MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
(Photo: Poster Boy NYC)A little more than a week ago, a man who baited two teenagers to burglarize his house so he could shoot and kill them was convicted by a Minnesota jury of premeditated murder. That will not bring back the lives of the two teens he had plotted to shoot to death. However, it does at least indicate a jury somewhere in the United States values lives over the growing NRA-sponsored laws that provide a license to kill.
According to an Associated Press account of the killings carried out by Byron Smith, the shooter even taped the murder:
Ted Sampsell-Jones, a criminal law professor at William Mitchell College of Law, said the audio recording was devastating to the defense, noting that Smith's taunts to the victims don't show a man in a panic.
"It was very powerful, and it makes it very clear that ... he didn't do this because he had to. He did it because he wanted to. And that is not what self-defense is about," Sampsell-Jones said.
The recording captured the sounds of Smith shooting Brady as he came down the stairs. Brady groans after the first and second shots, but is silent after a third shot, and Smith can be heard saying, "You're dead."
In short, what happened in Minnesota was like baiting two cub bears, only they were real teenagers with real names: 7-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer.
The emergence of the "stand your ground" laws as a legislative initiative of the NRA, of course, reached prominence when George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, who was guilty of nothing more than walking while black. (One of the tragic ironies is that Martin was staying with his father in the very complex that Zimmerman claimed to be protecting from criminals as a one-man armed vigilante squad.)
For several years, the NRA has been passing "stand your ground" laws in states. What many of these right-to-shoot-and-kill laws authorize is the use of a gun when an individual merely "perceives" that he or she is threatened. Of course, how is one able to judge the "perception" of a "stand your ground" gun shooter?
In the case of the Minnesota shooter, the premeditated killings were recorded by him.
"Stand your ground" laws are extensions of the Castle Doctrine, which allows people to defend themselves in their homes if threatened with harm. However, there are two key differences in most states where "stand your ground" laws (or variations of them) have been passed: one, it is now legal to merely claim a "perception" of potentially being harmed (as noted earlier); and, two, it extends beyond the home, as in the Zimmerman case, to public spaces.
What is additionally alarming is that the NRA "stand your ground" concept pumps up a gun owners' grievances and turns them into a thirst to, in essence, kill people who are annoying them or committing petty crimes.
This just occurred in Montana, where Markus Kaarma - a Missoula, Montana, resident - shot and killed a University of Montana exchange student from Germany. He lured him and another student into his garage by leaving it partially open and fired a shotgun through the garage door without ever personally seeing Diren Dede, the German student he killed.
A hairstylist named Felene Sherbondy told the police that Mr. Kaarma had come into the Great Clips salon three days before the shooting and talked about how he had been waiting up with his shotgun for three nights "to shoot some kid." Ms. Sherbondy told the police that Mr. Kaarma was being "extremely vulgar and belligerent," according to court documents.
Mr. Kaarma told the police that in the moments before Mr. Dede's death, he heard the sound of metal touching metal as he stared into the pitch-black garage, and swept the gun across the width of the garage as he fired. Ms. Pflager told the police she heard a few yells of "Hey!" or "Wait!" from inside the garage, and then gunshots. It all happened in less than 10 seconds, the couple told the police.
As the host parents of Diren Dede told the NYT:
Mr. Smith and Kate Walker, who say they have never locked their doors and have never been burglarized, have spent the last week grieving for a 17-year-old who had begun to feel like a family member.
"Whatever happened to turning the lights on and yelling, 'Hey kids, go home'?" Mr. Smith said. Ms. Walker added, "Or closing the garage door?"
Whatever the flaws of police forces, Missoula is a university town (not a remote rural location) and the police also could have been called, given that Kaarma and his partner were in no imminent danger.
But the NRA has set up a vigilante "right to kill" that has become a "justified" outlet for the anger of the white male toward a society from which they feel displaced.
In surrendering to the gun lobby's bestowing a license to kill on as many gun owners as possible, the United States is further eroding the diminishing patch of civil society that remains.
AFTERNOTE: The injustice of the sentencing of Marissa Alexander to a 20-year-sentence for a firing a warning shot against a serial abuser against women is not representative of the “stand your ground” law's intent. In fact, quite the opposite, it shows how “stand your ground” is selectively applied – allowing white males to go free for killing people they “perceive” might harm them, while jailing a black woman for 20 years for defending herself and family. In most jurisdictions, a white male might not even be prosecuted for firing a warning shot, the “stand your ground” law aside. Alexander's case shows the bias of the criminal justice system against minorities. Alexander is currently out on bond, pending a retrial.
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