This blog’s first post (other than “hey, look, I have a blog!”) back in 2002 was about a firearms-related issue – the battle for concealed carry, as it happens.
And since then, it’s fair to say I’ve written a post or two about the second amendment and the civil and human right of self-defense.
But I’ve never been a “gun blogger”, like the late Joel Rosenberg or the great Clayton Cramer. It’s one of many issues I consider vital.
But since the Evanovich shooting two weeks ago, I might forgive newcomers to my blog for thinking I am a gun-blogger. It’s been a hot topic around here.
Not strictly on the subject of the Evanovich case – but squarely in the gun wheelhouse, and a subject on which the Evanovich case only barely avoided being germane – was this bit form the MinnPost last week, from that noted civil rights firebrand Brian Lambert.
Now, I’ve known Brian for years – indeed, on my first day at KSTP in 1985, he was filling in for Geoff Charles; Lambo is literally one of the first people I ever met in the Twin Cities media. And he’s not a bad guy.
But I don’t think it’s unfair to say he was a leader of the “never let facts or information get in the way of giggly uninformed snark” school of reporting long before blogs and Jon Stewart made it cool.
His subject? Tony Cornish’s “Stand Your Ground” bill, which was going to get a renewed push in the Legislature in the upcoming session even without the impetus of the Evanovich case; it’s a powerful swing issue among Minnesota’s mass of shooters, who have been a quietly but disproportionally powerful constituency in Minnesota for over a decade.
Remember last winter and spring’s scuffle over an expansion of the so-called “castle doctrine,” giving homeowners more legal protection in the event they needed to gun down someone on their property?
Let me guess – “gun them down” just to “watch them die?”
In the liberal subconscious, there seem to be a powerful, maybe chemical, urge to keep repeating “law-abiding gun owners are all depraved maniacs” endlessly, in the hope that it’ll ever actually be true.
Lambert cites some questions from that wellspring of care for the less-fashionalbe civil liberties – the mainstream media:
He has (second-hand) questions. I have answers.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel throws up an editorial on precisely that legislation floating around over there in Badger Land: “Today’s quiz:
1) Just exactly what problem are lawmakers trying to solve with a proposal to extend new legal protections to people who shoot intruders in their homes, vehicles or businesses?
The problem is that in Minnesota (and Wisconsin), self-defense law is vague on what’s called the “Duty to Retreat”. In Minnesota, the law says you have to make a “reasonable” effort to disengage from a situation in which you are being attacked and “reasonably” fear being killed or maimed. What does “reasonable” effort mean?
It depends on where you live. A county attorney in the Red River Valley will likely see it differently than one of John Choi’s eager young DFL-bot assistants.
So, Brian Lambert – on what other civil, human right do we tolerate that level of vagueness? Especially vagueness that is based entirely on local political fashion? More importantly, on what other civil/human rights do you tolerate this sort of “make it up as you go along” approach to the law?
2) What is it about the current system that isn’t working?
In a nutshell: if you, a law-abiding carry permit holder, are approached in, say, your garage or your car – which are not covered under Minnesota’s current “inside the home” exemption to the so-called “duty to retreat” – the question “did you make a reasonable effort to run away”, made in a fraction of a second in the dark under mind-warping pressure, will be answeredby some pencil-necked U of M-grad assistant County Attorney sitting in a warm office, guarded by sheriff’s deputies with metal detectors, and all the time in the world to work up whatever theory his boss wants him or her to work up. They – in their due time – could decide you “should have” hit the gas, or run for the house, or just given the attacker what she wanted – and force you go to trial, with your freedom on the line, even if the shooting was utterly justified in every other way.
3) How many homeowners are sitting in jail because they were simply defending themselves against intruders inside their houses?
We’ll come back to that.
The answers are:
1) There is no problem.
2) The current system works just fine.
The first two are matters of (blinkered, context-deprived) opnion.
The third is at the very best a misleading answer – and the wrong question, to boot. Better questions would have been “how many honest, law-abiding citizens had to exhaust their lifes’ savings defending themselves against charges that revolved around prosecutors asking “did the accused try hard enough to retreat?””. Or “how many honest, law-abiding citizens, faced with an endless battle with a county attorney’s office that they could not afford, were hammered into taking plea bargains that destroyed their legal futures and infringed their civil liberties, in exchange for staying out of jail after shootings that were otherwise perfectly justified?” In Minnesota, the answer to that last is “one that I can rattle off to you right now, and if you gave me a few minutes on the phone I could probably come up with half a dozen more”.
There is no need to change state law to allow for a “castle doctrine” defense (“castle doctrine” as in “your home is your castle”). Indeed, doing so could put some innocents in greater danger.
I mean, the statement was made with some perception of authority; feel free, Brian, to provide an example of “danger” to “innocents” in the 31 states that have some variation of Cornish’s law on the books today.
The above answers come by the way, from Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and the Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin, made up of more than 600 prosecutors, judges, criminal defense lawyers and academics. That’s a reliable set of expert witnesses.”
Well, no. It’s a set of witnesses with an agenda; leaving aside their political affiliation, “stand your ground” laws remove County Attorneys’ discretion. Prosectors like having discretion. Government loves having discretion. See George Wallace.
Your expert is my “appeal to false authority”. Not to mention…
Yeah, but tell any of ’em to just try and walk across my lawn.
…snark. Always, always the snark.