08.08.2013 1

Holder’s Florida self-defense blunder

HolderGunControlBy Rick Manning

Attorney General Eric Holder has urged that Florida’s firearm and self-defense laws undergo national scrutiny.  This is a discussion that gun rights advocates should welcome.

Before Holder opened up this can of worms, he should have conducted basic due diligence and looked at Florida’s FBI Uniform Crime Report and gun control history for a lesson on what happens when law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry handguns.

In 1987, Governor Robert Martinez signed legislation that took all discretion away from the government on whether to issue a license to carry a concealed handgun to a law-abiding citizen who met clearly laid out qualification standards.

Today, more than 1.13 million Floridians have applied for and received a concealed carry license, and the results are devastating to those who oppose possession of firearms by law abiding citizens.

Alarmists, like the Miami Herald newspaper editorial staff, predicted that blood would run in the streets of Florida when the law went into effect in October of that year.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Since 2007, the FBI using Florida Law Enforcement Agency statistics reports that the murder rate in Florida has been cut by more than half in Florida.  That’s right, rather than the predicted carnage, Floridians are much less likely to be murdered today than before the law was passed.

In fact, the drop in the murder rate means that on average in 697 fewer murders have occurred each year the law has been in effect.  More than 18,000 people were saved as a result of policies that precipitously dropped the state’s murder rate including and most importantly, the reform allowing law abiding citizens to carry a gun.

That’s 18,000 families whose lives continued without the heartbreak of suffering through the murder of a loved one, and Eric Holder’s potential protestations aside, Florida’s concealed carry law is at least partially to be thanked.

So when you hear someone like Holder complain about Florida’s self-defense laws, remember that people with his mentality opposed the life saving concealed carry law that has helped return Florida’s murder rate to levels not seen in at least the fifty years the FBI chronicles in its publicly available Uniform Crime Report database.

One wonders how people who often argue for restrictive firearm laws using the heart tugging, “if only one life is saved” line can honestly argue against a law which demonstrably has saved thousands of lives.

Of course, you cannot attribute the entire drop to the more than a million honest, armed Floridians who criminals no longer look at as easy prey, but this drop off is a sharp rebuke to those who try to equate the legal possession of a firearm with violence.  And Florida stands in sharp contrast to homicide ravaged Chicago, where guns have effectively been banned for years.

In fact, Obama’s Chicago and the recently bankrupt Detroit stand as exhibits A and B for those who argue that law-abiding citizens should be able to not only obtain, but carry firearms.

Dr. John Lott, a leading firearm researcher, writes unequivocally in an op-ed posted on Philly.com that, “law-abiding poor blacks who live in high-crime urban areas benefit the most from having concealed handguns for protection.”

With Chicago suffering under a homicide epidemic with 506 murders committed in 2012 alone, the laws against ownership of guns have demonstrably failed to stop criminals.  In Detroit police emergency response times average around 50 minutes, making firearm availability a law-abiding citizen’s only survival tool.

Is there be any doubt why a new generation of African American leaders have made ending gun control laws the new civil rights battle?

In a recent news conference Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) founder and president Star Parker states, “CURE is calling for a serious national dialogue about the impact of gun control on the black community.”

In the same event, Parker invoked the words of perhaps the first civil rights advocate Frederick Douglass who declared, “A man’s rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.”

The right to self-protection is the fundamental principle at stake in the “stand your ground” controversy that drew Attorney General Holder’s attention.

In some states, a victim has a duty to retreat until he or she cannot safely retreat anymore before using force.  This duty even extends into one’s home where an intruder is presumed to be of good will, and the homeowner risks prosecution if they use force to protect their home and family rather than seeking every reasonable alternative to avoid confrontation.

Laws like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law change this doctrine by creating a presumption that you have a right to defend yourself rather than running for your life.

This change in legal philosophy has had a profound effect in the state where, according to a Daily Caller analysis of a database maintained by the Tampa Bay Times, “approximately one third of Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ claims in fatal cases have been made by black defendants, and they have used the defense successfully 55 percent of the time, at the same rate as the population at large and at a higher rate than white defendants.”

Additionally, the Daily Caller found that, “African Americans used ‘Stand Your Ground’ defenses at nearly twice the rate of their presence in the Florida population, which was listed at 16.6 percent in 2012.

These findings are not surprising when one considers that African Americans are disproportionately victimized by crime, and are most likely to find themselves in positions where they are forced to defend themselves.

Ironically by opening up the discussion of self-protection laws in Florida, Eric Holder may just have created the impetus for changing the faces of the right to keep and bear arms movement.  This would be the ultimate example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for Americans for Limited Government.  He was an NRA lobbyist responsible for the state of Florida in 1987.

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