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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Massad Ayoob


Friday, July 19th, 2013

Few elements of this case have been more widely misunderstood than the “stand your ground” (SYG) element.  Quite simply, Florida’s SYG law, statute 776.012, simply rescinded a previous requirement that one had to retreat if possible before using deadly force in self-defense. This did not particularly change the rules of engagement. The previous law had demanded retreat only if it could be accomplished in complete safety to oneself and other innocent people present. It is hard to imagine a situation in which one WOULD kill another person if they could have simply walked away unscathed.

The evidence showed incontrovertibly that Zimmerman, straddled by his attacker in the MMA mount and being savagely beaten while supine, could not possibly have retreated or otherwise escaped at the time he pulled the trigger.  His wise lawyers knew that from the beginning, Craig Sonner when I spoke with him in March of 2012, and Mark O’Mara and Don West when I discussed it with them a couple of months later.

The media is largely either confused or deceptive about this, and so I’m afraid are many lawyers, including the Attorney General of the United States, who has called for an end to SYG laws. Florida Governor Rick Scott empanelled a blue-ribbon committee to study the law last year, which included some vociferous anti-gunners. Nonetheless, their collective recommendation was to leave SYG in place.  The Governor now stands up in defense of it as well, as seen here: Protesters stand up to ‘stand your ground,’ but laws likely here to stay.

Stevie Wonder has announced that he won’t perform in Florida until SYG is done away with. Stevie Wonder, through no fault of his own, is blind. He has my sympathy for that.

But the other opponents of SYG seem to be willfully blind, and for that, there is no excuse.


  1. Peter B Says:

    Being blind is no excuse. I’m legally blind although not completely and I still firmly believe in being responsible for my own safety. No excuse for deliberate ignorance.

  2. Sam Apicelli Says:

    The following is a link to a fine article about the recent nonsense related to Florida’s Castle Doctrine.

  3. Vince Says:

    Well said Mas.
    To be willfully blind is abhorrent. Sadly we have a lot of abhorrent among us.

  4. Ian Says:

    I find it compelling that so many protest a law that gives law abiding citizens a right to not just self defense, but to the defense of other innocence.

    If the Luby’s cafeteria shooting had happened, even with a concealed carry law, if there were no SYG law, would anyone with a CCW be expected to leave and leave the lams to the lion? I, quite frankly, wouldn’t give a damn and would do everything I could to stop the beast.

    I also don’t see most people utilizing SYG, even in shooting. Don’t most instructors advise that you should only use your weapon to get you out of an active shooter situation? I don’t know, I haven’t had the chance to go yet, but I do recall reading books explicitly saying to “not be a hero,” even in states with SYG.

    Thanks for all the writing, Mas. Greatly appreciated.

  5. ankle Says:

    “It is hard to imagine a situation in which one WOULD kill another person if they could have simply walked away unscathed.”

    Well, those vilifying Zimmerman and accusing him of deliberately pursuing Martin to confront him have imagined just such a situation.

  6. Raymond Shaw Says:

    I do appreciate Mr. Ayoobs courteous respect for Stevie Wonder. It is regretful that Stevie Wonder does not appreciate how “Stand Your Ground” might serve him personally, in an unpredictable self defense situation.

  7. Ken Says:

    Do away with stand your ground laws will let bullies take away your rights in places where you have a right to be. If you can’t defend your self then the bullies and bad guys win. In Fl. the incidence of ATM, strong arm and other forceable felonies in public places has diminished considerably since the so called (SYG) law has been in effect. (SYG) is only a part of self defense if necessary. The statute it did away with required you to flee your home or other places and the bad guys and bullies won.

  8. Brian Says:

    Mr. Ayoob,

    I really appreciate the break-down of the Zimmerman case! Thank you.

    Do you have any information that you could reveal where prosecutors abused the “duty to retreat” in cases, or tried to establish completely unreasonable standards for retreat? I really think that this is where the crux of the matter resides now, show why SYG self-defense laws were written, to help prevent persecution of those who rightfully took advantage of their right to self-defense.

  9. Jason M Says:

    Was this a murder trial or a self-defense trial? Perhaps my understanding is incorrect, but I had the impression that in a self-defense trial the burden of proof shifts from the prosecution proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the defense proving innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. As I understand the judge’s instructions to the jury, they were that the defense was under no obligation to prove innocence (or something to that effect).

  10. kelley in charlotte Says:

    This specific issue has been driving me nuts. You cannot listen to the radio or the television without hearing that SYG is the problem. As far as I am able to understand this case would have been the same in any state that allows citizens to cary a firearm. I might be wrong, so Mas, please correct and clarify if I am wrong. I am also of the understanding that GZ is now protected from civil suits because he was defending himself. Is that an accurate understanding?
    I had to avoid reading about firearms and self defence with firearms this year because of the foolishness and uninformed arguments this year in the months following the incredible murders at Sandy Hook. I would discuss the foolishness of the uniformed and provide an alternative view to friends and acquaintances. In the days before and after this this trial I am becoming weary of the same because the misinformed are so cocksure because the legal world on NPR and Eric Holder (among MANY others in the legal world) know “the truth”, and that “truth” trumped my ” uneducated opinions”. Sorry guys and gals but this country is over. “Democracy” is the rule of the masses, no we are not a democracy, but now everyone believes that we are. The mob wants blood. Am I ranting a little? Maybe, but this mess is bigger than most of us think it is. Just my two cents.
    On a lighter note, when and where is the next MAG 80 for those of us that have completed MAG 40. It would be nice to have something to look forward to.


  11. Mas Says:

    Jason M, welcome. While the general criminal justice rule requires the jury to find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, self-defense is an affirmative defense, which generally is required –always by practicality and sometimes by law — to shift the burden to the defendant by a preponderance of evidence standard. In other words, the jury has to be convinced that it was self-defense, more likely than not, but not necessarily to a certainty beyond a reasonable doubt.

  12. kelley in charlotte Says:

    Mas, are saying that Zimmerman did not use an affirmative defense? If not, was that because his legal team did not want to put him on the stand?


  13. Dave Says:

    This won’t be settled until Mas gets around to the “Should GZ have left his truck” issue. I agree with Mas that SYG had very little to do with this case directly (though it was mentioned in the jury instructions). But if Mas comes to the conclusion that GZ should not have left his truck, then the question must also comes up whether GZ would have been willing to do so had it not been for the false courage provided by SYG in all public places and, perhaps more importantly, Florida’s self-defense immunity law. I find it difficult to believe that Mas will say otherwise considering that one of the tenets of his position on self-defense and concealed carry is that avoidance of possible conflict is always preferable to depending on the self-defense laws. SYG in all lawful places and the immunity laws have little additional value to those who practice self-defense in a sane and reasonable manner like GZ advocates. I’m fine with leaving the Castle Doctrine in place, but extending SYG to all public places and providing immunity as in Florida encourages more stupid people to do stupid things than it helps smart people like MAS and his trainees.

  14. kelley in charlotte Says:

    Oh, just one more observation to share. I do not like to spend too much time watching the news channels. Too much inaccurate information. One evening this week I flipped on Hannity (my mistake) to listen to Tavis Smiley explain that this is the fault of the NRA and that the NRA would NEVER have stood up for a black man. You have got to be kidding me. The less a person knows the better their chances of winding up on a news talk show. People hear this stuff and and the lie becomes reinforced. Mas, how can I encourage you to get on some of the news and talk radio shows, especially NPR, but also some local talk stations?


  15. Vin K Says:

    Excellent as always. I just wish the mass media would put out this kind of legitimate analysis of the facts instead of fueling the fire with misleading catch phrases that are not supported by the actual facts.

    I just heard President Obama’s comments and was very disappointed that he is bringing race up and SYG is now on the White House agenda.

    “I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “stand your ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case. On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see? ”

    Having the burden to prove you could not retreat slants the playing field to the bad guys. Anyone who has read your book “In the Gravest Extreme” knows that if you can retreat safely you do and if you can retreat and you don’t your in a legal mine field and probably legally toast.

  16. Mas Says:

    Kelly in Charlotte, I don’t chase ambulances; if they invite me, I’ll be there. Did so recently on Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk Radio and Mark Walters’ Armed American Radio, both last Sunday in reference to this case.

    Also, the defense did use affirmative defense, and clearly convinced the jury that it was indeed self-defense. They didn’t need to put him on the stand because the jury had already seen him give his story on tape, at the scene, fresh after the incident. “Best evidence,” you might say. 🙂

    Dave, I addressed the leaving the truck issue in an earlier entry. To recap, he went reconnoitering for information he perceived the dispatcher to have asked for, not to confront, IMHO.

  17. VO Says:

    Well done, Mas. Holder and his ilk know more and more about less and less until eventually they’ll know everything about nothing.

  18. Patrick Says:

    Obama Wades Into “Stand Your Ground” Law Debate

    Posted on July 19, 2013 by Nick Leghorn

    Despite the Associated Press’ single-sentence article on the issue, President Obama’s remarks on the “stand your ground” law debate brewing in the country were along the lines most of us would have expected. It looks as if in Obama’s opinion, Florida’s SYG law enticed Zimmerman into following and then shooting Trayvon Martin and are, therefore, the root cause of the teen’s death. His remarks, according to . . .

    Obama proposed an examination of state and local laws to see if “they may encourage” altercations like in the Zimmerman case “rather than defuse” potential altercations.

    “Is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace, and order, and security that we’d like to see?” Obama said.

    “If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?

    So sayeth President Obama, despite the fact that, according to The Daily Caller, African Americans have disproportionately benefited from those same laws. And remember: the George Zimmerman trial did not include any reference to the “stand your ground” laws.

    Jumping off from the CinC’s remarks, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be looking into the “stand your ground” laws come this fall. Since these laws are enacted on a state level, it’s unclear whether the Senate can do anything to change those individual laws, but nevertheless they seem to want to “do something.”

  19. Roger in NC Says:

    After his latest gun control defeat, the President declared that “the fight will go on”. And so it has. SYG has nothing to do with the Zimmerman case, nor does “duty to retreat”. The President knows it and (I hope to God, but I am not certain) Eric Holder knows it. Yet they are exploiting the incident to continue to press for “common sense gun controls” and now including a review of SYG. Stay tuned to Mas, stay on top of the issues, memorize your representatives email addresses and phone numbers and use them often (in this case, it’s ok to vote multiple times).

  20. Jim Willis-Live Oak FL Says:

    OMG, Mass, say it ain’t so! —–Is it true that, ” Stevie, (Morris) Wonder” is not going to come to Florida, again, untill SYG is done away with ?
    What’s going to happen to us now? How is FLA going to function without him, and all his
    Hollywood liberal friends??
    Could this possibly lead to other people such as, Al Sharpton,Jessie Jackson,and maybe even
    Obama, to never step foot in Florida again?

    I’m so broke-up about it, I can’t go on!!

  21. Captain Bob Says:

    Check out “The Ayoob Files” column in the Sept-Oct 2013 American Handgunner magazine for an article titled “Fists vs Gun.” It’s very apropos for the TM vs GZ discussion .

  22. Dano Says:

    Mas solid opinion. Patrick Howely wrote this the other day. It shows the true ignorance that the liberal media has about the law. Mr. Howely, makes brings the following facts into the debate. The revocation of this law would affect the self defense claims of Americans of African descent far more than the white population at large.

    “Approximately one third of Florida “Stand Your Ground” claims in fatal cases have been made by black defendants, and they have used the defense successfully 55 percent of the time, at the same rate as the population at large and at a higher rate than white defendants, according to a Daily Caller analysis of a database maintained by the Tampa Bay Times. 

     Additionally, the majority of victims in Florida “Stand Your Ground” cases have been white.African Americans used “Stand Your Ground” defenses at nearly twice the rate of their presence in the Florida population, which was listed at 16.6 percent in 2012.Read more:

  23. claimbuster Says:

    Once again, Mas, right on. Stevie is an over-the-hill entertainer that sees an opportunity to help his decaying career.

  24. Harold Says:

    Many posters here might find it’s a little difficult to “retreat” with someone bigger/stronger sitting on you beating your head into the sidewalk.
    That is the only scenario that was in evidence, with no other FACTS to show different!

  25. Noah Vaile Says:

    Legally blind is one thing. And irrelevant.
    Willfully ignorant and behaviorally stupid is something else again.

  26. guntotin-mama Says:

    SIGH. The reason a woman will “clutch” her purse in a group of people has nothing to do with the race of any one person in that group. It may contain her family’s whole net worth for the week or month. It may contain a small business’ sales deposit from the week…

    and in my case, it contains my carry gun, which I’m not going to leave exposed to any person so inclined – man, woman, or zombie – to grab and run with.

  27. Burke (Florida attorney) Says:


    In Florida there is no requirement that the defendant show self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence. He only has to put on some evidence of self-defense and the state then has the burden of proving it is not lawful self-defense beyond all reasonable doubt.

    From the Florida Standard Jury Instruction:

    “If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find the defendant not guilty.
    However, if from the evidence you are convinced that the defendant was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find [him] [her] guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved.”

  28. Pete Sheppard Says:

    Though the phrase, “…stand your (his?) ground…” was uttered by the judge in her instructions to the jury, it was not a reference to the SYG law; is was simply part of the instructions to consider the totality of the evidence.

  29. Dave Says:

    Mas, except that the dispatcher never asked him to look for anything nor said anything to him that could be mistaken for such a request (see my response to that prior post). But let’s move to the abstract: people depend on you to teach them what to do, Mas. Let’s agree arguendo that the dispatcher didn’t ask: should GZ have stayed in his truck?

  30. Mark Says:

    Stevie Wonder is one of the very few who have a legitimate excuse for failing to understand that the crimes of assault, battery and attempted murder were all committed by Trayvon Martin because Stevie can’t read the facts for himself.

  31. pax Says:


    Try here:

    Excellent, excellent analysis from an address that Mas gave at the Cato Institute last year. It includes several of the cases you asked about.

  32. pax Says:

    Should have added — if you want to see Clayton Cramer’s remarks (Mas referred to them several times) you can find them at

    Good stuff.

  33. Truth Says:

    The reason a woman will clutch her purse when a black man approaches her. Let’s see…Black people are about 12% of the population yet commit roughly 50% of the murders. Subtract out the women, the old, and the young and you’re left with around 4%-5% of the black population committing 50% of the murders. This is why people associate black men with crime. The facts are the facts.

  34. Jim Clark Says:


    I’ve been a follower/respecter for years. Thanks!

    It seems to me that SYG doesn’t logically apply here. Zimmerman had no possible retreat therefore no choice. His choices were, defend or die. The jury had only to understand about 5 seconds of Zimmerman’s life. Once Martin was on top of and beating him choosing not to disengage the choice was made. Nothing previous to those seconds is applicable to the jury’s question. The police understood that in the beginning.

  35. Uncle Dave Says:

    SYG is just being scape goated. Its like blaming the Ref when your team looses. You also hear people blame the prosicutors. Its not like they had case to begin with. BTW how many concerts does Stevie Wonder do in Floridia now?

  36. Greg White Says:

    To Dave:

    Zimmerman was asked by the dispatcher “Which way is he running?”

    He was also asked by the dispatcher “Which entrance is that that he’s heading for?”

    Sure sounds like he was being asked to keep an eye on him. I would certainly think that I was supposed to follow him at a distance.

    But it sure sounds like Zimmerman headed back to this truck after that.

  37. Patrick Says:

    Is This The Next Trayvon Martin Case?

    Posted on July 27, 2013 by Robert Farago

    The media is having Trayvon Martin withdrawal. The Florida teen’s demise dominated the news cycle for more than a month, boosting ratings and giving commentators something serious (race relations!) to kvetch about. The obvious next step: Trayvon Martin II. Although there are plenty of firearms-related homicides from which to choose (hey, it’s a big country) finding a killing that will viralize is as difficult as not hot-linking to Israeli babes. You need exactly the right combination of ethnicity and events (for both tasks). To paraphrase Blue Peter‘s presenters, here’s one they prepared earlier . . .

    A 14-year-old boy remained in critical condition Friday after being shot in the head by a homeowner who said he thought the teen was trying to break into his house. But police said the teen was unarmed and did not pose an “imminent threat” when he was shot and have charged the owner with attempted second-degree murder.

    The family of Marshall Coulter said the teenager could move only the right side of his body a little, but not the left. Doctors told the family that if Coulter survives, he would likely be severely brain damaged.

    The story isn’t perfect for the purposes of press preening and media milking. At the risk of seeming insensitive, Marshall Coulter isn’t dead. And it seems likely that the Louisiana teen with a history of burglary beefs wasn’t just trying to “get home.” But there are some Twitter-appropriate talking points.

    Coulter’s family acknowledged the teen’s history of burglary arrests but said he had never used a gun.

    Police said that Coulter did not pose a threat to the homeowner, Merritt Landry, who works as a building inspector for the Historic District Landmarks Commission . . .

    Earlier in the evening, a different neighbor said the teen in the blue tank top had been biking around the area around 8 p.m. and the neighbor believed he was looking at different houses.

    “I thought about calling the cops, but the last thing I want to do is racially profile a little kid who’s just biking,” said the neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The neighbor and Landry are white; the two teens are black.

    Now there’s a twist. And you gotta give [some] credit for keeping race out of the story until the 20th paragraph. If this story blows up you can bet it will be front and center. Again. Still. And if not this one, another.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, there’s gold in them thar’ white-on-black self-defense teen-involved shootings. Funny old world, innit? [h/t EW]

  38. Kerry Grissett Says:

    Patrick, you said a mouthful. The LameStream media is largely to blame for the fact that Zimerman was put on trial in the first place.

    Political prosecution at its worst.

    But, the real haters keep on hating not realizing they are just tools being used by the true race baiters to keep the $$$ flowing and keeping the masses “under control”.

  39. Tom Wright Says:

    Mas, I don’t like bringing up old threads, but I didn’t see a better place to tie this in. It’s the most explicit case I’ve seen for repealing stand your ground laws based on Renisha McBride’s death. What strikes me as odd about it is that stand your ground doesn’t even seem to apply here–the homeowner was in his own home when the incident happened, so the relevant standards would involve the castle doctrine.

    Oddly, the author linked information on the castle doctrine to the phrase “older legal doctrines,” even though information in the link implies that it was adopted at the same time as the stand your ground law, which the author believes will prevent justice in this case.

    I have two questions, then.

    1. Is the stand your ground law even relevant here (or any other case involving an in-home shooting)?
    2. Do you see cases like this, in which the stand your ground law may not be relevant, used to create opposition to the law? I suppose the Zimmerman verdict might be an example of this use, as well.

  40. Mas Says:

    Welcome, Tom.

    NO to your first question, and an exclamatory YES! to the second.

  41. Mitchell Says:

    Good writing, Mas.

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