Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Rare Good Law

Usually when a legislative body passes laws it is safe to assume that little real good will come from it. But there are cases when a law is passed and I actually think something good will come from it.  In this instance I am referring to a law that has passed with a seal of approval from a committee of Florida state senators.  This proposed law is the meant to reconcile an issue that anybody who has a concealed carry permit, or has taken a gun safety class, should know.  This issue is that the brandishing of a weapon, or firing off a warning shot, in the hopes of deterring someone who clearly intends you harm could land you in trouble.

Florida prosecutors, most likely most prosecutors in many states, argue the rather obtusely that if someone pulls out a fire arm and does not shoot their assailant must not have really been in fear of serious bodily harm and thus have violated laws concerning unlawful discharge, or in the event of Marissa Alexander, be charged for aggravated assault.  In the case of Ms. Alexander, it resulted in her being convicted under a rather egregious law, you know a law is particularly bad when even the normally anti-firearm MSNBC uses adjectives like draconian, and received a sentence of 20 years for firing a warning shot.  This reasoning is funny given that shooting someone because you are in fear of serious bodily harm doesn't render you immune from prosecution.  If the police don't immediately render it a lawful shooting or if evidence isn't overwhelmingly supportive of your actions, you could very well be prosecuted. This is particularly troublesome in grey areas for a  variety of reasons.

There is no hard and fast rule on when you could reasonably be considered, by a court of law, to be in danger of serious bodily harm rendering the use of a deadly weapon a viable option.  I have heard firearms instructors say that a person brandishing a knife at 20 feet would be reason enough, the claim is based on the 21 foot rule that the police use in regards to assailants armed with a blade. There is also ample debate within the police community about the validity of such a rule. (Personally, the police are given far more leeway in their actions than a private citizen, and if there is uncertainty amongst officers then I certainly would not follow such a rule.)  The lack of a hard and fast rule is an issue for two reasons. It is an issue simply because it is absolutely unreasonable to expect an individual to wait until the absolute critical moment where the use of force is now the only option lest they be seriously hurt or even killed.  It is also an issue because it is not outside the realm of reason to assume that brandishing a weapon early on wouldn't have promptly ended an escalating situation.

The counter to this point would be the claim that brandishing a weapon does not deescalate a situation. I think this assertion is absolutely false. Though it is often only through hearsay, there are numerous examples of individuals who brandish a weapon only to have their potential assailant walk away.  I believe the only reason we do not hear more of these instances, outside of bias within certain facets of our news media, is that many individuals choose not  to report these events for fear of being prosecuted.  How this idea came into being, outside of the warped logic of a politician, is that too many people look thug behavior and extrapolate that behavior to the populace writ large.  In other words, people have watched too much COPS or America's Most Wanted.  Yes, there are instances were the cerebral challenged, otherwise known as thugs, get in giant pea-cocking pissing contests waving weapons in each others faces until someone pulls a trigger and bullets start flying.  This is situation cannot be considered the norm, how a thug acts in front of other thugs to other thugs is not how they would act with a potential victim.  A thug seeing another thug brandishing a weapon is going to assume they are 'frontin' and will respond in kind. A thug seeing a potential victim brandishing a weapon will not make the same assumption, unless they are entirely brain dead which isn't entirely out of the question.

I honestly think that the more states that adopt this sort of mentality the better.  I do not think you will see individuals brandishing weapons due to petty arguments, and if they do then they should be severely punished by the law. I would also maintain that you will see a decrease in not only the instances where individuals become victims of violence by criminals, but fewer instances of criminals being hurt or killed as well.  This sort of law is important because it assumes that individuals carrying firearms will execute proper judgement, most will, and gives them leeway to try and get out of a dangerous situation without immediately resulting in someone getting short.

I do have one misgiving.  I am not a fan of warning shots given the obvious implication given that the bullet has to go somewhere but understand that some individuals would rather try and avoid shooting someone if they could help it.

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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.