Over the past couple of decades, there has been an alarming trend in American journalism where the press has been covering stories either prima facie (a lack of substance) or as agitators for political purposes (pandering to an ideological readership), or both.
After listening to an interview of another columnist pontificate a few scenarios in Florida involving a death involving a gun and a court case, this interview prompted Scripps columnist Michael Goforth to recently publish an article pontificating “What is it with Florida and Guns?”
Mr. Goforth pontificates the following issues 1) the Zimmerman case, 2) the Dunn case, 3) the Florida Carry case, & 4) the Second Amendment Preservation Act.
Unfortunately, Mr. Goforth erroneously conflates all four separate issues into one jumbled incoherent question: “What is it with Florida and Guns?”
Goforth writes of the Zimmerman case:
It’s been almost exactly two years since neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
Public outcry over the death of the unarmed black youth by the 28-year old white man who claimed self-defense spread across the nation.
When a jury found Zimmerman not guilty in the death, rallies and protests filled the streets and airways.
And, there were calls for the Florida Legislature to change state law so what many saw as a travesty of justice would not occur again. But, nothing much came of those calls.
The Deep Thoughts by Michael Goforth omits several important aspects of the case. First, the defendant was being pummeled and beaten by the deceased, or as Goforth describes him the “black youth.” Second, the defendant was Hispanic, not White. Third, while there were some legitimate public outcry without interference, the massive “public outcry” was fueled by outside intervention, presumably as agitators for political purposes. For example, within a month of the shooting President Obama declared that “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon (the deceased).” A few days later, NBC News aired a broadcast of the 911 call between the defendant and police dispatcher on the evening of the shooting. NBC News’ version went like this:
Zimmerman (the defendant): This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
To a reader or viewer, this account can easily be viewed as if the defendant arbitrarily determined that the deceased “looks like he is up to no good” because “he looks black.” Unfortunately, NBC News edited the actual transcript of the call. The actual call went like this:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or, he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: Ok, and this guy – is he black, white, or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
MSNBC’s “impartial” pundit Al Sharpton embarked on a journey to incite sentiment against the defendant. Mr. Sharpton went on an MSNBC show and declared “I helped organize a lot of the outrage around this (Zimmerman trial).”
Lastly, the calls for the “Florida Legislature to change state law” that Mr. Goforth refers were calls to repeal what is known as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. More on this in a moment.
Mr. Goforth continued his article, spawned by the enlightenment of listening to an interview, citing the Dunn case with:
Michael Dunn, 47, a white, former Vero Beach businessman, was being tried in Jacksonville on a murder charge in the shooting and killing of black and unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in 2012. Dunn also claimed self-defense, saying he was in fear for his life and believed the teenager was armed.
This time Mr. Goforth is correct that the defendant is white. However, Mr. Goforth can easily leave his readers with the impression that because the defendant in this case “claimed self-defense” Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is the problem.
Or, maybe it was numerous other “media” outlets that promulgated this impression. HuffingtonPost article titled “Michael Dunn, Florida Man, Invokes ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law After Shooting Black Teen,” RollingStone’s “Will There Be Justice for Florida’s Other Stand Your Ground Victim?”, USAToday’s “Another Stand Your Ground Showdown?”, CBSNews’ “Is Stand Your Ground to blame for another teen’s death?” And, the media trend continues backwards down the number line.
The “Stand Your Ground Law” is one section of the Florida Statute on Justifiable Use of Force. This section reads in full:
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
The alternative is to “Retreat to the Wall” which means a person has to attempt to flee (Retreat) from a potentially threatening situation until they can no longer retreat (the Wall) before using deadly force.
For example, if a woman is at the gas station after picking her son up from a baseball game and an armed assailant approaches her, she must quickly analyze the situation to determine if she should a) jump in the car, start it, and slam on the gas, b) run and leave her son, c) grab her son and run while hoping that the armed assailant does not open fire, murdering both mother and child. If, after strategically and thoroughly analyzing the situation in a matter of seconds, the mother determines that she can not safely allude the threatening situation that a criminal placed her and her son in, she now has the right to respond with deadly force. This is an insane situation to place any person into.
ABC News Legal Correspondent Dan Abrams published an article, titled “No, Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Did Not Determine Either Zimmerman or Dunn Cases.”
Mr. Abrams writes of the Dunn case:
As in the case of Georg Zimmerman, acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin, the public outrage was often directed or misdirected, at the Florida (Stand Your Ground) law.
Many, including legal commentators who should know better, repeatedly citing the statute as a crucial issue in both cases.
And yet neither defendant invoked the controversial aspects of Florida’s law. In fact, both defendants argued basic self defense law that would have been similar in just about every state in the nation.
Mr. Abrams concluded with:
I am no fan of stand your ground laws but I am a fan of accuracy when it comes to sensitive and potentially explosive trials and verdicts.
Even though Mr. Abrams disagrees with the law, he offered an impartial analysis of political opportunists. This is a rare trait in American journalism.
Mr. Goforth’s next issue was with the Florida Carry case. He writes that the interviewee:
noted a recent court decision that overturned rules at Florida college campuses banning guns. Because of that ruling, the schools were rewriting policies to allow students to keep guns in their vehicles on campus.
But, the group called Florida Carry that won the case has since filed suit to allow students to carry guns on campus in their dorms and other housing.
It wasn’t the court case that “overturned rules at Florida college campuses” or forced colleges to rewrite policies, the colleges claimed responsibilities they did not possess. It was illegal for them to write the rules in the first place; the court case merely affirmed that the colleges were the aggressor or violator.
Alexandria Lainez (pictured above), one of the appellants that is listed on the Appeals Court docket with Florida Carry, Inc., is a 24 year old single mother, full time student at UNF, is well trained with firearms, and possesses a legal permit to conceal carry. UNF had prohibited the possession of firearms on campus. UNF argued in court that they were a school, and since Florida law bans firearms at school districts, they have the authority to ban firearms on UNF’s campus.
After careful deliberation, the Appeals Court determined that the law applied to actual K-12 school districts. Ms. Lainez and all present and future students at UNF and colleges around the state can not be denied the basic right of self defense while on college campus. Fortunately, this provides hope for a good guy with a gun to counter a bad guy with a gun at UNF, something that innocent victims of Virginia Tech, Columbine, or Newtown didn’t get at the dangerous “gun free zones.”
Mr. Goforth then discussed more on the motivational and thought provoking interview as the conversation then opined:
that mixing guns and alcohol-fueled students might not be such a great idea.
But, that is the power of the gun lobby in Florida. And, Floridians — especially those in positions of influence — seem to be OK with the proliferation of guns in the state.
This is such a powerful statement with very little content. First, we are to ignore that there are students, faculty, and guests at college campuses, as well as, students that consume alcohol responsibly. Do these individuals not have the right of self-defense? Next, while a 24 year old single mother and student was provided the assistance of a group who derives membership from individuals that value a natural right, what makes that worse than a group, such as the ACLU, that derives membership from individuals that value another right? Is there a litmus test on rights that are dispensable and ones that are not? Lastly, Floridians, “especially those in positions of influence,” are now in support of some sort of arms race, “a proliferation of guns,” in the state for valuing a natural right! This is a powerful statement if taken prima facie, but it is a shallow, asinine, and an incendiary statement when thought and logic is applied.
But, this is only the pivot to what appears to be Mr. Goforth’s concern: HB 733, the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.”
HB 733 provides that no state or local governmental employee, or their contractors, can assist federal agents in the enforcement of federal gun laws. It does not prohibit federal agents from enforcing federal gun laws, it just prohibits state resources from assisting. Federal officials can still enforce their laws with their resources, including the contributions from tax-payers in the state of Florida.
“One might think the National Rifle Association may have proposed the bill. Not so” says Mr. Goforth.
The big-bad-wolf NRA “gun lobby” is not behind it. So, who is behind this legislation that must be “OK with the proliferation of guns in the state”?
It’s the work of the Tenth Amendment Center, a think-tank founded in California, which seeks to block the expansion of federal powers using the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as its basis.
For those unaware of what this Tenth Amendment thing is, Mr. Goforth has your answer:
That’s the one that says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
And, there is no need to worry because Mr. Goforth has a litmus test to determine when the Tenth Amendment applies and when it does not, just don’t ever ask to see this test.
But, what is this dangerous Tenth Amendment Center?
The Tenth Amendment Center is a grassroots organization that has been advocating around the country that States do have rights guaranteed in the US Constitution. They have led the charge to shut down the NSA’s massive and illegal spy apparatus by prohibiting local and state governmental assistance to the NSA’s illegal surveillance. One might of read about the legislation in Utah to shut the water off from the NSA’s massive data center or similar efforts in Maryland. There are states all over the country that are exercising their Tenth Amendment rights to oppose unconstitutional federal laws such as: marijuana, REAL ID, ObamaCare, TSA Travel Freedom, NDAA Indefinite Detention, and yes, 2nd Amendment Preservation. Florida has a measure on the ballot for medical marijuana that follows that Tenth Amendment thing.
Before signing off, Mr. Goforth closes by opining:
“What is it with Florida and guns?”
I’m not sure. But, I don’t feel as safe as I’d like to feel.
I’d like to give Mr. Goforth the benefit of the doubt that he may have slept through every history lecture in his academic career and that he’s been too busy pontificating to pay attention to current events, so I’ll answer his question.
The thing about guns is not confined to Floridians. Yes, Floridians value their fundamental, natural right to self-defense, but so does most other Americans throughout the country. For example, the people of Colorado recalled two State Senators, including the State Senate President, that pushed gun restrictions when the political opportunist capitalized on the Newtown tragedy by pushing gun restrictions. In an effort of mass civil disobedience, tens of thousands of gun owners of Connecticut have refused to comply with their states gun registration law. Even the chief agitator for the recent anti-gun New York SAFE Act, that made it a felony to possess a firearm on school campus amongst many other atrocities, felt compelled to carry a gun on a school campus prompting a lock down of a school.
When it comes down to protecting one’s life, liberty, and property, it turns out that the best person capable to protect these most precious items is one’s self. Of course, if someone disagrees with possessing firearms, they also have the right not to possess a firearm. But, they do not have a right to force their belief of not possessing firearms on others. This would make them the criminal and aggressor, and also place innocent people in the hands of violent criminals. The right of self-defense is fundamental to a free society and “shall not be infringed.”
It is unclear whether Mr. Goforth realizes that there is no perfect or risk free place in the world, but I am truly sorry that he does not feel as safe as he’d like to feel. He is at a far greater risk driving a vehicle than he is being shot by a firearm.
If living in the United States, where the right to bear arms has been in effect for over two centuries, proves to be too much of a risk, there is an alternative that may provide more comfort: jail. In jail, one can have food prepared for them, a roof provided, medicine administered, and even bodyguards. Probably the most advantageous thing about jail, for someone like Mr. Goforth, is that firearms are not allowed. The only thing they won’t have is freedom.