Friday, February 28, 2014

summary execution by firearm IS an answer to public incivility and abuse of the commons...,

contextflorida |  The Armed Occupation Act of 1842 gave 160 acres of Florida land to anyone who could fight the Seminoles and hold his ground for seven years. The congressional legislation was designed to increase the nonnative population of Florida.

In 2005, the Florida Legislature approved the “stand your ground” provision of the self-defense law ostensibly to protect folks who kill in self-defense in a public place. Given the universal reaction to the recent Michael Dunn verdict, “stand your ground” is likely to have the opposite effect. As one friend said to me, “If I were black, I would move out of Florida. I wouldn’t live in a place where it’s OK to gun me down because I am a Negro woman.”

By failing to convict Dunn on first-degree murder charges for killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis, the jurors essentially couldn’t bring themselves to convict a white man who perceived a young black man as a threat. Cynics suggest that by convicting Dunn of attempted murder, it’s as if jurors punished him for failing to finish the job.

Dunn claimed he feared for his life after he complained to a car-load of young black men about their loud music. He said he saw a gun and fired his. So much of Dunn’s defense is laughable except to those who believe “young black man” is synonymous with “thug” and with threat. Dunn wasn’t on his front porch complaining about his neighbor’s music. He was in public. There is no expectation of peace and quiet outside a convenience store.

Dunn’s behavior is a reflection of how gun-toters are irrationally emboldened by legislation that could only be cooked up in the offices of the National Rifle Association. Like the Armed Occupation Act of more than 160 years before, politicians have given folks license to kill people of color.

And they aren’t done yet. The Legislature is poised to expand the legislation to include “the threatened use of force.”

In modern Florida, people have no obligation to retreat if they feel threatened in public, even if as in the case of the retired Tampa police officer in the Pasco County movie theater, the assailant triggered the confrontation.  Sadly, our legislators have imposed a 19th century solution — summary execution by firearm — on a 21st century problem — incivility.


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