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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

 
The shoot first and ask questions later doctrine

by digby

I think a lot of us watching this increasingly surreal devolution of our cultural norms around guns are starting to get a little bit scared. This is rapidly spinning out of control.

After the Dunn verdict, I wrote that it's more and more obvious that the "polite society is an armed society" trope is really just a get out of jail free card for bullies and hotheads to run society by the law of the jungle. I noted that a European friend told me recently that it's common advice for travelers to the United States to be told to avoid confrontation at all costs, no matter what the provocation, because you never know who might be armed.  Certainly, the bullies in places that have enshrined "stand your ground" believe they are allowed by law to provoke a confrontation and then shoot the victim if he fights back.

Dahlia Lithwick unpacks all this and more  in typically incisive fashion:
The gun lobby has single-handedly made certain that the very definition of what one might reasonably expect from an altercation at a Walmart, a movie theater, or a gas station has changed. By seeking to arm everyone in America, the NRA has in fact changed our reasonable expectation of how fights will end, into a self-fulfilling prophecy about how fights will end. It should surprise you not at all to learn that of the 10 states with the most lenient gun laws in America, seven support “stand your ground.” In those jurisdictions shooting first isn’t merely “reasonable.” It borders on sensible.

And it’s not just cultural expectations that are shifting. We’re also shifting what we ask of our jurors. Under “stand your ground,” we are asking jurors to impose a subjective test about whether the shooter was experiencing a profound moment of existential panic. We are asking them whether—in a country seemingly full of people who are both armed and terrified that everyone else is armed—shooting first makes sense. By redirecting jurors to contemplate whether people who are armed and ready to kill are thinking reasonably about others they believe to be armed and ready to kill, we have created a framework in which one’s subjective fears about the world are all that matters. Or as the father of one victim explained to the Washington Post, “Somehow, we've reached the point where the shooter's word is the law.”

Every time we hear about a Zimmerman, a Dunn, or a Cyle Wayne Quadlin, we get a little bit closer to believing that we need to become a Zimmerman, a Dunn, or a Cyle Wayne Quadlin merely to protect ourselves. And then it gets a little bit easier for us to relate to, and to believe, the next Zimmerman, Dunn, or Cyle Wayne Quadlin. It’s a perfect loop of logic. We define the reasonableness of a lethal response by the growing number of lethal responders. “Stand your ground” laws, or at least the public conception of what they do, are changing the way the rest of us think about self-protection. This is, of course, exactly the world the NRA dreams of constructing: Everyone armed and paranoid that everyone else is armed. But the old canard that an armed society is a polite society is pretty much bunk. Ours is not a polite society; we are rude and hotheaded and terrified. Now we have guns to help us sort it all out.
I think that's so. But I don't think the NRA dream will be realized.  Something much more repressive and socially stifling is taking place. In the final analysis, I think most people will not take a chance on getting into a deadly altercation. If it becomes accepted that the bullying types who demand "respect" and like to tell strangers to follow their orders are packing heat most people aren't going carry their own guns and they aren't going to be reckless enough to get into gun battles with armed thugs.

They will submit.

They will keep quiet.

They will apologize and move on.

Sure, there will be more killing of young men and assorted people asserting their right to speak, but once most of us understand that we could die if we fail to follow a bullying stranger's orders, we'll usually do what we're told. Life is already short enough.

And the gun proliferation zealots will call it liberty.


Is everyone getting the same picture in their heads? It's not unprecedented in America.

 In fact, we had an entire race of people live under a regime like that once before:








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