There’s a lot of noise being made about Stand Your Ground laws owing to the mistaken belief that they legalize Wild West behavior. Florida’s law is not unusual, as more states have Stand Your Ground laws than don’t. 26 states have them, in fact. 19 more have Castle laws, as in “a man’s home is his castle”, more popularly known as “Make My Day” laws, a term that came into vogue in my home state when Colorado passed its Castle law in 1985.
What Stand Your Ground does is to remove the requirement that one must attempt flight before acting in self defense. That’s why I’m in favor of it. Out in the really world where criminals find their victims, flight is rarely an option. That’s why every women’s self defense course stresses that the very best defense is to be aware of your surroundings and avoid places where crimes can be concealed and from which flight is impossible. The bad guys don’t want you to have the option to escape because it foils their plans if you do, and they set things up so you can’t. But there’s more to it than that. I love telling stories, so here’s one to illustrate:
Back in 1990 or so, a buddy of mine went to the ATM at the Home Savings across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, deep in the heart of white bread suburbia. (When I say “white bread suburbia” I don’t mean a predominately paleface community. I mean generic, dull, uninspiring, and so on. White bread.) He pulled $200 from the ATM and turned to find himself faced, at a respectable but still uncomfortable distance, by five gangsters from South Central LA. South Central was just 25 miles away, but for all we knew of it in white bread Orange County it might as well have been on Jupiter. They demonstrated their handguns and informed him that they’d not hurt him if he just handed the money over, so he did. He held the cash out at arm’s length and one of the gangsters stepped forward and retrieved it at arm’s length. My buddy didn’t recognize it as such, but what they were doing was demonstrating to him that they meant it when they said they weren’t going to hurt him if he cooperated. That should have been the end of the encounter.
As they returned to their car and he to his truck, my buddy got about 30 feet from them and, unable to contain his fear any longer, broke into a run toward his truck. They shot him twice, once in the ass and once in the shoulder, with the shoulder hit being relatively superficial. The bullet in the ass dropped him, and the gangsters split.
Just now all of my white bread suburbanite readers are wondering why they shot him. They’d promised they wouldn’t shoot him if he cooperated, he did cooperate, they had the money, and the encounter was over. Right?
Wrong. They shot him because he ran toward his vehicle. In South Central when someone you’ve just been in or intend to get into an altercation with runs to his vehicle he’s going for a gun. So in their eyes, his flight was a threatening action and they acted in self defense. (He survived, by the way. He had a limp for a good while afterward.)
That’s one of the reasons why flight can be one’s worst option in an encounter with criminals. Understandable? Sure. No one wants to hang around to see what happens next. It’s understandable but not always wise. Any law that dictates that your right to self defense is predicated upon a failed attempt or clear inability to flee is bullshit for this reason alone.
Another story because I loves me some story tellin’. It’s one I mentioned in my last post.
I was walking alone down Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood late one fine Saturday night, going from The Whisky A-Go-Go to where my car was parked near Carney’s where I often went for “probably the best hot dogs and hamburgers in the world”. A very scary looking gentleman came from a side street and informed me he was selling Girl Scout cookies. I laughed right out loud at that, it being so original and entertaining. I knew he was a mugger (AKA strong arm robber), of course. I backed up a step while he explained that he really wasn’t selling Girl Scout cookies and all he wanted was five dollars. Just five bucks, and he was going to get it one way or another so I ought to just hand it over so we could both go our own ways.
If you’re a white bread suburbanite, you’re thinking that’s pretty cheap and I ought to just give the dude five bucks and be on my merry way. That’s exactly what most white bread suburbanites think, and that’s what this guy was counting on me thinking, too. I might have been a white bread suburbanite at that time, but I wasn’t a stupid one. 😀
There are two ways muggers work. The first is that they just ambush you before you even know they’re there, but that is a really hard scenario to set up so isn’t all that common. Usually they’re working in places where ambushes aren’t so easy, so they just approach their victims directly, or wait for their victims to approach them. Then they set you up: Hey man, got… a smoke, a light, the time, spare change, directions to the 7-11 that’s supposed to be around here, something like that. The goal is to occupy your hands and avert your gaze. With one or both hands occupied and you not looking directly at them, they’ve got a great advantage in the attack that’s coming. They want you on the ground, at least stunned and frightened, unconscious if need be (though some prefer you to be unconscious for their own safety), so they can take your cash and anything else of value or interest that you’ve got. That’s why the Girl Scout cookie man told me that all he wanted was five dollars — so I’d reach for my money to occupy my hands, and look at it to avert my gaze. He’d have been on me the instant I put my hand into my pocket. Guys like that, they are going to hurt you. And if that boot to the head intended to knock you out instead kills you, well, tough shit.
So I didn’t play. When I stepped back I’d turned my body so I was not standing square on to him, and from there I assumed all of a fighting stance except to fully raise my arms. There was enough separation between us that I’d have plenty of time to react if he twitched in my direction. I told him he’d have to earn whatever he took from me, and he obviously hadn’t expected that. He said, more statement than question, “You’re serious, aren’t you?”. I said something indicating that I was both serious and impatient, and he figured he was more interested in muggings than street fights. “It’s cool man” was all he said, turning his palms upward as he turned to walk away. I waited until he was 50 feet or so down the side street and quickly walked my heathen ass down to Carney’s for something to eat. I was too exhausted from the adrenaline rush to drive safely.
I could have run away, but I’d have got only as far as the next side street. I can’t prove that he had an accomplice there, but the fact that he didn’t rush me when I turned by body as I stepped back, which could have been taken as an indication of intent to run, leads me to believe he wasn’t concerned about an attempted escape. It’s a common strategy: If the target turns to run, the accomplice just trips him as he passes.
So, again, fleeing would have been the worst response. Chances are that Mr. Girl Scout Cookie was a much faster runner anyway and would have ground half of my face off on the pavement when he landed on top of me as we went down at a dead run.
When I was young I could do those kinds of things. I was strong and fast, had great stamina, very fast reflexes, and martial arts training. Now that I’m old, I don’t try to fool myself that I’m not. I’m not that young man that I used to be. Life is non-threatening here in Dinkytown, but when we go elsewhere I go armed. I avoid bad situations, sketchy looking people, and all of that, but I will not risk that a mistake, a miscalculation, or a random encounter will get Amethyst or me dead.
Speaking of which: Far, far more often than not, showing an aggressive antagonist that there’s a gun involved ends the encounter immediately. One guy said to me, “That fucking gun doesn’t scare me! You could have ten fucking guns it wouldn’t scare me!”. He still didn’t think it wise to cross the point of no return, though, so he went away under his own power. It’s been said, though by people with agendas, that firearms are used successfully in self defense without being fired something like a couple million times a year in the US. I don’t know how true that two million number is, but it seems plausible that it’s a very large number nevertheless. Most folks who scare someone away by waving a gun don’t call the pigs afterward, so there’s no way to get an accurate number.
For several months, as a teenager, I worked at a fast food joint right in the heart of the FxTroop (pronounced as F Troop) barrio. We got robbed pretty regularly, and didn’t ever call the pigs until after the robbers left. The pigs always showed up playing SWAT team games, surrounding the joint with their weapons and spotlights pointed in at us, all that stuff. That’s precisely why we didn’t hit the silent alarm while the robbers were still there — the nervous macho ass pigs would have killed us. We just gave the money up, no worries, as long as the robbers didn’t try to come over the counter or harm or grab at an employee. Then we’d call the non-emergency number. BUT, if the robbers came over the counter or grabbed at an employee, my friend who was the manager put his .38 in their faces and started counting, “1… 2….”. They always left in a helluva fine hurry, even if they were armed themselves. (Frank was not Hispanic but he looked like he was of la raza so was given leeway. If I’d done that I’d have been killed the first time.)
One night when I was on my way home I stopped at a traffic signal just outside the barrio — a dangerous place to be a pinche gringo. I’d given a co-worker a ride home, and would find out the next day that her folks were exceedingly displeased that she had so much as accepted a ride from a pinche gringo. I found out she’d left the passenger door unlocked when a cholo jumped in and flicked his switchblade open in front of my face. My switchblade was bigger (or maybe he figured I was more willing to kill him than he was to kill me) so he jumped back out again. I have no idea what he wanted. I didn’t have to use the weapon, just show it.
When I was a field engineer working in Southern California, I often had to go to factories and other facilities in unsavory neighborhoods. I met muggers, carjackers, and random tough guys of unknown intent who just couldn’t stand white people in their neighborhoods, way too often. It sucked. Obligatory video clip:
I was a victim zero times. I probably broke the law most times… the fucks I give about the law are zero when choosing whether it’s a live defendant or a dead victim I intend to become.
So, bullshit on laws that say you must first attempt flight.
Stand Your Ground does not mean “claim you were askeert and you can kill anyone you want”. It means that if you are attacked or are clearly about to be, you are not obligated to attempt flight before taking up self defense. That’s all. SYG does not mean you are authorized to use lethal force for just any old threat — if you use lethal force when it is not warranted, SYG won’t save your ass. Stand Your Ground means only that you are not obligated to flee.
Some vigilante types might try to use SYG to excuse their crimes, and some small number of them might even get away with it. A very small number, as the bar is not set low. How’s that go? It’s better a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent go to prison? Something like that. I believe it, too. Sending innocents to prison, or, worse, to their deaths, is absolutely unacceptable. We do it all the time.
If all you know is white bread suburbia, fine. I’m very sincerely happy for you. I wish all Americans could know that kind of security. But if that’s all you know you cannot fully appreciate the reasons for Stand Your Ground laws. So let’s you and I not have that discussion until after you’ve gone out and somehow eliminated all of the violent crime, including that done by rabid tasmanian pig devils. Then laws securing one’s right to self defense won’t be necessary to keep innocents out of prison, and I’ll not mind their repeal. Until then? I’m going armed, and if forced to choose I’ll be the live defendant rather than the dead victim.
Colorado (where I live), by the way, does not have a Stand Your Ground law. If it happens, I could go to prison for defending myself. How nice.