This post isn’t really about the Zimmerman case, though I’ll touch on how use of force laws actually work relating to that case, but it is a result of the ignoramuses who know jack about how self-defense laws work who are currently talking about it and pissing me off. Included in that list is the President of the United States.
On Friday, Barack Obama said the following during a press conference. Our illustrious leader is in italics. My response is in bold.
You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son.
Yes. We appreciate the leader of the free world chiming in on local crime issues, especially before any facts are known.
Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
Where you in the habit of committing battery against people 35 years ago?
And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.
And your preconceived notions, feelings, and emotions should be totally irrelevant in the eyes of the law. Justice should be blind, and a case should be decided based upon the evidence and whether the prosecution can convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed or not.
There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
Me too. And despite my dad being of darker skin tone than Al Sharpton, according to these Home Depot paint chips I’m only Warm Beige. Also totally irrelevant. I’ve got a family member who takes after my mom’s super lily white side of the family, way the hell whiter than my swarthy self, who always got tailed through stores because he managed to look suspicious, and oddly enough got arrested for shop lifting on his 18th birthday.
There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.
Don’t flatter yourself. Nobody has ever been physically intimidated by somebody wearing mom jeans. Now Vlad Putin on the other hand, he shows up, hide your wife, hide your kids.
There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And this happens to black men, white men, Asians, Latinos, you name it, and I think that’s awesome. That means that woman is paying attention to her surroundings and knows that simple physics gives a huge advantage to the male in case he decides to do something. Aren’t you from the same side that is constantly complaining that America has a “rape culture”?
I happen to look like a scary 6’5” Tony Soprano. I’m actually physically intimidating, and that is at 37 years old and years of desk job. When I was in my 20s I could bench press 365 pounds and was 270 pounds, 16% body fat, of Big Ugly. I usually had a shaved head and a goatee and I looked like my favorite hobby was punching things, which it was. I was a hundred times more physically intimidating that President Lady Parts on his best day. So I’ve been profiled tons, and I’ve had lots of women obviously assess me like I was a threat.
And I don’t think it is a bad thing at all.
First off, way to bring America together there, champ, sending the DoJ after a guy who got acquitted with your civil rights violations witch hunt. People get shot every single day, and some of them in cases way more complicated and questionable than this one, but none of those happened in the lead up to a national election where you needed to try and scare the electorate that America is still Mississippi circa 1957.
Second off, that is an incredibly vapid and naïve sentiment, not to mention hypocritical coming from a dude whose family will have armed security profiling potential threats for the rest of their lives.
Over the last couple of days I’ve grown tired listening to people who know jack about use of force laws bloviating on and on about how it is awful to profile people, and how the mere act of being suspicious of another person makes you evil. So today I’m going to talk about profiling, and how come it isn’t a bad thing at all. Notice that I didn’t say racial profiling, because race has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Back when I was teaching concealed carry classes I used to spend a bunch of time going over use of force issues. This can be basically broken into two main categories: Legal, as in when you are legally justified in shooting somebody (a Reasonable Man would believe there is Ability, Opportunity, and an Immediate Threat of Serious Bodily Harm to themselves or a 3rd person from an aggressor), and Tactical, as in the decisions you make in order to maximize your chances of not getting hurt or killed. The two aren’t always the same, as you can be legally justified in getting involved, but it is tactically stupid, or vice versa.
Profiling falls under the tactical end of things.
The single best weapon you’ve got to defend yourself isn’t your gun, but rather your brain. You need to be smart, and try not to put yourself into situations where you would need to use your gun. The best way to do this is by paying attention, and when you notice something which could be construed as a potential threat, you do what you need to do in order to avoid it.
And at this point, somebody is going to read that and shriek about how according to my advice Zimmerman shouldn’t have followed Trayvon… Uh huh, legally that doesn’t matter, because as I noted above law and tactics aren’t the same, and you can be 100% legally justified even if you didn’t make the best decisions in the world leading up to the event. I had somebody get all belligerent on Facebook and demand “would you have done what Zimmerman did?!” And my answer was No, but the jury is going to ask “did you act as a reasonable man?” not “did you act like a guy who has gone through hundreds of hours of training?” And you’d better pray to God they never change it from Reasonable Man to “did you act as Larry Correia would have acted?” because then you’re all screwed.
So getting back on topic, the best way to avoid a violent encounter is to watch out for potential threats so you can hopefully avoid them, or be ready to react appropriately should things go south. That means paying attention to your surroundings. (This also keeps you from getting hit by cars, falling in holes, or being devoured by wild animals, so yay! Happy bonus!) That means paying attention to people who could–but more than likely won’t–want to hurt you.
I used to tell my students to pay attention to their instincts. If you get a bad vibe off of somebody, for whatever reason, pay attention to it. That doesn’t make you rude, or a jerk, that is just you paying attention to survival instincts that have been built into the human species over millennia for a reason. If the person that made you nervous happens to be a different color than you, who cares? That doesn’t make you racist, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means that they’ve made your survival instincts tingle. So pay attention.
I had somebody on Twitter today tell me that according to that reasoning, Martin was justified in attacking Zimmerman, because Zimmerman made him nervous… That’s just freaking stupid. I said pay more attention, I didn’t say go over and commit a forcible felony against them. Duh.
So if you see somebody coming up to your car, where is the harm in locking the door? I know this may offend the president’s tender feelings, but he’ll get over it. You’re out nothing and 99.99% of the time it doesn’t matter, but that .01% of the time you just told a potential predator that he’s better off picking a different victim. (this part is highly ironic, as the people I’ve been debating with keep saying Zimmerman should have stayed in his car, but apparently he shouldn’t have locked the door!)
There’s a saying from firearms instructor Clint Smith, “If you look like food, you’re going to get eaten.” I used to explain to my classes that criminals were as good at their chosen career as the students were at theirs. Criminals are experts at picking out victims, and they prefer the suckers who aren’t paying attention. If you look like work, they’re probably going to pick somebody else to victimize. If you’re paying attention you’ve gone from “food” to “work” and if they wanted to work for a living they’d get a real job.
I think one reason permit holders don’t get into as many violent encounters as the regular population isn’t because the gun is some magic talisman that wards off evil, but rather because once you’ve made the decision to carry a firearm, you tend to pay more attention to the world around you.
So pay attention! Watch people. Watch for those visual, non-verbal clues that set off your survival instincts. If somebody makes you nervous, be prepared for something to happen, or try to move yourself out of the way. I call this common sense. Barack Obama calls it profiling, except for when DHS does it to veterans, because that’s just groovy.
But good people have been trained that judging others is bad! Violent criminals, especially those that specialize in preying on women, are aware of this, and they absolutely love it. The creepers and the stalkers and the would-be rapists take advantage of regular folk’s inclination to be polite. I’ve taught hundreds of female students, and many of them could personally cite some jackass taking advantage of their attempts to be polite, or if the woman stood up for herself (or clutched nervously at her purse and held her breath) they’d get some variation of “how come you gotta be such a bitch?”
Thieves and jerks who want to physically assault you love this too. If somebody is getting into your personal space, the natural human inclination is to move away, but too many people have been trained by liberals to be good little serfs, and they try to avoid giving offense, so they let the bad guy close on them, and once they are too close, it is too late. I’ve seen normal people let scary, aggressive, obviously messed up people close way into their personal space, and they sit there and take it, because they’ve been programmed that “profiling is bad” or he could actually be bug nuts crazy and you let the dude with the rusty box cutter get into bad breath distance. At least after he opens your jugular, at your funeral they’ll be able to say you never judged anyone.
I don’t give a crap if race comes into this or not. I’m the same color as Cheech Marin. During the summer I’m best described as “swarthy” but my olive skin tone and ability to tan well isn’t why I think it is awesome when I see some woman in a parking lot take note of my approach. It is because for all she knows I’m a potential threat, capable of easily physically overwhelming her, and she can stand there like a sucker and bank on fortune and karma that I’m not, or she could notice me and pay attention. Maybe even not stick her head inside the car and obliviously load groceries until I walk past. In fact, I’m so big that I’m used to going around people in places like that, simply to avoid making them nervous.
I’m so big and ugly that if I got into an elevator with Barack Obama he’d hold his breath and clutch his purse. Except I’d never be allowed into an elevator with Barack Obama because his highly trained Secret Service detail would profile me first.
I’m going to teach this to my daughters. Pay freaking attention. I’d much rather they hurt Barack Obama’s delicate lilac scented feelings, than they end up as victims. But then again, I’m also expecting my children to all carry firearms, because a firearm is the ultimate equalizer.
Now, for the people who are getting offended because people are profiling you… Yep. No big deal. Grow up. Some of us are scary looking. Don’t let it hurt your feelings. You just need to come to terms with the fact that humans routinely victimize other humans, and some of us look more like predators than others. Does it sting when somebody reacts like that, even though you’re the nicest, most genuinely friendly person around? Sure does. Now imagine it was your wife, or your daughter, or your mom, or your grandma, and they were dealing with some scary son of a bitch that looks like you… Yeah, that changes your perspective, doesn’t it?
A fact of life is that people are going to look at you and make a snap judgment. If I see a group of young men dressed all Thug Life, you’re damn right I’m going to pay more attention. If you dress and act in a manner that equates with a culture well known for its violent tendencies, well yeah, people are going to be suspicious of you. Duh. If that offends you, pull up your pants. You look like an idiot with your underwear hanging out anyway. I also don’t trust white guys with swastikas tattooed on their faces. I obviously must be racist toward white people.
When I was 17 I got my jaw dislocated and a concussion from a beating I took from four members of an “inner city youth organization”. They came up and sucker punched me because I wasn’t paying attention and dog piled me (though I did actually win in the end, like I said, big dude). Would I notice them now? More than likely, because I’m older, wiser, and I’ve had the experience of getting my ass kicked enough to reinforce the need to pay attention in public places to groups of young men acting like they’re looking to give somebody the “whoop ass”. Knowing what I know now I might have picked up on the indicators, the way they got charged up, the target selection process, whatever, and I might have been able to move myself out of the way, or at least been more prepared for the confrontation. And in this case, all four of them were within two shades of Home Depot paint chips worth of skin color off of me. Race was irrelevant. I’d notice the same thing if they were Nigerian or Norwegian. Because once they are stomping on your head, race is fairly irrelevant.
Stand Your Ground Laws
In related idiocy, the other thing that I’m hearing a lot of bleating about is how evil Stand Your Ground laws are. I keep seeing people saying that Stand Your Ground should be repealed, and then they cite a bunch of crap that actually doesn’t have anything to do with SYG type laws. Of course, Attorney General Eric Holder, who is best known for illegally smuggling thousands of guns to Mexican drug cartels, is totally trust worthy on this topic.
I saw a blog post from another sci-fi author talking about how SYG laws basically make it legal for white people to kill black people if the black people make them nervous… Wow… That’s like saying we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima because Americans weren’t fond of origami or haiku. No, dumbass, that’s not how the law works. Just because MSNBC told you SYG laws are racist doesn’t make it true.
The thing is, SYG laws protect everybody, and everybody includes minorities. It protects anybody who acts in self-defense from the state and from over-zealous prosecutors. I keep seeing all these liberals talking about the racist injustice inherent in the system and how blacks are more likely to be sent to prison, and in the next sentence they are saying that we need to give the state MORE prosecutorial power and get rid of things like Reasonable Doubt and SYG laws.
There are two differing sets of law that govern how state’s self-defense laws work, Stand Your Ground and Duty to Retreat. Basically all Stand Your Ground means is that you don’t have a Duty to Retreat, and most states have been this way since George Washington chased out the British, so this isn’t anything new.
Duty to Retreat means that you MUST flee from your attacker if possible. If you don’t retreat, and you shoot, then you can be prosecuted for that. Some states even require you to try and retreat from inside your own home. Stand Your Ground means you have no Duty to Retreat (but it doesn’t mean you can just shoot whoever you want whenever you want like people are trying to spin it).
But why wouldn’t you want to avoid shooting somebody? I always taught my students to avoid shooting if possible. That sounds great! Except here’s the problem. You get into a violent encounter. You’ve got a couple of seconds, tops, of gut wrenching terror in which to decide a course of action, commit, and see it through. So somebody attacks you, you are in fear for your life, and you shoot them. Except now when you go to court the prosecution can go after you because in those two seconds, when you didn’t see a way out, the prosecutor thought of one! And nowthey are going to pontificate on what you should have did differently, and how you should have tried harder to get away… Only they are going to do it in an air conditioned court room for ten thousand times longer than you had to decide, and when they get hungry they are going to order pizza.
With Stand Your Ground, that’s not going to come up, because you’re not required to try and run away. That’s it. That’s really all it comes down to. You’re not required to try and flee.
It doesn’t mean you can just shoot brown people who make you nervous. That’s propaganda bullshit. Even in the most lenient use of force law states (one of which I live in and taught this stuff for a decade) that’s not how it works at all. Let me condense down a couple of hours of legal lecture into a few points to see if any given shoot is justified or not. Most states operate on the following criteria:
Would a Reasonable Person (like a jury) make the following assumptions in your circumstances?
Were you in fear of receiving Serious Bodily Harm from an attacker? (some states use the term Grievous Bodily Harm instead, but either way it means were you in fear for your life, or of getting a bad life threatening or potentially life altering injury? Also, in some states it is you, or a third person, meaning that you can get involved not just to save your life, but someone else’s life as well)
If so, would a Reasonable Person come to the conclusion that your assailant(s) met the following three criteria:
- Did they have the Ability to cause you Serious Bodily Harm? (basically meaning can they actually hurt you?)
- Did they have the Opportunity to cause you Serious Bodily Harm? (basically meaning can they reach you with their ability?)
- Were they acting in a manner that suggested they were an Immediate Threat? (basically meaning are they actually acting like they’re going to do all this stuff to you now? Some states refer to this as Jeopardy)
Check. Check. Check… Bang. That’s fundamentally how the law works. Keep in mind in a class I would spend an hour going over examples of shoot and no shoot situations based on those things, but that’s basically all there is to it.
So let’s look at Trayvon Martin getting shot by George Zimmerman. Go through the criteria. The stuff leading up to it is basically irrelevant for this portion. Serious Bodily Harm? In most cases there aren’t even any physical injuries to show, and you’re still justified just by the reasonable belief of potential threat, but in this case there are actual injuries. Slamming your head into pavement meets the legal threshold. In fact, any blow to the head sufficient to render you unconscious is sufficient to kill you, and also if somebody renders you unconscious a reasonable man can say that you can assume they’re not going to stop there. So good to go.
Ability? Yep. Physically Martin was dominating Zimmerman. Opportunity. Yep, it’s happening right now. Jeopardy? Already in play.
Right there, within a couple of days of the shooting most of the self-defense instructors in the nation looked at this case and said, yep, he’s getting off. Not because of race, because for us you could flip the races and it was the 1/8th black Peruvian that got shot after committing battery against a black guy, and the answer remains the same, because that’s how the law is structured.
I say this and I’ve got people saying that I’m rejoicing in the death of a black kid… Sigh… Yeah, don’t tell all the black people I taught to shoot and certified to carry concealed weapons… No, you freaking idiots, my FEELINGS are irrelevant, because law isn’t supposed to operate on feelings. It is supposed to operate on evidence.
So up next comes the legal question of whether the individual did anything which escalated, contributed to, or caused the violent encounter. Now the Reasonable People of the jury are deciding if this was Mutual Combat (when two people mutually decide to fight) that turned deadly. This is actually what most of the Zimmerman trial was about, and this is the point of the phone calls, and the timelines, and the witnesses, and everything else. It was to see if Zimmerman was partially legally at fault for the events, and if so, how much.
In this case, the jury looked at the events in question leading up to the shooting, and they couldn’t say Zimmerman was responsible beyond a Reasonable Doubt. (see, there’s that word Reasonable again).
Remember earlier when I mentioned law and tactics? They’re not the same. Could Zimmerman have done things differently? Certainly. But making bad tactical decisions isn’t necessarily illegal. The jury figured that regardless of what Zimmerman did, ultimately it was Martin that circled back around and committed the Forcible Felony. At that point it went up to the checklist above. Part of being a Reasonable Man is not being able to predict the future with 100% accuracy. Everybody makes assumptions, and sometimes they are incorrect, that doesn’t make it illegal. Jumping on somebody and braining them on the sidewalk is illegal.
I’ve had people demand how come Stand Your Ground didn’t protect Trayvon! (seriously, I’ve seen this like 50 times on Twitter. It is like everybody works off the same narrative talking points). SYG doesn’t apply in this case because apply the checklist of Ability, Opportunity, and Immediacy to Zimmerman. Somebody following you through a neighborhood doesn’t mean that you can go and beat the hell out of them. And if you attack somebody before they reasonably present a threat of Serious Bodily Harm, then it isn’t lawful self-defense, so SYG doesn’t apply.
Prosecution’s witness, Rachel Janteel, (Trayvon’s girlfriend) was on Piers Morgan and said that the reason Trayvon Martin attacked George Zimmerman was because he thought Zimmerman was a “gay rapist”. And also that Martin didn’t mean to kill Zimmerman, that was just a misunderstanding on Zimmerman’s part, and really Travyon just wanted to give him the “whoop ass” (her words, not mine) which was a cultural thing and how they took care of people like that… Despite MSNBC’s narrative to the contrary SYG doesn’t allow you to give the “whoop ass” to somebody just because you think they’re gay.
(On that note, gay rights community… Seriously? I taught and certified a lot of gays and lesbians to carry guns, and the reason they usually gave me was so they could protect themselves from somebody giving them the “whoop ass” because of how they looked, and now I’m hearing crickets. Where’s the condemnation against this reasoning? Where’s the outrage?)
I’ve had people yell at me that there was only one side alive to tell their story… (again, another common talking point) Oh my gosh… That’s so incredibly dumb. That’s not how it works at all. If that was the case then there would never be any murder trials because obviously one side couldn’t testify! There’s ALWAYS more than one side. There’s evidence, there’s witnesses, there’s experts who reconstruct the details, and the prosecution had all of that to present, and the jury still had Reasonable Doubt.
Then I’ve got people crying about how “unjust” Reasonable Doubt is… You fools. You stupid, stupid fools. Put your emotion in check. What Reasonable Doubt really is the final check and balance against the state’s ability to throw your ass in prison forever with a flimsy case. You’re going to bitch and whine about the injustice, and how it is racist that more blacks are prosecuted and incarcerated, and your answer is to make it EASIER for the state to throw people in prison? Holy moly. You have no idea what you are wishing for.
That’s it. That’s how the self-defense laws work. Wrap your heads around the actual laws and calm the hell down. Instead you’re begging stalwart defenders of civil rights like President Drone Strike and the AG who is cool with killing Mexicans to get rid of laws that protect YOU from the STATE. That’s way scarier than any one neighborhood watch guy with a gun.