Thursday, February 22, 2018
Public safety

Carlton: Stand Your Ground insurance? It is Florida, after all

Florida facts: We have earned being called the Gunshine State. The National Rifle Association uses our lawmakers as sock puppets. And no pro-gun proposal is too absurd for these parts.

So why should we be surprised at this latest insanity about Florida, guns and The American Way?

As the world knows, this is loud-and-proud Stand Your Ground territory. Our law essentially says: Back down, hell — if I'm scared enough, I get to shoot. Retreat? Don't have to.

So naturally, there's got to be a way to make that law even easier on the gun-toting public.

And hey, maybe someone can earn a buck or two in the process.

This is America, right?

As the Times' Sara DiNatale recently reported, groups called the U.S. Concealed Carry Association and the NRA-affiliated Second Call Defense offer what to my mind you could rightly call SYG insurance.

You know, kind of like car insurance, in case some text­ing fool rear-ends you. Or home insurance, for when the neighbor's oak comes crashing through the roof.

Except this particular service is specifically for customers who presumably think they have a pretty good chance of shooting someone in a confrontation at some point. And they're willing to pay for protection from prosecution.

For a monthly fee — don't worry, there's a platinum package available, too — a customer claiming self-defense can get access to a helpful 24-hour hotline, a lawyer at the ready, bail money and even a handy card for his wallet, telling him the magic words to say to police after he has pulled the trigger: I was attacked and was forced to defend myself.

The U.S. Concealed Carry Association's website has this warning: "You need to have these decisions programmed into your brain BEFORE you leave your house with your gun!"

And yes, it says programmed.

The Times reported on the case of Nick Julian IV, who called the hotline last year after he shot Carlos Garcia following a dispute in Carrollwood over loud music. The dead man did not have a gun. "He attacked me and I had to use force," Julian told 911. "I was afraid for my life." Ultimately, prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to rebut a claim of self-defense, and he wasn't charged.

Stand Your Ground was sold as every good citizen's All-American right to fight back when confronted by a bad guy and in fear of great harm or death. Its impact is more complicated. A 2012 Times study of Stand Your Ground cases showed the law is applied unevenly, that it has exonerated drug dealers and gang members and people who provoked the confrontation in the first place.

Back when the Stand Your Ground was being debated, level-headed people — including police and prosecutors who deal daily with gun violence — worried it could devalue human life, that it would make it easier to shoot first. That it would embolden people instead of encouraging them to retreat.

So how much potential do you figure a service that tells someone what to do and say and guarantees him a defense might have in terms of emboldening?

A handy insurance policy for the shoot-first crowd? Apparently that's who we are.

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