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.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Injustice at the end of a gun barrel?

The verdict in the Jordan Davis trial was announced yesterday. It's hard to know what to say about this verdict. Most are confused and outraged as well they should be. This statement from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence expresses what most Americans believe about this verdict and the taking of an innocent life. From the statement:
"The reason for that is the “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows individuals who believe they are under threat of “great bodily harm” to use lethal force to defend themselves even if, despite their subjective belief, no real threat exists. Dunn’s lawyer, Cory Strolla, cited the law explicity in his closing arguments, stating, “Michael Dunn was in a public place where he had a legal right to be, he had no duty to retreat, and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” Additonally, the instructions received by the jury on what constitutes justifiable homicide contained language directly from Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
For thousands of years, from Biblical law through British common law and into America jurisprudence, we condemned those who took human life when it was not absolutely necessary. In fact, the very reason that our Founders created democratic government was to reject the idea that “the guys with the guns make the rules.” In order to function properly, organized government must be able to offer redress when life is taken needlessly. If it can’t do so, then citizens will be forced to seek “justice” themselves and a spiral of anarchy will begin.
“Stand Your Ground” (aka “Kill at Will”) laws are the product of a new idea, popularized by the gun lobby, that it is morally acceptable—or even virtuous—to take human life when you don’t have to. This idea, when codified in law, encourages people with questionable judgment and little or no training to use lethal force with few if any consequences.
The verdict in the Jordan Davis trial, coming on the heels of the acquittal of George Zimmerman and other travesties of justice, shows that Florida is embracing this vision of vigilantism and anarchy. The state is increasingly powerless to prosecute murders and residents now have no choice but assume that even mundane arguments can lead to gunplay. This might be good for the National Rifle Association, which has promoted “Stand Your Ground” laws as a way to increase profits from sales of compact pistols, but it is disastrous to public safety and civil society.
Let us all heed the words of Ron Davis, Jordan’s father: “We don’t accept a law that would allow our children to be regarded as collateral damage.” All Americans of conscience must now come together to do the critical work of repealing immoral “Stand Your Ground” laws in the 26 states where they have been enacted. We owe our children, and our nation, nothing less."
We certainly do owe our children a safer society than that envisioned by the corporate gun lobby. There is no common sense to any of this. I believe the gun lobby knows this. But they have been clever enough to get state legislators to believe that the average person NEEDS a law to give them license to kill. So kill they do. Here are the Florida Stand Your Ground cases through winter of 2013.

Some form of justifiable self defense is allowed in every state in the nation. There is no need to extend the idea of "standing your ground" to public places and co-opt our English language to make people believe they can kill someone if they have the slightest feeling of danger to themselves. When a man can kill a teen-ager because of an argument that he could have avoided by driving away, because he "thought" he saw a gun in the car, an injustice has been done. And one does need to wonder if these laws are to legalize the killing of those we simply don't like. This article highlights the Florida law and how often the victims are black:
When asked about the relevance of the law to this case during a press conference, Strolla told reporters that he “strategically” decided not to seek a separate Stand Your Ground hearing that could have given Dunn immunity before trial, because of the national media attention. He claimed the law was therefore not relevant to the case. But the jurors were nonetheless advised to consider the law when deciding Dunn’s guilt, by both Strolla and in the jury instructions.
Just prior to the trial, the State Attorney’s Office released a set of letters Dunn sent from prison revealing significant animus toward blacks. “The more time I am exposed to these people, the more prejudiced against them I become,” he said in one. “This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs,” he said in another. The letters did not come into play during trial. But they reveal the sort of racial undertones that have been prominent in many Stand Your Ground cases. One study found that white defendants with black victims are far more likely to have their killings deem “justified” under the Stand Your Ground law.
Another article reflects the fear of what this means for minorities, especially those who have the misfortune to live in Florida. From the article:
With that said, there's another way to look at this. If Dunn had killed Davis and his friends—or if he had killed Davis without shooting afterwards—then, by to the logic of the jury, he would have escaped punishment altogether. Which provides a guide, of sorts, for future killers, racist or otherwise. Claim fear, kill your target, and either do so away from people, or be sure to kill any witnesses. As long as you can portray the witnesses as also threatening, it seems like you could avoid jail time.
Which, you know, is insane, both in what it says about Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law—your best bet for getting away with murder is to shoot first and kill everyone—and what it says about the value of black lives vis-à-vis the state's legal system. According to the criminal justice system of Florida, you are right to fear African-American men, and if you decide to act on that fear with violence, then you stand a good chance of avoiding conviction, on account of a jury that—more likely than not—will sympathize with your fear.
The facts back this up. In states with “Stand Your Ground,” homicides with a white perpetrator and a black victim are most likely to be ruled "justifiable." By contrast, it is least likely—by a factor of ten—for black on white homicides to receive the same designation. (...) 
I think I speak for many black people when I say that's terrifying.

We are better than this as a country. It's time for the folks with common sense to demand communities free of the gun violence that devastates too many families. The fear and paranoia spouted by the gun rights extremists is fear of something that they really can't name. Far too many shootings are domestic in nature, suicides or shootings like that of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin- senseless shootings of another human being for "looking fearful or threatening" when proof is not required. And for the shootings committed by actual criminals, domestic abusers, those who are dangerously mentally ill or fugitives and other prohibited purchasers, why aren't we trying harder to stop them from getting their guns? Human life is worth more than this. This is not the America we want or deserve. Lives depend on our getting this right because what we have now is clearly not working. It's time for that to change. Let's get to work.


  1. Gosh. Since the only two defenses in a murder charge are the "some other dude did it" or the "If I didn't get him he would have gotten me" ones and the entire thing was caught on video is it a surprise which Dunn chose?

    Since Dunn wasn't acquitted but merely got a mistrial because of a hung jury is it possible that one or more jurors didn't trust a prosecution team that had been caught in numerous lies during the Zimmerman case? Or that one or more jurors found it suspicious that the victims drove off from the scene of the attack and never called the police? Or that a convicted felon in the car? Or even that the police never searched for the alleged shotgun anywhere but the victim's car might have been a factor?

    Nah, obviously it is due to "Kill at Will" laws that Japete doesn't like so they must be repealed in a state Japete doesn't live in. Japete doesn't like scary black weapons so you have to get rid of them. Japete says you don't need more than 2 guns or one box of ammo so we should put limits on your purchases. Japete says you don't need a gun outside the home so you shouldn't carry one etc. Japete says guns are expensive so it is okay to make them more expensive because it makes her happy. Japete's reality rules.

    1. Was there a convicted felon in the carful of kids? Would the shooter have known anything like that when he pulled the trigger? There was no gun found. There was no gun at the scene other than the shooters. It's the law that gives people the license to shoot someone they don't like or with the mere thought that the person is a threat with no real proof of such. These are all your opinions, Robin. Obviously you don't agree. You are making things up, by the way, about what I am saying. Just tell the truth. There's no sense in a "conversation" with someone who makes things up.

  2. I support stand your ground laws because they protect the innocent person that is responding to an immediate serious threat. In a just and fair society, the victim should not be abused by both the government and the criminal. However, in the Dunn case, justice was served by finding him guilty. It seems to be clear that he fired the last three shots at a van moving away and well after the perceived threat was over. Maybe some mental deficiency or just anger made him do such a silly thing. Now, his second mistake was to leave the scene, for two reasons. One it certainly would make most people question his innocence and it left the police without enough information to know to search for the "claimed" weapon in the van. We may never know if there was a weapon or not, but since police did not know to search for one until days later Dunn helped convict himself.
    The lesson that we should take from this is that the mental mindset and training is every bit as important as the ability to handle a gun. For me, having a gun on my person, makes me much less likely to contact people that are doing things like these youths. I know that such contacts can escalate out of control and I never want to be pushed into a situation that I must use force.

    1. And that is the very problem with Stand Your Ground Laws. Because the law is in place in Florida, there is an assumption that the shooter was right in taking a life and the police often don't go looking for evidence until later. In combination with the fact that the shooter didn't call police immediately, that made this case more difficult for all concerned. I don't agree with you that having your gun will make you less likely to contact someone. I believe for George Zimmerman, his gun emboldened him and made him more likely to "contact" Trayvon Martin. In this case there were at least some witnesses. In the Trayvon Martin case it was the word of George Zimmerman against that of a dead teen. There is plenty of room for arguing about whether the police didn't search for a gun or whether the teens had time to get rid of one. http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/06/justice/florida-loud-music-murder-trial/index.html This is the problem with Stand Your Ground. If we didn't have the law, Dunn's case would have been harder to prove. He took another human life over what he said was a threat to him. He could have driven away but he didn't. He had a gun so he thought he could handle it.

      The lesson here? Don't get into confrontations like this. If you don't like the loud music, move to a different parking space and let it go. If you don't like someone texting in a movie theater, move your seat or report it to the management. If you don't like someone walking in the neighborhood while wearing a hoodie, call the police if you think you need to. Er um- Zimmerman did call the police. So don't get out of your car then. Human life is more valuable than this. The shoot first, ask questions later mentality is dangerous. That is why the laws need to be repealed. We have plenty of evidence now to show that the laws are not working as intended. Too many innocent people are being shot over minor things that should not result in death. Is this the kind of country you want? Apparently it is. To me it is unacceptable. We will not agree about this one.