SPLC’s New Attack on Gun Owners

The nonsense from the Southern Poverty Law Center continues. The SPLC, which doesn’t actually do poverty law because it’s too busy labeling everyone with insufficient melanin in their skin as racist, would like to turn back the clock on Stand Your Ground laws. In a new report, they claim with no real evidence or analysis, that the laws promote killings of blacks by whites. This is nonsense, and they know it. But it comes at the perfect time: with police running from constant assault and the rest of the country being told that only black lives matter. You almost have to admire their moxie.

To understand the situation with Stand Your Ground laws, it’s important to understand how these laws came about. As part of the backlash against the “anything goes” wild west, legislatures adopted laws regarding self-defense that had the admirable goal of reducing violence. They imposed on everyone a duty to retreat rather than engage in violence. At its core, it had good motives, but it amounted to a “shoot first” directive to criminals. Some states, like the state of Massachusetts with its antediluvian policies, still has not modernized its law with respect to self-defense.

Under the old approach, if you were threatened with deadly force, for example, by an intruder, you had a duty to retreat before resorting to deadly force. The one exception to this was the home, as we all know, a man’s home is his castle. But, that’s not true in Massachusetts. And a case from that jurisdiction shows that it harms only those for whom a gun truly provides an equalizing force. It harms only the vulnerable, and rewards only the bullies and thugs. It’s the worst self-defense jurisprudence in the country, and when you can beat California in that category, that’s truly saying something.

In Commonwealth v. Shaffer, the Massachusetts Supreme Court there held that one attacked in her own home does not have unlimited right to react with deadly force without any attempt to retreat. Read that again. It is the official policy of the state of Massachusetts that if you are attacked by a thug in your own home, his life is more valuable than yours unless and until you have done everything possible to avoid taking it. It should be easy to see that the same is not true of the thug, who can kill you without the worry of being shot himself. In fact, a smart and violent felon will most likely shoot first rather than give you time to retreat. There’s no additional penalty for him. They won’t give him bad food in prison because he murdered you in your own home. He’ll still have his life. In other words, if someone comes into your home and they are intent on killing you, you have to place the value of their life above the value of your own.

It’s the backstory in Shaffer that makes it perhaps the most misguided and misogynistic case ever decided by a state supreme court. In Shaffer, the defendant had been severely beaten by the purported “victim” on several occasions. Here are the facts as set out in the court’s opinion:

On the morning of the homicide, the defendant was having breakfast with the victim when an argument ensued. At one point, the victim rose, saying, ‘Never mind. I’ll take care of you right now.’ The defendant threw a cup of tea at him and ran downstairs to the basement playroom, where the children were having breakfast and watching television.

Shortly thereafter, the victim opened the door at the top of the basement stairs and said, ‘If you don’t come up these stairs, I’ll come down and kill you and the kids.’ She started to telephone the police, but hung up the telephone when the victim said he would leave the house. Instead, he returned to the top of the stairs, at which time the defendant took a .22 caliber rifle from a rack on the wall and loaded it. She again started to telephone the police when the victim started down the stairs. She fired a fatal shot. More than five minutes elapsed from the time the defendant went to the basement until the shooting took place.

So, if the facts are correct the defendant is in the basement, a place from which retreat might be impossible (how many basements do you know that have two doors). The victim, apparently trying to earn Parent of the Year accolades, promised to kill not only her, but also her children. What mother in that situation can ignore such a threat from someone who has previously displayed a willingness to engage in violence against her. She is acting under threat of death both to her and her children. She tries to call the police, but he says he’ll leave, then he returns. She loads a rifle and when he starts back down the stairs, fearing for her life and the lives of her children, she fires one shot and kills him.

This is Massachusetts and the liberal jury (doubtless in a hurry to get home and clutch their pearls) convicted her of manslaughter. She asked the court to adopt the rule in pretty much 95% of the states that when you’re in your own home you do not have to retreat. Here’s what the Court said:

The defendant asks us in this case to adopt the majority rule that one assaulted in his own home need not retreat before resorting to the use of deadly force. See, e.g., People v. Tomlins, 213 N.Y. 240, 107 N.E. 496 (1914). See also the cases collected in Perkins, Criminal Law, 1005-1012 (2d ed. 1969) and in LaFave and Scott, Criminal Law, s 53, pp. 395-396 (1972). This has never been the law of the Commonwealth, and we see no reason to adopt it now. We prefer instead to follow our long-established rule that the right to use deadly force by way of self-defense is not available to one threatened until he has availed himself of all reasonable and proper means in the circumstance to avoid combat.

If Roberta Shaffer had just had the common decency to submit to yet another vicious beating, and perhaps let one or two of her children be murdered (reckless endangerment?) she wouldn’t have needed to fire the shot. How is it that a state can place a higher value on the life of an evildoer than the life of multiple innocent victims? It makes no sense.

There are numerous tortured histories of the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground but most do not actually tell the entire story. A good example is a recent article in Time, absent any documentation, that quotes from a book entitled Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair With Lethal Self-Defense. You can tell by the title that the author has some definitive bias against guns, but like all people who know just a little about guns, (but have never experienced personal violence in their own lives), she tells us that she used to shoot guns with her parents. She then tells the Time interviewer (otherwise known as a book promoter) “I think a lot of them unconsciously believe in this very seductive narrative that so-called Second Amendment rights are universal. Actually, that’s quite a lie.”

Actually, that’s not. The Second Amendment is the only amendment in the Bill of Rights that is not directed solely at the federal government. The First Amendment begins “Congress shall make no law…” The Second Amendment does not limit itself to the federal government and states “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That applies to all levels of government. The right is universal because the amendment protects the right and says it shall not be infringed. It does not grant that right. The right descends from our right to life. The right to life can only be considered a right if we have the right to defend our lives.

If the right to self-defense were solely exercised against people of color that would be one thing. But, the facts are different from that. While there are surely cases where black attackers are shot inside someone else’s home, or while attempting to carjack a victim, they are certainly not the only ones to be shot. For example, in Florida, a man protected his home from a team of four home invaders with an AR-15. He killed two of the intruders, and the other two are facing charges. Three of those intruders were people of color, with the fourth being a Latino.

In Oklahoma, a 23-year-old man, home during the day, was amazed to find 3 people kicking in his back door. He armed himself with an AR-15 and when he could see all three men, Jake Woodruff, Max Cook, and Jacob Redfearn, all white, he told them to leave. One had a knife, one had a set of brass knuckles, and the third was unarmed. When they continued forward he shot all three. Two died in the kitchen, one made it outside before he died. Their getaway driver, an overfed young woman named Elizabeth Rodriguez who had planned the burglary, fled the scene and was charged with three counts of felony murder. All of the criminals were white or Latino.

The one night I had to use my handgun to protect myself the attempted home invasion was carried out by four white men in Florida. One came to the door with a pizza box to deliver my pizza but I hadn’t ordered one. He kept nervously asking me to just take the pizza so he could go home. Rather than open the door, I pulled back my cover garment, displaying my Sig P320 9mm handgun, and suddenly our pizza delivery guy, and his three friends hiding in the dark behind him, had somewhere else to be. He yelled “gun” to his friends as he ran.

Oh, and it only took the Sheriff twenty-two minutes to get a unit to my house to investigate the incident, and they would only come if I put my handgun in a safe. I guess, after Portland, I can understand the last part better.

When the SPLC tries to sell you something, you can believe that 98% of it is male bovine fecal matter. Sure, some people use guns, and the stand your ground law, in ways it was never meant to be used. The law deals with those people in those situations. Taking us back to the 17th Century with a requirement to retreat in the face of criminal activity is not just bad public policy, it has to spring from a source other than concern for the well-being of citizens. And it does. It furthers what gun-grabbers truly want. A state in which only those in power have guns and the rest of the country are serfs.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I read the Constitution.