9/06 If It’s In The New York Times

If It’s In The Times, It Must Be News
Larry Pratt

I did an interview with a French journalist calling from Radio France International. Almost as soon as I finished, I saw an article in the New York Times.

That connected the dots. It was evident that the French reporter had simply read off the Times article for the interview.

The French radio reporter asked about the 15 states that had expanded the right to shoot in self-defense. Well, that was the exact title of the print article.

The French reporter asked how I would respond to critics who charge that the legislation constitutes a “license to kill.” That was the exact quote from Sarah Brady of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in the newspaper article.

Then the reporter asked how one would evaluate the new law when it meant that there would be no charges against a prostitute who shot her client. Of course, that came right out of the article, too.

The article was nearly five pages when printed out. Way down toward the end of the article, the answer to the last question is provided. But someone just skimming and not reading past the second paragraph would think that, “Oh, no. Now even prostitutes can shoot people, claim self defense, and walk. Indeed, a license to kill.”

It turns out that the prostitute used her client’s gun and shot him when she learned of his suicide letter that made it clear that he was going to kill her before killing himself. As it was, a prosecutor lamented that the new law meant that the prostitute was no longer required to flee. As he is quoted, under the previous law, “before you could use deadly force, you had to retreat.”

Well, that is not true. The common law had no such dangerous requirement. The stand-your-ground law in Florida simply tied the hands of prosecutors, such as the one quoted, who choose to go after victims for using a gun to defend themselves.

The idea that the prostitute should have retreated before shooting is dangerous in the extreme. Since she had just succeeded in grabbing the wannabe murderer’s gun, what makes anybody think that she should play hide and seek with a maniac? If she is not going to shoot a man in pursuit, he will likely grab the gun and kill her. It is armchair, Monday-morning quarterbacks such as the quoted prosecutor, who think that retreat is a preferred solution.

We know, however, from the research of scholars such as Florida State University’s Gary Kleck, that one is always safer using a gun than following any other strategy, such as no resistance or retreat.

The same “the victim should have retreated” argument convicted a taxi driver who shot and killed a customer before Florida’s new law went into effect. He is now getting a new trial because the necessity to retreat is no longer a possible argument for anti-self defense prosecutors.

The taxi driver was paid by a sports bar to take a drunk to his home. The driver had gotten out of his car, evidently to help the drunk into his house. The drunk threatened him, and the driver fired two warning shots. The drunk kept coming so the driver shot him. A relative of the dead drunk said, “He could have shot him in the knee.”

Yeah, right. That only happens in the movies. When real people in real life are under real attack, they do well to even pull the trigger and hit the center of mass that is 10 feet from them. Again, the armchair quarterback, months later in a well-protected courtroom has the luxury of thinking up all kinds of “what ifs.”‘ In real life the driver could well have died or been seriously injured unless he did what he did.

Three cheers for the new stand-your-ground law. It is working.