By Erica Goode, New York Times, April 12, 2012 No one had yet heard of a Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin when a group of Wisconsin Republicans got together last year to discuss expanding a self-defense bill before the State Legislature.
Jeff Nass, president of WI-FORCE, a Wisconsin gun rights group that works with the N.R.A., and who carries a Glock 20 semiautomatic handgun at all times — “It’s a large pistol, but I’m a large person,” he said — testified in favor of the Castle Doctrine bill.
The bill, known as the Castle Doctrine, made it harder to prosecute or sue people who used deadly force against an intruder inside their house. But the Wisconsin legislators, urged on by the National Rifle Association in a series of meetings, wanted it to go further. They crafted an amendment that extended the bill’s protections to include lawns, sidewalks and swimming pools outside the residence, as well as vehicles and places of business.
That expanded bill, passed with little debate by the Legislature and signed in December by Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is the newest of more than two dozen so-called Stand Your Ground statutes that have been enacted around the country in recent years. Those laws are now coming under increased scrutiny after Mr. Martin was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, in late February. Similar legislation is pending in several other states, including Alaska, Massachusetts and New York.
The laws, which expand beyond the home the places where a person does not have a duty to retreat when threatened and increases protection from criminal prosecution and civil liability, vary in their specifics and in their scope. But all contain elements of the 2005 Florida statute that made it difficult to immediately arrest Mr. Zimmerman, who has claimed he shot Mr. Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense.
Critics see the laws as part of a national campaign by the National Rifle Association, which began gathering on Thursday for its annual meeting in St. Louis, to push back against limits on gun ownership and use. That effort, they say, has been assisted by conservative legislators in states like Wisconsin, and by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has promoted model legislation based on Florida’s law; the council, known as ALEC, is a conservative networking organization made up of legislators, corporations like Walmart, a large retailer of long guns, and interest groups like the rifle association.
The success of the campaign is reflected in the rapid spread of expanded self-defense laws as well as laws that legalize the carrying of concealed weapons — only one state, Illinois, and the District of Columbia now ban that practice, compared with 19 states in 1981. Bills pending in several states that would allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses, in churches, in bars or other at sites would further weaken restrictions, as would either of two federal bills, now in the Senate, that would require that a concealed carry permit granted by any state be honored in all other states.
“Both directly and with cutouts like ALEC, the N.R.A. is slowly and surely and methodically working at the state level to expand the number and kind and category of places where people can carry concealed, loaded weapons and use them with deadly force,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 650 mayors that has not taken a position on the Stand Your Ground laws.
Repeated requests to speak with N.R.A. officials about Wisconsin’s law or Stand Your Ground laws more generally met with no response.
In Wisconsin, as in other states, the passage of an expanded self-defense law was helped by the 2010 elections, which vaulted conservative Republicans into office. In Pennsylvania, for example, a Stand Your Ground law passed the Legislature in 2010 but was vetoed by Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Introduced again last year, the bill was signed by his Republican successor, Tom Corbett.
There is a clear unequivocally incestuous relationship between the NRA and the gun industry, linked surreptitiously to the Second Amendment, completely out of context with its original intent, a national militia.
Even though it is completely foolhardy for a Canadian to make any comments about the addiction to guns of the American culture (at least a red-neck segment of it), we cannot resist.
The country is suffering under the power and influence of the NRA, ALEC and the fear of opposing both of those gangs, for that is what they have both become. I recall asking an American woman how she would behave upon hearing a racist joke at a Saturday evening party. "Well, I certainly would not say anything, because I would not want anyone to think I thought I was superior to them, for telling such a joke!"
"So, I retorted, your reputation with those joke tellers is more important than the reputation of the people against whom the joke was told, is that right?"
"Well, when you put it that way, I guess you're right, but I never thought of it that way!" was her lame response.
A similar conversation could be conducted with millions of Americans who would not date confront the NRA or the ALEC simply because they would not want their opponents to think less of them, even though they know that the beliefs, actions, attitudes and philosophy of the NRA is both reprehensible and beneath contempt.
I recall having one active member in a congregation in which I served in the "wild west" and I could literally not be in his company for more than 5 minutes without wanting to scream about his open and loud support for the NRA. And, not incidentally, he was a graduate engineer, so had a few "gray cells" at least with respect to electricity. I do not now, and did not then, belief that one could call oneself Christian and also hold a membership in the NRA. In my view, they are completely incompatible. I know that such a view will arouse considerable opposition from some so-called christian quarters, but, like capital punishment, I believe it is a contradiction in terms to call oneself Christian and an NRA member at the same time.
And as for the "Stand Your Ground" laws proliferating around the country, they also merit nothing more than a national moratorium, grandfathered out of existence, through such activism as boycotts of companies like WalMart which support them. A civilized society, regardless of whether one considers it a "christian" society, does not need, and cannot support the individual addiction to weapons nor the kind of law than enhances their legal and even socially accepted use no matter the potential threat.