Friday, April 15, 2005

"'Armed Vigilantes: The New Face of the Republican Party"

Totally Awesome Piece by the Nashua Advocate, one of my favorite blogs.

Armed Vigilantes: The New Face of the Republican Party


This is a news story about a Google headline, "Florida National Rifle Association Bill Would Allow People To Kill Others In Public."

This is a news story about how that headline is not, by any means, an exaggeration, and about how the story underlying that headline is brought to you not by some obscure troglodyte on the X-con frontier, but the likely Republican presidential candidate in 2008--and the brother (God help us, the "smart" one) of our current President--Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

So, we begin.

Perhaps no tenet of criminal law is more venerable than the doctrine of self-defense.

The theory, of course, is that if a person has a reasonable apprehension that deadly force is about to be used against them, or if deadly force is the only reasonable means available to adequately repel a violent physical battery, self-defense may--repeat, may--excuse said person from criminal liability (notice we don't say "prosecution") for their violent response to that violent aggression.

And for as long as that principle has been in effect in the criminal law, there has been a corresponding, ineluctable principle to go along with it: the so-called "duty to retreat."

That legal duty--and what could be more sensible than this?--says that if someone is attacking you violently, you have a duty to make a good faith effort at retreating from the situation before responding with force, and that if you do respond with force, the level of force you employ must be reasonable in light of the level of force being used against you.

To put it in simpler terms, a bar fight which involves two men grappling is a circumstance in which the law will frequently recognize that meaningful "retreat" is impossible; in contrast, beating a man who's just hit you to a bloody pulp on the sidewalk in front of your house--instead of walking inside your house and calling the police--will not likely be considered an instance of "self-defense."

Put even more simply?

You can't just unload on someone who's hurt you and call it self-defense. The laws of this nation are designed, thankfully, to avoid any sort of unnecessary violence, including violence righteously meted out in direct response to someone else's unilaterally-initiated violence.

It's sensible, it's humane, and it promotes public safety to offer citizens the right of self-defense.

It's equally sensible, and humane, and wise to balance that right with a clearly-delineated (that is, not unrealistic) duty to retreat.

Well, all that's about to end in Florida, if Jeb Bush has anything to say about it.

That guy who threatens to knock your block off at a Little League game because your kid is playing more than his? Now you'll be able to blow his brains out with a concealed weapon.

The man who punches you with a closed fist at a neighborhood barbecue? Jeb Bush seems to suggest you can snipe his testicles off with a 9mm.

The crazy homeless woman who hits you with a stick while you're shopping downtown? Jeb Bush advises that you get her in your crosshairs, take the safety off on your titanium-alloy .357, and put a hole through her eye the size of a clementine.

Under the new Defense of Persons and Property Act supported by Jeb Bush--that's right, did we mention you can protect property with deadly force, too?--Florida citizens as religiously wed to the notion of a "culture of life" as President Bush and his brother will have the God-given right to blow each other to Kingdom Come with small-arms fire over Nike running shoes, a swift kick to the groin, a threatening candygram, or a treehouse dispute over baseball cards.

In fact, reading the text of the Act it seems you can put a hole through just about anybody--and spray the surrounding landscape with several quarts of their hot, steaming blood--for just about no reason at all: indeed, merely believing you are "in danger of" a series of ills, including the as-yet undefined "great harm," can justify deadly force under the Act.

[Likewise, "forcible felonies" being committed against you--which sounds reasonable until you realize that hitting someone with a stick as thick as your pinkie-finger is actually a felony, not merely a misdemeanor, in most states, and that such an assault is no less a felony if it is being committed by a ninety year-old woman, as opposed to a twenty-three year-old hoodlum].

According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times (see link above), "Florida State University criminology professor Gary Kleck says he doesn't think the new law will register much with criminals or citizens. 'I don't think criminals really have any idea about the intricacies of the law on self-defense,' Kleck said wryly. 'And the same folks who weren't likely to retreat before, will continue to not retreat.'"

Currently, more than 340,000 people in Florida have a permit to hold a concealed weapon or firearm.

Under the new law, The Nashua Advocate expects that, within the next few years, a good number of these people will be a) dead; b) in prison; or c) in psychiatric counseling for the rest of their natural lives for having murdered a neighbor over a piece of undercooked Steak-Um.

Think Republicans are tough on crime? You bet!

Think they're smart about getting tough on crime? You kidding?

Think the Republican version of getting tough on crime--let's summarize: "armed vigilantism"--makes you or your family safer? Think again.

[And if you think we're the only ones whose hearts are skipping a beat or two over this terrifying development in Florida politics, consider this NBC News headline: "Florida National Rifle Association Bill Would Allow Meeting 'Force With Force': People Who Feel Threatened Could Use Deadly Force."

So, ever "felt threatened"?


You'll feel a lot better when you've put whosoever has threatened you six feet underground.

To quote bill sponsor and Florida Republican Representative Dennis Baxley--who obviously is not a lawyer, knows nothing of criminal law, has never met a criminal, has never been in a gunfight, and certainly has no regard for the opinions of Florida police officers, who are broadly skeptical of if not downright hostile toward his bill--"I'm sorry, people, but if I'm attacked I shouldn't have a duty to retreat. That's a good way to get shot in the back."

That's right, people, this lobotomy patient is making up the criminal justice system policies which will endanger you and your family for years to come.

And the operative words there are "making up."

Three other operative phrases, in case you were wondering, are "The Sunshine State," "Sunny Florida," and "The O.K. Corral"].

Speaking of the Republican Party and armed vigilantes...

...Just what the hell is going on with the Republican Party and armed vigilantes?

In what's increasingly becoming a national trend (our readers will recall recent comments by Republican Senator John Cornyn, and Republican Representative Tom DeLay, which seemed to condone armed vigilantism against federal judges) Republicans are supporting the gun-toting, mayhem-birthing rights of armed vigilantes not only in Florida, but way across the country in Arizona as well.

In a news story of the count-how-many-things-could-go-terribly-awry-here variety, partisans of the Republican Party are openly supporting [you can actually buy tee-shirts here] a thuggish band of armed vigilantes--who variously call themselves "migrant hunters" and Minutemen--who have taken it upon themselves to patrol the Arizona-Mexico border looking for illegal immigrants.

These largely jobless, vagrant, did-we-say-armed vigilantes are the new darlings of the Right, and a horror to those of us (like our News Editor) who were born in and around Concord, Massachusetts, where almost 230 years ago real Minutemen engaged in then-illegal acts of an entirely different stripe and character: to wit, freeing the citizens of this then-colonial nation from an oppressive cross-Atlantic regime.

So, which part of this story calls to mind those brave civilians who died on the North Bridge in Concord, or on the Battle Green in Lexington, or at the Battle of Bunker Hill, or in the frosty woods of Watertown?

[Chime in whenever you like].

A lone Army reservist accused of holding seven Mexican nationals at gunpoint this week at a desolate Arizona rest stop has renewed concerns about vigilante justice and violence along the Arizona-Mexico border.

The arrest of Sgt. Patrick Haab, 24, comes as various civilian groups embark on self-described border-patrol missions to target undocumented workers and help stop the flow of illegal immigration along the busiest illegal crossing on the Southwest border.

Haab, an Iraq war veteran, was apparently acting on his own when sheriff's deputies say he saw seven men pile into a sport utility vehicle on Interstate 8 and ordered them to lie on the ground or be shot.


"Even law enforcement has to have probable cause before taking people out of their cars and telling them to lie on the ground...He threatened to kill them," [Maricopa County Sheriff Joe] Arpaio said. "He did not have the right to do what he did. How did he know they were illegal aliens?"

Arpaio is considered the biggest law-and-order sheriff in the United States, so don't you think for a moment he's some diaper-twisting, hand-wringing hippie.

If he says something's illegal, you better believe it's only meters shy of a war crime.

Ah, Conservativism.


Apple pie.

Abortion-clinic bombings.

The murder of federal judges.

And now several thousand backwater Rambos in southern Arizona.

What's next? An attempt to kill the estate tax in a thinly-veiled ploy to line the silk purses of millionaire heiresses like Paris Hilton?


Even the Republicans aren't such jack-booted thugs.

So, if you've an assault weapon, a bazooka, a grenade launcher, or a Stinger handy, please head to either Florida or Arizona forthwith.

Because to hear the Republicans tell it, there's a neighbor with an anger management problem, or maybe even (fingers crossed!) a Mexican immigrant seeking a better life for his family, just waiting for you to smoke his ass.

[NOTE TO REPUBLICANS: The above is a satire. It does not constitute legal advice. Advocate Staff, unlike the Republican Congressional leadership and the Bush family, does not advocate violence].

posted by News Editor at 4/13/2005 10:50:00 PM | 2 comments  

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