New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was predictably unhappy with Saturday's verdict in the George Zimmerman case. He used it as an opportunity to go after what he calls "shoot first" laws, which people in the real world refer to as "stand your ground" laws.
It was an irrelevant rant, as Politico's Maggie Haberman pointed out: "In the Zimmerman case, neither the defense nor the prosecution ultimately used “Stand Your Ground.” Zimmerman’s attorneys ... presented a conventional self-defense strategy." Problem is, Haberman waited until her final paragraph to note that, and gave readers every impression that the case was about "stand your ground" up until that point (presented in full for fair use and discussion purposes; bolds are mine):
Mayor Bloomberg: End ‘shoot-first’ laws
New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, one of the faces of national gun-control efforts over the last year, made a fresh case against Florida’s gun laws Sunday on the heels of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting death.
“Sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
“But one fact has long been crystal clear: ‘shoot-first’ laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns. Such laws – drafted by gun lobby extremists in Washington – encourage deadly confrontations by enabling people to shoot first and argue ‘justifiable homicide’ later.”
He added, “Last year, I joined a broad coalition of civic leaders to shine a light on the impact of ‘shoot-first’ laws and work to eliminate them, in Florida and wherever they have been passed. We will continue that work – and the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed child attempting to walk home from the store, will continue to drive our efforts.”
The phrase “shoot first” is used by critics of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws, which allows people to use deadly force if they have reason to believe they’re facing bodily injury.
The Mayor's statement, as Haberman quoted it, makes it appear that "stand your ground" was at issue in the Zimmerman trial. It wasn't. But Haberman let him rant on anyway. Readers who only see the headline will certainly believe that "stand your ground" was a trial issue, as will those who only read some or all of Haberman's first five paragraphs. If this were someone promoting an issue perceived as conservative, I daresay she or her editors would have stepped in much sooner, perhaps even in the story's headline, to point out a misleading contention's irrelevance.
Bloomberg appears to be saying that the mere existence of "stand your ground" laws encourages people who are armed to defend themselves if they are attacked and fear serious bodily harm. Even in the unlikely case that it's true, why are we supposed to have a problem with that?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.