Should murder be legal? It may seem like a silly question with an equally obvious answer. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so obvious to the gun lobby, who for many years now have been tirelessly working to redefine cold-blooded killings as “self-defense.”
Why is the gun lobby interested in promoting murder? Two reasons:
1) It looks better for the industry if they can redefine gun crime as self-defense. Each incident moved from the one category to the other is an incident that takes away from the “guns as social problem” message and diverts it to the “guns as protector of personal liberty and freedom” category.
2) It’s good for sales. Hunting has been on the decline for many years now, which means gun manufacturers’ primary source of income comes from encouraging people to hunt each other. Promoting a type of wild-west atmosphere where everyone carries a gun and arguments are settled with gunfights in the street is great for business.
The truth is that almost all gun crimes are the result of otherwise ordinary people making poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Someone losing a fist fight pulls out a gun. Gun owners shoot people because they suspect (often incorrectly) that the other person might be committing a crime. Gun owners shoot neighbors in response to verbal arguments. They are cases like the one that happened in Florida, where a man was harassing and threatening a woman in a dispute over a parking spot. When the woman’s husband came out of the store to defend her, shoving the other man who was intimidating his wife to the ground, the man pulled out a gun and shot this father dead in front of his 5-year-old son.
So the gun lobby has been steadily chipping away at murder statutes with what are known as Stand Your Ground laws, which allow people like the aforementioned man who needlessly and recklessly shoot people get away with murder, even when, as in the aforementioned case, they’re the one’s who manufactured the confrontation in the first place. These laws give people the right to get away with murder on bogus self-defense pretexts, simply by saying +they felt threatened+ when they went for their gun.
Stand Your Ground laws were bad enough when I started writing about them several years ago, but unfortunately, they’ve actually gotten worse. More recent variations of such bills, like the one recently introduced in Missouri, not only allow shooters to claim self-defense for dubious reasons, but they mandate that police assume every shooter is acting in self-defense, making prosecutors provide “clear and convincing evidence” to the contrary at a pretrial conference before they can even press charges. Since this rests upon the subjective state of mind of the shooter, it essentially puts authorities in the position of proving what a shooter is thinking prior to arresting people for murder.
Supporting this bill have been people like Mark McCloskey and his wife, both of whom rose to infamy in June 2020 when they stood outside their home and pointed their guns at peaceful protestors marching in a Black Lives Matter parade. The two pled guilty to misdemeanor charges for this menacing act, but were later pardoned by Missouri Governor Mike Parson, and Mark McCloskey is now even running for Senator. because I guess that’s what you do in Missouri if you’re an unhinged trigger-happy, racist white American who feels a need to shoot those with a darker complexion simply for exercising their Constitutional rights to protest police brutality. (It’s amazing how selective gun advocates are when it comes to their interpretation of Constitutional rights.)
Thankfully, in the latest particular instance, Missouri’s murder-and-get-away-with-it law was defeated. Stating the obvious, Missouri Senator Brian Williams says: “Encouraging people to use guns to solve conflict is not how we do things in this state, and we should not enable laws that do that. That’s exactly what [bills like these are] promoting.”
Such legislation also perpetuates the myth that guns are a practical tool for self-defense. In truth, guns HAVE NEVER BEEN practical nor effective in cases of true self-defense. They are an offensive weapon, not a defensive one.
True self-defense occurs up close, where guns are far less practical. If you’re not able to win a hand-to-hand confrontation, then the gun becomes nothing more than a dangerous weapon to be wrestled away and then used against you. True self-defense also arises when people are taken by surprise, in which case guns are not readily available. Guns are only practical when you’ve had time to plan and are a safe distance away from your opponent (in which case they’re probably not actually threatening you to begin with). In other words, guns and self-defense are oxymoron’s to one another. So promoting legislation that requires shootings be given a self-defense presumption is absurd, even by the standards of Congress.
Extreme as such laws might be, similar legislation has already been enacted in other states, including Kentucky, Pennsylvania and California, replacing the “reasonable person” standard of self-defense with a “presumption of reasonableness” standard. The fight is also ongoing. Aaron Dorr, political director for the Missouri Firearms Coalition, warned after the bill was defeated: “It’s time the Republicans remember that gun owners vote in primaries, and they want to see action on this bill in this session.” In other words, jerks like Dorr resort to the classic gun lobby strategy of bullying others into accepting their extreme agenda.
Here’s the thing: Gun owners are in the minority, and fanatical gun owners who want an excuse to legally murder anyone they disagree with are a smaller minority still. They’ve only gotten away with this nonsense because their 10 or 15 percent is more fanatical than the majority of rational Americans. It’s time ordinary citizens become as passionate about defending life as the gun lobby is in promoting death. If they have their way, we’re headed to a world where any argument over a parking spot or exchange with someone in the grocery store carries a strong risk of ending your life. And it will all be perfectly legal.
Read more on stand your ground laws in our book Guns for Protection?
1. Rick Rouan, “Legislation that would make ‘murder legal’ fails in Missouri,” USA Today, Feb. 15, 2022, p. 4A