THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 736, September 1, 2013
Please don't quit just when we're
almost where we want to be. Just
when we're almost where we need to be.
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Over the last year, more than 200 black seventeen year olds were murdered in the United States. None of them were Trayvon Martin.
It is the perception of conflict and violence that drives our attention. So it comes as no surprise that politicians try to drive our attention toward issues with which they can make political points, and away from the real issues that are difficult to solve or that bring them criticism. In the White House enhanced hysteria over a Florida self-defense verdict, there has been an unsubtle shift of the conversation in precisely the wrong direction, to long standing laws and court decisions governing self-defense. Florida is a "stand your ground" state, meaning only that one part of the law of self-defense does not mandate anyone to flee an attacker. The rest of Florida's self-defense laws allow the use deadly force, but only if otherwise legally justified. Even with the stand-your-ground component, this is far from a license to kill. There are many legal strings attached to using deadly force –in any state.
Regardless, the case against George Zimmerman case had nothing to do with Florida's "stand your ground" law. At the instant when Zimmerman pulled the trigger on his handgun, he and Martin were engaged in full contact combat. There was no "stand your ground" issue, because nobody had the option of retreating – regardless of who "provoked" the initial confrontation.
Nonetheless, Barack Obama has used this tragedy as a platform to shift the national attention from the event itself to the individual-empowering self-defense laws he is ideologically opposed to. Meanwhile, Obama and the spinmeisters of racial politics are largely ignoring the causes of the other 206 seventeen year old black males murdered in the last reporting year, 188 of whom died from gunshot wounds.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics tells us that over 93% of black homicide victims died at the hands of black offenders – 5,553 in the last reporting year, or nearly 60% of all firearm homicides. With black firearm homicides occurring more than seven times as often as for whites, and with these murders occurring heavily within large urban centers, the real tragedy is easily identifiable and largely ignored. Poor blacks in economically disadvantaged inner cities do not contribute to political campaigns and have little influence outside the voting booth. Thankfully, today blacks are being murdered at half the rate of twenty years ago. But black homicide rates are still well above all other races. Most of these homicides occur in poor, dense inner cities; places often unfamiliar to office holders–except during elections.
After elections, major city mayors return to their practice of ignoring the causes of gangland violence (hint: it's not self-defense laws or weak gun-laws), and the participation in it by even seventeen year olds. It is easier for a politician or black community leader to misdirect our attention to unrelated self-defense laws than it is to address the complex and frustrating problem of gang and drug related mass murder in the inner cities.
Exactly the places where the need for self-defense is most acute.
The public policy debate should not be about Zimmerman, Martin, gun control, or stand your ground laws. Our elected officials should be discussing how to stop the proliferating culture of gangs and murder, not second-guessing jury-acquitted self-defense cases. Instead of demonizing Zimmerman, they should be raising the profile of demons like Lawrence Denard and Willie Torrence, two reputed 69th Village gang members who allegedly opened fire outside a grocery store in a strip mall, a place filled with innocent bystanders. The two now stand accused of the broad-daylight drive-by shooting death of Carlos Nava, a three year old child, hit in the cross-fire while they attempted to murder rival gang members.
Sadly, such sociopathic behavior is common in the inner city, and is the cause of most black bloodshed. As a former criminal prosecutor, I've seen such villainy many times in court, up close and personal. Presidents and other politicians need to focus on the daily wanton violence committed by gangs (and related to drugs), not armed and legal self-defense by law-abiding citizens who have plenty to worry about from the very gang members and drug dealers who are not being culturally ostracized.
Politicians should worry less about second-guessing a jury or the law of self-defense and more about Carlos Nava, who did not live to see age four.