Emotionalism in Lawmaking: A Primer From the NRA

| Sun Apr. 8, 2012 12:33 PM EDT

The Washington Post has a front-page story today about the dramatic rise in justifiable homicides in Florida since they passed the nation's first Stand Your Ground law in 2005. In the first half of the decade Florida averaged 12 per year; in the second half of the decade it tripled to 36 per year. "It’s almost like we now have to prove a negative," said Steven Jansen, an official with a national association of prosecuting attorneys, "that a person was not acting in self-defense, often on the basis of only one witness, the shooter."

But mostly I was amused by this juxtaposition in the piece, which I think was unintentional:

Florida has been at the forefront of expanding gun rights for decades, ever since an NRA lobbyist named Marion Hammer, the NRA’s first female president, became a force in the state capitol in Tallahassee.

....In Florida, where looters appeared in the wake of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Hammer launched her drive for the new law based on the case of James Workman, a 77-year-old Pensacola man who fatally shot an intruder who entered the trailer Workman was living in after the storm damaged his house....Hammer told legislators her bill would protect citizens who simply defended themselves: “You can’t expect a victim to wait before taking action to protect herself and say, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Criminal, did you drag me into this alley to rape and kill me, or do you just want to beat me up and steal my purse?’ ”

....Asked about the Martin case last week, former governor Jeb Bush, initially an enthusiastic backer of the legislation, said, “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”

Hammer sees no cause to refine or backtrack. Neither she nor NRA officials responded to requests for comment, but Hammer told the Palm Beach Post that officials should not be “stampeded by emotionalism. . . . This law is not about one incident. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the law.”

So when it's time to pass pro-gun laws, emotionalism over a single incident is the order of the day. But when those laws go awry, we need to put on our Spock ears and soberly weigh all the facts and evidence in the cold light of day. That's good to know.

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