I was just reading about folks in Wyoming who are trying to pass a law allowing shooting in self-defense, even if the shooter could get out of the situation (ie, leave). And this is just silly bullshit from folks who haven’t mentally aged passed the sixth grade. I liked this quote from the article regarding a similar law passed in Florida:
"What they've done is legalized manslaughter here in Florida," Hayhoe said. "It promotes irresponsible, aggressive and even illegal use of firearms. What's going to happen when the gun-owning community, it settles into them what this is really about, and they discover that these guys are being exonerated when they're charged with manslaughter?"
And that’s completely right. How on earth is it “self-defense” if you don’t need to defend yourself at all? If you can just leave? That’s not self-defense. That’s murder. And I suspect that at least some of these people will eventually realize that that’s what they legalized; not just for law-abiding NRA members shooting criminal thugs, but also for those thugs shooting other thugs. And hell, if you break into someone’s house and they try to kill you for it, wouldn’t it be self-defense to kill them? I don’t know if it works like that, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t. Assuming that you weren’t trying to kill them, it really is self-defense to shoot back. And now it would seem that the burglar doesn’t even have to try to flee.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big gun opponent. I’ve never owned a gun or shot a real gun (only bb-guns as a teen), but I have nothing against gun ownership. Hell, if I felt like I needed one, I’d certainly buy it and get to be damn good at shooting it. As with most people, I believe the 2nd amendment allows us to own guns, within certain reasonable restrictions (for example, Uzi machineguns are a bit unreasonable and owning bazookas and tanks is right out). And while I think the idea of gun ownership as defense against “jack-booted government thugs” is a bit daft, as our pea-shooters won’t do jack dooky against what our government has; I won’t deny folks the right to own said pea-shooters.
But this law is just crap. Because this isn’t about self-defense. This is about people wanting to be able to shoot badguys on the street like Dirty Harry. This is about the romantic idea of not backing down from a fight, but getting to use their weapons the way they always dreamed they could. But it is pure romanticism. This isn’t reality. This is about fantasy vigilantism. This isn’t about public safety. This is about people wanting to “take the law into their own hands”, even when the law can take care of itself. People who have seen all the Death Wish films (including the laughable fourth one) and wondered why that kind of good fortune couldn’t happen to them. Not that they’d want their female folk raped or murdered, but…it would make for some pretty good target practice.
As the article states, none of the law’s supporters could cite even one case in Wyoming that this was an issue for. And you know that’s not for want of trying. They didn’t know of one case in which someone in Wyoming killed in self-defense, yet were sent to jail because they didn’t just leave. Because this isn’t an issue. This isn’t reality. This is a bunch of bored fantasy gunmen with more bullets than brains. And, by god, they want to use those bullets to “take the trash off the streets”; and it doesn’t seem to occur to them that the “trash” will be able to use these laws too.
Researching the Yahoos
And just to test that theory, I violated a few blogging rules and did a bit of field research. No, I didn’t break into houses to see who’d kill me. I went onto the Yahoo messageboard and started a thread titled: Clint Eastwood Fantasies. And let me tell you, I was really on a roll and made a lot of damn good posts. If you’ve got a LOT of time on your hands, I recommend you go there and read it all. It’s all under that subject line. And while it starts slow, my thread eventually came to dominate that board. I’d recommend only reading the ones with my name on them, though almost all of the other ones were in response to my posts. Funny stuff.
But my point wasn’t to roil the rubes or score debate points (though I certainly did both). My point was to find out if anyone could give any real justification for these laws. Running circles around those guys was child’s play for the ol’ biobrain, but even I was at a loss in figuring out how these laws were really necessary; outside of allowing would-be toughguys to fantasize about killing people. And so I went straight for the horse’s mouth to see what I could find.
And the main point is clear: There is no reason for these new laws. Or more importantly, not one message I read from its supporters gave one reason why these laws are necessary. Not one. Instead, I was treated to endless fantasies about rapists in the bedroom and the futility of trying to wake up all the kids at three in the morning for a hasty retreat. As if current self-defense laws require you to leave your kids behind whenever intruders break-in.
But one thing is certain: You can bet your god damned life that each and every one of those brave brave men wouldn’t standby, gun in hand, while their wife was raped by clown parts and their kids gutted like fish. Hell no, they’d shoot first before that all too common scenario played out yet again. But of course, that situation is covered under existing laws, as was every other situation these people described. Even the absurdist fantasies of the most fevered mind is covered. And that was part of the problem; the more dire the situation they described was, the more the existing laws obviously applied. These people weren’t justifying the new law; they were justifying the existing laws regarding self-defense.
And as these guys struggled to come up with some kind of justification for it, the best they could do was to call me a coward. You see, because I’d leave my house with a burglar inside, rather than kill him, I’m a coward. Mind you, we’re talking about a situation in which it isn’t necessary to kill anyone, and these people want to kill anyway. Because that’s what it’s about. Fantasies of being “toughguy vigilantes” protecting their home against the dreaded criminal element. As I was told, they’re tired of being pushed around by the criminal element, and want to take a stand regarding their home. And again, that’s the entire premise of the absurdly bad Death Wish IV: The Crackdown. Except those people lived in a bad neighborhood where the thugs stalked the streets with impunity, and the folks I was debating with had likely never even had a burglary in their neighborhood.
Oh, Those Wonderful Criminal Rights
Another theme you may be familiar with was the idea that, increasingly, the criminals are getting “more rights than us law abiding citizens”; and thus, the new law will put an end to that inequality. I asked a few polite questions requesting exactly what those rights could possibly be, as I was unfamiliar with that section of our law. And while that’s a theme that runs throughout the Toughguy Fantasists’ dialogue (particularly among the Dirty Harry aficionados), the best I came up with in our less thrilling “real” world were complete jokes. Essentially, it all boiled down to the idea that our rights as citizens only apply unless we need them; and if you actually require the use of the Constitution to protect you, then you’re not worthy of its protection. I’ve yet to find that disclaimer on the Constitution itself, but I’m sure it’s there.
The first response I got suggested that, because existing law says that homeowners are expected to leave their house if an intruder came, rather than to unnecessarily kill the intruder; this was a right the criminals had. Yet they somehow failed to explain how that was a “right”, seeing as how the criminal isn’t allowed to do that to the homeowner, were the homeowner to intrude in the intruder’s house; and the intruder would be promptly arrested for being in the homeowner’s home. And so that didn’t sound like any kind of “right”; at least not according to any reality-based sense of the word. Overall, it sounded like the criminal had no extra rights, other than the right to not be killed for trying to steal stuff. And that seems to be a right that we all have.
I should note that it is possible that the person responding was somehow under the impression that, by “retreating”, he was turning ownership over to the thug who remained; which follows from the King of the Hill laws of Vigilanteland, homeland to the dreaded Vigilante people. But seeing as how he didn’t cite these laws in his example, we should assume that he’s a complete nimrod who knows not of what he speaks.
And the other “right” involved that whole “right to remain silent, right to an attorney” jazz. Somehow, this guy believed that those rights only applied to criminals, rather than to all citizens. And I suppose that, because only those accused of crimes will ever need those rights, he might have a point. Except that he doesn’t and that doesn’t make any sense at all.
And if you follow that thread after I left, you’ll find that he drops it down to the fact that criminals sometimes use public defenders paid for by taxpayers. And we all know how entirely awesome public defenders are. Another commenter tried to explain how this fell within the “right to an attorney” category, and that it doesn’t only apply to “criminals”; but this guy just wasn’t buying it. Again, it seemed to boil down to that “extra” right of not being killed for trying to steal stuff. And while that’s not explicitly in the constitution, I do think it can be read in-between the lines.
And what’s funny is that this line of reasoning essentially mirrors the anti-gay talk we here so much of now. That the “gay agenda” is about getting gays more rights than straights. And just as gays are given “extra” rights because they’re allowed to have hot gay sex, while retaining the same rights as those stuck with boring straight sex; the criminals are apparently given “extra” rights because they’re allowed to be criminals, yet still retain the same rights that the law-abiding citizens have (until they’re convicted, after which they lose many of those rights). And so it’s like they’re getting the best of both worlds: they get to behave immorally, yet aren’t instantly shot for it. And while some may consider that a “right”, I’m not so sure our founding fathers would agree.
In the end, these people just want to dream of excuses to kill people. That’s it. They like the idea of killing people, but need an excuse for doing so, lest they themselves become criminals. (As a side note: I was assured that vigilantes are not, in fact, criminals, because they kill criminals; which is acceptable because criminals are not human. And this is yet another key provision of Vigilanteland’s constitution, which seems to have been inexplicitly left out of our own. I’m not exactly sure how “vigilante on vigilante” justice is supposed to work, when one vigilante tries to kill another; but I’m sure it’s damn hot to witness).
And their fantasies were ridiculous. They seem to have this idea that burglars always carry guns and want to kill you if you catch them. As if house burglary is the most profitable crime for someone who’s willing to commit multiple murders. And sure, not all intruders are mere burglars. There are rapists and murderers out there, though even large cities don’t have it at nearly the rate that these people like to imagine; to their eternal consternation, I’m sure. But again, existing laws cover rapists and murderers. If you can’t get away from the murdering rapist, than you get to kill them. And if you can get away, you should. What’s so confusing about that?
And so we’re back at the killing people thing. But here’s the thing on that, I don’t believe them for a second. Sure, some of them really are looking for an excuse to kill. But I’d guess that at least 85% of them would not. Were they to hear an intruder in their house, they’d loudly announce that they had a gun, and if they had the chance to get away, they most certainly would. They don’t want a killing in their house. The mess alone is enough to put you off, and the steam cleaning bill would be simply atrocious. And like their kids wouldn’t be totally creeped out by that. They’d have to move out immediately, but the resale value would be horrible. And then there’s the paperwork, possible courtcase, having the cops drink up all your Folgers Crystals, etc. The reasons against home-based vigilantism are endless.
Talking the Walk
And so these people really wouldn’t want to kill an intruder unless they needed to; just like the rest of us. It’s just fantasy. Tough guy fantasies. I’m the coward for admitting that I don’t want to kill people, and these people are tough because they like to pretend that they’re Clint Eastwood.
And somehow, they’re tougher than me, simply because they can talk tough online. Now, that kind of thing is almost cool in the real world. I’m a big guy, but I’m not the tough-talking type who feels the need to act tough. I’ve always felt secure about myself, so I have nothing to prove. But I almost understand the people who aren’t so secure. Someone looks at you the wrong way, or bumps into you; so you put on the toughguy act and pretend like you’re going to do something about it. That almost makes sense and would have been cool in an earlier time. But the idea of talking tough to someone who you’ll never meet is just silly and a bit gay (though not in the homosexual sense).
But it does make them feel better, somehow. And it sure does make them far more macho than me. By talking to these people, I learned that I was a mere boy who cowered under the much needed protection of these manly men; manly men who have never once killed, captured, or confronted a criminal in their life. But boy can they sure talk tough! Much tougher than a coward like myself. I believe my cowardly keyboard is missing the keys necessary for such tough talk. Or maybe it’s my fey mouse.
And as much as you’d like to explain to them how entirely unmacho online toughtalk is; they’re just not having it. They know that they’re tougher than you, not because of anything you could or couldn’t do, but simply because you don’t fantasize about how quickly you’d kill a rapist in your bedroom. And this is the same stuff as the “chickenhawks” who think it makes them tough because they’re so entirely willing to put someone else’s life at stake for what they believe in.
These days, bravery is no longer about being brave; and strength is no longer about being strong. It’s about how brave and strong you talk, and what actions you’d like to take; if only the situation arose. These days, talking the talk is enough; and if you’re not macho enough to talk the talk, then nothing else need be said. You’re a yellow coward bastard who doesn’t deserve the protection that these toughguys provide with their toughguy talk.
That’s the New Machismo. And it makes sense. They often complain how times are different, thanks to those damn feminists emasculating America; and I suppose all this is their natural adaptation to this process. They might no longer be able to institute their Vigilante-style justice with impunity, but they’ll be damned to let you interfere with their toughguy Chuck Norris fantasies about it. Of course, as we learned, even those fantasies don’t require the new law; but they sure do make it sweeter. Now if we could just figure out how to get the same rights as those gays…