Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Stand your ground"??

This is classic. I propose that this victim would be alive today were it not for a gun. Read this article and see if you agree with me. So, a neighbor is mad about kids skateboarding and shoots another neighbor who is defending the kids? What? Can you do that and get away with it? Well, just maybe. The Florida law enforcement officials involved are going to determine if this case fits the "stand your ground" specifications of the law. Unbelievable. There should be no question about what the outcome should be. Kids walk through my yard occasionally because of my location close to a school. Sometimes I have to remind them that they are walking through private property. But should I get out my gun and shoot them for innocently "trespassing"? NO.

Can someone out there defend the actions of the shooter in this case? I'd love to hear the reasoning. This is just another example of why allowing the gun lobby to have so much power is a terrible idea. They have managed to pass permit to carry laws in many states and now they are working on the "Shoot First" or "Stand Your Ground" laws. They mustn't win. This will be the result. Shoot first and ask and answer questions later. It's too late. A life is lost. A community is affected. From the linked article above about the shooting: " "Everybody's lives have been changed by a conflict and an irrational decision," said Derek Matthews, who lives across the street from the crime scene. "It's a terrible, sad situation.""  Senseless!!!!


  1. "Can someone out there defend the actions of the shooter in this case?"

    There's not really enough information in the article to come to a conclusion either way. It doesn't say anything about how the dispute escalated or what James was doing when he was shot. Even the article's invocation of Florida's "stand your ground" law is purely speculative. I don't see how we're supposed to come to any conclusion without some actual facts.

  2. If someone is coming at you in a menacing manner, and you have an opportunity to defend yourself, I do not see a problem with shooting first.

    If someone is in your home without your permission, this also applies. If there is no time to ask questions, you do what is necessary. Can this have tragic consequences? Maybe. The tragedy could be your rape or murder. The question becomes - who's life is more important. For me, it's mine and the lives of my family.

    If a person shoots first without justification, the courts will have to decide the case.

    Anyway, the right to self-defense is God-given, not conferred by the Constitution or mans' laws.

  3. I'm with Anonymous here. No info was given. The specifics of the alleged crime need to be viewed in the context of how the shooter saw them. It would be jumping to conclusions to even speculate, as the newspaper does, that he even plans to claim self defense.

    It may be that he had a justification for his actions and has exercised his right to remain silent until he has proper counsel. This is what you are taught in self defense class, do what you have to do and shut up until you have a lawyer.

    It is also possible that he is just a murdering scum and deserves all that the Florida court system can offer him. Luckily for us, we have a justice system that is designed to work all of this out.

  4. I'm on the gun rights side and the article makes it seems like a murder, but it leaves out the events immediately before the brandishing and shooting. In my mind the question is: When the shooter showed the gun, did he fear immediate grave danger to himself or others? If not, he murdered that man.

  5. "Shoot first and ask and answer questions later. It's too late. A life is lost."

    So are you suggesting that if I am attacked (perhaps by some fool pissed off about skateboarders) that I should ask a few questions to determine whether or not I can defend my life? Or are you suggesting that, in your perfect world where there are no concealed carry permits and open carry is illegal, I should just get murdered?

    Assume for the moment that the story is exactly correct, and the shooter was clearly in the wrong. If the dead guy in this story had pulled his own gun and had won the gunfight, would you want him put in jail? Would it have been morally correct for him to kill or cause serious bodily injury (the legal definition of "deadly force")? Do you view him as morally superior because he is dead?
    “The doctrine of "retreat to the wall" had its origin [in Medieval England] before the general introduction of guns.” State v. Gardner (1905)

  6. not making any of those suggestions, Sean.

  7. Based solely on the information in the media accounts, I don't see justification for applying Stand Your Ground in this case. Stand Your Ground doesn't mean you get to shoot someone legally just by claiming you were scared--it merely allows self defense to be treated as an aspect of innocent until proven guilty, rather than as an affirmative defense. In most states, it also means that if someone was committing a felony when you shot them, they (or their survivors) don't get to sue you over it.

    The reason I am not firmly convinced that this shooting was unjustified is my experience with media. In every story where I have firsthand knowledge, the media gets critical facts wrong. Other people I have talked to have the same experience. Also, media almost always assumes that a shooter is guilty, and slants the story in that direction.

    In one story near me, one headline read "Dog Killed: Family Pup Shot Execution-Style While Walking With Owner In Metroparks.", and the accompanying picture was of a cute puppy. No mention in the story that the puppy was now an adult Rottweiler, that it was unlicensed, illegally off leash away from its owner. No mention of the properly-leashed lab puppy it was attacking when it was shot. In fact, in the followup story, the Rottweiler owner was charged, while the man who shot the Rottweiler was not.

  8. I need to know a whole lot more about what happened before I would decide on this. That is the police's viewpoint. It should be any reasonable persons viewpoint. We weren't there, we don't know what happened, and we don't have authority to speak to the subject until we know more.

    What suggestions exactly are you making to Sean?
    At first blush, it looks like an escalation to murder. Premeditation can be proved. What you can't prove is that the absence of guns would have prevented said murder.

  9. @JohnB
    Sorry, I'm not sure what you are asking. I'm not trying to be stupid, but what does this mean?

    "What suggestions exactly are you making to Sean?"

    Our host appears to oppose a lot of self defense laws on the grounds that people might get killed. I disagree. I think that the proper consideration is whether the dead guy in the situation was guilty or innocent. I am really only concerned with the innocent lives. If the guilty die, that's sad, but not wrong.

    In this case, what we know is minimal, but one item jumps right out at me, the actions of the police.


    "The sheriff's office has not named the man they said shot James. Deputies arrested the man Sunday and released him without being charged."

    This is unusual behavior for the police if they suspect it was not truely self-defense. I guess we will see when the facts come out.

  10. Of course we don't know all of what happened. Even two eye witnesses of a shooting often differ in what they "saw." But reading the story, even considering the scant details, I can't imagine there was lethal threat or anything like it. It sounds like this was another unnecessary shooting by an unfit gun owner.

    Why do responsible and fit gun owners have such difficulty admitting that these things happen? The worst that can result realistically, if the extent of these incidents becomes known and something is done about it, is they, the gun owners will be severely inconvenienced. In order to enact and enforce the kinds of laws that would make a difference, the truly law-abiding folks are going to be inconvenienced. But are they so self-centered that they prefer the level of gun violence we have now?

  11. Thanks, Mikeb. Those are my thoughts as well. I wonder why anyone can say they would have to know what the skateboarder did first when the article does not say he was armed. It is doubtful that he was. This was a case of a senseless shooting and why anyone would try to defend this incident is beyond me. Yes- self centeredness seems to be at the fore front of some of the responses.

  12. Joan,

    Did you not consider the possibility the skateboarder used or threatened to use the skateboard as a weapon?

    Or is that another item that isn't a weapon despite it's weight, size and structure?

  13. There is no evidence to suggest that the skateboarder used his skateboard as a weapon. The article did not indicate that the man had been hit by anything. The article clearly stated that this man had been upset before by various events in his neighborhood. So, if someone holds up a skateboard, that's a reason to shoot them? He didn't have a gun. I thought the law applied when the force was "equal" and when you couldn't retreat, which is the first obligation when considering the use of deadly force. But you can try to excuse this one if you think you must. There are just plain times when people who use deadly force are wrong.

  14. A couple of things here.
    1. The skateboarders were not shot, some other guy who intervened was shot.
    2. "Equal" force was never required, not the way you mean it. The threshold for use of deadly force is that the actor (shooter in this case) reasonably believe that he faces threat of death or serious bodily injury. No law requires you to take a beating with a skateboard when you have the means to prevent it.
    3. We are assuming that this case played out in the middle of the street. We are assuming a lot of things based on the scant facts on display. We have no basis to judge who was wrong here. Let's wait until more is known.

  15. I believe that I read a version of this story that had the shooter pulling out the gun and the other guy trying to take the gun away from him.

    To me, the shooter should have been arrested. He had no business with a gun out there in the first place -- but those freaky Florida laws are something else entirely.

    I'm against Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law because I think it's being used wrongly in a lot of cases and people are getting away with murder.

  16. I'm not going to take the media's account of this story as gospel.

    Equal force isn't the requirement for self defense using a deadly weapon. The requirement is to prevent death or severe bodily harm. A gang of teens with skateboards could meet that criteria--or even a gang armed with feet and fists.

    I'm not claiming that the shooter was right, just that it is possible.

  17. Joan,

    Absolutely I agree with you.
    There are just plain times when people who use deadly force are wrong.

    And those times the person should be charged and tried.

    My point is simply this, Mikeb302000 stated:
    I can't imagine there was lethal threat or anything like it

    and you said

    I wonder why anyone can say they would have to know what the skateboarder did first when the article does not say he was armed

    It is a blind spot I've noticed in anti-rights advocates like you and MikeB302000 that you don't consider many objects as lethal weapons.
    While rare, people have been murdered with skateboards, assaulted with skateboards. Since you like stories, here is a link

    As I said, rare but not unknown for teens to threaten people with skateboards. We don't know what happened but you and MikeB302000 seem to be convicting the shooting without a trial.

  18. Good points, Sean. I will try to see if there is more information about this case. You are assuming one thing and I am assuming another.

  19. Wow- awful story. Thanks for sharing. I think the difference here is, though, that the man who shot the Dad who was defending the skateboarders, verbally it would seem, was shot by someone who chose to use lethal force in what he might try to claim is self defense when it quite likely is not. Gratuitous violence and murders are unacceptable no matter what the weapon. My point is that there are flaws in the "Stand Your Ground" laws if this man gets away with murdering someone when the person was not threatening to him. Also, what is a threat? Semantics and interpretation get involved. If we didn't have this kind of law, we would use the Castle Doctrine- in place in most states, where one can protect oneself in one's home after a reasonable attempt to retreat happens. The "Stand Your Ground" laws now allow people to shoot others when they feel a threat in places outside of their homes.

  20. Japete, you are making unwarranted assumptions here. You do not know what happened. You have no more idea than I do what caused the shooter to believe that he was justified. We have to wait until more info comes out. The police are not under any obligation to tell either of us all about an investigation still underway.

    A proper Castle Law has 3 elements.
    1. No duty to retreat inside your own house.
    2. A presumption that a person who enters your house unlawfully poses a deadly threat
    3. Immunity from lawsuits for death or injury for those who legally defend themselves.

    Are you seriously saying that a perrson should have to attempt to retreat in their own home?

  21. " Minnesota's self-defense law contains a "duty to retreat" provision. A person facing a threat has a duty to retreat where practical, before responding with "reasonable force." If an attack is sudden retreat might be unrealistic or create a risk of bodily harm. In order to protect you, your loved ones, or your property, in some situations there may be no reasonable alternative to the use of reasoanble force in self-defense. "

  22. Reasonable force is not something that the defendant can claim since they will always claim the force was reasonable. The test is would a reasonable person believe they were in threat of death or serious bodily injury.

    Additionally, one cannot use force which is out of proportion to the threat.

    Deadly force should be a LAST RESORT.

    These laws allow for it to be a first resort.


  23. According to the Minnesota Supreme Court, "There is no duty to retreat from one's own home when acting in self-defense in the home" (State v Glowacki).

    If you're interested in this topic I would recommend Self-Defense Laws of All 50 States by Mitch and Evan Vilos. It's very comprehensive and does a good job translating the statutes and case law into terms that are understandable by non-lawyers.

  24. http://www.twincities.com/ci_16106504?nclick_check=1

    Here an angry person used a car to kill the person he was having a dispute with.

    Using your logic, we should remove cars from private ownership.


    Do you agree with this?

    I don't. I see the problem as resting with the irate individuals. An individual who gets so mad as to kill will find a tool to do the job quickly even if no firearm is present.

  25. The only problem with your logic is that guns just happen to be the leading cause of homicide in the U.S. Other "weapons" or methods don't come close.

  26. I'd argue that criminals are the leading cause of homicides, that's why you can go to a gunshow and be safe...but hanging out in the yard of a maximum security prison is dangerous.

    I'd also point out that dead is dead. You argue for the inclusion of suicide and accidental death in judging gun death rates. Clearly cars kill MANY more people than guns.

    A quick search gave me

    Gun deaths per 100,000 population (for the year indicated):

    Homicide Suicide Other(inc Accident)

    USA (2001)3.98 5.92 0.36

    Total Road Deaths in the USA
    2001 2002 2003 2004
    42,196 43,005 42,884 42,636
    Fatalities per 100,000 Population
    14.80 14.94 14.75 14.52

    I also recall a statistic of 4 people per 100,000 killed by drunk drivers per year.

    oh, here we go

    Since NHTSA began recording alcohol-related statistics in 1982, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities have decreased 44% from 21,113 in 1982. Since the inception of The Century Council and our national efforts to fight drunk driving, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities have declined 26% from 15,827 in 1991. (Source: NHTSA/FARS, 2009)

    The rate of alcohol-impaired fatalities per 100,000 population is the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities for every 100,000 persons in the population being measured. In 2008, about four people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities for every 100,000 Americans.

  27. As you know, I'm talking about death by homicide and not by car accident. They could be considered "homicide" in some cases and are. They are rarely intentional killing of someone.

  28. japete, I am curious to know why you make a distinction between dead via accident and dead via homicide? Does it make a difference to that person or his family? Or are you saying those not murdered matter less? Please explain your statement above.


  29. I have discussed this in previous posts, Chris. Dead is dead. It happens that I have lost a loved one to gun injuries so that is the cause on which I am working. Many people lose loved ones to car accidents and some take up that cause. I support them in their work.

  30. I would submit Car Accidents are actually negligence in most cases. I'll make an exception for unexpected mechanical failure.

    I will also submit that the alcohol/vehicle related fatalities are intentional. Being under the influence and then deciding to drive is every bit as bad as beating someone to death or just randomly shooting them.

  31. Dear Bob,

    We are now officially beating a dead horse. How many times do we have to discuss the fact that guns cause the most homicides and are right up there as the leading cause of injury deaths. Move on. This one has been covered.

  32. Joan,

    Maybe we have to cover it again and again because you can't not grasp the simple principle that inanimate objects do not act on their own.

    No firearm jumped up and killed your sister! Her husband picked up the firearm, aimed it, pulled the trigger.

    He is the cause of the homicide, not the gun.

    Your illogical and irrational focus on the firearm is the problem. We've pointed out time and time again that banning a tool doesn't affect the total level of violence.

  33. No, we are covering it over and over again because you don't like my facts and my reasoning. Me- illogical? No sir. That's your problem. You have tried to point out about "banning" the tool, which of course, we are not going to do but you refuse to believe it. Keeping the "tools" away from people will indeed lower the level of violence.

  34. Joan,

    I've said nothing about banning the tool in my statements here.

    What I have talked about is your fantasy of firearms committing crimes.

    Can you show me one murder (legal definition) committed by a firearm instead of with a firearm?

    Or do you not understand the difference?

  35. I understand what you are trying to make the difference. I just don't agree.

  36. As long as people have a desire to commit violence, violence will be committed. The tool used may change but that doesn't make the person any less dead.

    I recently had a Son-in-law commit suicide. He used a firearm to complete this task. If he hadn't used the firearm he would've used any of the following:

    Car (either by running it off a cliff or pumping the exhaust into the cab)
    Electrical circuit

    I don't blame the firearm for my son-in-laws death. I blame my him.

    About a year ago there was an entire family murdered a few towns away from mine. The tool used to commit the murder was something along the lines of a tire iron or a piece of pipe. Again it wasn't the tire iron or the pipe that committed this atrocity it was a person swinging the tool.

    Stand up and preach that we need to find ways to eliminate violence but don't select any given tool.

  37. I have discussed this ad naseum. The method most used to commit homicide and suicide is a firearm. The facts are clear. Your son's death must have been an awful and wrenching experience for your family. My view is that a gun is the easiest method for suicide and most effective, unfortunately for you and your family. You must miss him terribly. My brother-in-law committed suicide by jumping off of one of the country's highest bridges. He was depressed. Awful stuff, that. My sister was shot to death. I think my family understands the effects of suicide and homicide pretty well. I am working on reducing gun injuries and deaths due to firearms for good reason.

  38. Again, stand up and preach that we need to find ways to eliminate violence but don't select any given tool. Education in non-violent conflict resolution seems a better effort than attempting to remove one of a millions ways to die at the hands of another. Especially when that one way may be the equalizer that saves your life from a violent person.