Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
Guns and racism go hand-in-hand. The Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws which the NRA has peddled into the books of at least twenty-four states are unconstitutional. They deprive the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of their victims by unevenly elevating the rights of one class of Americans over another. The Justice Department needs to lay siege to these so-called “castle” laws.
Fear of minorities by whites has been a big seller of guns, from the swearing in of a black President of the United States, to the scared little man who stalked and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Pitting the races against one another has been a time-tested winner in the gun biz for sales.
The racists were having a field day with George Zimmerman’s acquittal on Saturday.
“Wouldn’t it be amusing to seen an EPIC beatdown and mass arrest of negroes for acting like frenzied herd animals? As long as they destroy their own ‘hoods, I don’t care. Its when they cross into polite White society that they are going to be stopped in their tracks,” writes white supremacist Sun and Steel on their bulletin board at Stormfront.org. 
In the wake of the Zimmerman trial, Stand Your Ground is being seen as a rallying point for both white haters and closet racists alike. The verdict, in effect, gives any white person who wants to use a weapon to challenge minorities in a place where they don’t think that they belong license to shoot first, ask questions later, as long as there aren’t any witnesses around to question the shooter’s account of how events progressed.
Stand Your Ground (SYG), or “castle” laws draw on the Castle Doctrine, the belief that no one should have to retreat from an attacker or invader in their home. The problem is that most of these laws been written to take the principle outside of the “castle” home. In most states, SYG laws have established the concept that an armed person is justified in the use of deadly force without retreating from a perceived threat anywhere that they are, as long as they feel threatened.
The law has yet to receive a challenge before the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), but what is clear, in the way that most of these statutes are written, is that they create two classes of citizen: One empowered with a gun, and the license to use their fear, reasonable or not, and/or poor judgment to legally take the life of a citizen whose rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are subjugated to the armed citizen.
How do we have these castle laws in twenty-four states? Thank the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Dead Billionaire’s Club-fed, Grover Norquist-channeled Libertarian legislative golden arches, making McLaws aimed in part at maintaining the power of the 1% right white supremacy that has been fighting social justice since the New Deal. It’s a “model bill” that can be handed to any Teahadi in a state legislature. Grease generously with lobbying money from the NRA and the gun industry, and saturate with a little fear of NRA reprisals against state legislators who don’t vote for it, and you have the groundwork for the closet form of racial separatism that the law was intended to foster.
By 2010, the reports of justifiable homicides tripled in Florida. Prosecutors and police alike are not big fans.
“Whether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house,” Chief John Timoney told the New York Times, “you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.”
The Trayvon Martin tragedy wasn’t an exception. Stand Your Ground was designed to empower frightened whites and disempower minorities. The Tampa Bay Times reports:
“A Tampa Bay Times analysis of nearly 200 cases — the first to examine the role of race in “stand your ground” — found that people who killed a black person walked free 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time.”
Racial bias may not be hardwired into prosecutors so much as it is in jurors saturated in American life and culture. Under prior law, if a citizen shot another, it was as a last resort. There was no opportunity to flee. No way to get help. Imminent threat without recourse. There had to be a credible threat as well. A gun. A knife. A baseball bat.
Under the castle laws, the fear-soaked judgment of a gun-toting citizen is given legal standing to protect the shooter. Just the shooter’s fear of violence is enough to justify killing another human being.
All laws also have unintended consequences, and precedent defined from the case law made around them. In the Zimmerman case, we have now added that the fear of taking a non-lethal beating by a craven stalker is justification for the use of deadly force. The larger unintended consequence, that a minority of white Americans can use it to enforce their personal code of racial separatism with lethal force, legally, alone is cause for reviewing these laws as a violation of the Civil Rights Act in both letter and spirit.
If minorities are so intimidated by a few angry, gun-toting whites that they cannot safely travel through parts of any town without fear for their lives because they look “suspicious”, as Mr. Zimmerman’s case clearly demonstrated happens, then their freedom to travel, their freedom of association, and their civil rights are violated by these laws.
The state, in these SYG/Castle laws, is saying that the right to life of the apprehensively armed takes precedence over the right to life of the person being shot. The state is abrogating the rights of the victims of castle killings and woundings without cause.
State SYG/Castle laws are unconstitutional. The weak-willed Mr. Holder and his Justice Department need to act. Failing that, the ACLU, NAACP, and other organizations that protect the Constitution and civil rights for all need to bring cases before the SCOTUS to invalidate these laws.
The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness apply to all of America’s citizens, not just a well-armed fearful few, backstopped by the gun industry and the Koch brothers.
My shiny two.