Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Florida Goes Gangsta

Just when I got all smug and gloating over the idiots Texas has in their political arena (see below), my adopted state goes one better.

From Fred Grimm of the Miami Herald Opinion page:

Ain’t no blue blazer, Perry Como, country club Republicans ’round here no more.

The Legislature has gone hip-hop.

Brutally violent, machismo sentiments usually associated with urban rap lyrics have been translated into legislation:

Kill ’em in your castle.

Kill ’em in your car.

Kill ’em on the streets.

Kill ’em in the bar.

The wimpy notion that a citizen ought to avoid potentially deadly confrontations has been jettisoned in favor of a bill, approved by the Florida Senate and sure to be passed this week by the House, that downright encourages gunplay.

Feeling threatened? Intimidated? Or a little grouchy?

Go ahead. Kill ’em.

Some loudmouthed lunkhead at the kid’s soccer game bumps up against you, uses a nasty epithet, reaches into his pocket and pulls out . . . What? Could be his Blackberry. Or it just might be a black anodized aluminum Colt .45 pistol with seven in the clip and one in the chamber.

Assume the worst. Whip out your AK-47 and empty the banana clip.

Florida legislators, in an effort to codify the a-man’s-home-is-his-castle doctrine, got carried away. It started out as an effort to get rid of the idea that a resident ought to retreat before gunning down an intruder. So language was crafted to protect residents against prosecution or a civil suit if they blast away at an intruder, as long as they think the intruder is about to commit a forcible felony. (That includes murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, aggravated stalking, burglary and treason. I’m still trying to grasp the concept of a home invasion treason.)

This ought to provide homeowners the legal protection necessary to rid the neighborhood of pesky trick-or-treaters. It certainly would have hampered the prosecution of Jay Steven Levin, who gunned down a 16-year-old he caught ringing the doorbell of his Boca Raton home and running away.

Levin, 40, explained to investigators that he was “in fear,” a shabby defense in 2003 but not so far-fetched in 2005 if the governor signs the Home Protection Act.

But Rapmaster Dennis Baxley, a Republican state rep from the mean streets of Ocala, decided that Home Protection need not stop at home. Baxley extended state endorsement of the use of force against force, even presumed force, to cars, sidewalks, restaurants, bars, PTA meetings and other places where danger lurks.

One would no longer be obligated to avoid a deadly run-in in a public place. Instead, the bill says, one “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force. . . .”

Baxley (also known as 15 Cents) took his message to the House floor:

Meet force with force.

If they poke you with your finger,

You have the right to poke them back.

If they attack you,

You have the right to use whatever deadly force to defend yourself.

The Baxley Doctrine, designed with the suburban homeowner in mind, should provide an interesting legal strategy for urban gangbangers — already strong supporters of the meet-force-with-force concept — hauled into court for gunning down their rivals.

Baxley’s rap, of course, represents yet another triumph of the all-powerful National Rifle Association, which also is working on kill ’em legislation in other states. In Georgia and Arizona, the NRA is pushing, with little resistance, laws allowing gun owners to take their concealed firearms into restaurants.

In Tennessee, the NRA gets blamed for a similar bill allowing folks to pack heat in bars. But I suspect the state’s country-music writers are the real sponsors, imagining the lyric-inspiring gunshot pathos generated when well-armed barflies get macho mad.

After all, they’re thinking up in Nashville, why should Florida rappers get all the good tragic material?

Okay, so all the nuts aren’t in Texas.

[Updated to add the author’s name.]