Anti-Gun Bias at the New York Times

The New York Times published the following article in August, 2006. Entitled States Expand Right to Shoot in Self-Defense, the article is a particularly trenchant example of media bias. Adam Liptak regularly reports on legal matters and covers many gun stories for the New York Times. We will be analyzing some of the bias and try to get the rest of the story when we have more time.

Meanwhile, please send us information that provides more objective factual background related to the impact of recent changes in the laws of self-defense cited below. Please note that every impact alleged to result from recent changes in the “duty to retreat” is presented in a manner most likely to put the armed citizen in a negative light.

“Stand your ground” laws are also called “shoot first” laws, according to Liptak. This is what antigun idealogues like the usual suspects at the New York Times and the media outlets that echo the NYT call them. In case you haven’t noticed, most of the regional newspapers reprint articles from the NYT, the Washington Post and a few other newspapers and the radio and television news broadcasts take their cues from newspapers of record, like the NYT.
According to Liptak, a prostitute in Port Richey, Fla., killed her 72-year-old client with his own gun and was not charged in 2006. A man shot a neighbor over putting out garbage. These facts are presented as though they are events that occurred because of changes in the law that remove the duty to retreat from an attacker before deploying deadly force.

A Florida law served as a model for others by giving people the right to use deadly force against intruders entering their homes. The article contains no arguments that provide a rationale for why a homeowner should be required to retreat from an assailant that has entered his home bent on committing a felony. Is there any legal rationale for requiring a homeowner to prove that he or she has reason to fear for the safety of himself or other memebers of her family? Are we to experience indignation that the new laws only require proof that that the slain trespasser had intruded unlawfully and forcefully?

The Florida law does away with an earlier requirement that a person attacked in a public place must retreat if possible. A person about to be victimized has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with lethal force when confronted with an imminent threat of death or grave bodily harm. Sounds like common sense to me

The author quotes Anthony J. Sebok, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, without explaining that Prof. Sebok has authored numerous articles about mass restitution litigation, including lawsuits involving tobacco, handguns, and slavery reparations.

The professor’s written works are important because they show that Sebok is a tort lawyer shilling for the anti-gun idealogues. If you doubt it look at his analysis, provided by the NYT without even a superficial effort to provide a balancing viewpoint. The duty to retreat has been eroding nationally through judicial decisions, according to the professor. But the new laws just “expand the right to shoot intruders who pose no threat to the occupant’s safety”. How many intruders in your home would pose no threat to the safety of your family? It seems laughable when you think about it!

“In effect,” Professor Sebok states, “the law allows citizens to kill other citizens in defense of property.”

Sebok, who contributes to FindLaw, asks us to consider a ridiculous hypothesis. What if Bob is a panhandler who approaches Sue’s car and touches it against her wishes? Perhaps it would be obvious to most observers that he had no intention of entering the car, but what if Sue panics and thinks he is a carjacker?

The fact that the law was not designed to permit her to use deadly force under those circumstances would not alter the fact that Bob would be dead. The fact that Sue would face criminal and civil penalties, is not relevant to Sebok. Apparently the damage has already been done because the lawmakers sent Sue the wrong message!

Journalist Lipchak bemoans the fact that a cabdriver in West Palm Beach killed a drunken passenger in an altercation after dropping him off. The altercation, it turns out, was over whether the passenger would get out of the cab. When he had reached his destination and had to be ejected from the cab he allegedly pulled a knife on the cabdriver. The knife was not located but witnesses saw the passenger holding something that could have been a knife so the first jury deadlocked 9-to-3 in favor of convicting the driver.

“Mr. Smiley had a lot of chances to retreat and to avoid an escalation,” said Mr. Munnilal, a 62-year-old accountant. “He could have just gotten in his cab and left. The thing could have been avoided, and a man’s life would have been saved.”

It turns out that the cabdriver did not get the wrong message; all of events described in the NYT article transpired before the new law was passed and the case was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court on the issue of whether the old law or the new law should apply.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the N.R.A., was also concerned about people getting the right message. “If you’re going to empower someone, empower the crime victim,” he said.

Adam Liptak tells us that many prosecutors oppose the laws, saying they are unnecessary at best and pernicious at worst. “They’re basically giving citizens more rights to use deadly force than we give police officers, and with less review,” said Paul A. Logli, president of the National District Attorneys Association.

The State of Washington has a dual standard and the legislature has made a record of its intention that citizens have a slightly more relaxed standard for the use of lethal force than the standard to which police officers are held. Despite the fact that law enforcement officers have to meet a higher standard than untrained citizens in some states, aren’t there prosecutors that support empowering armed citizens?

The NYT article quotes Gary Kleck, a noted gun policy scholar. With the typical New York Times-style elitocentric assumption that Southerners have primitive legal institutions, Liptak quotes Kleck with very little context to help us understand Kleck’s intelligent approach to the subject of guns and society:

“In the South, they more or less give the benefit of the doubt to the alleged victim’s account.”

Gary Kleck, a self-avowed liberal democrat and professor at Florida State University, is author of Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America. When he started researching the issue of guns, he discovered that contrary to his original assumptions, violent crimes were prevented by firearms usage. The 1993 book was awarded the best book on criminology by the American Society of Criminology. Largely ignored by gun control advocates, most medical journals, the DOJ and the Center for Disease Control, the book has contributed a great deal to understanding the sociological implications of gun ownership and gun control laws.

It turns out that in the case of the Port Richey prostitute, the 72 year old man threatened to kill her and then kill himself. The man left a suicide note and other evidence supporting the conclusion that the slayer feared for her life. Before she used deadly force, the woman should have had to retreat (but for the new law). Under the new laws you don’t have to take a chance on getting shot in the back!

According to the NYT’s propaganda piece, Cliff Morningstar, the dead man’s uncle, was reportedly baffled by the killing. “He (the cabdriver) had a radio,” Mr. Morningstar stated. “He could have gotten in his car and left. He could have shot him in his knee.” Well how much more objective can you get than the victim’s uncle?

The NYT reporter apparently thinks that the man shot during an altercation over garbage illustrates the flaws in the Florida law. The NYT article states:

“I was no threat,” Mr. Rosenbloom said. “I had no weapon.”

The inference is that victimhood is being conferred on Rosenbloom, a very important mantle for the NYT’s regular readership.

The men exchanged heated words. “He closed the door and then opened the door,” Mr. Rosenbloom said of Mr. Allen. “He had a gun. I turned around to put my hands up. He didn’t even say a word, and he fired once into my stomach. I bent over, and he shot me in the chest.”

Mr. Allen, the man that shot his neighbor, claimed Rosenbloom had his foot in the door and had tried to rush into the house, an assertion Mr. Rosenbloom denied. The small amount of information that tends to explain what led to the shooting is presented in a context of skepticism towards the claim that the shooting was justified. Maybe the shooting was not justified. Without all the facts, however, such cases don’t tell us much about anything except the biases of the author and the New Yawk Times.

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