Skip to comments.‘Stand your ground’ laws recall the Wild West
Posted on 04/21/2012 10:44:28 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
The so-called stand your ground law that allowed neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman to shoot and kill Treyvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., without an initial arrest once was a principle that nearly every American believed in.
And we were reminded of its key provision every Saturday night in prime time when watching Gunsmoke, among the nations longest-running and most popular TV programs.
Each episode began with the same scene on Main Street in Dodge City, Kan., with Marshal Matt Dillon, played by James Arness, in a gun duel, staring at another man who stood 60 yards away. After several seconds of music and tension, the other man would reach for the handgun in his holster, which prompted Dillon to draw his gun faster and shoot him first.
No need for any investigation or police inquiry to determine whether it was a justified shooting because whichever cowboy drew last was standing his ground in self-defense.
Only two problems with this allusion. The first is that TV viewers understood that the law was needed in the West of the 19th century when lawlessness prevailed, when you could not dial 911 and when every man carried a six-shooter or a rifle out in the open. Such circumstances, of course, did not apply to the America that watched westerns in the movie theater or on TV in the 1960s.
The second problem was that it was universally accepted that lethal self-defense was justifiable only against someone who was armed. Had Matt Dillon or Wyatt Earp or Lucas McCain of The Rifleman show tried to claim self-defense against an opponent who possessed only a club, slingshot or a bag of Skittles, not only would his reputation as a hero be jeopardized, hed be thrown in jail and possibly sentenced to hang by Judge Roy Bean.
Fast forward 37 years, well past the last broadcast episode of Gunsmoke: Thanks to the National Rifle Association and its close friends like Florida Gov. Rick Scott, citizens are packing just like in the Wild West. In the state with the fewest gun restrictions in the country, Zimmermans right to carry the weapon he drew on Martin hasnt been questioned.
But Floridas NRA-loving legislators went the Wild West even one better freeing pistol packers to fire on any man, woman or child, even if theyre not carrying a gun, as long as the shooter feared for his or her life.
I was not a resident of Florida in 2005 when Gov. Jeb Bush issued this license-to-kill en masse. So I am going to give its legislators the benefit of the doubt, confident that more than one must have pointed out that the law could be far too loosely interpreted not only by bigots and paranoids but also by normal folks who happen to be temporarily disgruntled, disoriented, nervous or just naturally fearful of, say, teenagers, homeless people or strangers with moustaches, black hats or hooded sweatshirts.
What was everyone else thinking?
In the movie Shane, among the most highly acclaimed westerns of the aforementioned era, Jack Wilson, a kind of neighborhood watch captain hired by cattlemen, and played by Jack Palance, regularly got away with murder. He followed and confronted the poor homesteaders, threatening them with his malevolent grin and emasculating insults, driving them to make a move for a weapon out of fear and desperation, a move that cued their instant execution by the much-faster Wilson.
But even that sinister hit man was more regulated than Zimmerman, insofar as Wilson had to be careful not to shoot a homesteader who had only a hoe or a buggy whip or a can of iced tea.
After more than a month of protests and media debate, due process finally has been followed, with Special Prosecutor Angela Corey filing charges of second-degree murder against Zimmerman.
Whatever happens in the ensuing plea or trial, the next step should be repeal of the stand your ground law that permits people to act as judge, jury and executioner and that has led to the tripling of the number of so-called self-defense killings in Florida since its inception.
The law must be stricken from the books not only in Florida but also in each of the other dozen or so states where legislators passed it while apparently temporarily insane.
David McGrath is an emeritus professor of English at the College of DuPage and author of The Territory, a story collection.
Please...comparing this with nearly 50 year old TV shows? One’s no one has seen ? When now all they show is swishy ‘metrosexuals’. This goon would have us all disarmed and victims. Which is the end game.
An armed society is a polite society. QED. Criminals hate armed citizenry.
Another idiot that disregards all the evidence that Zimmerman was being beaten to death and had no option other than shooting his assailant.
Reading opinions like these, you’d think Zimmerman shot Martin from across the street because he didn’t like his hoodie.
The media is turning this into the “No One Is the Boss of Me” law, the “Kiss My Ass, Jerk” law, but I thought it was about legal issues and lawsuits, and such.
The freepers that speak legalese and can translate it to we street level posters, need to post the language that we need to counter this effort with, what is a sentence or two description of the original purpose of laws saying that we won’t be prosecuted for self defense?
I have news for professor Unicorn; Gunsmoke was a television show.
For a professor, you are a REAL idiot.
911 in the Gunsmoke era? Gotcha!
Better the Wild West than the present Europe!
I’m an undersized guy, and as such I’d see a lot of people as a real threat should they want to do me harm.
Where the heck is the barf alert???
“God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal.”
This professor is a drooling moron. Palance played a gun for hire. Alan Ladd's character most resembled a modern neighborhood watch captain.
[[Stand your ground laws recall the Wild West]]
but apparently getting one’s head smashed to bits on a sidewalk doesn’t ‘recall the wild west’ to that writer-
True, Palance was a stone cold hit man.
Next time you watch the movie, notice Palance getting on his horse in the town scene, when he swings his leg over the saddle at (Shane?) it is a powerful example of an actor using his body to say a page of dialogue.
When he mounts that saddle, it is the biggest body language F***Y*U, that I have ever seen in real life or film..
No! I do not have that. I’m so uncertain that if my head is being bashed upon the pavement repeatedly I really Am uncertain!!!
Trayvon Martin was a tall, broad shouldered and muscular MAN, not a little boy, 6 inches taller than George Zimmerman and probably in better shape.
In actual combat situations the "fairness" principle is a load of crap. The only applicable rules are whatever it takes. No one in the "wild West" was expected to submit to being pounded to death by an "unarmed" assailant.
Chicago should keep it's idiots at home.
The movie Shane is really totally unfit as an analogy for the Zimmerman/Martin incident. There was no law there. Ownership of property was in dispute as was the reality in the west in many places. There was an active dispute, or war, going on and everybody knew who was on what side. Those things made the backdrop and the framework for the whole drama of Shane and none of them exist in the events surrounding Zimmerman/Martin.
I recommend a rubber room some Xanax and a cup of chamomile tea for Prof. McGrath.
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