Gun Control: No Illusion Without Collusion

In psychiatry the term illusion refers to a specific form of sensory distortion. Unlike an hallucination, which is a sensory experience in the absence of a stimulus, an illusion describes a distortion of a perception so it is understood and interpreted differently. For example, hearing voices regardless of the environment would be an hallucination, whereas hearing voices which arise only from the sound of running water (or other auditory source) would be an illusion.

Following Florida’s passage of Senate Bill 436, CNN ran an article entitled Florida tourists warned of new gun law. The subtitle read: ‘Shoot first’ law expands use of deadly force. Featuring the Brady Campaign, the article printed sound bites from visitors to Miami International Airport to make it appear Florida had become a darkened country on the verge of war:

It seems like everybody ought to be packing a piece…

It’s a little scary. It’s “shoot first, ask about it later.”

Visitors were responding to the interviewer after being greeted by the Brady Campaign as they disembarked and given a leaflet advising them to avoid confrontational behavior with the locals, as they are allegedly armed and out of control.

“Do not argue unnecessarily with local people,” it says. “If someone appears to be angry with you, maintain to the best of your ability a positive attitude, and do not shout or make threatening gestures.” – From flyer entitled “An Important Notice to Florida Visitors” from Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Far from being the end of life as we know it, Florida’s SB 436:

  1. Creates “a presumption that a person acts with the intent to use force or violence under specified circumstances.”
  2. States that “a person has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be and the force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm, or the commission of a forcible felony.”
  3. Provides “immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for using deadly force” if the above two conditions are met within the definition of the law.

This means that if you have the right to be where you are, and you are attacked, it is reasonable to believe that the person attacking you means you harm, and you have the right to protect yourself. If these two conditions are met, you can defend yourself with force, and if you kill the predator, his family cannot continue the assault by suing you for wrongful death. Florida law has become common sense: all resulting consequences reside with the attacker.

The law repeatedly clarifies when deadly force is allowable, in the three main sections of text. It is very clear that you had better be certain you are in a situation where your life or health, or that of another, is in imminent danger. Getting beat to a parking place near the grocery store does not count. Having some drunk call your husband a bozo does not justify even brandishing your firearm.

The term “forcible felony” should be explained, because it further limits when a Floridian may use deadly force. The Florida legislature considers a forcible felony to be:

Any forcible felony (actual commission, or attempt), as defined in s. 776.08, F.S. That section lists the following offenses: treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual…[or] Lewd or lascivious offense committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age.

This does not justify shooting somebody throwing a rock through the living room window. It would, however, justify deadly force if it was a bomb being thrown. Contrary to the Brady claim, somebody with a funny accent who is waving his arms in the air like a signalman on an aircraft carrier’s flight deck does not qualify as an imminent threat. Nor does a pale-skinned Minnesotan wearing Bermuda shorts in January shouting “Yew betcha” at the top of his lungs as his feet begin to thaw. Nor does an angry teenager from California wearing Gothic clothes with a pierced septum who needs to continue arguing his point of view because to acknowledge he doesn’t know everything risks damaging his fragile self-esteem.

There are three levels of illusion in play here:

  1. An anti-gun organization (Brady) attempts to create the perception of a high-risk environment, when dozens of attempts to justify “wild west” theories have all been ignobly dismissed upon the enactment of numerous state right-to-carry laws.
  2. The organization socially engineers perception by presenting biased literature to vulnerable travelers who are tired from a long flight.
  3. A biased mainstream media outlet (CNN) reports on traveler reactions after reading the propaganda, in order to reinforce and validate the social engineering that the new law makes Florida a more dangerous place, which in turn helps to justify the anti-gun organization’s existence when it is not addressing real problems, which in turn enables the biased media to continue presenting misleading “information” about gun control from its acknowledged “experts” in the gun control organization, which adds credibility to the idea that gun control is a valid and important issue, which cycles us back to point 1, ad infinitum.

The Reality Is…

Floridians stand accused of being too stupid to know what a life-threatening situation is, and of being too belligerent to be trusted to behave appropriately under the new law. If this is true, then it should follow that concealed carry licensees have a documented track record to verify this.

If a CCW licensee commits any crime that normally results in arrest, their license is revoked. They may also lose their license for other reasons as well. Since inception of Florida’s right-to-carry (RTC) law on October 1, 1987 through August 31, 2005, 3,607 licenses have been revoked for any reason, 1% of all valid licenses. If you count only those who have committed a crime after receiving their license, there were 2,906 revocations, or 0.8% of all licenses.

Since the FBI began keeping annual arrest records for Florida in 2000, the state’s general population has averaged about a 5.8% arrest rate: for every 100,000 population, there have been about 5,751 arrests. This means that in a single year, the general population gets arrested 5.75 times as often as all RTC licenses got revoked, and over 7 times often as all licensees who committed a crime after receiving their license.

This is the extreme best-case scenario for CNN/Brady, because we are comparing the annual average arrest rate for the last five years to the total violation rates for all RTC licensees since inception. Therefore, the reality is that Florida’s general population is more unlawful than the above comparison shows. For example, if you divide all FBI crimes committed from 1988-2004 by the general population size in 2004, and compare this to all crime-based license revocations divided by the final licensee population in August 2005, you find that the general population’s violation rate is 124 times greater.

Here is the last pin poking into the CNN/Brady hot air balloon: from 1988 through 2004, the overall U.S. violent crime rate fell 27.3%, but those “scary, shoot first” folks in Florida saw a 36.4% drop, 33% more than the national rate. In Florida, murder fell 50% more, rape fell 59% more, robbery fell 49% more, and aggravated assault fell 11% more than the national rates.

Considering these facts, CNN is correct: “It seems like everybody ought to be packing a piece.” If everyone in Florida was law-abiding enough to qualify for a concealed carry permit, there would be a 99% reduction in crime.

Guns CNN Journalistic Issues