if she’s being used as an escape hatch by the DFL to get out of the embarassment of the Paymar/Hausman gun grab bills.

Guess Who!

Finally:  I owe the Twin Cities media an apology.  I’ve said that Larry Jacobs is the most over-quoted person in the Twin Cities media.  And he is.  David Schultz is right up there.

But in the “single-issue” category, Heather Martens – “Executive Director” and, near as we can tell, one of less than a half-dozen members of “Protect Minnesota” (and de facto representative of House District 66A) and a woman whose entire body of public assertions is lies, dwarfs them all:

Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, derided the bill as “NRA-approved.’’

Boo!  Boogeyman!  Hiss!

Listen, MinnPost-reading dogs!  There’s your whistle!

“Any bill that fails to address the gaping holes in our background check law falls far short of the public’s demand for the right to be safe in our communities,’’ Martens said in a statement.

And there’s another lie.  The bill does address the gaping hole that exists in the background check laws.

No, not the misnamed “gun show loophole”, which is another media myth.   The real gap is  the data that the state isn’t sending to the feds; the Hilstrom bill fixes it.

GOCRA’s Mountain, Grow And Martens’ Molehill

Leaving aside the fact that Grow got pretty much everything in this story wrong – and wrong in a way that suggests not only that he wasn’t at Hilstrom’s press conference but that he wrote the whole thing straight from chanting points long before Hilstrom took to the microphone – the most pernicious thing about Grow’s story is that it tries to create the impression that there’s a genuine battle between two titanically-powerful sides to this debate.

There’s not.

In terms of legislators?  A bipartisan sample of over half of the House is on board co-authoring Hilstrom’s bill(s).  A thin, runny film of metro-DFL extremists is backing the Paymar/Hausman/Simonson gun grab bills.

In terms of the public?  Last month, GOCRA put out a call for people to come to the Capitol.  And they did.

No, really:

“Protect Minnesota” and “Moms Demand Action” put out a call yesterday for people to come out and protest against Hilstrom’s bill.

Here they are:

 

Well, not literally.  But no, other than Heather Martens, nobody showed up.

There are literally more DFL legislators co-authoring Hilstrom’s bill than there are members of “Protect Minnesota” and the “Moms Demand Action” put together.

The Case For Ugly Guns And Big Magazines

WELCOME, Instapundit readers!

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My neighbor AVERY LIBRELLE is concerned about gun violence.

We met at a local coffee shop, where we spoke over the sound of a group of locals that was keeping alive the tradition of out-of-tune folk music played by large, enthusiastic groups of the tone-deaf.

LIBRELLE:  We need to ban high-clip bullets and assault weapons!

ME:  Ugh.

LIBRELLE: “Ugh?”  What?

ME:  Oh, I’ve only been having this argument for 25 years.  For starters, they’re called “high-capacity magazines”.  A “clip” as a general term for “anything that holds bullets” is a bit of Hollywood slang.  Really explaining it requires me to get all pedantic about how guns work, and I know you don’t care, and explaining it really takes me off the topic, but here – let me show you this:

“Clips”, pretty much by definition, are not “high-capacity”.  To talk much more about it would be to go onto a tangent that only gun geeks really care much about.

LIBRELLE:  Well, the media uses them interchangeably.

ME:  Uh, yeah.

LIBRELLE:  Anyway – you can not show me a reason anyone needs a…what?  High-capacity “magazine”?

ME:  No, I can’t show you one.

LIBRELLE:  I knew it.

ME:  I can show you several. Continue reading

End Results

Joe Doakes from Como Park has a question that’s occurred to me as well:

I don’t have time today to look this up, maybe some of your readers do?

I’m getting the feeling the media is under-reporting a crucial element in the shooting stories: what stopped the killer?

Is it correct the most recent school shooter stopped killing when he was confronted by a cop with a gun? The cop didn’t shoot him, the kid killed himself, but the cop with the gun was the motivator? You ran the story about the CCW guy in the shopping mall – same result.

Mother Jones magazine claims armed citizens only stopped mass murders 1.6% of the time. Slate Magazine on-line points out some of that is how you count it (it’s not a “mass murder” until there are already four dead) other studies disagree.

Here’s the question: regardless of WHO was holding the gun that stopped the killing, is it correct that the killing continued until SOMEONE with a gun confronted the killer?

The NRA’s Armed Citizen column is devoted to proving from real-life experience that the mere presence of a gun in the hands of a good citizen can prevent crime, without a shot being fired. Are they right?

If so, wouldn’t more good guys holding guns be better?

Joe Doakes

Como Park

That one occurred to me when discussing the Portland shooting on December 11.  As we reported earlier this week, a man with a rifle started shooting at the Clackamas Mall in Portland.  He fired over sixty shots, and miraculously killed “only” two people.  At some point, his AR15 jammed – reports vary, and it may or may not have been well before the time he was confronted by an armed citizen with a carry permit and a handgun.  He apparently fled, and shortly thereafter shot himself.

But notwithstanding the fact that he fired sixty shots, and could have fired a lot more, just watch; it won’t be called a “mass shooting”, because “only” two died.

Because he was deterred by a citizen with a gun.  That the left will studiously avoid calling a hero for ending a mass shooting because it won’t be shown as a mass shooting in the stats.  Because the citizen prompted it to end before it became a mass shooting.

It’s a Catch 22, although in this case, it beats the alternative.

At any rate, there’s a list of mass shootings, and would-be mass shootings, that’ve been stopped by citizens – not police – with guns:

Eugene Volokh also has a list with a few more as well as a few repeats from my list.

Now, if you look at most of these incidents, most of them aren’t “mass shootings”  – because most of them were stopped before they topped that magic “four dead” threshold.

Which is what we want.  Right?

Tragedy On A Dimmer Switch

The nation wracks itself in grief – justifably – over the deaths of 20-odd children in Connecticut.  I’d shudder to meet the monsters that don’t recoil in horror and outrage.

I’m  struck, though, by the lack of outrage over the carnage in President Obama’s home town, the town run by the machine that put him in office, the city run by his former Chief of Staff.

In Chicago, since 2008, 622 children have been murdered.  That’s almost thirty Sandy Hook classrooms full of kids.  They didn’t have the “luck” to look, largely, just like the children of our nation’s “elite”, our media, business and wonk classes – white, exurban, upper-middle-class.  The died in ones and twos, not in a bloody pile that became a media feeding frenzy.  They weren’t killed by children of privilege, shot by weapons that the dominant political class was trying to turn into a boogeyman and political wedge; they were mostly murdered by their neighborhoods’ own criminal underclass, carrying mundane, mostly-stolen pistols and illegally-modified shotguns, almost none of them by any “assault weapon” anyone would recognize.

No – they’re mostly black and latino.  They’re mostly from poor families, students at Chicago’s wretched public schools.  And they live – lived – in a city that has been the American left’s social laboratory for the better part of a century.  And they died in a city that is a fully-owned subsidiary of the American left, and a key part of its national power base, and a place that has made it harder for the law-abiding citizen to buy guns than to buy crack, heroin or a hooker. A city that trumpets the ambitions – and exhibits the failures – of everything American “progressivism” stands for.

They’re minority, they’re poor, they’re rhetorical guinea pigs in America’s biggest leftist lab.

And they’re dying at the rate of seven or eight classrooms-full a year – not on one horrible bloody Friday, but every year, for years past and for years to come.

And outside their communities, their families, their neighborhood’s churches?  They die anonymously.

And there is the American left’s concern for “the children”.

So let’s do make sure that’s part of the “Conversation about Guns”, shall we?

Chanting Points Memo: With “Experts” Like This, Who Needs Enemas?

Long before the Trayvon Martin shooting started dominating the headlines, gun law reform was in the news in Minnesota, and had already spawned a smaller, more “Barney-Fife”-y version of the disinformation mill that has been sweeping the nation these past few weeks.

I and the rest of the Minnesota Second Amendment community have been playing whack-a-mole for months now, as one dishonest public official or in-the-bag cop or another misinformed/disinforming editorial board excrescence essentially spreads the same vacuous chanting points.

Usually, whether the issue passes (like concealed carry) or not, it dies down between the final passages/vetos and the next session – because none of the people who write for the other side really know much about the issue other than what they’re told.

The Martin shooting has extended the disinformation season even here in Minnesota, though, as the DFL and media try to find a wedge issue to get their base frothed up and to try to peel off the uninformed, not-very-curious ones part of the swing set – the ones voted for Mark Dayton in 2010.

Which brings us to a piece from over the weekend at the MinnPost, by one Thomas Weyandt, a former St. Paul City Attorney’s-office prosecutor who’s  joined the cottage industry of instant pundits with opinions on gun laws:

With the national uproar over the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, it’s a good time to take another look at the expanded Castle Doctrine bill that almost became law in Minnesota. Ours would have been even worse than Florida’s “Shoot First” law.

It’s an inflammatory statement.  Let’s see if he packs the factual gear to follow it up:

But first, my qualifications before I explain why. I was an assistant city attorney for St. Paul for 34 years. In about 1996, I became interested in the lack of knowledge of gun laws by police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges. I did a study of the results of 676 cases my office had prosecuted and then wrote a manual on how to do it correctly.

His auto-bio speaks of 30-odd years in workmen’s compensation law for the City of Saint Paul – but a “special interest in gun crimes”, leading to a book on the subject, “Investigating and Charging Weapons and Gun Cases“.  Book?  Manual?

Whichever.  He’s setting himself up as an expert..

I have taught police, prosecutors and defense attorneys at a number of classes. I also was involved in the prosecution of hundreds of gun crimes during the last 10 years of my work with the city. Since retiring, I have been a consultant to a group that deals with gun laws at the Legislature.

Odd that he doesn’t favor the reader with the name of the “group” with which he “consults”.  I’m tempted to wonder if it’s “Protect Minnesota”, whose leader, Heather Martens, may be among the most discredited lobbyists on the hill – because she so habitually lies.  If so, that might be why Weyandt doesn’t give us the name of the group.  I’ll check up on that.

(UPDATE:  It’s “Protect Minnesota“, all right – check down in the “2009 Background Check Bill” section.  They’re hawking his “book”, in CD form.  Weyandt felt the need to buttress his credibility by proclaiming himself a “consultant” on the issue, but not to tell you he “consulted” with a group that’s been fighting a bit of an “Aboslutely No Credibility” issue for the past decade or two).

He also doesn’t say how he, a work-comp attorney, was “involved” in that prosecution.

There are two things to keep in mind as we proceed through Weyandt’s article:

  1. To A Lawyer, It’s As Much About The Information The Jury Doesn’t Get As What They Do:  A good trial lawyer never asks a witness a question whose answer he doesn’t know in advance.  They can also spend as much time arguing about the instructions the jury get about the law relating to the case as they do about the case itself – to make sure the jury doesn’t get the information that doesn’t help their case.  In this case, the “jury” is “the MinnPost’s audience”, and he’s already left out one key bit of information, the “group” with which he “consults”.  What else has he left out?  Oh, we’ll get to that.
  2. There Isn’t Just One Law:  Law really exists at three levels in this country; the Constitution puts down the basics.  “Statutory” laws passed by Congress, legislatures, county commissions and city councils fill in the implementation details.  And then “case law” – the stuff that makes lawyers rich – covers all the nuances that law develops over time and application to real-world situations.   We’ll come back to this.  Oh, yes, we will.

Back to Weyandt, the “expert” on gun law (and workmen’s comp!): he’s gotten his first key fact wrong.

So what’s wrong with Minnesota’s proposed Castle Doctrine bill?

Most important is the fact that there is no duty to retreat in a person’s home if someone enters illegally. That has been the major factor expressed by many in support of the proposal — “Come into my house and you’re toast.”

Pretty scary, huh?

Sounds like a pretty damning indictment of “Stand Your Ground”, doesn’t it?  The idea that Minnesotans would lose the “Duty to Retreat”, while in their homes?

Except that it seems to have escaped the “expert” Mr. Weyandt, Esq. that Minnesotans have not had a duty to retreat when in their homes – between the front and back doors – for almost thirteen years. .

It’s not in the state statute.  It’s in case law:

Case: State v. Carothers
Issue: Defense of dwelling, duty to retreat
Court: Minnesota Supreme Court
Cite: C8-98-86
Date: June 17, 1999
Link: http://www.lawlibrary.state.mn.us/archive/supct/9906/c89886.htm
Decision: A duty to retreat does not attach to defense
of dwelling claims.

So why does Weyandt, the “expert”, not relate this fact?

There are really two reasons this could happen:

  • He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and he’s letting it show.
  • He’s trying to shape a reality in his audience’s mind’s eye that furthers his goal, which isn’t the same as telling the truth.  LIke a prosecutor trying to make sure his “Jury” – the MinnPost audience – hears only the bits of information that he wants them to see, and none of the inconvenient facts that lead them away from his desired conclusion, he’s counting on his audience’s ignorance to make his case for him.

He’s not done.  Not by a long shot:

The proposal — sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas — would have allowed for the use of deadly force without a duty to retreat in a great many places other than a person’s home.

Why doesn’t Weyandt specify what the “Great Many” are?

Either because he’s incompetent, or he doesn’t want to “pollute” the argument with the fact that  “the person’s property, outbuildings, vehicle or business” just aren’t and will never be a “great many” places; it’s small list indeed.

Which reason – incompetence, or a considered desire to mislead the public about the law – do you think Weyandt is exhibiting?

It also allowed a person to use deadly force if they reasonably feared harm. The proposal contained a provision that creates a presumption that the fear is reasonable. Current law requires the use of the reasonable-man standard and leaves the question up to the jury.

This paragraph is a dog’s breakfast of nonsense.

There’s an omission – from incompetence or via deception, again, and we have no idea – that presumes the fear of death or great bodily harm is reasonable “in the case of a person entering a dwelling or occupied vehicle by stealth or force”.  That’s a rather more limited set of circumstances than Mr. Weyandt seems to want you to think, now, isn’t it?

Beyond that, and speaking to the lack of integrity in Mr. Weyandt’s piece?  The law today allows a person to claim a homicide is justifiable if they “reasonably” fear death or great bodily harm.  Here’s the law, as it is today.  See the word?  It’s right there!

The difference – the only difference – is that under the circumstances covered in the proposal, in the home or vehicle or property or business, which is being entered by force or stealth, the county prosecutor will have to prove that the fear of death or harm was unreasonable, rather than the shooter having to prove it (at their own expense, with a lengthy jail term hanging over their head should they not prove themselves innocent after an admission of “guilt with an explanation”).

That’s it!

Whether someone’s fear is reasonable is something a jury can understand.

And there’s the point of view of the professional attorney speaking.

A jury – sitting in a nice, warm, well-lit room, protected by sheriff’s deputies, with coffee breaks and donuts and bathroom time, can certainly determine that.  But the jury also has to operate on information shaped by the way two lawyers – one of them a county prosector, working the case full time on the taxpayers dime, sitting in another nice, warm, safe, well-lit office, without, say, rapists beating down his door.  He’ll have the luxury of time to try to persuade the jury, not that a woman’s fear of death or disfigurement wasn’t legitimate, but that she didn’t try hard enough to retreat from that threat to satisfy his picayune reading of the law.  And if her attorney, charging her $250, can’t convince the county’s full-time attorney that that undefined “duty to retreat” was met, then she’s going to jail, even with her legitimate fear of death.

And that is the status quo that Weyandt – and Jim Backstrom, and at the end of the day Mark Dayton – are defending; the idea that a law-abiding citizen’s freedom hangs on a technicality to be decided by a bunch of lawyers.

Like Mr. Weyandt.

Cornish’s bill wasn’t a “shoot first” law.  It was a “prosecutors have to earn their pay, or at least playing rhetorically-onanistic and politically-motivated games with peoples’ lives, when the shooting is so obviously law-abiding that even a lawyer other than Mr. Weyandt could see it”.

Lamentably, that doesn’t roll off the tongue quiet as fast.

Proving beyond a reasonable doubt that it was not reasonable, as the proposed law would have required, would seem to be nearly impossible.

This is pure fantasy.

Walk through this list of cases – mostly fictional, all plausible.  They’ll show the “near impossibility” of a reasonably intelligent cop and prosecutor telling the difference between legitimate self-defense and murder, with or without the Cornish proposal.

Will some cases be more complicated than my examples?  Sure; the Martin case is one of them (at least in terms of information available to the public. There may be cases – few, indeed – where the circumstances force prosecutors to work to get their precious conviction.

There might be a reason for that; it just might be that the shooting was perfectly legitimate.

So far, I’m guessing “reading Weyandt’s book” would be a bigger handicap to prosecutors than Cornish’s proposal.

The Cornish/Hoffman proposal allowed the use of deadly force if someone is threatened with substantial bodily harm (SBH). The law defines that as including a temporary disfigurement. That means a punch to the face and a black eye would allow the use of deadly force.

This is unvarnished bullshit, and Minnesota law says so.

Substantial bodily harm is “bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ․

Go have a look for yourself.  It’s not exactly beach reading – but it’ll show you that under Minnesota law, Weyandt is talking nonsense.   A moderately-thorough scour through the cases didn’t find a single black eye among ’em.

Let me know how you do.

There are a couple of other especially troubling provisions:

• The expanded Castle Doctrine proposal would have granted total immunity from criminal prosecution.

They’re granted “total” immunity provided that the shooting was fully legal!  Read the law yourself (jump down to line 6.16)

• The proposal did not allow the arrest of the suspect until police have fully considered any claim of self-defense.

I’ve often wondered about people who object to this provision, which basically says “if the shooting was of someone who was entering a house/vehicle/property by force, and there was reasonable fear of death or substantial harm, and the force was reasonable, and every other part of the law was upheld, feel free not to arrest the shooter”.  That’s it.

Mr Weyandt’s desire to put people in handcuffs even if they are so obviously within the law that it’s transparently obvious to the cops borders on the unseemly.

So, if the police can’t arrest a suspect and bring him or her in for questioning, they have very little to no ability to determine if the person was acting in self-defense or not.  If the police can’t develop evidence that the claim of self-defense is false, there can be no prosecution.

Wait – is Mr Weyandt saying that, even in cases where the facts aren’t relatively obvious, that the best or only source of information is an interrogation after arrest?

If there is a prosecution, the proposal would presume the belief that the fear of harm was reasonable…

if the circumstances of the shooting were those covered in the law!  If the shooter reasonably feared death or sufficient harm, and were on their property/in their car or business, and if the “victim” was entering one of those places via force or stealth to commit a crime!

It’s just not that difficult – provided the cops and prosecutors are modestly competent.

Despite all my criticisms, I am not among those who think such a law would create an increased danger to police. Nor do I believe that it would result in shootings all over the place.

What I do know, though, is that this proposal virtually would have negated the ability to prosecute anyone who applies deadly force under virtually any circumstance.

Provided they were utterly incompetent.

And on, and on, and on.

The entire piece relies on two things, really:

  • Studiously misstating the context and effects of Cornish’s proposal
  • Ignoring Minnesota case law.

As such, it stands alongside the rest of of the long-debunked “Protect Minnesota” propaganda that this blog has been shredding for a decade.

Here’s a special invitation to my lawyer friends to pick apart Mr. Weyandt’s argument.  Use all the comment space you want.  Hell, email me; I’ll print it as a post.

Because humiliating this brand of partisan disinformation from the front page of the Minnesota Media would be a wondrous public service.

Chanting Points Memo: “I Shot Him Because I Didn’t Like The Way He Snored”

Rep. Tony Cornish’s “Stand Your Ground” bill – which must be either signed or vetoed by midnight tonight (as this is written, neither has happened, although that may change; I write these posts between 5:30 and 7AM, because, well, I work during the day and can’t always follow the news in real time like some puling Sorosblogger), has come in for the most amazing avalanche of slander over its four years of consideration at various levels.

I’ve pointed out that most of the bill’s detractors – whether politicians, cops or the  DFL-promoting media – are lying when they say (and say, and say) that the bill would “legalize murder”, and that the bill merely changes the presumption of guilt to a  presumption of innocence when one is attempting self-defense on ones own property – in the home, yard, garage, or in the car or at a business one owns.

That’s it.

But some people learn better from seeing examples.

So let’s go through some compare and contrast exercises to look at the differences between current law and the Cornish bill.

A really stupid 10 year old boy enters a homeowner’s property to steal apples.  The boy is unarmed, by the way, and that’s above and beyond the fact that he’s a ten year old boy.  The homeowner comes out of his house with a handgun and shoots the boy, who dies on the scene.  The homeowner claims self-defense.

  • Current Law: The homeowner can not prove that the boy was a reasonable threat of death or great bodily harm.  She’s convicted of manslaughter or 2nd degree murder.
  • With “Stand Your Ground”:  The police investigation shows no evidence the boy was a threat to anyone.  The county attorney charges the homeowner with manslaughter or 2nd degree murder, and proves it to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.  The jury convicts her.
A homeowner feels a passerby has given him the “stink eye”.  The homeowner – a lawyer and leftyblogger – is walking up his front walk when he sees a man walking up the sidewalk towards him.  The homeowner believes the man has “given him the stink-eye” and pulls a Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 magnum from his camera bag, firing six shots at a range of eight feet, hitting the man once, killing him.  Claiming to have felt threatened by the “stink-eye”, the homeowner claims self-defense.
  • Current Law: The homeowner’s claim that “stink-eye” was a threat of death or great bodily harm, his failure to even attempt to retreat from said “stink-eye”, and the unreasonableness of the use of lethal force against an unarmed man (“stink-eye” notwithstanding) is rejected by the jury, who convict him of second-degree murder.
  • With “Stand Your Ground”: The police investigation shows that the homeowner was not under threat of death or great bodily harm from the alleged perception of “stink-eye”.  The County Attorney, noting that there is no reasonable doubt that a jury will find “stink eye” not to be a lethal threat, and that using lethal force is not a reasonable response to “stink-eye”, takes the case to trial.  Based on the lack of lethal threat and the unreasonableness of lethal force, the jury finds him guilty of second degree murder; “duty to retreat” is no longer an issue, obviously. The homeowner, breaking into a curious German accent as his lawyer buries his face in his hands during the verdict, yells “But ze law zayz I don’t have to retreat to ze house, and zat I can kill for ze ztink-eye!” as the judge pounds the bench, and then the defendant, with his gavel.
A man – Man A – becomes irritated when another man, “B”, cuts him off on Cedar Avenue in Eagan during rush hour.  A flips B off.  B flips A off harder.  A accelerates around B, narrowly missing several other drivers.  B accelerates to keep pace.  A swerves to cut B off.  B bumps A’s bumper.  A races up the Cliff Road exit followed by B.  They pull into the parking lot at Doolittle’s at Cliff and Nichols.  B slams into A’s trunk.  A pulls away, turns sharply, and slams into the right-front corner of B’s car.  B backs away and accelerates, ramming into the front of A’s car.  Their cars both disabled, the men climb out and commence a vigorous fist-fight.  They pummel each other for three minutes before A pulls a can of mace and squirts it at B, catching him in the pants – which is useless for purposes of blinding him.  B responds by drawing a revolver, firing twice to knock A down, and four more times as he lies bleeding on the pavement.  He claims self-defense in the court with jurisdiction, Dakota County.
  • Current Law:  Are you kidding?  Dozens of witnesses testified that B was a willing participant (you can’t jump into a fistfight and then claim “self-defense” when it goes out of control), so the jury didn’t buy that.  They also rejected the claim that he legitimately feared death or great bodily harm from the mace, or that shooting was a reasonable use of lethal force (even if you leave out the four shots to finish him off, which, naturally, the county attorney did not).  Finally, B did not retreat, although that was the least of his legal problems.
  • With “Stand Your Ground” – While Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom had claimed that this was the sort of case that would have allowed “B” to walk free – apparently lacking confidence that the cops or his staff could successfully prove wrongdoing – the cops successfully interview the dozens of witnesses who noted that both parties were flailing away with aplomb, not to mention having been involved in a miles-long road rage incident – thus making “B” a willing participant.  The cops also noted that B was faced with mace, not a knife or gun.  They noted from the spatter and four bullets embedded in the pavement below “A”‘s body that at least four of the shots were against an unarmed, incapacitated and probably dying man, meaning lethal force was, at least for those four shots, not justified.   Even though his boss, JIm Backstrom, went on WCCO and “Almanac” claiming that “B” would likely go free because the “Stand your Ground” law meant the incompetent boobs who worked for him probably couldn’t win the case, his beleaguered assistant easily won a conviction, and a reprimand from Backstrom for making him look like an even bigger idiot than those pesky bloggers had done.
A homeowner, an older black woman, is surprised when  couple of of young latino men from the neighborhood walk through her open front door to ask if she’s all right; they, being good citizens, were genuinely concerned about their neighbor’s well-being.  The woman, afraid after hearing stories of latino-on-black violence in Los Angeles, comes out of her bathroom with a shotgun, and in a brief orgy of gender-and-race-based fear, kills one man and gravely wounds the other.  She claims self-defense.
  • Current Law:  The woman is in her home, so she has no “duty to retreat” under current law.  But the jury rejects her self-defense claim, as there is no evidence of a lethal threat (the men were unarmed) and the lethal force was unreasonable.   She quickly pleads down to one count of manslaughter and one of aggravated assault.
  • With “Stand Your Ground”:  The investigating cops find no sign of weapons, no evidence of a threat.   The county attorney gets the conviction.
A 100 pound Asian woman is tending her Frogtown garden.  A car with two white men – “Mark”, a 300 pound man with a long history of violent offenses (unbeknownst to the woman), and “Jeff”, a wiry man with facial tattoos who was recently released (again, unknown to the Asian woman) from prison after serving time for a sexual assault conviction, drives up.  “Mark” climbs out of the car and says “Bitch, get in the car!  We’re going to a party”.  The Asian woman says “no, and get off my property”.  As “Jeff” climbs out of the car, “Mark” says “Aw, honey, it’ll be a fun party!”, and advances toward her.  “Go away!” she yells.  “Mark” grins a chilling grin, as “Jeff” takes up what looks like a lookout position.  The womam backs away from “Mark”, draws a .380 pistol from her pocket.  “Mark” chuckles.  “Oh, no, don’t shoot me”, he says sarcastically, pulling down his zipper as he continues to advance.  The woman shoots him twice in the chest.  He falls to the found as “Jeff” jumps in his car.  The woman administers CPR until the police and paramedics arrive, saving his life.
  • Current Law:  Deputy County Attorney Jon Hesch – an up and comer who wants to be elected County Attorney someday – sitting in his office surrounded by metal detectors and deputies – notes that the woman was not in her house, so she had the ability to run away; being in shape, she could certainly have outrun a 300 pound man.  He also notes that the men were unarmed, and so the woman had no fear of death or great bodily harm.  Furthermore, “Mark” states from his hospital bed that he had been drinking, and was pulling down his zipper because he wanted to urinate, and that in fact they really really really did actually want to go to a party, not to try to rape her (and Hesch notes that there’s no way she could have known about Mark’s violent crime convictions), putting a “rape” claim in some doubt.  Hesch decides to prosecute for attempted murder.  The woman – and her husband – are not wealthy.  They can’t afford an attorney with the oomph to fight back against Hesch and the entire Ramsey County Attorney’s office; to avoid putting the family in the poorhouse, the woman pleads guilty to a lesser charge – felony aggravated assault – putting a felony on her record and a “conviction” and a “gun off the street” for ambitious young weasel Hesch, who duly files it away in the “win” column in time to make it to a cocktail party with Keri Miller and Alita Messinger.
  • With “Stand Your Ground”: Assistant County Attorney Hesch notes that the police investigation turned up no evidence that’d give him a shot of even insinuating, much less proving beyond a reasonable doubt, that the woman was a willing participant, or  that her fear or her use of force was unreasonable.  Trying to try the case would be a lot of work with almost no chance of a conviction.   As an ambitious up-and-comer, he decides to curry favor with the Asian community, declines to press charges, calls her a hero for getting a thug off the street, and makes his 5PM squash date with his supervisor.
While at an amusement park , a group of  young ruffians grope a teenage girl.  The girl’s father intervenes, getting in the lads’ faces.  The lads start beating and kicking the man who, outnumbered 6-1, eventually goes down.    Another man – a concealed carry permit-holder with a concealed handgun – assesses the situation and, nervous about how a county attorney would react, opts to yell at the lads that he’s calling the police.  One of the lads draws a 9mm handgun from under his Breck School sweatshirt and dares him to do anything about it, and brandishes the gun at the rest of the crowd, sending any would-be intervenors fleeing.  The man draws his own handgun and fires one shot, hitting Mr. Breck in the head, killing him and sending the rest of the perps fleeing.
  • Under Current Law: Good question.  If the “amusement park” is in Clay County, the cops probably shake his hand and offer to buy him coffee if they see him; the county attorney thanks his lucky stars there’s another scumbag off the street.  In Henco, of course, the County Attorney must appease the DFL, so the cops arrest the man; he’s charged with manslaughter.  He posts bail, cashes in his retirement account, and lawyers up.  The County Attorney could opt to pursue him using any number of approaches; he should have retreated, it wasn’t he who was under direct threat, and really, the cops were only 15 minutes away.  The man’s fate is in the hands of a Henco jury.  What would you do?
  • With “Stand Your Ground”: What, do I have to explain everything?  He’s not on his property. Nothing really changes.  More’s the pity.
A young female law student driving home to her apartment after night class is approached in her parking lot by two men.  They run toward her car.  She draws her gun – but ponders for a moment – “is my fear of death or great bodily harm legitimate?  Do I need to try to retreat before I draw and shoot?  Is this reasonable?”
  • Under Current Law: The crime scene investigator is called to a wooded area in Maplewood to investigate an apparent homicide.  In addition to ligature marks around the neck and signs of sexual assault, the woman’s face shows signs of having been hit by mace.  Back in her apartment parking lot, her car shows signs of that same mace; under the car lies an un-used handgun, traced to the woman, a law student who’d apparently just left night class.
  • With “Stand Your Ground”: The crime scene investigator is called to the scene of a shooting in an apartment parking lot.  One man with a long history of sexual assault convictions lies on the pavement, shot twice in the chest.  His accomplice fled, and is found, pantsless, in a nearby park.  The young woman’s inner monologue, not muddled by having to second-guess a county attorney, resolved itself in time to kill the mace-armed rapist.  His accomplice claimed he removed his pants in self-defense as he was bundled off to jail.  The Strib’s Matt McKinney writes a touching portrait of the dead man’s family, highlighting his sister’s claim that the “victim” was so close to turning his life around, this time…
A man is driving down the road with his pregnant wife.  Their two children are in the back seat.  He changes lanes, inadvertently cutting off another man speeding up behind him.  The second driver honks, enraged.  The first man – let’s call him “Marty” – waves, the universal Minnesota driver sign for “sorry about that’.  The second man – let’s just call him “Lyndon” – seethes with rage.  Finally Lyndon sees the chance to avenge his besmirched manhood.  He pulls up next to Marty’s car as it’s stuck between two other cars at a stoplight, rolls down a window, and points a Glock at Marty’s wife.  “It’d sure be a shame if your wife died because you’re such a f****ng stupid driver”, Lyndon yells.    Seeing his wife and children being threatened by a man with a gun – by definition, a lethal threat – and unable to drive away because he’s boxed in on all sides, Marty draws his own gun and fires three shots, wounding Lyndon.  He then calls the police – following the self-defense playbook to a T.
  • Current Law: Assistant County Attorney Hedda Blatz-Grehnbehlt notes that while the threat of death or great bodily harm was definitely present, and that the use of lethal force against lethal force meets the letter and spirit of the law, and there was no way to show that Marty was a willing participant, she did believe that Marty had the option of telling the kids to climb out the left door and dragging his wife over the transmission hump and out the driver’s side door, rather than shooting.  She informs Marty’s lawyer – as he charges $250 an hour to listen – that she’s going to take the case to court, with a bevy of witnesses to show that there wasn’t clear convincing evidence that Marty couldn’t have evacuated his kids from the car rather than shooting.  Marty’s attorney tells Marty “We should be able to win this one – but we’ll need expert witnesses to rebut the county’s contention, plus there’ll likely be a long, nasty trial against a team of county attorneys.  it’s gonna cost ya a minimum of $50K, maybe $100K, and that’s win or lose, and there are no guarantees.  Wanna roll the dice?  Or take the deal to plead guilty to aggravated assault, serve a year, maybe suspended, plus ten years probation, and get your life back?”  It’s a tough call for the guy, a working-class stiff who doesn’t have “a lawyer” of his own to call.
  • With “Stand Your Ground”:  Assistant County Attorney Blatz-Grehnbehlt shakes her head, declines to press charges, and leaves work early to go to a “Take Action Minnesota” rally.
A man walks, uninvited, into a garage in South Minneapolis.  The homeowner, working on his lawn mower in the garage, turns, alarmed, as a disheveled man walks toward him demanding money.  The man draws his permitted concealed handgun and orders the intruder to leave.  “F**k you, pay me!” the man yells.  The homeowner believes he sees a knife; he fires, killing the intruder.
  • Current Law: Knife?  Threat?  Reasonable?  Sure – but could the homeowner have tried to run away?  That’s up to the county attorney – and if the county attorney has seen too many kung fu movies, the homeowner will have to spend his life’s savings and then some to prove he couldn’t have – to  prove his innocence – beyond a reasonable doubt.    It’s a crap shoot.
  • With “Stand Your Ground”: Did the man do anything wrong?  The burden of proof is on the prosecutor.  Where it should be.
That’s the dirty little secret behind the DFL/Media’s “Legalizing Murder!!!!!” invective over this law; it’s to draw your attention away from the fact that vetoing “Stand Your Ground” will be a blow against everyone’s civil rights – especially working and poor people.

Matt McKinney’s Whitewash Job

Earlier this week, when three media outlets (WCCO-TV, KSTP-TV and Rick Kupchella’s Bring Me The News) released near-simultaneous hagiographies of Darren Evanovich – the Minneapolis man who was shot by a “good samaritan” with a carry permit after Evanovich allegedly robbed and pistol-whipped a woman in a grocery store parking lot – I said (in the comment section of an MPR piece on the subject), somewhat hyperbolically, that this looked like a concerted campaign by the media to whitewash Evanovich and demonize the shooter.  The Twin Cities media, of course, have always hated “shall-issue”, and have spared no perversions to “journalism” to try to kill it.

I thought I’d seen the worst the Twin Cities media had to offer.

I was wrong.  So very very wrong.

Mark McKinney at the Strib has delivered what may be the worst piece of journalism I’ve ever seen on a Second Amendment issue in  my depressingly-long career of finding awful journalism on the subject:

Nine days before his death, Darren Evanovich stopped by the south Minneapolis office of MAD DADS to say hi to V.J. Smith, who heads the local chapter of the street anti-violence program.

Evanovich made a video aimed at kids contemplating the thug life:

“Jail is not fun,” Evanovich confides at one point, “Not being able to see your brothers and sisters grow up isn’t fun. … You don’t see nobody. You have no friends once you step in there.”

We know how this ends, of course; last Friday, Evanovich (and, allegedly, his sister and one other accomplice) went down to the Cub on 26th and Lake.

McKinney relates the story – sort of:

On the evening of Oct. 20, a little more than a week later, a 53-year-old woman was accosted in a supermarket parking lot off E. Lake Street. The stranger was armed with a handgun, and after taking her money, he struck her in the head with his weapon, police said.

That sounds so cold and matter-of-fact.  Let’s put this in some context.

Evanovich – as we related this morning – robbed a woman twice his age, a Hispanic woman who cleans offices for a living.  He beat her in the face, with a pistol, giving her two black eyes and a bad cut and, let’s not forget, a very legitimate fear of being shot dead in a parking lot.

McKinney – with emphasis added to loathsome bits of agenda journalism:

A man nearby saw the attack. He had a state permit to carry a pistol, and he had one with him. He chased the robber behind a restaurant and shot him dead.

How does that read to you?  Like “the man” stalked, tracked and hunted Evanovich like he was a wild animal, perhaps?   Like Evanovich was just a leaf in the autumn wind, blown into the wrong place at the wrong time, the wrong parking lot with the wrong remorseless Dirty Harry wannabee?

No mention of the facts from the police’s statement on the incident: that Evanovich allegedly turned and pointed his own gun at the “good samaritan” (according to some accounts, fired a shot at him); indeed, only the most oblique possible reference to the fact that Evanovich was carrying a gun that could still be considered “honest”.

No mention of the fact that had the shooting been even in the least bit ambiguous, the shooter would have been detained, arrested, booked and charged pretty much immediately.

Apparently nobody involved in the case had any choice!

No, really:

The investigation ensnared Evanovich’s sister, Octavia Marberry, this week when she was jailed on allegations of fraud and aggravated robbery. She had been with Evanovich the night he died, and according to their mother, held him in her arms as he took his last breath.

Back that up a minute, here; Marberry was allegedly part of the robbery.  She allegedly participated with her brother in giving an older woman the choice “give us your grocery money or we will kill you” – the act that directly led to the chase, her brother’s alleged move to end the life of the man chasing him, that would justify the “good samaritan’s” alleged shooting and, finally, the heart-rending scene McKinney favored us with.

Evanovich grew up in Minneapolis and Gary, Ind., one of five children.

“He has a good, loving family, and he has lots of friends. He wasn’t 100 percent bad,” his mother, Mary Evanovich of Minneapolis, said in an interview Thursday.

Two members of that loving family were apparently involved in pistol-whipping a Latina working-stiff-ette, of course.

Look – I’m a parent.  I’m not going to do the end-zone happy dance over someone getting killed, even if it’s justifiable homicide.  As much “fun” as I had raising my own kids, I can’t imagine what it must be like watching yours go off the rails as badly as Mary Evanovich’s seem to have.

But let’s eschew the bullshit, here.  Darren Evanovich’s death is a personal tragedy; the path that led him to that godforsaken parking lot was a social tragedy.

But the shooting?  That was (so it seems right now) self-defense; as the late Joel Rosenberg taught us all, the second-worst of all the possible outcomes – if you were the “good samaritan” seeing a gun pointing at you in that wretched alley.

UPDATE: A source – let’s call him “Zack” – with extensive knowledge of the issue and some knowledge of the case – wrote an email to McKinney.  He sent me a copy.  He reached about the same conclusions, but more economically. I’ll include it below the jump.

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The Right Of The People

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court of the United States today ruled in the Heller case that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is exactly what the founding fathers intended; that a right “of the people” means “people”, not “the National Guard”.

The court dealt forty years of erosion of civil liberties and contempt for the law-abiding citizen a sharp kick in the groin with pointy boots. The decision stands as the capstone on one of the most remarkable bits of grassroots politics in American history – a three-decade battle where the nation’s people, black and white and Republican and Democrat, fought their elites first to a standstill, and then came back to an escalating series of victories, starting in the courts of public opinion, extending through legislatures and city councils around the nation, to today.

This ruling euthanizes the DC Gun Ban – which is was, like most gun control measures, a racist concoction intended to keep all those brown-skinned people from running amok in the nation’s capitol, to return us in deed if not in thought to the days when black people had a separate, unequal justice system…

To quote Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog:

the Court nullified two provisions of the city of Washington’s strict 1976 gun control law: a flat ban on possessing a gun in one’s home, and a requirement that any gun — except one kept at a business — must be unloaded and disassembled or have a trigger lock in place. The Court said it was not passing on a part of the law requiring that guns be licensed. It said that issuing a license to a handgun owner, so the weapon can be used at home, would be a sufficient remedy for the Second Amendment violation of denying any access to a handgun.

The decision opens up possibilities for litigation and legislation on further gun bans, like Chicago’s, and also at least partially ejects US V. Miller from its misbegotten role as definitive precedent on Second Amendment issues.

This is not the end of the war over the Second Amendment, of course. It’s not a complete victory; licensing at the end of the day is conceptually scarcely less odious or abuse-prone than a ban (as we’ve found out in Saint Paul this past year). The orcs still control much; many cities (or at least their governing elites) still pay lumpen, unthinking fealty to the notion that a disarmed, docile citizenry is a safe one.

Some of this world’s people know better…:

…that the only genuinely secure people in this world are the ones that can see to their own security.

Yes, folks – this is serious business.

This is far from the end. Indeed, as Churchill said, it’s the end of the beginning…:

…and much hard fighting remains.

The court did the right thing – and now, this is a battle we Real Americans have to consolidate, extend, and win in the legislatures, City Councils, and in Congress.

The orcs will regroup and try to consolidate and, eventually, make another assault on the God-given rights of the law-abiding American. It is inevitable; it is the way of the orc to feed on your freedom. Softcore fascists like Heather Martens and Wes Skoglund aren’t drying up and blowing away because of this ruling; it remains to us to extinguish the smoldering dung-heap of that whole school of thought, in the legislature, in court, and most importantly in the hearts of people smart enough to know the difference between “rights of the people” and “privileges granted by your masters”.

But we – the Americans who’ve fought long and hard to keep this issue on the national radar, and drive this nation back from the insane nadir of the collectivist seventies – deserve a moment, if only a moment, to relax and enjoy the fruits of today’s victory. It’s a great respite from a dismal political season, and a solid jumping-off point for what comes next.

Enjoy it. I sure am.

To all of you who’ve spent so much time, toil and treasure winning today’s victory, a salute. You’ve earned it.

Tomorrow? Well, it’s back to work. Back to the endless job of putting the enemies of freedom to the rhetorical point of the political pike – one Congressman, one Justice, one voter at a time.

The way we’ve done it all along.

Thank you. And God Bless America.

(Over the top a little? Not really. Oh, I’m doing the endzone happy dance. I’m doing to do the endzone happy dance on David Lillehaug’s neck – rhetorically speaking, of course. Today’s a great day, and I’m going to treat it as such).

…To Just Plain Inexcusable

The Minnesota Monitor – the region’s Soros-funded propaganda outlet – has been doing its best, it seems, to burnish its rep as a “news” outlet; hiring Steve “Mister Furious” Perry, getting its staff to write more like reporters and less like snot-nosed polemicists, the whole thing.  Is it too little, too late?  We’ll see…

But at the end of the day, the site shows the danger of being a bought-and-paid for propaganda outlet; when its masters want propaganda distributed, truth is the first casualty.

Andy Birkey’s not a bad guy; he’s a fine writer, and he’s written some good stuff. But he covers the gay beat; while he’s no worse at Second Amendment coverage than anyone else in the local Soros/Leftymedia, this piece, frankly, starts with a basis in complete ignorance, and moves into utter fabrication.

Birkey doesn’t get far.

A National Rifle Association-backed bill is likely to be heard in the House Public Safety Committee this week, possibly Thursday. Dubbed the “Stand Your Ground” bill, HF 498 would make it easier to kill someone in self-defense.

That’s just plain wrong.

Read the bill. And then read this piece I wrote last week, in which I sum up the law-abiding citizen’s burden under current law when claiming self-defense. I spelled out the rules:

In Minnesota, if you choose and need to defend yourself or your family with lethal force, you must meet all four of the following criteria:

  1. You can’t be a willing participant in the struggle: you can’t dive into a fist-fight and then shoot your way out of it.
  2. You must reasonably fear death or “great bodily harm”: That means “a jury’s gotta buy it”.  And “great bodily harm” has a legal meaning; it means you gotta get hurt very, very badly
  3. The force you use must be reasonable under the circumstances: If the police come to your house to find a body with no knife or gun, but clutching your TV, Tivo and monitor, you might have trouble with this one.
  4. And finally, You must make every reasonable means to de-escalate the confrontation: That means you must back away from the altercation. In the home, that means you have to try to back away. There are limits, of course; if you are in a wheelchair, you’re not expected to develop superhuman strength and agility; if it’s -40 outside and there’s a howling wind and you have an infant, no jury and few prosecutors would fault you for shooting; if you have kids sleeping upstairs and your abusive ex-spouse has come through the door with a chainsaw, backing away is a very relative thing.

The bill changes nothing about the citizen’s obligation to prove that self-defense with lethal force was justified. It merely tightens up a few of the technicalities.

Let’s summarize what’s in SF446, starting in Subdivision 2 (Subd. 1 is definitions, although they’re worth reading as well)

  • It clarifies the circumstances under which defending oneself (or someone else) with lethal force is authorized. It changes current law in that it allows self-defense when someone “Reasonably Believes” (i.e. – a jury will buy it) they could sustain “substantial” or “great” bodily harm (#2 in the criteria above). These are legal terms with real meanings; we’ll get to them below. (Subdivision 2)
  • Subdivision 3 says an individual “may stand the individual’s ground in any place where the individual has a legal right to be, and may use all force and means, including deadly force, that the individual believes is required to succeed in defense. The individual may meet force with superior force, so long as the individual’s objective is defense.” In other words, as long as you have an otherwise legitimate claim of self-defense, (you meet all four of the criteria above), you are not obligated to retreat from the fight (criterion 4, above)
  • Subdivision 4 states that a homeowner may legally presume that someone (unknown to thehomeowner!) who is breaking into their house or car can be presumed to be a potentially lethal threat.
  • Subdivision 5 essentially states that the provisions above can be part of a legal claim of self-defense.

And that’s it. It means that a homeowner doesn’t have to figure in his head “if that’s a razor blade, does that mean I only have a fear of “substantial” rather than “great” bodily harm?” (Zealous prosecutors have put otherwise law-abiding citizens in jail over that in the past). It means that a homeowner doesn’t have to parse a burglar, rapist or robber’s intent when they find them in their homes (a friend of mine spent years and tens of thousands of dollars defending himself against a zealous prosecutor for shooting a warning shot at a burglar. In his or her home).

The bill would replace existing statutes that justifies the taking of life in cases where bodily harm or death is eminent, [let’s cut Birkey some slack and assume he means “imminent” – Ed.] and create a broader set of circumstances for which “shooting first” is immune criminal prosecution.

Point of order: In self-defense situations, “shooting second” can be a really bad idea. I’m not sure who in the media came up with the “Shoot First Bill” meme, but it’s kinda a dumb one.

Introduced by State Sen. Pat Pariseau, R-Farmington, and Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and supported by a number of Republicans, the bill is opposed by members of law enforcement and isn’t likely to pass the DFL-controlled legislature.

Part of the concern over the bill is that it diminishes the duty to retreat — that the first line of defense is not to kill, but to get out of harm’s way if it is safe to do so.

This “concern” is purely potemkin theatrics. There is no “duty to retreat”; to claim self-defense, one must currently show a “reasonable” attempt to de-escalate the conflict. Of course, “reasonable” means reasonable to a jury, sitting in a nice, secure jury room, in daylight, after having a county prosecutor ask them, rhetorically, “don’t you think he could have gone to the second floor, or out the door?” in a nice, brightly-lit courtroom, with all the time they need to make the decision.

Attorneys also fear that the bill could give criminals a license to kill.

“This expansion of the right to use deadly force would apply equally to criminals as to law-abiding citizens,” wrote Dakota County attorney James C. Backstrom. “It would create viable self-defense claims in situations like bar fights. It could allow rival gangs to shoot at one another with impunity. With no duty to retreat, anyone could claim they were responding to a threat of serious harm and were therefore justified in killing a person.”

I’m going to emphasize the next bit rather intensely:

This would seem to be patent misleading bullshit. There is nothing in Cornish/Pariseau’s bills about repealing the first of the four criteria; “one can not be a willing participant.  There’s nothing in the bill that would change any of the other requirements – that the fear of harm and the force used must be “reasonable”, as in “must convince a jury”.  Indeed, the bill states specifically that the law-abiding shooter may only shoot where the individual has a legal right to be (see above!); it says nothing about revoking any of the qualifications for a shooting to be considered self-defense!

I will be seeking comment from County Attorney Backstrom’s office on this statement, which would seem at best to be misleading, and at worst to be flatly at odds with legal reality, and issued for purposes of poltiical propaganda.  (Indeed, Backstrom’s op-ed piece, from which the quote is drawn, would seem to be a good candidate for a serious fisking).   I’ll (try to) be charitable, here; Backstrom could be talking about far-fetched technical defenses (when lawyers say things like “could create viable cases”, it means they’re stretching and stretching hard…).

The Cornish bill would remove some of the county prosecutor’s discretion in prosecuting otherwise law-abiding gun owners; it’d take away some of the need to parse the intent of people breaking into homes and cars.

That is all.

To pass this bill off as anything else with no attempt to get the broader legal and factual context is to serve as a DFL propaganda tool, and to toss aside any claim to journalistic credibility.

(I’d love to have left a comment about this in Birkey’s post – but apparently George Soros isn’t so flush that he’ll buy them a comment engine that actually functions..)

Life and Liberty

Doug Tice – who’s taken and run with “The Big Question” after Eric Black’s departure – noted something from Saturday’s NARN broadcast:

Yesterday, on one of the Saturday afternoon “Northern Alliance Radio Network” talk shows on AM 1280 The Patriot, I heard two of the the allies — I believe, Mitch Berg (from shotinthedark.info) and Captain Ed (from captainsquartersblog.com) — discussing last week’s awful Nebraska mall shooting. Their take on it was intriguing.

Doug noted that, first, I…

…insisted that nearly all mass shootings in recent years have occured in “gun-free” zones.

Not surprisingly, evidence for these assertions has been compiled and disseminated by scholar John Lott, the famed advocate of the “more guns-less crime” theory.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or an economist – to note that the vast preponderance of spree killings – certainly all of the ones the media brings up – take place in “gun free zones”, in academic sources like Lott, as well as, er less-academic ones:

Schools. College campuses. Government buildings. The list goes on, and on, and on. And if there are exceptions to the rule, they are often as not found in “gun-free” states.

We can certainly argue the premise. The numbers are on my side, but there is most certainly an argument to be had.

But Tice goes on to the more interesting question:

But anyhow, the allies didn’t stop there. Apparently following the lead of Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds, they argued that victims or victims’ families in this situation may have grounds for a lawsuit against the mall based on the gun ban.

No doubt there will, as usual, be lawsuits, alleging various reasons for holding the mall liable for the tragedy. But the new theory (new to me, anyhow) is this: By deliberately banning otherwise permitted guns from their property, the mall managers exposed their customers to greater danger from criminal violence, since the ban ensured that no one would have the means to return fire.

Not “legally”, anyway. Fact is, if Nebraska’s law is anything like Minnesota’s, then carrying illegally in the store would have been a legal infraction, punishable by a fairly trivial fine. I’m not sure if there’d be any additional penalty to a carry permit holder actually using a permitted gun in a posted space in legal self-defense, or if a jury would ever convict them of it if they had done so. I don’t know that there’s ever been a case on the subject.

But I digress. The fact remains that the Westroads Mall had declared itself a no-gun zone – for those who follow the niceties of the law, anyway. And I, like most carry-permit holders, would have honored that request – by keeping my gun, out of there. Also myself; I don’t go where I’m not wanted, as a rule, and I don’t spend my money there, either.

Tice cuts to the, er, Big Question:

Interesting, but also puzzling.

Granting, for the sake of argument, the Lottian view that gun-free status makes a place of business more dangerous for its patrons, this lawsuit theory seems a surprising position for conservatives to take, since they presumably are defenders of private property rights.

True. (And to be perfectly accurate, I’m not entirely sure Ed shares my views on this issue; guns are pretty much my turf, among the NARN crew).

Doesn’t a property owner have a right to ban guns from his property, even if it is unwise to do so? And aren’t those who believe such a ban puts them at risk free not to enter his property?

Yes, and yes. It’s a freedom I generally exercise, too. As noted above, I rarely if ever patronize posted businesses, if there is a reasonable alternative.

Aren’t customers assuming any risk, and waiving any right to recompense, when they knowingly and voluntarily enter a gun-free zone?

I’m not aware that there is any law or precedent about this. Has there ever been a case with a:

  1. legal activity, whose practicioners are…
  2. …permitted by the state to carry out the activity with…
  3. …an object that is legal – a firearm – for the express purpose of…
  4. …defending themselves and bystanders from…
  5. …an illegal activity that also happens to be a lethal threat?

…being enjoined for matters of a shopkeeper’s pure personal preference (as opposed to an empirical hazard – which, let us not forget, doesn’t exist with concealed carry permit holders)?

I’m trying to think of any situation that’d be even analogous. Barring defibrilators from your store (they can be misused!)? Banning asthma inhalers (they can be abused)?

Here’s the, er, Big Counterquestion: Does your property right trump my right to self-preservation?

The situation seems roughly comparable to the debate over bar and restaurant smoking bans. Conservatives as a rule argue that smoking bans are improper because a property owner should be able to decide whether to allow smoking or not. People who fear secondhand smoke need not work there or take their leisure there — or so the conservative line usually goes.

By and large conservatives can be expected to respond with disdain to the idea of lawsuits based on harm from voluntary exposure to secondhand smoke.

True. But the two ideas aren’t really similar. If I’m in a bar, smell smoke, and decide I don’t like it, I (and my friends and family) can make an orderly exit with a reasonable chance of getting out alive.

If I’m in that same bar, and a spree killer stands in the doorway and starts blazing away, the decision loop is a lot tighter; neither I nor the bar owner can be reasonably assumed to have chosen this activity; it’s being inflicted on all of us against our will. The threat to my life, liberty and happiness isn’t at some hypothetical intersection of property rights and science. It is in the hands of a madman with a gun. A madman that the store owner has forbidden me to defend myself against, without (obviously, and indeed impossibly) safeguarding me and mine from him.
He’s put my right to live snugly behind his property rights.  Just as the owners of the Westroads Mall did.

And let’s not forget that while the science of secondhand smoke is very much up in the air, the science of hot lead is not.

Here are three questions — assuming, for this purpose, that both secondhand smoke and gun bans are hazardous to people voluntarily exposed to them.

Question 1: Is it possible, coherantly, to believe secondhand smoke lawsuits are ridiculous but gun-ban lawsuits make sense?

Question 2: Is coherance possible the other way around — secondhand smoke lawsuits are sensible but not gun-ban lawsuits?

Going to a bar and smoking are both voluntary activities. One may leave a bar and find a smoke-free place at ones’ leisure. One may not leave this life, metaphysics aside, to go to a different one if someone gives you secondhand lead. Being enjoined by a property owner from taking legal steps with a legal gun that one is legally permitted to carry to safeguard the life that you and yours have is a whole different level of importance.

And when you’re talking about government offices and public buildings, I think it’s even more clear-cut. The right to protect ones’ life, and ones family’s lives, exists on at least as high a moral plane as private property (and at least a plane higher than smoking).

Question 3: Again assuming the Lottian view correct, are gun bans by private businesses a market failure caused, as market failures often are, by inadequate information — in this case people’s failure to understand what really makes them unsafe? Is the mall owner’s self interest in attracting shoppers better served by what Lottians would consider the illusory safety of the advertised gun ban than by the actual safety of allowing guns?

When statistically tiny numbers of Americans were poisoned by tampered Tylenol, or sickened by tainted spinach, sales of both dropped through the floor, creating marketing nightmares for both industries.

Against that – in just two incidents in “gun-free zones” in the past year, over forty people have died. In Minnesota, ten people have died in two school shooting incidents in the past few years – all of them on “gun-free” property. I’m not sure where that places the relative odds of dying of tainted beef to being shot by a madman at a posted business or federally “gun-free” school, but I’m guessing it’s pretty daunting.

I think the market has at least partially answered Doug’s question; the vast majority of the stores that “posted” themselves in the wake of the Minnesota Personal Protection Act have quietly dropped the signs in recent years; perhaps some were swayed by the protests of people like me, who made our displeasure at the unwarranted bigotry known. The vast majority, I suspect, simply realized that the law-abiding gun owner was less a threat than the average customer, and that Wes Skoglund was a lying moron.

If it takes a lawsuit to convince the rest that my right to protect my life is on a par with their property right – or at least that trying to trump my right to survive with their property rights is an act with consequences – I think I’m willing to go with that.

Am I missing something?

UPDATE:  Of course I’m missing something!  Or at least in Minnesota, according to the panoply of lawyers in the comment section below. 

So the legal route is, at least under Minnesota law, a non-starter (I don’t know about Nebraska law), and as commenter Jay Reding points out, the market does seem to be taking care of things in Minnesota. 

And commenter JoelR notes that, since carrying ones’ legally-permitted handgun in a posted store is an infraction that might be punishable by a $25 fine in Minnesota, it’s pretty much worth committing “civil disobedience” anyway, as long as one acts legally (to say nothing of tactfully and respectfully – keeping the gun carefully concealed and not making an ass of oneself.  Which is always a good idea).

But let me emphasize; while the law would seem to hold that the stores are legally blameless for anyone getting murdered because nobody can legally carry a firearm to defend themselves, it still doesn’t make it right.  Hence, I’ll continue to avoid posted stores; less out of fear of mass-murder than out of protest against bigotry against the demonstrably law-abiding.

Like me.