Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest Blogger John Willett: "We Are Not Vigilantes"

It's been a while since I had the overwhelming urge to write something for the public sphere.  However, I can not stand the ridiculous arguments being made in the media.  It is related to the Zimmerman-Martin case in one respect.  This case is being used to push an agenda of demonizing gun owners, and anyone who would attempt to defend themselves.  

Now, there have been blogs that have taken the opportunity to defend the Florida "Stand your Ground" law.  What some blogs have stated is that the law doesn't really affect this case as, if the Zimmerman based timeline is accurate, he would have been justified in shooting an attacker regardless of the "stand your ground" provision.  Also, if Martin was not the aggressor and was murdered, Zimmerman has no claim to self-defense (also making Stand your Ground irrelevant).   I agree with this view, but have noticed a related line of thought being espoused that is even more dangerous.  That Gun Owners, especially those who carry, are dangerous individuals or even vigilantes. 

Now, just as with the stand your ground law addressed by various blogs, I don't have to know what happened in those pivotal moments to address the characterizations of gun owners as vigilantes.  First, a vigilante is someone who is "taking the law into their own hands".  What this refers to is when someone commits violent acts in a supposed effort to administer justice.  Vigilantism is something we frown upon in our society.  Vigilantism stands opposed to our commonly held view that we are a society based on laws, and that those laws should be enforced by those to which we have given that power.  We have structured our society this way so that those given the power and the responsibility of upholding our laws can be held accountable for abuse.  I agree that vigilantism should be discouraged.  However, we must not label legitimate acts of self defense, or being prepared to defend oneself, as vigilantism.  

These actions are not vigilantism because they are not acts of aggression for the purpose of retribution or punishment.  Possession of a firearm by a person who is not prohibited from carry is the perfectly legitimate exercise of a constitutionally protected right.  Also, shooting someone in self defense is not "taking the law into your own hands".  If the purpose of the shooting is to protect one from death or serious harm, it is a defensive action and is legitimate.  The idea that someone who merely allows an aggressor to continue their assault is somehow morally superior to the person who shoots the aggressor is misguided and tragic.  The attacker is not being punished for the attack, they are being stopped from perpetrating it.  There is a clear distinction between issuing punishment and an act of defense.  We should recognize it.

No comments:

Post a Comment