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Ross Nelson, Published April 14 2012

Nelson: Liberals use killing to twist law

Never letting a good crisis go to waste continues to be the motto of liberals everywhere after the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida last February. All we know now with any certainty about Martin’s death is that George Zimmerman, the shooter, started the incident. But anti-gunners, liberals and others lacking in ratiocinative abilities have decided that Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” gun law is behind Martin’s death. By implication, the dozen or so other states’ SYG laws are similarly dangerous.

“Stand your ground” laws in a nutshell mean the victim is free to try to retreat wherever faced with the threat of great bodily harm but doesn’t have to. It’s a common-sensical response to a serious criminal threat.

But one thing is clear: Whatever happened in the Martin killing would have happened whether or not Florida had such a law. That being the case, liberals must be objecting to the supposed effect of the law on the prosecutors’ and police handling of Zimmerman, not to the law itself. But Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense and his arrest are a matter for evidence, police reports and witness testimony to support or deny.

Another thing is clear: Florida’s SYG law is no license to blaze away. It states that deadly force is justifiable only if a person “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another. ...”

Several years ago, Minnesota police chiefs, sheriffs and other bureaucrats and paper-shufflers drew grim pictures of OK Corrals happening all across the state if firearm permits were allowed, which they eventually were. Despite the officials’ distrust and dislike of their fellow residents, Minnesotans have acted responsibly just as have residents of other states with permit laws.

But when a Minnesota SYG bill was introduced, the same suspects marched up to Gov. Mark Dayton with the same groundless notion that OK Corrals would be unleashed across the state. Wild speculations of gunfights in backyards and cops getting gunned down on sidewalks by ordinary citizens filled the air. (If Minnesotans are this dangerous, I hope their law enforcement agencies recruit from other states.) Dayton, a cipher who promised to sit in on Crystal Sugar union/management lockout talks to get something done but failed to do so, saw a chance to do something bold but costless that would satisfy the paper-shufflers, and vetoed the bill.

The anti-gunners mistakenly or deceptively seem to argue that a SYG law allows a person to use deadly force, then simply claim self-defense and walk away scot-free. This isn’t the case anywhere the law holds: As with traditional castle doctrine (in-home defense) cases, a thorough investigation must follow any such use of force. If that doesn’t happen, it’s law enforcement, not the law, that’s at fault.

Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary page.

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