The New Amerika

Hard to believe.

Florida’s legislature has approved a bill that would give residents the right to open fire against anyone they perceive as a threat in public, instead of having to try to avoid a conflict as under prevailing law.

Outraged opponents say the law will encourage Floridians to open fire first and ask questions later, fostering a sort of statewide Wild West shootout mentality. Supporters argue that criminals will think twice if they believe they are likely to be promptly shot when they assault someone.

Republican Governor Jeb Bush, who has said he plans to sign the bill, says it is “a good, commonsense, anti-crime issue.”

Current state law allows residents to “shoot to kill if their property, such as their home or car, is invaded by an unknown assailant.”

But it also states that if a resident is confronted or threatened in a public place, he or she must first try to avoid the confrontation or flee before taking any violent step in self defense against an assailant.

The bill, supported by the influential National Rifle Association, was approved by both houses of the Republican-run legislature on Tuesday.

“Minutemen” in Arizona and freedom to blast away in public places in Florida…. I’m scared to ask what’s next.

The Discussion: 30 Comments

Certainly, IF I were an assailant under this proposed law, I would shoot first ending the victims right to shoot me.

I can see more laws that would give “non-criminals” extraordinary rights, but continuing to give the government extraordinary abilities to make criminals out of an every increasing portion of the population.

April 6, 2005 @ 9:01 pm | Comment

Excellent points, Pete.

April 6, 2005 @ 9:02 pm | Comment

So much for “erring on the side of life”…

April 6, 2005 @ 9:54 pm | Comment

Well said, Shanghai.

April 6, 2005 @ 10:07 pm | Comment

Actually Richard, the story completely sensationalizes and distorts the issue. In order to legally use potentially deadly force in a public place, one must have a REASONABLE believe that they (or another) faces a risks of death or serious bodily harm. If the belief is not reasonable, then the person employing force is guilty of a serious criome (e.g., homicide, assault). The question that the proposed change in Florida law presents is, should a person who REASONABLY believes himself to be at risk of death or serious injury (based upon a “reasonable man”) standard, whould nevertheless have to attempt to flee or withdraw?

On the one hand, I can see the sense in a requirment that one avoid using force if reasonable possible. On the other, if one believes one is about to be killed, shoud one’s decision to save one’s self be subject to jury deciding (after the fact) not only whether my belief was reasonable, but also whether I could have done more, with the benefit of hindsight, to run away?

The law is not authorizing gunning down people who give you a dirty look. It applies only to the use of force against someone who has given you REASONABLE grounds to believe that he is about to kill or seriously injure you. The reference in the article to one’s rights to use force when your home or vehicle is invaded, is irrelevant and, as described in the article, creates a very misleading impression.

April 7, 2005 @ 12:49 am | Comment

Well stated Conrad!!

Richard, if you are trying to attack the Minuteman Project, I’m guessing that you don’t have much knowledge as to just how serious the problem of illegal immigration is in the US.

Most liberals try to label the project as xenophobia run wild, but in fact most don’t realize that the group is comprised of several different ethnic groupls. Including a few naturalized Mexicans.

April 7, 2005 @ 4:15 am | Comment

As long as the Minutemen do not get involved in taking the law into their own hands by apprehending, injuring or shooting illegals it seems this project is like a block watch on a massive geographic scale. Something police departments at one time endorsed and encouraged.

April 7, 2005 @ 7:17 am | Comment

IO take bnorder security extremely seriously — but I don’t believe the Minutemen are the answer. Neither does our governor or our esteemed senator, John McCain. There needs to be a federal solution, not vigilante groups.

April 7, 2005 @ 7:42 am | Comment

And Pete, all of the law officials — every one — has spoken out against the minutemen, sayuing they will get in the way and cause more harm than good. McCain said the one benefit they may bring is greater awareness of the problem, but they are not, he said, the answer.

Conrad, you may have some good points about the Florida law. The way it’s presented it sounds unnecessary and potentially very dangerous. Is the article incorrect in saying the law proivides “the right to open fire against anyone they perceive as a threat in public, instead of having to try to avoid a conflict as under prevailing law”? That sounds like a step backward to me.

April 7, 2005 @ 7:45 am | Comment

Oh, and Conrad — good to see you back, even if you are totally off-base on domestic issues!

April 7, 2005 @ 7:49 am | Comment

one must have a REASONABLE belief

That, of course, is the kicker. Who decides what’s “reasonable”? For example, if an old lady driving an expensive car gets lost and winds up in Overtown, would it be “reasonable” for her to assume that any scary-looking young males dressed in gang attire that might approach her at a traffic light are up to no good?

I suppose time will tell. If crime and murder rates in Florida drop dramatically once this new law takes effect, then it will have been a good idea. Maybe I’m just naive, but I tend to believe that a law that encourages citizens to use deadly force, in a state that already has about 1,000 murders every year, might very well have the opposite effect.

April 7, 2005 @ 10:03 am | Comment

Thanks Vaara, for saying what I was thinking.

Also, I know I’m a bleeding heart, but I look with skepticism at any laws being pushed by the NRA.

April 7, 2005 @ 10:17 am | Comment

Well, try living in Britain then. There was total handgun ban nine years ago and on assault weapons ten years before that. As one would expect, crime – and gun crime in particular – is running wild and the police aren’t much use.

Even better, try living in Ireland for a while. The terrorists/criminals of the IRA and their loyalist counterparts have plenty of illegal weapons and pretty much kill with impunity. No legal firearms makes it a pretty safe proposition for them.

April 8, 2005 @ 3:36 pm | Comment

“crime – and gun crime in particular – is running wild”

Define “running wild”. How many murders are there in the UK now, compared to (say) ten years ago?

April 8, 2005 @ 4:07 pm | Comment

Don’t argue with him, Vaara. Peter actually believes Bush’s guiding principle is spreading freedom and democracy. He’s swallowed the GOP talking points about guns, the UN, libruls and Iraq hook, line and sinker. As though a party that endorses theocratic loons, winks at blatant corruption of leaders at the very highest levels of power, throws people out of taxpayer-funded events becuase of their bumper stickers, and exists solely to be the concierge of the super-rich — as though this could be the party of “freedom and democracy.” Hah. The exact opposite. Completlely 180 degrees opposite.

April 8, 2005 @ 4:53 pm | Comment

richard, your response to Peter may not have been the all-time silliest you’ve ever made, but it comes damn close. With 6 or 8 unrelated issues thrown in for free!

The fact is, no matter which party he favors, Peter was essentially correct. Gun crime in England has doubled in 10-12 years. Florida’s murder rate dropped about 40% in the 10 years after the concealed-carry law passed.

Gun crime and murder are STILL higher in the US than the UK, but overall violent crime is much higher in the UK. I won’t argue causation on all these things, but you’ve got to admit, disarming the victims just COULD be a factor.

Funny, I just put up a post about the Guns and Dope Party. Vote early and often!


April 8, 2005 @ 9:32 pm | Comment

Sam, which points did you find silly?

April 8, 2005 @ 9:39 pm | Comment

Well, he made a rather simple statement about guns and crime in Britain.

Your “rebuttal” was Bush’s guiding principle … He’s swallowed the GOP talking points … UN, libruls and Iraq hook, line and sinker….theocratic loons, …blatant corruption …, throws people out of … and exists solely to be the concierge of the super-rich — as though this could be the party of “freedom and democracy

impassioned polemic, to be sure, but totally irrelevant, as though mentioning an inconvenient fact triggered some kind of automatic partisan mental spasm.

April 8, 2005 @ 9:56 pm | Comment

Sam, that wasn’t my response to Peter. That was my response to Vaara, telling him there was no use trying to argue with Peter over domestic issues because he’s swallowed the Bush party line. I wouldn;t pretend to know enough about gun control in England to comment on it. I am not an outspoken champion of gun control (though I think registration and waiting periods are good ideas, probably) and am aware that it’s no silver bullet. But I see this Florida law as described in the cited article as a step backward, serving only to incite more violence, not less.

April 8, 2005 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

Well, whether he’s Democrat, Republican, or the Periclete of Caborca, he made a verifiable statement. If I were to argue against a statement like “The earth is getting warmer.” with……

Don’t listen to him! That’s the trouble with Libruls…..the destruction of the family…..breaking the taxpayers,,,,,bribery and vote-stealing….public education….Taliban supporters!….Saddam-lovers! Pass the tinfoil !

I suspect you would conclude I was deeply unserious about discussing the question, and give me the approximate credibility of a gnat.

April 8, 2005 @ 10:29 pm | Comment

I don’t care what the politics are, but I can be quite sure that muslims and non whites are going to suffer because of this law.

When a white judge looks at a case where a white man has gunned down an Asian etc, and the gun owner says that he felt threatened, who do you think is not going to be accused of murder.

All you need is for a white man to say that he thought a pair of black guys were going to attack him, and you have a legal loophole that lets him shoot them dead.

Its like having a law that allows a man to murder a homosexual and walk free afterwards if he says that he was afraid of being gay raped.

April 9, 2005 @ 12:18 am | Comment

Gun Laws and Crime in Britain

New firearm legislation was introduced to Britain in 1996 after Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland and shot to death 16 school children and their teacher. Finalised in March 1998, these new gun laws ban handguns, providing compensation to gun owners for their weapons, while still allowing air weapons. Many applauded this move, seeing it as conveying a message about the kind of society Britain wants to be, a message reflecting the belief that the widespread ownership of handguns is not compatible with a sane, civilized or safe society.

Britain’s response to the Dunblane Massacre contrasts sharply with South Africa, in which 461 children under the age of 12 and 358 minors between 12 and 17 years of age were killed by guns in 1998.(1) In short, “each year guns kill enough children to empty an entire school”. (2) But because these deaths result from sporadic incidents of violence instead of in massacres, like Dunblane, we remain tolerant of guns and gun violence.

Britain’s intolerance of firearm violence has impacted on its gun crime trends. Figures from the British Home Office reveal that there has been a substantial decline in gun crimes involving weapons other than airguns since new laws were introduced in 1996. Between 1996 and 1998, there has been an overall drop of 17% in gun crime involving shotguns, handguns and other firearms excluding air guns.

In contrast, air gun use has increased by 11% from 1996 to 1998, suggesting a substitution effect, where airguns are being criminally used instead of guns that have been banned. This increased use of air weapons in Britain has also been attributed to the fact that air guns are now made as exact replicas of real firearms, so pointing to the need to more carefully monitor or even ban replica guns.

The substitution of air weapons for real firearms in crime has not significantly reduced the number of people killed by guns in England and Wales. But this is not surprising as England and Wales have been described as having “notably low death rates by firearms with less than 1 death per 100 000 people”.(3) Consequently, it is unlikely that the introduction of new gun laws would have a dramatic impact on an already low gun death rate.

Indeed, the introduction of new gun legislation to Britain was more than about reducing the number of people injured and killed by guns, being also about conveying a message that Britain refuses to have a gun culture in which guns and gun violence are accepted.

April 9, 2005 @ 12:35 am | Comment

Florida’s murder rate dropped about 40% in the 10 years after the concealed-carry law passed.

Was this during the 1990s? If so, then Florida is not unique. Crime rates in most parts of the country — even in places where there were no changes to gun laws — dropped dramatically during the last decade. Unless you can demonstrate that the murder rate in Florida dropped more quickly than in other states without concealed-carry laws, you don’t have much of an argument. (And even if you can, it’ll still be a case of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.)

You really shouldn’t believe every single thing John Lott tells you.

April 9, 2005 @ 2:44 am | Comment

And on the subject of crime in the UK…

Gun crime in England has doubled in 10-12 years.

No, it hasn’t. From 1994 to 2001, the number of “offences in which firearms were reported to have been used” went from 15,985 to 19,457 (I can’t find the figures for 2003 or 2004). This is according to And according to the British Crime Survey, suring the same period the number of homicides skyrocketed from 726 to 850 (however, in 2002/03 the number jumped to 1,048).

So yes, crime is up. But it certainly hasn’t “doubled.” And most of this increase has taken place within the past three years — the introduction of the gun ban in 1996 had no immediately discernible effect on the homicide rate.

So maybe you should try to find something else to blame the increased crime rate on. Like, I don’t know, asylum seekers or Gypsies. At least that’s what the Tories are doing.

April 9, 2005 @ 3:11 am | Comment

A slight clarification: the homicide figures I mentioned above are for England and Wales only.

And speaking of England and Wales, the very latest crime bulletin from the Home Office [pdf] reveals, among other things, the following:

” – The risk of being a victim of crime, at 25 per cent, is the lowest recorded by the BCS since it began in 1981. [What was that again about crime being “out of control”?]

– The BCS showed statistically significant falls in vehicle thefts, all household crime and all personal crime compared with interviews in the 12 months to September 2003.

– The number of crimes recorded by the police fell by six per cent in July to September 2004 compared to the same period in the previous year. There was a seven per cent increase in crimes of violence against the person over the same period but these increases in recorded violence appear to reflect continuing effects of improved police recording of crime.

– In the year to September 2004 there were a provisional 10,670 firearm offences, representing an increase of five per cent compared with the previous 12 months.”

Now there’s some stuff you’re not likely to read in the Sun or the Telegraph.

(Richard, sorry to clutter up your comments section like this!)

April 9, 2005 @ 3:27 am | Comment

No, it hasn’t. From 1994 to 2001, the number of “offences

You’re trying to refute a statement about a 10-year statistic with 7 years data?

Geez, Vaara, it takes 10 seconds to find it on Google.
from 13,000 to 24,000 in 10 years. So sue me, it’s only ALMOST doubled. Injury from use of firearms has more than doubled in the same period.

And overall violent crime is roughly 50% above the US rate. If you’ll read my post, I’m not arguing causation, just straightening out some silliness about the numbers. And what the hell does John Lott have to do with the fact? Is he married to this Bjorn Lomborg chick?

April 9, 2005 @ 5:35 am | Comment

Fair enough. Though I still wonder why, if you’re not “claiming causation,” you mentioned that factoid about Florida’s dropping crime rate in the context of concealed-carry laws in the first place.

Re: John Lott, he is a leading proponent of the idea that concealed-carry laws reduce crime. I assumed from your earlier post that you were at least somewhat inclined to adopt this view. If that’s not the case, I apologize.

April 9, 2005 @ 7:08 am | Comment

I still wonder why, if you’re not “claiming causation,” you mentioned that factoid about Florida’s …crime

Because you asked.

I’m not sure about Lott’s claims, so can’t support or oppose them. I am an old-school 2nd amendment supporter, but it has nothing to do with statistics. And if Lott is claiming that disarming victims tends to increase victimization, then yes, I would tend to agree.

Speaking of which, after looking at England’s stats, the one thing you can say with absolute certainty is that England’s stricter gun laws did NOT result in lower crime, murder, or criminal gun use.

April 9, 2005 @ 8:47 am | Comment

Well, Lott once wrote a book called More Guns, Less Crime, whose title is about as unambiguous as you can get.

However, he and his theories are — to say the least — controversial.

April 9, 2005 @ 9:05 am | Comment

Japan has extremly low levels of gun ownership, and a population midway between Britain and the US. Its gun crime rates are lower than those for LA, a city a fraction of the Japan.

One of the big problems in the UK is reactivation. The conversion of deactivated blank fireing weapons into live weapons.

Another problem is the use of replica weapons.

Maybe you should look at the number of gun deaths and injuries rather than the number of incidents.

You also need to look at the number of US children accidentally killed by firearms. The numbe ris high and tragic.

April 9, 2005 @ 11:52 pm | Comment

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