John A. Tures: 'SYG' threatens Second Amendment

January 24, 2014 

The authors of the "Stand Your Ground" laws may have thought they were empowering gun rights in America. Yet the law is only empowering the few gun owners who make bad decisions, and will lead to a backlash against gun rights in America.

The latest incident of a "Stand Your Ground" case occurred in a Florida theater, where a retired police officer shot and killed a fellow movie patron. According to reports, the ex-cop confronted the victim who was texting his daughter's babysitter during the previews, letting him know he and his wife couldn't text anymore.

The gun owner reported that he was hit in the face with "an unknown object" (it turned out to be a bag of popcorn) and he shot the texter, and the texter's wife who was trying to block the shot. You would think that most folks would condemn the shooting of an unarmed Navy veteran and his wife, but he has defenders. His attorney said in a CNN report that the victim attacked his client, and "at that point in time, he has every right to defend himself."

An ex-prosecutor and University of Florida law professor argued, "Elderly people are a little bit more vulnerable than regular adults, so what may give a younger person a black eye could mean a cracked skull for a septuagenarian -- that's certainly a factor that may be figured in." But the "Mythbusters" team would be hard pressed to show that a bag of popcorn can split one's skull, even that of a 71-year-old.

Another attorney rushed to the shooter's defense, claiming "that Florida law allows deadly self-defense in order to 'prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. Attacking a senior citizen is a forcible felony in Florida,'" according to this lawyer. The shooter's statements also indicate that he'll seek a Stand Your Ground defense.

"You can bring a firearm to a popcorn fight now, because that's what Stand Your Ground is all about," said Florida attorney Jeff Brown to MyFoxTampaBay, in defense of the shooter's actions. "If you are lawfully there, and you feel your life is in jeopardy or that you are threatened, you can defend yourself with deadly force."

Defense attorney Stephen Romine agrees with the Stand Your Ground application to this case. "Did somebody do something to you where you felt you were going to be harmed? If so, even if it's popcorn, you have the right to defend yourself," writes First Coast News, of their interview with Romine. The article adds that "it's considered a felony if a person over 65 is struck with something as small as a marshmallow."

It's scary to think that the shooter's chances are pretty good for beating the charges, just as George Zimmerman did. He's the neighborhood watch officer who killed a teen wearing a hoodie and carrying skittles. Zimmerman's attorney convinced everyone that his client was a hero and Trayvon Martin was poised to beat the cop to death by either banging his head on a sidewalk or hitting him with part of it. Since then, Zimmerman has had several brushes with the law, including an arrest for attacking his new girlfriend, breaking objects in her house and pointing a shotgun at her.

There's also the Jacksonville case, where a man fired ten shots into a vehicle of unarmed teens playing rap music. One was hit three times and killed. The shooter, about to go on trial, claims self-defense, saying he thought he saw a shotgun, and he felt verbally threatened by the teens. He was caught after fleeing the scene of the crime.

As school shootings, workplace killings and these "justifiable homicides" continue, a backlash will emerge. It may already be starting. A poll by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that 78 percent of Georgians oppose allowing guns on state college campuses. More than 70 percent don't want guns in churches. And 82 percent don't want anyone carrying a weapon in public who hasn't taken a required safety course.

If that's how folks in red states feel, one wonders about the opinions of those in blue states. It won't be long before these irresponsible shooters make it hard for anyone to get a gun in America, thanks to their reckless actions, and the arguments of those using any excuse to defend them.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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