On June 3, 2012 a thought-provoking article was published in the Tampa Bay Times. The article brought to light some of the disturbing consequences of a well-intended law being inconsistently interpreted and applied by law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
I am a firm believer in the right of self-defense and have had a concealed carry permit for several years. I also believe that most folks who have concealed carry permits in Florida are thoughtful (as I think I am) and take seriously the great responsibility that accompanies the right to carry a firearm.
I hesitated for many years before I applied for my concealed carry permit. The cause of my hesitation was my concern for the potential civil and criminal implications that might result if I ever used a firearm in self-defense. The passage of the “Stand Your Ground” law in 2005 clinched the deal for me.
Under the 2005 law, a person who uses a firearm in self-defense has a statutory presumption of innocence. Moreover, they are immune from civil liability if they are found to have acted reasonably.
While I was waiting for my permit to be approved (it takes several weeks), I bought and read an excellent book, Florida Firearms Law, Use & Ownership written by Jon Gutmacher. The author is a Florida attorney who specializes in self-defense litigation. His book presents a responsible approach to concealed carry.
For example, Gutmacher argues that a cell phone and a smart dog are better self-defense options than a firearm. I agree. He also urges readers to employ “situational awareness” to avoid ending up in places and doing things that are likely to result in life-and-death scenarios.
Gutmacher’s book, which I have read several times and given as gifts, was instrumental in helping me to form my own views about carrying a firearm. I want to avoid the possibility of ever needing to use any weapon in self-defense. As my Granny used to say “a gun will get you into more trouble than it will get you out of.” She was probably right.
Nevertheless, given my notoriety as “the most hated man in Florida” and the number of uninvited night-time visitors I’ve had show-up unannounced at my home, I appreciate the right to use a firearm in self-defense, if necessary.
As a side note, one of those uninvited visitors was actually carrying a poorly concealed gun in his pants. He also ernestly announced that Jesus Christ told him to pay me a visit. Thankfully, it all ended without violence, but I was prepared for the worst.
So, here’s my point: everyone has the right to feel secure whenever they are, where they should be, and are doing what they should be doing. But no one should be out looking for trouble, hoping to abuse the “Stand Your Ground” law. Sadly, I have no doubt there are folks who are doing just that.
I’ll reserve judgement for George Zimmerman. I realize that we don’t have all of the facts and we probably never will. I do, however, suspect that if Mr. Zimmerman had read and applied the principles of Jon Gutmacher’s little book we would not know his name.
Perhaps one of the results of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin will be a reexamination of the “Stand Your Ground” law and a sincere and successful effort to fairly apply the law regardless of race or social station. If not we are likely to see a lot more cases like George Zimmerman’s.