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“Georgia Legislature Considers Repealing Basically All Gun Laws”: It’s Way, Way Too Hard To Procure And Go Everywhere With A Gun

This probably won’t come as news to Salon’s readers in the state of Georgia, but it turns out it’s way, way, way too hard in the Peach State for one to procure and go everywhere with a gun. So the state Legislature, keeping its eyes firmly fixed on the real issues that matter, is on the verge of remedying this grave injustice by eliminating seemingly every single law regulating firearms in Georgia (which, considering this is Georgia, might not be quite as much work as it seems).

According to a report in Mother Jones, state lawmakers may soon pass the “Safe Carry Protection Act” (HB 875), a law that would not only expand Georgia’s “stand your ground” law but would also:

-Remove the fingerprinting requirement for gun license renewals

-Prohibit the state from keeping a gun license database

-Tighten the state’s preemption statute, which restricts local governments from passing gun laws that conflict with state laws

-Repeal the state licensing requirement for firearms dealers (requiring only a federal firearms license)

-Expand gun owner rights in a declared state of emergency by prohibiting government authorities from seizing, registering, or otherwise limiting the carrying of guns in any way permitted by law before the emergency was declared

-Limit the governor’s emergency powers by repealing the ability to regulate the sale of firearms during a declared state of emergency

-Lower the age to obtain a concealed carry license from 21 to 18 for active-duty military and honorably discharged veterans who’ve completed basic training

-Prohibit detaining someone for the sole purpose of checking whether they have a gun license

As if all of that weren’t enough, MoJo reports that the bill would also so broaden the state’s SYG regulations that even a person using a gun he does not legally hold would be allowed to claim a SYG defense.

In response to the bill’s pending passage, Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, the 17-year-old boy whose killer got off using a SYG defense, wrote a critical Op-Ed in the Savannah Morning News. “I believe Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, and the aggressive culture it fosters, is the reason my son is not here today,” wrote McBath. “Our legislature is looking to expand this dangerous law even further. Legislation here in Georgia, HB 875, would extend our state’s Stand Your Ground law to protect felons who kill using illegal guns.”

“The last thing our families need is for criminals to be shielded by this law,” she added.

More from MoJo:

The legislation passed the House overwhelmingly in February and moved to the state Senate, where it went into committee. But in a strategic move on Tuesday, House Republicans revised the bill and then tacked it onto a separate piece of legislation, HB 60, which would allow some judges to carry guns. The move accomplished two things: First, it allowed the bill to bypass committee and go to the Senate floor for an immediate vote because HB 60 had already been approved by both the House and Senate. Second, the revision did away with a provision that would have decriminalized carrying guns on college campuses—the bill’s supporters knew that the Senate had struck down a similar legislative effort at the end of last year’s session due to a campus carry statute.

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, March 13, 2014

March 14, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns, Stand Your Ground Laws | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shoot First, Then Cry Self-Defense”: Welcome To Florida, Where The NRA Rules And We Proudly Stand Our Ground

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the state legislature to fix Florida’s cockeyed Stand Your Ground law. The National Rifle Association owns too many of the Republican lawmakers who could end the madness.

Nothing will get done in Tallahassee as long as black kids are the ones getting shot by white guys claiming they acted in self-defense. What might eventually pressure politicians to change the law is when white guys start getting shot.

The jaw-dropping verdict in the Michael Dunn case in Jacksonville brought not a peep of outrage from GOP leaders in the House or Senate. The outcome shamefully underscored the lunacy of Stand Your Ground, and once again put Florida in the national spotlight as a gun-nut mecca.

Dunn, who is white, got into an argument over loud music with some black teenagers who were parked beside him at a gas-station convenience store. He pulled a handgun and fired into the teens’ SUV, then crouched and continued shooting as it sped away.

In all, Dunn fired 10 times. Jordan Davis, age 17, was killed.

Oddly, Dunn didn’t call the police. He checked into a motel with his girlfriend and ordered pizza. The next day he was arrested in Brevard County, where he lives.

At the trial, Dunn said he saw a shotgun being pointed at him from the SUV, and that he fired in self-defense. He also said Davis got out of the vehicle and threatened him.

No weapon was found in the SUV. Dunn’s own girlfriend testified that, contrary to his account, he never once mentioned to her that he’d seen a shotgun. Moreover, a medical examiner said Davis’ wounds indicated he’d been seated inside the vehicle, leaning back, when he was fatally struck by Dunn’s bullets.

The jury voted unanimously to convict Dunn on three counts of attempted second-degree murder for continuing to blast away at the SUV as it raced off.

However, the panel deadlocked 10-2 on the first-degree murder charge, the majority favoring conviction. Then it was 9-3.

The sticking point was Florida’s spongy self-defense law that essentially allows the use of lethal force if a person feels threatened.

True or not, practically anybody who shoots another person can say they feared for their lives, whether it’s a barroom fight, a domestic brawl or a traffic altercation. Self-defense claims in homicides have skyrocketed since 2005, when Stand Your Ground was passed.

Gang members, in particular, are big fans of the law.

No verdict was reached on the killing of Jordan Davis, so Michael Dunn is going to prison for attempting to murder the three other occupants of the car. Try to figure that one out, especially if you’re the parents of that dead teenager.

Coming less than a year after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed black youth, the Dunn case should have shamed legislators into action.

It hasn’t, although there’s another one looming that should bring more heat. This time the victim was white, a Navy veteran and the father of a young child.

Chad Oulson was shot to death in a Wesley Chapel movie theater by 71-year-old Curtis Reeves Jr., who’d become aggravated because Oulson was texting during previews.

The two men argued. Oulson stood up and turned around. Police said he threw popcorn at Reeves, who pulled a gun and shot Oulson in the chest. The bullet nicked the hand of Oulson’s wife.

Reeves, a retired Tampa cop, has been charged with second-degree murder. He told police was he was scared “s—less” by Oulson, whom Reeves said had struck him with a fist or some other object.

No punches are visible on surveillance video from the movie theater, and even Reeves’ wife said she didn’t see Oulson hit her husband. Reeves’ attorney said the video shows a small shiny object striking Reeves and falling to the floor.

After the popcorn was flung at him, he whipped out a .380 semiautomatic and fired point-blank. Then he sat back in his chair while Oulson died.

Oulson’s wife said Reeves had taunted her husband about using his phone even after he’d put it away. She said Chad had been texting the family babysitter to check on their daughter, who wasn’t feeling well.

This is life in Florida — guns everywhere, and laws that favor the trigger-happy. Shoot first, then cry self-defense.

Kids playing rap music too loud? Lock and load.

Some guy texting at the movies? Teach him some manners.

Don’t walk away from an argument when you can end it with a bullet. Stand your ground and hope you get the right jury.

Welcome to Planet NRA.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, The National Memo, February 25, 2014

February 26, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Stand Your Ground Laws | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Unreasonable Absolutist Death Penalties”: The ‘Stand Your Ground’ Mindset Is Flawed

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was not invoked by the defense at either the trial of George Zimmerman or, more recently, Michael Dunn. But the mindset was present in both cases, and raises some troubling questions about what constitutes self-defense.

In the Zimmerman case, the defendant was acquitted of shooting an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, in the chest, arguing that Martin had attacked him. Zimmerman was acquitted.

In the Dunn case, the defendant’s behavior was even more sketchy. He had pulled into a gas station, and – annoyed by what he called the “rap crap” emanating from another car there – asked the four teenagers inside to turn it down. Dunn said 17-year-old Jordan Davis then threatened him and had a shotgun, and Dunn then shot into the car. Prosecutors said there was no threat (there was, in fact, no gun in the boys’ SUV) and merely shot 10 bullets into the car because he didn’t like the loud music.

Davis was killed, and Dunn was convicted of attempted murder of the three surviving teens. The jury deadlocked over whether Dunn was guilty of fist-degree murder of Davis. From a practical standpoint, it may not matter as much – Zimmerman is free, and has spent the time doing such bizarrely inappropriate activities as posing for a photo with a gun manufacturer and getting into a fight with his girlfriend, while Dunn already faces up to 60 years in prison for the attempted murder convictions. But the mindset, that “threat” is in the eye of the shooter, endures.

Florida law says someone does not have an obligation to retreat if he or she “reasonably” believes his or her life is at stake, even if there is no actual threat. (The “Stand Your Ground” law was not specifically invoked at either trial, but the Florida self-defense statute, complete with that language, was read to the jury.) How far does one take that? State of mind is indeed a reasonable factor to consider. But putting the onus on the prosecution to prove that the defendant was not reasonably in fear for his or her life merely enables racism, xenophobia and any other kind of fear-based in bias.

Would a middle-aged white man be more “reasonable” in believing that four black teenagers were a threat, than if the ages and races were reversed? That’s not stated in the law, of course, but juries, which insert their own experiences and fears into their judgments, might think so. A woman has a far greater chance of being raped than any man of any race has of being murdered. Would that make it OK for a woman walking alone to attack or shoot a man walking past her – especially if the man were of the same race, since most rapes are intra-racial?

The problem with the standard of “reasonable” is that it isn’t reasonable at all. It puts law behind emotion and human bias.

In Virginia, current law allows farmers to shoot dogs which run after their chickens, and officers are actually required to kill a dog caught going after someone’s poultry. The state legislature recently cleared a bill that would soften that law, giving urban areas (where more people, it seems, are raising chickens) the right to ease such absolutist death penalties. If Virginia can do more to protect dogs, perhaps Florida could do more to protect people.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, February 19, 2014

February 22, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Stand Your Ground Laws | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Repeal Stand-Your-Ground Laws”: We Shouldn’t Have To Wait For Another Death And Controversial Trial

The law is supposed to solve problems, not create them. Laws should provide as much clarity as possible, not expand the realms of ambiguity and subjectivity. Laws ought to bring about the practical results their promoters claim they’ll achieve. And at its best, the law can help us to live together more harmoniously.

By all these measures, “stand your ground” laws are a failure. These statutes make the already difficult task of jurors even harder. They aggravate mistrust across racial lines. They appear to increase, rather than decrease, crime.

We should not have had to go through another racially charged trial in Florida to learn all this. Writing online for The Post, Mark Berman offered a succinct account of the facts of the Michael Dunn case that has aroused so much legitimate passion.

“In November 2012, Michael Dunn shot 17-year-old Jordan Davis in a Jacksonville, Fla., gas station parking lot. Dunn had approached a Dodge Durango holding Davis and three other teenagers and asked them to turn down their music. . . . An argument developed, and Dunn fired 10 times at the vehicle, including multiple shots fired as it pulled away.

“Davis died almost immediately after he was hit. . . . Dunn, who was in town for a wedding, returned to his hotel and drove back home to Brevard County the following morning; he was arrested later that day.” Dunn said he saw a shotgun in the Durango, but there was no evidence of one.

Dunn was convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder, but the jury hung on the first-degree murder charge brought in connection with Davis’s death.

The verdict came seven months after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the Sanford, Fla., killing of Trayvon Martin in another case where the stand-your-ground law was at issue. Both Martin and Davis were black teenagers. Should it surprise anyone that many African Americans fear that the law does not protect young males of color when they find themselves in confrontations with whites?

We shouldn’t fault the Dunn jury, which seemed to struggle to reach a just outcome. Unlike Zimmerman, the 47-year-old Dunn was not acquitted and could spend the rest of his life in prison. The jury clearly saw no justification for his firing at a fleeing car. But the stand-your-ground law undoubtedly sowed confusion on the murder count.

Supporters of the law say it was technically not at issue in the case, but this overlooks the obvious role it played in the trial. Cory Strolla, Dunn’s lawyer, mentioned it in his closing argument: “His honor will further tell you,” Strolla said, “that if 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.” The judge, Russell L. Healey, was required to read the relevant stand-your-ground provisions to the jury.

Florida’s statute allows someone to use force if he or she “reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” The “reasonable belief” standard is not unique to stand-your-ground laws, but it opens a vast loophole for extreme subjectivity when it is applied in conjunction with them. This has created problems that even the law’s supporters should acknowledge.

A comprehensive 2012 examination of the law by the Tampa Bay Times concluded: “Seven years since it was passed, Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law is being invoked with unexpected frequency, in ways no one imagined, to free killers and violent attackers whose self-defense claims seem questionable at best.” The law, the Times reporters wrote, has “confused judges” and has “allowed drug dealers to avoid murder charges and gang members to walk free.”

A study by two Texas A&M economists found that such laws “do not deter burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault” but do “lead to a statistically significant 8 percent net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters.”

Stand-your-ground laws shift the balance of power on the streets to those who carry weapons. They thus provide an incentive for everyone to be armed, which is why the National Rifle Association has pressured legislatures in some two dozen states to enact them. We shouldn’t have to wait for another death and controversial trial to recognize that this is a poor reason for laws that cause such palpable harm. It’s time to repeal them.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 20, 2014

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Stand Your Ground Laws | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It Was A Bad Bill”: A Step Forward, Florida To Hold Hearings On Stand Your Ground Law

Florida House of Representatives Speaker Will Weatherfold (R) announced on Friday that Florida legislators will hold hearings in the fall concerning the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, which allows people to use deadly force in self-defense when they believe their life is at risk.

The announcement comes nearly a month after a not-guilty verdict was reached in the George Zimmerman trial. Two jurors stated that because of the Stand Your Ground law, they had no choice but to acquit Zimmerman, who fatally shot unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.

After the acquittal, Martin’s parents were joined by civic leaders, students, and political figures — including President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder — in urging Florida to review the law.

“Across Florida, representatives are receiving calls, letters, visits and emails from constituents with diverse opinions on ‘Stand Your Ground,’” Weatherfold said in his announcement.

He also asked: “Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more understandable?”

These are the same questions being asked across Florida and the nation by those who fear that the law only protects a few privileged groups of people.

Critics argue that the law is not applied fairly across the board, and also allows anyone who deems another person threatening – even if only because of race or gender – to use lethal force against that person.

Race also plays a significant role in how a person is prosecuted in the context of the law.

A national Quinnipiac University poll released on Friday found that most voters support the Stand Your Ground laws, but that gender, race, and ideology divide Americans on the question of whether to retreat or use deadly force in self-defense. The poll also found that a majority of white voters and men support the laws, black voters generally oppose them, and women are more evenly divided.

Just a year ago, Representative Dennis Baxley (R-FL) told MSNBC that since the Stand Your Ground law went into effect in 2005, Florida has seen a drop in violent crime. In an interview with PBS Newshour, Baxley added that he thought the law “has saved thousands of people’s lives.”

Crime rates in Florida had been declining years before Stand Your Ground took effect, however, and there is no way to prove the law is the reason behind the decline.

Others contend that “justifiable” deaths have actually increased since Stand Your Ground was implemented. Economist Mouhcine Guettabi, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, conducted a study by taking data from the 29 states that do not have “stand your ground” laws, and “weighted key factors like personal income, population density, percentages of white, black, Hispanic and Asian residents, and the crime rate.”

At the end of his study, Guettabi found that he could attribute 158 more deaths per year since the passage of Stand Your Ground in Florida; that number dropped to 144 when excluding the 14 accidental gun deaths.

Guettabi concluded that “crime rates did not go up or down after the law was added,” but “gun deaths were higher than they would have been without ‘stand your ground.’”

Former Florida Senator Les Miller has now come forward to say that he regrets voting in favor of the law and added: “It was a bad bill.”

In July, protesters met with Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) to discuss the law. Once the meeting was over, Scott told the protesters that he supported the bill and would not call a special session. Instead, Scott called for a day of prayer that following Sunday. Scott went on to urge protesters and critics of the law to call their local legislators and provide examples of why they believe the law has the potential to result in more violence.

Chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee Matt Gaetz (R) responded to Weatherford’s announcement by firmly stating, “I don’t intend to move one damn comma on the ‘stand your ground’ law. I’m fully supportive of the law as it’s written.”

Additionally, Gaetz claimed “any aberrational circumstances that have resulted are due to errors at the trial court level.”

Senate President Don Gaetz (R), the chairman’s father, has also maintained his support for the law.

Still, protesters are optimistic about the hearings.

Philip Agnew, head of demonstration group Dream Defenders, said, “It’s a critical step. We’re excited about having an open debate.”

Weatherford has not yet set a formal date for the hearings or stated how long they are expected to last.

 

By: Elissa Gomez, The National Memo, August 5, 2013

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Stand Your Ground Laws | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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