The Old Gray Lady continues to caterwaul over citizens ready, willing and able to defend themselves and the law that backs them up
By Mark Cromer
There are no shortage of subjects these days that can set to rapid boil the blood of the editorial writers at The New York Times (as well as some of its news staff); from enforcement of immigration laws to gun ownership rights, from the micro-terror of college students playfully sporting sombreros on Halloween to the macro-horror of suggesting a fetus at nine months may actually qualify as ‘a baby,’ the editorial scribes at 620 Eighth Avenue in midtown Manhattan gotta whole lotta of irons in the ideological bonfires that keep their camp aglow.
Readers were reminded of this once more late last week as The Times, well, unloaded on those dastardly summamaguns in the Tallahassee, Florida, statehouse who have been advancing legislation to expand the scope of its watershed 2005 ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that codified a citizen’s right to defend his or her life—and property—by stating explicitly there was no duty to retreat in the face of danger.
At The Times, any effort to support or defend the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law—let alone actually using it as a defense in a court of law—is portrayed as an outrageous act that further emboldens citizens into believing they actually have a right to defend their lives, their loved ones and everything they’ve worked for in the face of another individual or individuals intent on taking it.
“This dangerous bill would make worse an already notorious law that allows an individual to use deadly force,” The Times wrote. “Without first attempting to retreat from a dangerous situation.”
At its essence, The Times editorial stance is in fact just a louder and clearer enunciation of the position that an increasing segment of the progressive Left has smoothly slipped into over the past forty years: when confronted by a violent street thug, citizens are obligated to retreat, run and surrender, to hand over their wallets, their wives, their children and ultimately their own lives as well as anything else a poor marginalized felon on parole might desire.
The mantra from The Times is clear: either run or comply with the criminals’ demands and hand over everything before laying face down on the floor. Await your fate in the liberating knowledge this is where the rubber of social justice meets the road of socioeconomic reparations: you deserve whatever the marginalized parolee deems necessary to dole out to you.
The national newspaper of record bellowed that the bill currently moving through the Florida legislature will “turn the hearing process on its head” by placing the burden on prosecutors to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the citizen using deadly force was not eligible to do so. In other words, if passed the bill would force prosecutors to demonstrate in a pre-hearing just why a deadly force incident was clearly not a case of self-defense.
The only thing turned upside down is The Times sense of reality for everyday Americans if the newspaper’s editorial board truly believes this legislation is a grievous attack on civil society. In fact, this bill is the reflective expression of a civil society increasingly fed-up and feeling ever more vulnerable to violent professional predators that simply no longer fear a system they’ve long gotten used to gaming.
In The Times midtown Manhattan tower, national crime statistics are molded more creatively than a kindergartner with a can of Play-Doh, carefully shaped into a dovetailed message that crime is down and Americans today are safer than in any previous generation of the modern era.
Most Americans clearly feel differently, and they trust their own instincts.
And because most of them don’t live in doorman buildings on the Upper East Side or in gated, privately patrolled beachfront enclaves in Malibu, they tend to view their self-defense decisions through a prism of their own vulnerabilities, an exposure that seems to be multiplying exponentially in many communities as states like California pour tens of thousands of convicted felons back onto the streets as part of a so-called realignment of the ‘corrections system.’
Flushing torrents of convicted felons back onto the streets while claiming they were not violent offenders—most of them were convicted for drug-related offenses—assumes that their convictions are reflective of their actual criminal history. As any cop, prosecutor or defense counsel can tell you, a lot of the criminal flotsam sent upstream pulled a ticket of lesser charges than what they could have gone down for, so an assault charge gets pled down to a possession beef and binga-banga-boom, waddya know, the convict wasn’t doing time for a violent crime even though he committed one.
And even convicted killers are now pouring back onto the streets in numbers so mind-numbingly stunning that it seems more of a horrifyingly grotesque goof by a band of modern Neros eager to enjoy the resulting gruesome show than some grand social experiment at ending mass incarceration.
How about ending the ongoing mass victimization of Mr. & Mrs. Everyday American?
By February 2016, fabled liberal Democrat Jerry Brown, California’s longest serving governor, had approved for parole more 2,300 convicted murderers that had been sentenced by the People of California to ‘life in prison.’ Instead, they’re heading back out onto the streets and most assuredly many of them are heading back into people’s homes to wreck mayhem once again. More than 450 other felons sentenced to life in prison for crimes such as rape, robbery and other violent felonies have also been green-lighted for release by the governor.
By February 2017, Brown had cleared for release more than 3,000 admittedly violent criminals that had been deemed by juries and judges as too dangerous to ever walk freely among civil society again.
But where the political leadership in the Golden State is gleefully opening the gates of the asylum, at least some of the men and women in the Sunshine State’s statehouse are committed to expanding the rights for citizens to defend themselves and their property.
Under ‘the Castle Doctrine,’ which is foundational to the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, a citizen confronting someone that’s breaking into their home or that’s attempting to force their way into their vehicle has the inherent right to defend themselves by whatever means and in whatever measure they deem necessary.
But this is abhorrent to The Times, which has come to believe—or at least argue passionately for in pursuit of a larger agenda—that Americans must be required to retreat from their own homes in the face of an intruder, to run through a backdoor screaming for help or kneel down and beg for mercy rather than picking up a gun and putting as many rounds as necessary into the center mass of an intruder as is needed to stop an imminent attack.
So The Times focused its firepower in the editorial on what it characterized as “the Wild West mayhem invited by the law” and held up the case of retired police officer Curtis Reeves who gunned down Chad Oulson in a Tampa theater following an altercation that started over Oulson’s use of a cellphone during a movie as Exhibit A in its argument. Reeves, who was 71-years-old at the time of the January 2014 shooting, opened fire on the 43-year-old Oulson after the younger man through a bag of popcorn at the retired cop.
On the day The Times published its sneering rant against the legislation to expand the law’s scope, Judge Susan Barthle rightly ruled that the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law did not apply in this incident and that Reeves would stand trial for second degree murder. Judge Barthle’s ruling is a common sense, reasonable and legally correct analysis of whether the current law applied and the weight against Reeves was clear here: shooting a man to death in a crowded theater because he was being a jerk and threw a bag of popcorn at you is not a reasonable basis for a self-defense claim and it was rightly rejected by the court.
Which of course is why The Times chose to use it.
But a desperate attempt by defense counsel to disguise a bad shooting as a panicked moment of split-second self-preservation is not only perfectly within the prerogative of the accused’s counsel (And since when has The Times been against an affirmative criminal defense? Oh, right, when it’s a white retired cop exercising it.) but it also has little relevance to the overall intent of the original ‘Stand Your Ground Law’ as well as the new addendum to it that will strengthen what it set out to accomplish: provide citizens faced with legitimate life-threatening encounters with criminals the legal safeguards they need to ensure they are not railroaded by an increasingly politicized and polarized justice system.
Prior to its ‘Stand Your Ground’ legislation, victims facing intruders breaking into their own homes or assailants attempting to force their way into their vehicles could not mount a self-defense claim after using deadly force to defend themselves unless they could affirmatively demonstrate a ‘reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.’ The burden was on the victims of home-invasion robberies and carjackings to prove they had ample to reason to believe the person breaking into their home or car meant them serious harm.
A series of appellate rulings coming out of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in the mid-1990s suggested that crime victims had a duty to “retreat to the wall,”—indeed, to run like hell for the hills—and be cornered (‘to the wall’) by an attacker before one was justified in using deadly force in self-defense.
In 2005, Florida sent a powerful message to ever criminal predator scoping out their feeding grounds: its citizens were no longer going to be expected to run, cower and wait for the police to hopefully protect them. They were no longer going to be expected to complacently comply with the instructions of psychotic savages like Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock as the Clutter family did during that night of terror that befell their farmhouse in Holcomb, Kansas, on November 15, 1959, dutifully submitting while the pair of criminals prepared to slaughter them.
In 2017 the state is thankfully once more prepared to reinforce that message by rightly putting the onus on prosecutors to establish to the same threshold of reasonable doubt as to why someone had no right to draw their gun and stand their ground in defense of their home, their family and their property.
For all the gnashing of teeth over at The Times over Florida’s decision to expand its protections for its citizens—the HB 245 Self-Defense Immunity bill has already made its way out of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and is now in the Judiciary Committee and is expected to make its way to the governor’s desk—the vast majority of states now have either ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws on the books or, in places like California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Colorado, allow the defense in practice.
Vermont and Washington D.C. on the other hand still demand that their citizens have a sacred duty to ‘retreat,’ to either run for their lives or beg for mercy from the criminal that’s come calling on them.
There’s certainly still some lingering bitterness at The Times over the fact that Florida went for Trump last November, still some burning acid reflux that chokes their editorial writers when they utter the phrase ‘Redneck Riviera,’ an electoral fail that proved pivotal on that fateful fall night that inspires them to continue painting the state as hopelessly regressive when it comes to crime and punishment and safeguarding law abiding citizens.
“If the lawmakers cared at all about public safety, they would repeal the law,” the newspaper deadpanned in closing. “Instead, with the enthusiastic support of the gun lobby, they want to make it even more pernicious.”
Ah yes, of course, the evil gun lobby.
Well, if The New York Times cared at all about public safety, it would stop vigorously supporting the mass release of tens of thousands of convicted, violent criminals onto the streets of America to brutally prey upon and victimize many more Americans again and again. But instead, with its scribes under Editorial Page Editor James Bennet now proudly standing cheek and jowl with the most malevolent breed of predator our society has ever faced and in numbers never imagined, New York’s grandee of print now screams at Americans like the criminals they’ve gone all in for: ‘Don’t stand your ground—you better get on the ground! NYT in yo house, bitch!’
Obviously, they may run into some trouble down in Florida.