How many bodies will it take before Florida’s liberal gun and “stand your ground” laws are re-considered? Few seem to recognize that a Pandora’s Box of violence has been unleashed in the state that threatens lives unnecessarily. In the last year, two very telling incidents demonstrate that lax guns laws, white male aggression and the lethal effects of “stand your ground” are a recipe for disaster.
Most citizen-shooters do not have the training to make good decisions about death under duress. They are not prepared and never could be. In Tampa, Curtis Reeves Jr., a retired police officer, shot and killed Chad Oulson, a father, over texting in a movie theater. In Jacksonville, Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, a teenager, over loud music, while claiming to see what looked to him like a shotgun although police found no weapon.
Those were not accidents but choices. The common elements in each case were white males carrying concealed weapons, shooter-initiated confrontations in public places, unwarranted anger and rash decisions.
The “stand your ground” law emanates from the Castle Doctrine of common law – the idea that one can choose to stand and fight rather than flee at home to protect life and property; hence, the well-worn statement, “A man’s home is his castle.”
The problem with “stand your ground” is that “home” and the “public square” are inherently not the same. At home, your ability to retreat is limited. However, in the public space, “stand your ground” places others in danger and increases the chances for violence despite room to flee. By applying this doctrine to public places, lawmakers opened the door to random acts of violence. In both the aforementioned cases, the chance to walk away was available and neither shooter took it. Neither was clinically insane.
White males carry concealed weapons while claiming to fear for their lives. Neither Michael Dunn nor Curtis Reeves fits the category of likely victims of violence.
White males, among all Americans, are the least likely to suffer gun violence at the hands of others, according to an article published on March 22, 2013 in the Washington Post using statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the same article indicated that whites are more a danger to themselves while blacks are more likely to be killed by someone else.
So, what is the nature of white male fear of gun violence, since they own most of the guns? White males’ fears of home invasions and public assaults are inflated. Why do they clamor for guns? It’s not just about independence.
The rabid increase in liberal gun laws across all states has escalated the number of weapons in the public domain (320,000,000) in a country that experiences approximately 12,000 gun deaths annually.
Another common denominator is uncontrolled anger among sane white males who use liberal gun laws as a reason to be vigilantes and usurp police authority in disputes. Police officers receive extensive training in how not to use their weapons, except as a last resort. The average citizen learns how to shoot but very little about discretion. A little reason could have saved Chad Oulson and Jordan Davis.
Taking a life is the most serious offense we can perpetrate against other Americans. When you take a person’s life, you take away everything they might have contributed to the world. That is why more than an instant is needed before the gun is unholstered and fired. Chad Oulson’s children lost their father and Jordan Davis’ parents lost his future. Aren’t 12,000 gun deaths ignominious enough for a civil society?
Dr. Jeffrey Dean Swain is the director of the Centers for Academic Support Services at Florida Memorial University and teaches criminal, constitutional and public school law. He is also author of six books on race and culture, a minister and social commentator.