For longer than anyone reading this has been alive, the state of Vermont has allowed its citizens and its visitors to carry loaded, concealed handguns in public with no permit required. The Michael Bloombergs of the world fear that such a practice will make the proverbial blood run in the streets…but history has shown us the reverse. Every year, Vermont is one of the LOWEST violent crime states in the nation. In recent years Alaska and then Arizona adopted the same thing. So did Wyoming, though that state limited permitless carry to Wyoming residents. Whaddaya know: rivers of blood haven’t swept through any of their streets, either. I’m happy with these results: an old New Englander, I believe “if I ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Allowing good people to carry guns without permits, and merely forbidding convicted criminals, adjudicated mentally incompetent people, and others to do it, has worked out surprisingly well.
One suggestion, though. Many on the gun owners’ civil rights side have come to call this “Constitutional Carry.” Having been in a lot of different kinds of fights over the years, I’ve learned not to give advantages to my opponents, or leave openings through which they can hurt me. I believe referring to lawful permitless carry as “Constitutional Carry” gives the prohibitionists such an opportunity.
Why? Any fifteen-year-old kid taking high school Civics 101 knows that the arbiter of Constitutional law in this country is the Supreme Court of the United States. In two recent decisions which are landmark victories for our side – Heller v. District of Columbia and McDonald, et. al. v. Chicago – SCOTUS has confirmed that the right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights is indeed an individual right. However, both of those decisions have also made it clear that the states have the right to regulate the practice.
Which means that while the right to keep and bear arms is indeed Constitutional, to be technically correct the right to carry without a permit in the above-named states flows from the wise majority in their state legislatures, and not directly from the Second Amendment.
Words mean things. If we use the wrong terms, we compromise our credibility, and our factual credibility is our strongest weapon in this polarized debate. That’s why I for one do not describe permitless carry as “Constitutional carry.”
If we need a term with a catchy ring to it, we can simply invoke the peaceful valleys of the Green Mountain State and very appropriately call it … “the Vermont Model.”
The old guy here is about to finish four days in one of my favorite states, Texas. The first was spent in Fort Worth with friends, and the second at the Texas State Bar Association’s Firearms Law Seminar in the same city. The third was in Houston at the 28th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference, as will be the fourth.
Some 180 attorneys, with a few firearms instructors, attended the TBA event. I learned from every speaker I heard. Many of those lawyers were gun-owners and pistol-packers, and enough of the speakers were into competitive shooting on their own time to form a kick-ass gun team at the range. We learned that, thanks largely to the Texas State Rifle Association, the Lone Star state has made some great strides in legislation that’s friendly to firearms owners’ civil rights.
330 or so stalwarts attended the GRPC. We heard from top lawyers like Alan Gura about what’s going on at the point of the spear on the Federal level, and from Julianne Versnel and others on the state of the UN small arms treaty. (Short report: the heavy hitters on the inside are concerned about the UN treaty, but not terribly worried about it.) From the state level, we learned of the travails of the states which have had losses recently in this respect, such as California, Colorado, and New York, and from the states where our side is winning. We got the inside scoop on the Colorado Recall, where our side was outspent five to one by the prohibitionists and still kicked out two powerful state legislators who had ignored the mandate of their constituents. And much more…and more to come tomorrow, when the conference closes.
I was leaving tonight when I chatted with an attendee from British Columbia. (Canadians don’t suffer under the Obama administration, and we were told they can buy imported American M-1 Garands for $350. Almost made me want to shoot a maple leaf just out of jealousy.) The brother from BC told me how good it felt to be in the presence of like-minded people, and to be authoritatively reminded that we are winning on many fronts. We persecuted minorities need to hear that, especially when it’s true. I have tried over the years to get to the GRPC whenever possible. It’s a recharging of the batteries of the spirit for us “gun people.”
Ace trial lawyer (and skilled pistolero) John LeVick lectures on how insurance ties in with shooting cases at TBA seminar.
Sean Healy supervises the Firearms Law Seminar in Fort Worth.
Emily Miller talks about the travails of armed citizens in DC. Check out her new book, “Emily GetsHer Gun” at GRPC.
Valinda and Mike Rowe of IllinoisCarry.com received kudos at GRPC for their work in getting concealed carry in their state.
Alan Gura, the master lawyer who won the landmark Heller and McDonald decisions, tells the GRPC audience what’s next in pro-gun litigation.
Some old guy talks to attorneys about trial tactics in self defense cases for continuing legal education class…
…and to gun owners’ civil rights activists about Stand Your Ground laws at Gun Rights Policy Conference.
A very few folks complained about me spending all that time and the last twenty blog entries on one topic. I felt those things needed to be addressed. I’ve said my piece on the matter for now. Thanks for your patience.
You get a respite here on that subject. I’m getting a respite this month, too. September 2013 had been shaping up to be a killer on my end, with the 30 days encompassing two classes, a speech at a Friends of NRA meeting in Idaho, teaching at a state bar association CLE course on defending justifiable shooting cases, the annual Gun Rights Policy Conference, the IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) national championships, and two shooting trials.
The two classes (great classes, with great students!) are done. None of the NRA supporters threw tomatoes or anything. The murder trial out west was postponed to November a couple of weeks ago. The attempted murder trial back east, which might have seen me on the stand during the pistol match, was scheduled to start Monday the 16th, and on that morning postponed into January.
As my kids used to say, “Woo-hoo!” I missed last year’s IDPA Nationals because it conflicted with a trial. Not this time. The old guy’s gonna be tripping a trigger in Tulsa, and is looking forward to the CLE and the Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC).
Speaking of respites…
The GRPC was created many years ago by the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens’ Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. You don’t need to belong to either to attend (though I recommend that you join both). THERE IS NO CHARGE TO ATTEND – you’re only responsible for getting there and feeding yourself. You’ll hear the finest minds in the gun owners’ civil rights movement giving you the inside story on the fight as it stands now and what to expect next. They’ll give you hundreds of dollars worth of publications for free.
The object is to bring together the people at the point of the spear on the national level, and at the grass roots. You’ll get the inside skinny from the people who’ve been fighting the fight in Colorado, in New York, and in the other most embattled states, and of course, those who’ve been fighting it in Congress and have carried it to the Supreme Court of the United States. Info is here.
Every time I go, it’s a re-charging of the batteries. You’re among hundreds of like-minded advocates of self-protection and civil rights. A respite from the constant assault on your rights? Feels that way to me.
Hope to see you there. In the meantime, I’m getting ready for a shooting match.
Today is two months exactly since the day of the Zimmerman verdict, which I started blogging on that same day. Two months, and twenty entries, are nice round numbers to end upon. That’s right at twice as long as the trial took, including the week of jury selection. The strangeness continues, with the prosecution’s medical examiner Dr. Shiping Bao being fired for his egregious performance in this case, and suing for a hundred million dollars over that.The divorce proceeding of Mr. and Mrs. George Zimmerman grows weirder. A key player in the case has decided that he doesn’t want to play anymore, and has a new gig. The story will continue. It’s been about twenty years since the O.J. Simpson trial, and he’s still in the news. But I won’t discuss that case until I’ve walked a mile in O.J.’s blood-stained, “ugly-ass” Bruno Magli shoes. There will be books. Damn near everyone associated with the Simpson case eventually wrote one. I’ll be interested in hearing from the Zimmerman prosecutors, and from the defense lawyers, and from the judge (from whom I’m still waiting to hear a ruling as to the allegations of the prosecution withholding evidence from the defense). I’ll be particularly interested to read George Zimmerman’s own account. Earlier in this blog, I mentioned that he had reportedly wanted to testify, that I thought he handled himself well talking to the investigators, and would have done well on the witness stand if he was as articulate as his brother Robert, who tore Piers Morgan a new one on CNN. Robert Zimmerman later sent the following tweet:
There already are books. “Florida v. Zimmerman: Uncovering the Malicious Prosecution of my Son, George” by the defendant’s father, Robert Zimmerman, Sr., and “Defending Our Friend: the Most Hated Man In America” by Mark Osterman, the close friend who trained him with a gun and testified so well on his behalf, are available. The co-author of the latter was Sondra Osterman, who also helped show Zimmerman’s human face when she testified at trial. I’ve mentioned in this series that when the mainstream media dismally failed to tell the truth, the blogosphere picked up the ball they dropped. A classic example of that was the work of Conservative Treehouse, the “Treepers” who told the truth about the case in all its dimensions. The best digest I’ve seen of that good work is “If I had a Son: Race, Guns, and the Railroading of George Zimmerman” by Jack Cashill. There is also good reading on the topic to be found in “The Lynching of George Zimmerman” by Hunter Billings III. Those are just the ones I’ve read; there are more. The titles of the dad’s book and that of the friends show that they’re obviously advocates for one side. The Cashill and Billings books clearly have advocacy in them, but that doesn’t distract from the truth if the advocates are on the side of that truth, and the evidence showed that these advocates were. I hope another book on the trial will be forthcoming from my friend and former student Andrew Branca. His reporting from right there in the courtroom was, I think, the gold standard for commentary on the trial as it unfolded. It can be found day by day for the trial, which went from June 10 to July 13, 2013, at www.legalinsurrection.com. When you go there, budget yourself some time to read the huge volume of commentary on each day’s blog. Legal Insurrection draws an audience very heavily populated by lawyers and other criminal justice professionals, and there is gold in their assessment of the strategy and execution of the tactics seen in this trial. Branca is a lawyer who specializes in self-defense (get his excellent book on that topic at www.lawofselfdefense.com). His commentary and that of the readers will sound like advocacy for Zimmerman, but if you read it carefully, you’ll see that he and most of the commentators are really advocating for law and reality…which just happened to favor Zimmerman. This nationally divisive case brought out tribalism at a disturbingly high level. Black versus white. Anti-gun versus pro-gun. I for one didn’t come from that angle. As an advocate for armed citizens, it’s as important to me to step on the ones who screw up as to celebrate the many more who save innocent lives. The history of it is, any community that does not police itself will be policed for outside. If I thought Zimmerman had done wrong, I would have said so. Had I been going with tribes, I would have sided with special prosecutor Angela Corey. We have a lot in common. We’ve both made our careers in the justice system, we’ve both prosecuted, and we both have Arabic-American ancestry. Sorry, homegirl, I just can’t side with you on this one. My career has taught me to go with the evidence to find out who’s on the side of the angels, and in this case, Angela, you were on the wrong side. Simple as that. When John Guy did his dramatic opening statement for the prosecution, he ended with his now-famous line, “We are confident that at the end of this trial you will know in your head, in your heart, in your stomach that George Zimmerman did not shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to. He shot him for the worst of all reasons, because he wanted to.” Under the prosecutorial duty to be a minister of justice, this writer believes that Ms. Corey should have simply brought the evidence before a grand jury and given them the option to indict. Instead, she bypassed that key element of the criminal justice system and set the stage for a cruel show trial. I suspect that historians will write of it more as, “Angela Corey did not put George Zimmerman and his family through this ordeal because she had to. She did it for the worst of all possible reasons…because she wanted to.”
In this society, the person who moves toward danger in any respect is seen as “having gone looking for trouble,” and widely blamed accordingly if it does not end well. I’ve explained earlier why I don’t think anything Zimmerman did within the totality of the circumstances was the proximate cause of the death, but there’s a reason for the saying “It’s not about fault, it’s about blame.”
When you’re on trial, you aren’t the player, you’re the stakes. The players are your lawyers, and you want the best. Zimmerman had that, and it saved him. The evidence dealt them a powerful hand of cards. I think their two highest cards were Ace of Experts Dr. Vincent DiMaio, Jr. and Ace of Eyewitnesses John Good. The master forensic pathologist tied it all together and proved from the hard evidence what Good, the closest eyewitness, testified: it was Martin on top brutally beating Zimmerman until the shot. I did a murder case with Dr. DiMaio in Texas years ago, also resulting in an acquittal, and DiMaio was extraordinary there, too.
If anyone still has the fantasy that you’ll always be treated as a hero after a clean shoot, this case teaches us the reality. It’s often an ordeal of lies, misunderstandings, and false accusations…and, as seen here, your family will go through that ordeal with you.
It’s not something you want to face alone. Kudos to those who donated to Zimmerman’s legal defense fund: you helped enormously to do justice. O’Mara establishing a website to show the actual evidence (www.GZlegalcase.com) was powerful and effective, and I think we’ll see other defense lawyers modeling on this strategy in the future. One useful ally would be the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, which I’m involved with and have seen do good work. (http://armedcitizensnetwork.net) . Mark O’Mara consulted with ACLDN head Marty Hayes on the case, and appears to have put some of his advice to good use. Hayes’ excellent analysis is found here: http://www.armedcitizensnetwork.net/images/stories/Network_2013-08.pdf .
Don’t believe everything you see in the papers or on TV when the news in question is a self-defense act. For decades as an expert witness in these cases, I’d get back to the hotel after testifying, watch the news report on the day’s events in court, and wonder what the hell trial the reporter was watching. We saw that classically here. The honest reporting was more in the blogosphere than in the mainstream media.
The gun prohibition subculture in this country is powerful, abetted heavily by the MSM, and you can expect them to seize on incidents like this and demonize the shooter. Zimmerman has become the poster person for this venomous trend. Even those who grudgingly accept the verdict still mutter aloud, “If Zimmerman hadn’t had a gun, Trayvon Martin would still be alive.”
That’s probably true, but the final lesson is the flip side, which those commentators sometimes blindly and sometimes studiously ignore: If George Zimmerman hadn’t been carrying a gun routinely on a night he wasn’t expecting trouble, he would probably be dead.