This site is non-partisan but occasionally I’m compelled to throw a little virtual paper hat into the ring. Especially when no one else is shouting for an end to “stand your ground” laws.
While watching the Republican presidential debates on ABC in December, many of us may have had a feeling something was missing. Moms Demand Action made me realize what it was, and a tweet done in haste made quite an impression that night, earning it the spot as the final “tweet of the month” for 2015:
There are quite a few more opportunities to catch the candidates from both parties expound on their platforms, and we must remind them that domestic gun violence among Americans is just as much a threat as domestic or international terrorism. Here’s a schedule of debates coming up in 2016:
In a second tragic incident of its kind in two years, a Florida mother apparently in fear has accidentally shot and killed her daughter last night (Tuesday, December 29th) .
The Orlando Sentinel reports this latest shooting occurred just before midnight at a home in the Osceola County city of St. Cloud, when a sleeping mother, who reportedly works as a dispatcher for a local police department, was startled awake by the sound of someone entering the house. Thinking it was an intruder, she fired a single shot that struck her 27 year-old daughter, who was visiting from North Carolina and had just entered the house.
The young woman’s stepfather, identified by the Orlando Sentinel as detective Claude Campbell, a corporal with the St. Cloud police department, called 911. On audio of the emergency call, the grieving mother, identified as 45 year-old Sherry Campbell, can be heard in the background, apparently comforting her wounded daughter, who the Sentinel identified as Ashley Doby, and crying,”Baby, I love you so much, please!..please…Oh my God!.”
On the audio, the stepfather does not tell the dispatcher that the daughter had been shot. He reportedly had not yet realized what had transpired.
The young woman died at a hospital, while the mother was taken to the hospital for unspecified treatment. Citing law enforcement policy, police did not initially release the names of those involved because it occurred at a home of someone who works in law enforcement.
Police said evidence so far indicates the shooting appears to have been accidental. No charges have been filed as of the time of this post and an investigation is still taking place, but police say the State Attorney’s office will review the case.
Accidental shootings like this one underscore the caution that should be taken when a weapon is in a household. All residents and visitors should be made aware – especially during holidays – when someone may be visiting, that a weapon is in a home, and to always communicate before entering a home at night.
Neither of these cases should be construed as a “stand your ground” incident. However, each would fall under a state’s self defense laws, or “castle doctrine“, which dictates that a person has a right to defend himself and family against great bodily harm or death in the home, if a person fears an imminent threat – even if by deadly force.
This article will be updated with more information as it becomes available.
An all but forgotten shooting in a Florida movie theater made national news, but may not have had a mass effect. That ability seems to come from mass shootings. The murder of 43 year-old Chad Oulson by 71 year-old Curtis Reeves – which is being called the “popcorn shooting” – is a theater shooting you may have forgotten about, but is nonetheless chilling.
Oulson, a Navy veteran (1990 to 1997) and avid motocross racer, was on a matinée movie date with his wife Nicole, on January 13, 2014, to see “Lone Survivor” (a movie about Navy SEALs). They sat one row in front of Reeves and his wife Vivian. Oulson was shot and killed by Reeves during an argument sparked by Oulson texting his child’s babysitter during movie previews. Reeves, a retired Tampa, Florida police captain and former SWAT leader, is claiming stand your ground immunity.
The third anniversary of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass shooting on July 20th and trial of the perpetrator that had ended July 16th, 2015 may have reminded Americans of just how vulnerable we are in public.
On July 23rd, 2015, exactly one week after the Aurora shooting trial had ended, news came of yet another theater shooting – this time at the MGM Grand Theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Chaos in a peaceful place of darkness where one may swap the horrors of the real world outside and feel safe with horrors on a screen also occurred during the interim between those two events. And from the moment news first came about a Florida movie theater shooting many of us just knew that “stand your ground” law would come into play. After all – it was in the “Gunshine State”, in a dark place, and reports were that it was a one-on-one confrontation.
Though police have reportedly said it was clearly not a case of self-defense, and a “stand your ground” defense was “off the table”, the man who opened fire in a Florida movie theater is quoted as saying he was “in fear” for his life – which is a required state of mind for a stand your ground defense – and has filed a claim for stand your ground immunity.
The Wesley Chapel Cobb Grove 16 movie theater in Pasco County had signs posted that banned weapons. And Reeves reportedly had also berated another moviegoer a week earlier. Yet Reeves could claim that he had as much right to be in the movie theater as the victim did. He could add that he had no duty to retreat, and was in fear “of being attacked” when this healthier, younger man – Oulson (who had the nerve to be texting a babysitter) – jocked him about trying to report the infraction to the theater management.
Since Reeves (also considered a firearms expert) was armed, it probably didn’t matter to him whether or not the younger man was armed. Reeves may claim he felt an “imminent threat” for his or his wife’s safety. At that moment of sheer testosterone/PTSD-fueled fear Reeves felt what he claimed was an “unknown object” yet what may well have been hot butter, popcorn and impact of a popcorn box hitting his body, but theater surveillance video [see below] does show what appears to be a cellphone being thrown by Oulson.
Nevertheless, Reeves apparently felt a need to “stand his ground”, using his handgun, to presumably protect his life. He had been assaulted. He felt empowered. He fired a .380 caliber bullet at close range that ripped through Oulson’s chest before it struck the hand of Oulson’s wife, Nicole.
The sheriff said that Reeves’ son – a Tampa officer who was off duty – was walking into the theater when the shooting occurred. Reeves, who suffers from high cholesterol, arthritis in his hands and requires an assisted breathing machine, reportedly briefly struggled with another off-duty deputy but released the weapon. The gun jammed and Reeves was unable to fire again.
Reeves was arrested for second-degree murder and aggravated assault. He has consistently maintained he fired in self defense. However, in a deposition on the day of the shooting. his wife, Vivian, said she did not see anything thrown at him. Reeves was initially denied bail, and jailed following the incident, but was released on bail in July 2014.
Reeves’ attorney, Richard Escobar, has said he thinks they have a “pretty solid stand your ground case” and have filed a stand your ground claim. The defense team bears the burden of proof (as per a recent Florida Supreme Court ruling) to show facts surrounding his innocence, his legal reasoning behind the crime, and why he should not be held accountable.
This will take place during a “stand your ground” hearing to determine whether or not Reeves is immune from prosecution. If he loses at this hearing the case would then be allotted for a judge or jury trial. If his plea is successful, he will walk free, and not have to stand trial.
You may have forgotten about that day when Chad Oulson was killed in a movie theater, but it doesn’t have to be a mass shooting in a peaceful place of darkness to have a powerfully chilling mass effect.
Is loud music a tipping point for some people who may not like noise and have a gun? In a pre-Christmas shooting, a Missouri man is claiming self-defense after he reportedly put on a bullet-proof vest and murdered a neighbor who he thought was playing loud music no one else could hear.
Police in Maryland Heights, Missouri reported that 26 year-old James C. Blanton shot and killed 35 year-old Yi-Ping “Peter” Chang on the afternoon of December 13, when he knocked on Chang’s door complaining about “loud bass music”.
The 35-year-old Chang, a computer support specialist for an agrochemical company, was home watching a movie with his girlfriend at an apartment complex in the St. Louis suburb when Blanton knocked on the door complaining about loud music. There was an argument, then Blanton shot and killed Chang. He then sat outside Chang’s apartment and waited for police to arrive.
Blanton reportedly had a cooperative, justifying demeanor with police on the scene, telling them that he had killed Chang in self-defense, though police did not report if any other weapon was found. Blanton was being held on a $500,000 bond after being charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon.
Blanton had reportedly also complained other times to other neighbors about loud music, those interviewed by the St. Louis Post Dispatch say. Yet no one but Blanton could ever hear the “loud bass music” he complained about. “He’s gone to everyone’s apartment knocking about noise and music from time to time,” neighbor Kelly Miller told KMOV.
A police official said Blanton wanted Chang to ‘turn the bass down,’ but Chang wasn’t playing any loud music. It’s not known if the movie Chang and his girlfriend were watching could have been a source of any loud music.
Other incidents caused by real music have ended in tragedy. In 2010 46 year-old retired firefighter Raul Rodriguez complained about loud music coming from a children’s birthday party in Houston, told a police dispatcher he was “standing his ground” and fired a gun at a group of unarmed men, killing one and wounding two others. Rodriguez was convicted of murder, sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2013, then won a retrial after the conviction was overturned because of flaws in jury instructions. In November, 2015, he was convicted again.
For his own safety, Santa Claus might want to bypass and avoid some places in America. Soaring through the Christmas skies won’t be a problem for the guy in red, because NORAD is tracking and protecting him from airborne missiles and ground-to-air fire. He’ll be OK.
Once landing on rooftops, hopefully Santa’s sleigh is as silent as the night. Chimneys might be too hot in winter temperatures, and that’s when it could really get dangerous, but not because of a fireplace. The heat could come from gunfire.
If someone hears sounds on their roof, they could just shoot first, and ask questions later. Or, if a person in that house feels threatened by Santa or an elf, and is afraid of bodily harm, they could have that red and white outfit soaked in Santa’s blood.
What many gun-owning homeowners may not realize is the difference between stand your ground law and “castle doctrine”, sometimes called castle laws. Under castle doctrine, you do not need a “stand your ground” law to defend yourself in your home. Yet, some folks may not have ever heard of the castle doctrine, and erroneously think that stand your ground law gives them special constitutional rights they didn’t already have, and that repealing stand your ground law would take away those rights.
Based on England’s 17th century doctrine that a man’s home is his castle the doctrine has been in place for hundreds of years. (in some states, a vehicle is also an extension of the castle). In the castle, or anyplace a person owns or rents and has a legal right to be, under castle law, that person also has a right to defend himself and family against great bodily harm or death, if a person fears an imminent threat – even if by deadly force.
Some states apply castle doctrine if the occupants reasonably believe the intruder intends to commit a felony such as arson or burglary. The occupant must not have provoked or instigated the intrusion nor an intruder’s threat or use of deadly force. And some states still include a “duty to retreat” clause (which means to seek safety and call – or try to call – the police first) in their self-defense laws.
In every state, the occupant(s) must have a legal right to be there, cannot be fugitive(s) or aiding/abetting other fugitives from the law, and the law can’t be used against a law enforcement officer performing his duty. In some states, the occupant must not be engaged in any unlawful activity during the encroachment, and, in most cases, the castle doctrine gives immunity from civil charges also.
Stand your ground laws change the castle doctrine by relieving a “duty to retreat” inherent in castle doctrine, and applying it to anywhere a person has a right to be. More than half of all American states have some variation of these two, distinct laws.
Luis Sosa had a question. And then another. And before long, the 20-year-old pharmacy student in Puerto Rico had several different questions in his head, which made their way on to his twitter profile, each as an “open question to all U.S. Christians”. One night two weeks before Christmas, Sosa blasted a tirade of ten taunting tweets on twitter in twenty minutes, each one posing a distinct one-sentence question to ALL United States Christians.
The thought-provoking questions, which even challenged the U.S. Constitution, touched on a range of topics: racism, gun control, immigration, religion, politics, and climate change. In an exclusive interview with the movement to End Stand Your Ground, Sosa said he wanted to address his questions “mostly to young, maybe college-aged Christians like me, so they could really analyze if their current world view aligns with Jesus’.” Sosa described the response he received from the twitterverse as tepid.
Sosa said he has traveled to the mainland and has a desire to come here, but he said, “I found these sorts of things disturbing in the U.S. Christian community:
being overzealous with guns, carrying guns in church, talking about killing trespassers, denying climate change, bailing out big business because socialism is ‘of the devil’, the confederate flag ‘worship’, even slavery and institutionalized racism in the past, and these things really irked me to the point where I was asking myself: ‘Why do they believe this?’.”
During the interview Sosa told me, “Gun law here is rather strict, and a judge from the Circuit Court of the municipality of Salinas declared Law 404 unconstitutional according to the FEDERAL (U.S.) Constitution, but it is currently in (the) appeals process. I fear that things may get more violent here if the regulations are eliminated.”
Sosa has strong feelings on gun control, and said “I believe gun laws should answer to common sense, common sense being that no law-abiding citizen needs an automatic rifle. Common sense being that the only excuse to shoot someone is in the presence of very real and mortal danger. Common sense in that mass shootings are not just because of “mental health problems”. Common sense in that legal background checks should be instituted to buy a small magazine handgun under a .38 caliber after an appropriate waiting period.”
In 2014 Puerto Rico had its lowest homicide rate in 15 years.The island had 681 homicides in 2014, down from 1,164 three years before, according to Fox News. The decline in gun deaths did not go unnoticed, and ironically, is not attributed to any surge in gun sales, but partly to efforts by the FBI to take charge of cases involving armed felons.
One particular question that caught my attention was about “stand your ground” laws.
Sosa pointed out that one instance in the New Testament where a Christian ‘stood his ground’ was when Peter attacked one of the soldiers arresting Jesus, yet Jesus did not praise Peter for it, but reprimanded him (Matt 26:52).
Sosa said that, “Republicanism does not have as much of a stronghold (here) on Christianity as in the States; we may be morally conservative, but in regards to guns and economy, we have a true ‘smorgasbord’: Socialists, Democrats, Capitalists, Republicans, heck, even some Communists for good measure. We do not let our political ideologies influence our faith; we let our faith influence our political ideologies.” Sosa’s other tweets implicated Donald Trump, racism, and climate change.
[The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the Bill of Rights (commonly referred to as the part that gives the “right to bear arms”) was adopted on December 15, 1791. It reads:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
It is hard to imagine that the common law (or common sense) understanding of what was expected of someone possessing a dangerous weapon did not include the following responsibilities:
1. To have the knowledge and skill to use it safely and effectively;
2. To use it for legitimate purposes only;
3. To safely secure it so as to prevent unauthorized access or use;
4. To report it if lost or stolen;
5. To sell/give/loan it only to someone capable of meeting these responsibilities;
6. To have some form insurance or financial liability in case of mishap.
Given the massive illegitimate use of guns in America (murder, suicide, accidents) we must conclude that a sizeable number of firearm owners are not upholding these responsibilities, and, therefore, it is within our rights to take steps to insure that they do.
Roy Clymer is a gun owner and Vietnam combat veteran who respects people, craves knowledge and loves life.