Florida Lege Fixing 'Stand Your Ground' Law By Keeping Journalists From Reporting On It
The geniuses in the Florida Legislature are going to pass some important improvements to the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. First off, they're going to fix it so that you can fire a warning shot or wave a gun around for emphasis without any criminal penalty, because sometimes you don't actually need deadly force (not that there's anything wrong with deadly force, but you should have options). And another provision in that bill, passed by the House last Thursday, would also make it harder to report on such shootings by expunging the records in any case where charges are dropped because of a Stand Your Ground defense. For some reason, journalists think this is a bad idea. Probably because they don't appreciate the important role that the Second Amendment has played in freedom of the press. It's not like there are any other amendments.
The NRA is pretty excited about the part of the law that would leave no record behind after a good clean kill:
"If you didn't do anything wrong, why should you have a record that you did?" [NRA lobbyist Marion] Hammer said. "Why would the public need to know that? A person's right under the Constitution is to be free of persecution, so it's not right that you could be persecuted because of something that is inaccurate, for something that you didn't do."
And yet, strangely, there is no similar move to expunge records for other crimes, which seems maybe a little short-sighted of the NRA. Also, we weren't previously aware that Americans have a right to be completely free of any record of their past actions, if those actions might make people feel unkindly toward them. Sadly, Ms. Hammer did not specify where the Constitution guarantees the right not to be criticized. We're pretty sure that's in the Eleventyeth Amendment.
Journalists seem to have this crazy notion that even after charges are dropped, the public has some kind of crazy right to know about what those charges were in the first place, as if the circumstances of a human being getting gunned down were a legitimate matter of concern to the public. Take, for instance, the reporters and editors at the Tampa Bay Times, who won a bunch of awards for an investigation into how Florida's Stand Your Ground law was applied, finding that 73% of defendants claiming SYG successfully avoided prosecution when the victim was black, compared to only 59% when the victim was white. (Though really, "victim" is such a judgmental term -- shouldn't a nicer word be used when the shooter is exonerated? Maybe "thug" would work.)
Times editor Neil Brown told Media Matters,
"Closing records and putting controversial cases that involve violence into the dark is a bad idea, it is against democracy ... This would have inhibited our work further. Our work was done based on court records as well as the stories of the incidents when they occurred."
The prizewinning Times story would have been largely impossible if the records had been expunged, according to Kris Hudley, one of the reporters who worked on it:
"If those were expunged, I don't know how you would ever do any kind of meaningful look back at the law," Hundley said. "I think it was important because it gave people a sense of how it was applied across the state, how judges made different decisions faced with similar cases and the wide variety of cases in which it was employed. It showed the law was being expanded to far beyond what the legislators anticipated and (was) applied unevenly."
Which, if you think about it, is exactly how the Founders would have wanted it, since they objected to any possible restriction on guns, right? If they had wanted reporters to be able to snoop into court records, they surely would have said something about that when they wrote the Second Amendment.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.