It’s probably not going anywhere, but yes, there is a “stand your ground” bill pending in the state Legislature — or pending in the state Senate, I should say, since it has no sponsor in the Assembly.
It’s the brainchild of Sen. George Maziarz, Republican of Niagara County, who introduced it last year, well before “stand your ground” became a national issue with the infamous shooting in Florida of an unarmed teenager by a neighborhood-watch bloke.
It provides that you can use deadly force if you believe it necessary in order to prevent death or serious injury, or if you think the person you use it against is trying to commit a kidnapping, rape, robbery or is even just “attempting to commit a burglary,” in the words of the bill.
You would no longer have a legal “duty to retreat,” as you have now, as long as you are someplace you have a right to be.
So if you are in a public place like a park and someone threatens you with his fists, presumably you could shoot him dead.
If you are out in your yard and spot someone taking a lawnmower from your garage, or even from your neighbor’s garage, (“attempting to commit a burglary”), presumably you could also shoot him dead.
It’s the reductio ad absurdum of gun-freak bills, and what with all the fuss about the shooting in Florida, it’s no surprise that anti-gun people are up in arms about it, so to speak.
A bunch of them from New Yorkers Against Gun Violence were in Albany the other day to lobby their legislators against it and more specifically to ask Sen. Maziarz to withdraw it, but alas, they had no more luck in talking to him than I did. I guess he’s hunkered down. I didn’t want to be too aggressive myself in reaching out to him for fear he might think I was attempting bodily harm and respond as per his bill even though the bill is not yet law and probably never will be.
I did talk to Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, and he said he supports the bill. “That’s a basic right of life, self-defense,” he said, though state law already allows for self-defense, and “stand your ground” is something more, as I pointed out to him.
Even so, “More people are hurt running away than they are standing their ground,” he told me, though he allowed that was “just a gut feeling” and he didn’t have a study to support it. I wouldn’t know, myself.
I also talked to Colin Weaver, deputy director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, who told me he had presented Sen. Maziarz’s staff with petitions signed by hundreds of people demanding withdrawal of the bill. “It’s not a law that we want or need here in New York,” he said. “We don’t want to be associated with states that have stand-your-ground bills. It’s very troubling.”
Well, as I say, it’s probably not going anywhere anyway. It’s just something that people who are exercised about the Florida shooting can hang their hats on.
If you’re attracted to the Wild West image of an honest hombre standing up to a couple of unshaven bad guys and leaving them sprawled in a dusty street while onlookers scramble for cover behind water barrels, with government nowhere in the picture, then you’ll like the bill.
If you think it’s more civilized, and safer all around, to beat a retreat and dial 911 on your cellphone, then you won’t.
The livelier issue before the Legislature is the issue of “microstamping” the bullet shells of the kind of semi-automatic pistols preferred by criminals so when
shells are recovered from a crime scene they can be traced back to the original buyer of the gun they came from.
It’s uncomfortably close to the earlier technology of sampling one shell from each new gun, known as the Combined Ballistic Identification System, or CoBIS, for short, which former Gov. Pataki inaugurated and which Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently killed as having consumed more than $40 million over the course of 11 years while yielding only two gun identifications.
Proponents of microstamping claim it’s more effective than CoBIS, while opponents predictably claim it’s the same old wasteful thing, which is a debate I do not propose to resolve or even enter.
I think what it comes down to is simply how you feel about guns. If you don’t like them, you’re in favor of anything at all to regulate them, and if you do like them you’re opposed.
As a general thing, conservatives like guns and liberals don’t, though I’ve noticed in recent years the Democratic Party, traditional home to liberals, has pretty much abandoned the field to the National Rifle Association. Some crackpot opens fire in a church or a schoolyard, and you no longer hear demands to regulate gun ownership. That’s a lost cause.