Thursday, April 28, 2005

Florida: From "Culture of Life" to "Kill them all and let God sort it out" in less than a month

Ahhhh. . . Florida, mecca of the "Culture of Life" where every living creature lives in perfect harmony with a shared respect of the miracle and sancity of life. Every life is a precious gift of God... unless you're armed.

This week, Florida Governor, and High Ambassador for the Culture of Life, Jeb Bush signed legislation removing the requirement that lethal force in self-defense was available only when the person could not reasonably flee from the physical threat.

So, in Florida, the law prefers to err on the side of life, so long as it doesn't make you run like a nancy boy.

Now, to be clear, the idea of not requiring a person to try and flee before using lethal force is hardly new or radical as it already existed in Florida and most other states, but in very limited circumstances. What is radical is how that exception will now be applied generally, despite the fact that the public policy in the old exemption does not hold true in the new expansion.

Recognizing that every home is the owner's castle, the "Castle Doctrine" allows a resident who encounters an intruder in the home to use deadly force when the resident has a reasonably belief that the intruder presents an immediate threat of serious physical harm or death of the resident without demonstrating that resident could not flee without using physical force.

The Castle Doctrine and other aspects of the criminal defense of self-defense is based upon the American Law Institutes Model Penal Code Section 3.04(b)(ii)(A) which states:

"The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this Section unless the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat; nor is it justifiable if: the actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating or by surrendering possession of a thing to a person asserting a claim of right thereto or by complying with a demand that he abstain from any action that he has no duty to take, except that: the actor is not obliged to retreat from his dwelling or place of work, unless he was the initial aggressor or is assailed in his place of work by another person whose place of work the actor knows it to be."

The Castle Doctrine makes sense in the context of the home or workplace because where do we expect people in such a situation to flee to? Where do we expect them to go where they'd be safer than in their own homes?

The legislation signed by life/gun-lover Jeb Bush expands the exception to the "duty to retreat" from just the home and office to EVERYWHERE. The NRA began its push in state legislatures for right-to-carry concealed weapons in Florida, and the NRA is interested in pushing this legislation in other "fly-over" states (everywhere but CA and NY, I guess.)

So, expect the NRA to make a stop in a state legislature near you soon!


John said...

I've always been somewhat confounded by the American fascination with guns, violence, and the NRA. And I suspect this is hardly an isolated view amongst foreigners.

Your juxtaposition of these legal reforms with the Schiavo case, and the whole associated "culture of life" business is interesting. However, I think the conservative/Jeb Bush answer (however unsatisfactory to me) is essentially a manifestation of the abortion/death penalty distinction. The unborn child is morally untainted; the criminal is not. Terri Schiavo was morally untainted; burglars and car-jackers are not.

Of course, there are any number of unspoken assumptions going on here – e.g. the systemic inequalities and arbitrariness in the administration of the death penalty. As Anthony Sebok points out on his Findlaw column, the Florida law assumes that all people inside the “castle” are intent on harming the occupant, and therefore merit the application of deadly force. But hey, like you say, it’s shoot first and ask questions later.

Modern Esquire said...

A significant segment of the conservative movement does not make any distinction between abortion and the death penalty. That schism rarely is demonstated.

Second, we aren't talking about a state-imposed penalty of death as punishment of a crime, but a criminal defense that allows a private individual to kill another human being. So the state actor v. individual is a significant distrinction from the criminal death penalty which has numerous overlapping due process protections (albeit, obviously not fail-safe or error-free).

Well, guns have played an instrumental role in our history. We did beat a major military superpower's best trained soldiers and best paid mercanaries with a bunch of disorganized, untrained farmers and tradespeople armed with muskets. That and the eventual enormous French navy presence, but really, how much did the French flotilla really help?

Guns were an item of necessity during the pioneer days and often regarded as the most valuable property to inherit. America's dependence on a truly voluntary army and militia during the War of 1812 and the Civil War furthered the common ownership and use of guns, along with the Manifest Destiny push to the West.

It's not surprising that the NRA can trace it's day to, ah, ahem, Confederate veterans group.

I think the violence thing is overblown, but my theory is that it's the result that America has been culturally more puritain about sexuality in media than violence and most other "Western" cultures have been the opposite.

It probably has to do with the fact that much of our early history has been very violent, so we're more culturally desensitized to it. But that's just what I thought at 1:20 a.m., when I've been studing three days with little to no sleep. Maybe you have a better-thought out theory....