Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Appeal To Fathers To Oppose “Stand Your Ground” Laws

Today I celebrate being the father of my two small children, and for them to celebrate me.  Since we just got back from a week-long vacation, I plan to take it easy and hang out at home, opening whatever heartfelt gifts they give me, doing fatherly things like cooking out and doing home improvement projects, and giving them lots of hugs.  I love my children, and would never want anything bad to happen to them.

Sadly, each year, around thirty thousand people are shot and killed in America.  Three thousand of them are children and teens.  Another 17,500 children and teens are injured by gunfire.  The vast majority of these children (and adults) have fathers who love them as much as I love my own.  I can only imagine the grief and torment these fathers must go through upon learning that the children they nurtured and tried to keep safe are now dead or injured by a bullet.

One father is speaking out about the death of his child: Tracy Martin, father of Trayvon Martin – a boy shot down by an over-zealous gun nut who used Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" (SYG) law as an excuse to stalk and ultimately shoot and kill an unarmed teen.

Here is Mr. Martin’s appeal:

Like Tracy Martin, I urge all readers to contact their state governors and legislators and ask them to review their state’s “stand yourground” laws

And what will those governors find?  The Tampa Bay Times recently did a study of Florida’s law.  What they found was shocking.  No doubt many of the cases were truly justified shootings.  But, as you'll see by the findings, the potential for abuse is very, very high.  Justice has not been done.

From the review:
• People often go free under "stand your ground" in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended. One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim — and still went free.
• Similar cases can have opposite outcomes. Depending on who decided their cases, some drug dealers claiming self-defense have gone to prison while others have been set free. The same holds true for killers who left a fight, only to arm themselves and return. Shoot someone from your doorway? Fire on a fleeing burglar? Your case can swing on different interpretations of the law by prosecutors, judge or jury.
Some of their findings suggest racism in the successful outcome of SYG trials. Two-thirds of the defendants used guns.  In 75% of the cases (148 out of 200), the victim wasn’t even committing a crime that led to the confrontation.

70% (135 out of 192) of the victims were unarmed during the confrontation.

In a quarter of the cases (53 out of 200), there were no witnesses to the shooting.  That means that, if the victim died, the case comes down to the word of the shooter against that of a dead man.  In over half of the cases (110 out of 200), there was either no physical evidence or it is unclear if physical evidence was found.  Given that people who have successfully used the SYG defense include drug dealers and gang members, these data are truly alarming.

HERE is a database of findings from the study.

These results stand in stark contrast to the argument by the NRA, who crafted these laws, that only law-abiding citizens would use SYG laws, and only to protect themselves against imminent and lethal danger.

Today, if you are a father, love your children and hold them tight.  But also keep in mind that too many die from gunfire each year.  Don’t let your child be one of these.  Fight hard for sensible gun law reform, so that you won’t be the next grieving father on YouTube urging other fathers to do the same.