Just in time for Christmas and no doubt in an effort to spread holiday cheer, the Ohio State Legislature has sent a bill to Governor Mike DeWine’s desk that would extend the state’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) doctrine to just about any place, any reason, or any time.
The state’s current SYG law only allows someone to refuse to back asway from a confrontation if the incident takes place within an individual’s home or on the property around the home – the so-called ‘castle doctrine’ being the basis upon which a SYG explanation can be used.
The new law expands SYG to just about any place where someone might gets into an argument with someone else. In other words, you could be walking down a public street minding your own business and bump into someone else by mistake. So, you say ‘I’m sorry’ but the guy you bumped into is in a lousy mood and he turns around and shoves you back.
At the same time, he shoves you, he also says something like, ‘I’d like to kick your ass,’ and maybe comes towards you again. At which point under the new Ohio law you can pull out the ol’ trusty shootin’ iron and blast away.
The spread of SYG laws into nearly 30 states is one of the concerns that my friends in Gun-control Nation raise again and again when they talk about the mis-use of guns. Or I should say, by the use of guns if we’re talking about most gun assaults. Such events usually to pistols manufactured by companies like Glock, S&W, Ruger, Beretta, Colt and Sig.
These guns are designed to be used by one person to shoot another person, okay?
Our friends in Gun-control Nation have always been concerned about SYG laws because of the alleged connection between such laws and gun violence, an idea which happens to be based on more of an assumption than any statistical proof. Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation looked at all the studies which evaluate the impact of SYG on gun violence rates and concluded that there is a ‘moderate’ possibility that SYG may increase homicides, which hardly makes the connection an established fact.
The gun industry on the other hand, and the various organizational/political components comprising Gun-nut Nation, have always strongly supported SYG, for the same reason that they support carrying guns outside the home, i.e., the more we stand up to the bad guys, the safer we all will be.
Is there any proof behind this self-serving argument from Gun-nut Nation about the value of SYG laws? We don’t need no stinkin’ proof. We know that walking around with a gun will protect you as well as walking into a crowded space today without a mask.
What I find interesting about SYG laws, however, is the fact that they don’t exist in England and aren’t part of our legal heritage known as the Common Law. This is the major point of our friend Caroline Light’s book Stand Your Ground, which shows that such laws first appeared not in Great Britain but over here. To this day we are the only country whose legal heritage comes from the Common Law but whose legal system also includes SYG.
Unfortunately, in the debate about this unique legal formulation, both pro-SYG and anti-SYG advocates miss one vital point. It’s not a question of whether or not an SYG law makes a law-abiding individual more prone to carry or use a gun. The real question, unanswered by both sides in the debate, is whether we have a unique culture which promotes SYG behavior, legal or not.
All the way back in 1957, the brilliant criminologist Marvin Wolfgang discovered that “the victim is often a major contributor to the criminal act.” In what type of crime did Wolfgang find this behavior to be most apparent? In homicide, what else.
Why can’t the two sides in the gun debate drop their professed dislike for each other and start discussing the issue of culture and how people behave, regardless of what the laws tell them they can and cannot do?