The AFN has now published two rebuttals to a guest comment by AZ PASS Chair Ellen Davis following the Zimmerman verdict in Florida. Ms. Davis asked us if we wanted a society in which aggressive gun-toting people get to shoot the rest of us without a fear of legal consequence?
Two members of our community decided that Davis was way off base to ask that question in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.
They contended that stand your ground (“SYG”) laws were not relevant to that case and that such laws are necessary for individuals to be able to defend themselves in public places. One of the respondents also noted that gun control does not work anyway citing Chicago as the place with the tightest gun laws and the highest murder rate in the country. That respondent also pointed out that the use of guns to save lives in circumstances of self-defense happens all the time but goes unreported and so we should all be thankful because a private citizen with a gun might save our life someday.
These points presented in opposition to Davis questioning SYG laws’ empowerment of aggressive and violent people who may choose to use guns to intimidate and, well, decide to kill anyone they find “threatening” are not useful to find ways to reduce gun violence.
First of all, SYG was relevant to the Zimmerman case. The instructions to the jury regarding Zimmerman’s duty to retreat if possible (and it was very possible in that case since the 911 operator told him to do so) were very different than they would have been without the SYG law. Before SYG, the jury would have had to consider if he had taken the opportunity not to be involved in the confrontation in the first place. After SYG, the jury could not take that into account. So SYG is completely relevant to the case, even if not invoked by the defense.
Chicago. Let’s set the record straight about Chicago. While the city has specific ordinances, Illinois generally does not have the most restrictive gun laws in the America. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranked nine states higher in terms of gun law strength. Chicago does not have the highest murder rate in the country. New Orleans has the highest murder rate in the U.S. Atlanta, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis and Miami all had higher murder rates than Chicago in the latest year of comparable data (2011). Chicago was not even in the top 15 of major metropolitan areas on this score. Please also consider that more than half of all crime guns traced by Chicago police originated in other states with laxer gun laws than Illinois. And by the way, California’s gun laws have led to a sharp drop in gun murders in that state. So let’s focus on the laxer gun laws in states like Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana and Missouri rather than Chicago and Illinois when this argument is being put forward by the gun lobby and their supporters.
Finally, there is no hard evidence to back the argument that private citizens use guns all the time to save lives. Anecdotes are not hard evidence. There is hard evidence though to document that guns in the home are far more likely to lead to the injury or death of a member of that household or a friendly visitor than the death or injury of a dangerous intruder. Ask your doctor or your children’s or grandchildren’s pediatrician what their professional associations recommend about having a gun in the home.
It is a truly strange thing that some, thankfully only a loud minority, in Ahwatukee seem to love their guns more than other people. They should seriously rethink that … their gun is statistically much more likely to injure or kill someone they love than it is to save any of their neighbors’ lives. And that is a hard truth.
• Ahwatukee resident Bryan L. Brinkley is secretary of Arizona People Acting for a Safer Society (AZ PASS). For more information, visit www.azpass.org.