Florida Lets You Kill People!

You know what I thought upon learning last week Floridians will pass a bill “permitting the use of deadly force during a home invasion or when an individual considers themselves threatened?”

It’s about time.

March 23rd signaled the unanimous adoption of measure SB 436 (“Relating to Protection of Persons/Use of Force”) in the state senate; its sister bill in the House Justice Council (HB 249) similarly passed with an 8-2 vote. While opponents are slamming the bill and Democrats who voted for it admit to doing so to appear “strong on crime,” these two bills show that some politicians are appealing to the strongest law there is — common sense.

What is more important than allowing a person to defend themselves on their own property?

“Since the time of the Romans, a man’s home has been his castle,” said State Senator Durrell Peaden. “There is a presumption that anyone who enters your home illegally is there to harm or kill you. You don’t have to retreat if you’re in fear for your life or fear great bodily harm.”

I’ve stated in the past anyone should be able to own and operate a firearm. This isn’t limited to small firearms and hunting rifles, by the way; I believe the Constitution allows for all men and women a level playing field with the government. If someone has the money and the desire to own an F-16, more power to them.

These beliefs extend to the homeowner. If I’m asleep in bed and I hear an intruder break into my house sniffing for valuables, I’ll protect my family and home as best I can with an assumption that the thief has a gun ready. In a confrontation, I’m not going to think twice about shooting someone as they advance on me. They’ve shattered my little world and the only resulting prosecution should be directed at the fool unfortunate enough to try and burgle someone capable of defending themself.

Likewise, if I’m driving in my car and someone attempts to carjack me, the nine millimeters of peace of mind tucked under my seat might be the difference between life and death. I won’t weep for anyone that tries to do me harm.

I’ve been mugged twice at gunpoint. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of facing down the barrel of a loaded pistol; I’ve seen a gun shoved into the small of a friend’s neck. The grand total of both muggings? $20 and an old camcorder. Have these events shaped my opinion towards gun policy? Perhaps. But I know I’m not the only person in this world to be on the receiving end of crime, so I’ll wager there are people like me who embrace and cherish the right to defend oneself.

That’s why bills like SB 436 excite me. While I’m appalled we need to codify the obvious, putting common sense on the record is never a bad thing. SB 436 and HB 249 give individuals the right to use force, deadly or no, in protecting a home, residence or vehicle. That action is then shielded from prosecution, particularly if the thief is injured in the melee.

Sound too much like vigilantism for your tastes? It’s possible — opponents compare it to a free-for-all on the streets where anyone who feels slightly threatened can unload a magazine on the perpetrator. Some of the wording is a little loose for my tastes, but bold laws sometimes are. In any case, bill proponents assure that they aren’t overreaching. “You have to be within the confines of the dwelling as described in this bill,” says Peaden.

I’ve read several editorials cautioning against this law, most of them complaining that it’s another power grab from the National Rifle Association (people are still smarting over the expiration of the useless Assault Weapons Ban) or that it’s simply a can of worms that will result in the death of civilization.

The most ridiculous example given, bar none, involved a woman in Lake Worth, Florida, who thought she was the victim of a carjacking when a group of illegal immigrants hopped in her car without any prompting, even though she was in an area heavily populated by day laborers. Opponents are worried that, under this law, she could shoot some illegal workers and “get away with it.”

Let’s examine this for a minute. A group of illegal immigrants got into a woman’s car with no permission whatsoever and people are complaining this woman might have defended herself accordingly? I pray that if I ever hop in an unidentified car without warning the owner shoots me immediately; to do otherwise awards them the Biggest Idiot of the Day trophy.

We live in dangerous times. Police officers oftentimes cannot be trusted to serve and protect as they once did. Criminals, in turn, fear the ramifications of their actions less and less because the punishment does not fit the crime.

If someone is in your home illegally, chances are they don’t care if they hurt you. After all, they’ve already committed to breaking the law, what’s one more bullet point on the rap sheet? Thanks to current laws that punish homeowners for acting out in self-defense, there’s more incentive to commit a crime.

I remember a story an acquaintance from South Africa told me about a typical commute home. After opening the sunroof and firing a few rounds into the trees to scare off brigands hiding nearby, he’d call his house a minute before arriving so the gate would be opening at the time he drove up. His parents would greet him, guns drawn, in case a thief tried to storm the property.

At night, if someone tried to break into their house, the intruder would be shot dead before the warning shot was fired. If the thief was outside, the corpse would be hauled inside and a fake shootout would be staged. The police didn’t care; a thief was a piece of garbage to them, and he or she was treated accordingly.

Do I think we’re at that stage? Lord, no. That’s the Wild West mentality opponents of this bill think will pervade Florida, however. As for me? I applaud any legislation that gives rights back to the people.

The first burglar who gets shot in the leg while trying to steal a television set will set the precedent that American citizens are not afraid to fight back. Now, if only we could convince states to read statistics showing lowered gun regulations lower the crime rate.

Better yet, Florida could convince the 49 other states to adopt similar legislation.