Rights and Responsibilities
In some areas of the law, at least in Iowa, the rules are becoming more lenient and people are finding themselves with more freedoms than they had before. I believe this is a good thing, but some who have made headlines recently don’t seem to understand that with freedom comes responsibility.
I thought of this the other day when I was reading about an incident in Texas. I’m sure everyone has heard about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman incident in Florida. This has led me to ponder the law that Iowa has regarding concealed firearm carry.
I have to say that none of us were there during the Martin-Zimmerman incident, so we don’t know what actually happened. I have to wonder why, when film director Spike Lee has openly put out a contract on Zimmerman’s life, Lee hasn’t been charged with any crime. The big thing that concerns me about the incident is that some of the powers that be may spin this into a full-blown racial conflict in order to better their ratings. It will be interesting to see what the jury says.
Well, last week another incident that isn’t as well known came to my attention. A man in Texas was convicted of shooting and killing a neighbor while the two were having a dispute over a loud party. During the trial, defendant Raul Rodriguez cited the “stand your ground” law in Texas as justification for the shooting. There is a similar “stand your ground” law that is in the Legislature in Iowa.
A brief note here — “stand your ground” laws came up in response to cases where people have used deadly force to presumably defend their lives against an attacker in an area the people defending themselves had a right to be. During trial, the person was accused of not having grounds for self-defense because there was some conceivable way they could have escaped. The “stand your ground” law states that a person can use deadly force against a threat in an area they are allowed to be without having to try to retreat. I actually agree with this concept in theory and I especially agree with “castle laws,” which gives the right to use force to defend your home against invaders. The problem is people seem to be thinking the law gives them a license to kill.
During the case in Texas, Rodriguez’s neighbor Kelli Johnson was throwing a party with loud music. Rodriguez went to Johnson’s house armed with a gun and a video camera and provoked a confrontation. Apparently he called 911 and told the operator, “I’m standing my ground here. Here they come and they are going to try to kill me.” The operator then heard gunshots.
One of the things I like about the “stand your ground” laws is it gives citizens the benefit of the doubt that they will be responsible and use it only when needed. It seems there have been some cases where it wasn’t. (That isn’t a comment about the Zimmerman case. I don’t know all the facts, so I’m not qualified to make any kind of value judgment on that.)
Individuals who legally keep firearms for self-defense need to realize that their actions reflect on responsible gun owners everywhere. There are far too many people who will use an isolated incident as a reason to call for laws governing self-defense to be repealed and putting the advantage back with the bad guys.
As responsible gun owners, we need to remember that the best outcome for a self-defense situation is for the conflict to be de-escalated and for both sides to go home afterward. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that using a gun for defense is the last resort, not the first.