The recent publicity over Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was fresh in mind as I drove at normal speed along a busy Broward County two-lane boulevard, which was about to narrow to one, just a block from where I would turn off for home. A large SUV was coming up fast behind me, desperate to pass, but I knew the driver was stuck because the road was narrowing, and to pass on the right was clearly illegal, and in a few yards would be impossible for lack of paved road, but that was exactly what the driver did, accelerating over the no-drive stripes to barely get by, going about 50 in a 30 mph zone. Had I not slowed, he might have clipped me as he veered back to the left in front of me.
I gave an angry blast of my horn. Had I not been thinking about the Stand Your Ground law and the fact that 900,000 people in Florida are licensed to carry concealed weapons, I would have overtaken the SUV, blocked its path, jumped from my car, dragged the driver out, subdued him with karate chops, and strung him up with piano wire from the nearest tree. I carry a piano in my trunk for such emergencies. I would do all this in 10 seconds and leave the driver to die and rot, twisting in the air – much the way the British sometimes treated Irish rebels in days of yore. It would be a reminder to other insane drivers not to mess with me. I would leave the scene, making sure to turn off the SUV engine to conserve fuel. No one would see me because I would have also sprayed myself with the stuff that makes you invisible. Potential witnesses would only report seeing a small white sports car with no driver and a piano in the trunk.
But that was before I read all the articles about people all over the country killing people they don’t like and getting away with it because all judges have to hear is that the killer felt threatened by the killee. As I processed these thoughts, I realized that any driver who did such a stupid, dangerous thing just to get in front of one car was probably crazy enough to have a gun, loaded, safety off, sitting on his lap. And very likely his vehicle was filled with assault rifles and high explosives, and the next thing the judge would be hearing that he blew this guy away because he was just minding his business, driving like a maniac, when he felt threatened by a mad man whom he had cut off and was probably out to kill him. Thinking that, I turned off onto the quiet street where I live and therefore lived to live another day.
These thoughts are occasioned, of course, by the killing of a black teenager in Sanford, Fla., by a volunteer neighborhood watch fellow. It has led to the usual suspects coming to Florida to participate in rallies demanding justice. But you can’t blame the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for jumping on the bandwagon. Civil rights is their livelihood and if they did not show up at highly publicized events it could hurt their speakers’ fees. Nobody wants that in this economy.
But nobody wants Sanford’s reputation damaged either, and talk about boycotting businesses there is nonsense. Our family feels an emotional attachment to Sanford, for since the 1970s almost every year we have gone there to catch the Auto Train north. To be truthful, what we saw of Sanford for years was not impressive. The main road is lined with fast food places, shabby shopping centers and old fashioned squirt-it-yourself car washes. It seemed pretty rednecky. But that changed in recent years when we arrived early for the train and killed time by checking out its redeveloped business district. It’s a beautiful few blocks, brick streets with book stores, nice restaurants and gift shops, and a lot of history. That goes back to the time when ocean going ships could make their way through rivers and lakes to the central Florida town. It was once a busy port, calling itself a gateway city. It shipped more oranges than any other town. It also had in the late 1800s a spectacular fire which wiped out practically the whole business area. Its military history is also important. At one time 4,000 U.S. Navy personnel were stationed at a training field there. To tarnish the town over the recent killing is absurd. Towns don’t kill people. Guns do. And legislatures that put guns in the hands of potentially dangerous people are accomplices to death.
That’s where the anger of the protestors should be directed. Here was a volunteer neighborhood watch guy packing a concealed gun. And this is a guy with a bit of history for minding other people’s business. But he was armed legally, like 900,000 other people in Florida. Without that gun there would be no death. But all we get from Tallahassee, annually, are more laws to promote guns, to prevent cities and local police from restricting guns on their turf, even to punish physicians who ask patients about guns in their homes. A woman in Florida gets paid $300,000 a year to push such laws. It is therefore predictable that those calling for gun control – and even former President Clinton chimed in, urging a “reappraisal” of the Stand Your Ground law – will be countered by an argument that 17-year-old kids wearing hoods should be armed to protect themselves from overzealous neighborhood watchmen.
And while they are at it, how about allowing drivers who get cut off by illegal passing to mount .50-caliber machine guns on the front of their cars to discourage such antisocial behavior.