One dark, ambiguous evening, a black youth was shot under circumstances that, to the local media, were confusing. Not much information was available; the youth was shot by a citizen with a legal handgun. The citizen claimed self-defense.
So the local media did what they always do on big stories – shootings! – when not much information is available, as they waited for the details of the investigation to go public. They found stuff to write about.
They interviewed the deceased’s mother and family – who, stricken with grief, demanded justice. They talked with friends of the deceased, and community leaders, many of whom wondered why the law allowed mere citizens to use lethal force, or to be able to claim “self-defense” with such seeming impunity.
Some of the media’s learned observers scratched their furrowed brows and pondered aloud (or in print) whether the changes the legislature had made in 2005 to the state’s laws regarding self-defense were wise – repeating things many of them had written at the time.
I am of course, not talking about the Trayvon Martin case. I’m talking the Evanovich case in Minneapolis last fall. You had the family. You had the friends and community leaders. Furrowed learned brows? Check .
You had everything you have today in the Martin case, with one exception; a resolution. Media caterwauling notwithstanding, it was a legitimate enough case of self-defense to prompt the frothingly anti-gun, anti-Second-Amendment, anti-law-abiding-citizens-with-guns Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman to praise the shooter.
The point of this post is not to try to compare the Evanovich and Martin cases; in terms of the factual and legal specifics, it’d be stupid to try, since we, the non-investigators, know nothing about the facts of the case.
Well, almost nothing; we know what the local Florida and national media have told us about the case.
And if there are any lessons from the Evanovich shooting to apply to the Martin case, they are…:
- When it comes to emotionally-charged cases, the media is no better off at getting the facts than we are. And that’s a best case. Because…
- …whether they will admit it or not, the media has a narrative; the higher up the media food chain you go, the worse it gets. The law-abiding gun owner, the bitter, gun-clinging Jebus freak, is a powder keg just waiting to blow. They’ve been saying it, one way or another – if not in their editorial stances, then via their editorial selection bias – since 1983, when Florida passed its “Shall Issue” law. They did it with each of the 30+ states that have passed similar laws in the past 29 years. They did it when Florida passed “Stand Your Ground” seven years ago, and in each of the dozens of states that have some combination of “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle” laws. They’re still predicting it. We’re still waiting for it to happen. But hey, it’s only been almost thirty years; one of these days, the powder keg’s just gotta blow, right?
On gun issues even more than most others when it comes to the mainstream media; distrust, then verify. Then, almost invariably, distrust some more.
That’s not to say the Martin case might very well not be a legitimate shooting.
We don’t know.
And when I say “we”, I mean “especially those of you who get your information on the case from the mainstream media”.