Friday, December 12, 2014

Toy Guns

Quick: Is this a real gun or a toy, replica, or pellet gun?  You have one-half second to decide.  Answer:  It is a pellet gun, designed to mimic a real pistol.

My parents once bought a toy gun - a pellet gun actually.  I am not sure why.  I think they were trying to plink at birds that were eating their vegetables out of the vegetable garden, or maybe seagulls shitting in the pool.  That's probably illegal.  I know killing songbirds is.

Sadly, they entered their second childhood at this point, and started picking fights with the neighbors.  In one celebrated incident, they attacked a neighbor with a shovel, over a boundary dispute.  When the fight didn't go well, my Mother went and got the pellet gun and threatened the neighbor with that.  Dumb move.

Everyone went to jail.

Not content to be arrested only once, the pellet gun came out again.   A hunter was crossing their property, and my Mother (or Father) got incensed, and raced out there with the pellet gun, to threaten them with it.  "Get off my land or I'll shoot!" they said.

Now bear in mind the hunter had a real gun and it was loaded.

They told me about these incidents, and I pointed out to my parents that under the law, the hunter would have been justified in shooting them dead if he felt threatened by them - even though he was technically trespassing. You are allowed to use deadly force in self-defense, if you are in "fear of imminent death or great bodily harm".

Write that last part down - it is your get-out-of-jail-free card, if you ever end up killing someone.

If he had shot my parents dead, (sadly, he did not) he would not have been charged with even manslaughter - even though the "gun" my parents had was little more than a toy.

That is the law, in all 50 States, and has been for hundreds of years.  This is not some new Florida or Texas "stand your ground" deal.  It is the law - and always has been.  So shut up about that.

Dad finally threw the "gun" into the Chesapeake Bay.  Anyway, I hope he did.

But that experience illustrates the law.   You are authorized and permitted to use deadly force, if you fear you are in danger of "imminent death or great bodily harm".   You need not let someone beat the shit out of you before you pull out your gun and shoot them.   You may or may not have a duty to retreat, depending on the circumstances and local laws.

For example, in your own home, or the "curtilage" of your home, you may not have a duty to retreat (consult local laws before shooting your neighbors).   When you are home, where the heck are you going to retreat to?   Many people say this law is the "man's home is his castle" law.   But it is the law, pretty much in all 50 States and has been, forever.

Outside the home, it is a grey area.  In Florida, under "stand your ground" you may have no duty to retreat.  In other States, it is less clear.   The main thing is, if you think you are in danger of "imminent death or great bodily harm" and didn't think you had a path to retreat, you may be justified in using deadly force.

Now note, that what you think or your mens rea is the key here.    It doesn't matter whether the opponent had a "toy gun" or "replica" or not, the key is, whether you thought it was a real gun.   And now you understand why that fellow who killed those kids for playing loud music made up this song-and-dance about seeing "what looked like a pipe or gun" as if he could have convinced a jury of that, he would have possibly walked away based on self defense (but his story was inconsistent, and there may have been a path of retreat as well - so he's in jail for life).

I told my parents to get rid of the toy gun and if they really wanted a gun to get a real one and learn how to fire it.   Otherwise, forgetaboutit.   Toy guns, replica guns, and pellet guns are not substitutes for the real thing - they are just going to get YOU killed if your opponent has a real firearm.

Why is this?   Well on the TeeVee, they show people waving around guns all the time, with civilians cowering in submission.   In reality, it often doesn't play out that way.   You wave around a gun, and the person you are waving it at quickly realizes you haven't a clue.  They take the gun away from you, and then shoot you with it.  And yes, this happens with regularity.

If you own a gun, and you feel the need to use deadly force, you pull out your gun, aim it, and shoot it.  And you shoot to kill.  This "shoot to maim" or "shoot to disable" nonsense is just that.  That is called missing the target.

Why do you pull-aim-shoot?  Because waving a gun around never works.   If you feel the need to use deadly force, then use it.  There are no halfway measures with firearms.  They are serious business.

And that is why I say toy guns are no good - they are a halfway measure and will only get you killed, or get you in trouble.   Yes, "brandishing" a firearm is a crime, and even if it is a toy gun, it may get you in trouble.

Now, in the news recently, a young kid - actually a young man - was shown on video, carrying what appeared to be a 9mm pistol in his waistband, pointing it at people and trying to intimidate them.   Not surprisingly, someone called the cops.   Now there is some controversy that the police should have known it was a toy.  But they didn't.  All they knew was a report of someone brandishing a firearm.

Upon arriving at the scene, the police told the young man to put his hands up.   Instead he reached for his ersatz firearm, and the policeman did what he was trained to do when a suspect reaches for a gun - draw, aim, shoot - and shoot to kill.

You shoot first, or you get shot.  End of story.   You don't ask, "Hey, is that a real gun?  I need to check before I defend myself!"

And this is why I say I do not resist the police.   When they say "hands up" you have one shot at this (if you'll pardon the pun).   You start reaching for your pockets or waistband, and you might find it the last thing you've done.   They likely have a gun drawn on you, with a finger on the trigger.

And no, this isn't some weird new trend that happened last month.  This has been how the laws of our country have worked for over a hundred years and how police procedures have worked for a similar amount of time.

For some reason today, we think that the rules have changed, and that the police should be punching bags as symbols of authority - and should just shrug off abuse, attacks, and even assaults.   But such is not the case.

We think today that "hands up" should be followed by "please" and that arrest is voluntary - if you don't want to be arrested, you can argue with the cop and maybe you'll change his mind.   But that is not the case - and never was in this country or any other for that matter, since the dawn of time.   We grant to our police, police powers and they are awesome powers and not to be toyed with.   You want to draw a gun - or what looks like a gun - on the police, well they have a name for that - "suicide by cop."

If you want to resist arrest, you will likely get killed.   If you want to wave replica firearms at people, you will likely get shot.   And in both cases, no one will be charged for your killing, a it would be considered a justified killing under the law.

So my question is this:  Why do these utterly stupid things?  You do have a choice in these matters.  If a cop says "you're under arrest" just go along with it - you'll be out on bail in an hour.  What's the big deal?  If you want to play at being gangsta with a toy gun, well, you should understand the consequences, even at age 13 - the age where I was smoking pot and hotwiring my Dad's Jeep.  I certainly knew what I was doing at that age.  Didn't you?

Our society likes to paint people as victims, but we never hold these victims accountable for their own actions.   No one forced anyone to rob a cigar store or to leap into a Police car.  No one forced anyone to resist arrest.   No one forced anyone to point toy guns at people.   These were all horrifically poor choices to make in life - choices which could at the minimum get you sent to jail (or at least juvenile hall) or at the worst, get you killed.

Why do we defend poor choices?