Ground Your Stand

A million people in Florida have permits to carry concealed guns. Let’s hope those people enjoy better auto traffic conditions than San Francisco.

I focus on Florida because of two recent killings of unarmed 17-year-old African Americans there, George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin and Michael Dunn’s shooting of Jordan Davis.

It appears that both gunmen will rely on the “Stand Your Ground” defense, which says a person can use deadly force against a potential assailant if he or she has reasonable cause to suspect the assailant will attack.

Even as I write this, the nation is grieving the deaths of more than two dozen people—most of them young children—shot at a peaceful school by someone who should never have been allowed access to a gun.

Despite what our friends in the National Rifle Association will say, it has become painfully obvious that we have a gun problem in America.

First, confession time: I do not own a gun.  I do not trust myself with one.  And I consider myself a pretty reasonable, trustworthy guy.  If I don’t trust myself with a gun, I have very serious doubts about whether you should have one either. I don’t care what weapons training you’ve had.

Even here in peace-loving, hippie-dippie San Francisco, I confront situations on a daily basis that could easily erupt into violence.  People have killed each other here in disputes over parking spaces.  People have been killed at children’s birthday parties.

If I carried a gun with me in my car during the typical morning commute, there may be mayhem:

The stupid students who jump in front of oncoming traffic to catch a bus while texting their friends on their cell phones would probably only get a warning shot fired over their heads, in hopes that they might notice and mend their ways. It’s questionable whether they would notice, even more so whether they would change.

But the guy who swerves into my lane without signaling is clearly a threat to me and the public in general. If I applied the Stand Your Ground principle, he’d be toast.

And the woman who backed her car into traffic without looking to see if there were any cars or pedestrians in her way—well, she’s clearly a danger and would be in danger of paying the ultimate penalty.

Now, such examples are obviously an exaggeration of the potential consequences of Stand Your Ground.  But when one examines the two killings in Florida cited above, my seemingly minor traffic disputes take on lethal proportions.  Ever since Oedipus unknowingly killed his father, King Laius, in a traffic dispute in ancient Greece, road rage has been recognized as a real peril in daily travel.

Groundless fear of the mere possibility of another person’s harmful intentions should never be grounds for preventive homicide.  C’mon, gun owners, get grounded before you take your stand.

About pwandersen

Patrick W. Andersen's debut novel, Second Born, won critical acclaim for its reimagining of the life of Jesus as he grew up with his brothers and sisters in Sepphoris. His new novel, Acts of the Women, tells stories of how women, in the decades after the crucifixion, helped give birth to what eventually became Christianity.
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