When he’s not banning large sodas in New York City or failing to invite first-responders or priests to 9/11 memorial ceremonies, Michael Bloomberg, whose legacy Ira Stoll examines in the July/August issue of The American Spectator, is jumping into the post-Zimmerman-trial mania by declaring that “shoot first” laws need to go.
This, the New York City mayor said in a statement released on July 14, is “crystal clear”:
Sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known. 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.
The Trayvon Martin case is unfortunate. The flames of racial tensions were fanned for no reason, arguably due to the media’s initial (and false) reports that George Zimmerman was a white neighborhood watch leader (journalists later deployed the pseudo-technical, ambiguous term “white Hispanic”). Then NBC treated us to the now infamous 911 tapes that had been doctored to give the impression that Zimmerman was some sort of racist vigilante.
Stripped of racial distractions and seen in the context of Zimmerman’s acquittal, the case is still a sad one: a young man’s life was ended, possibly due to over-zealous patrolling, or, as Robert Stacy McCain notes, just as possibly due to his former high school’s irresponsibility. We will never get to hear Martin’s side of the story.
The problem with Bloomberg’s conclusion, however, lies in its mistaken assessment of what motivated the jury to declare Zimmerman’s innocence. As USA Today reports, the jury concluded that Zimmerman acted in self-defense, using the amount of force “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.” Furthermore, the jury decided that Zimmerman did not "intentionally commit an act or acts that caused death" or demonstrate a "depraved mind without regard for human life"—the definitions of manslaughter and second-degree murder in Florida.
In other words, Florida’s “stand your ground” law, much derided in the left of center press, was used neither by the jury nor, as Politico notes, by the defense to determine Zimmerman’s innocence. Besides the absurdity of attacking those who make use of their constitutionally-protected weapons—what is the point of owning and carrying a gun if you can’t use it when you feel that your life is at risk?—Bloomberg is simply throwing out a bucket of (by now half-eaten) red herrings. Perhaps “stand your ground” laws should be re-examined (especially following bizarre instances such as this), but they are on the books to protect those who might previously have been hesitant to protect themselves.
But then again, this is coming from the guy who attempted to reduce salt intake in New York City restaurants, even though a recently issued report from the Institute of Medicine suggests that decreasing our sodium consumption may be neither necessary nor even desirable. It doesn’t appear that individual liberties in general matter much to the mayor, and the Second Amendment seems to be no exception. Not, unfortunately, much of a surprise.