Sanford, Fla., Police Flip-Flop On Scheme To Disarm Neighborhood Watch

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The Sanford, Fla., police department has reversed its position on a scheme that sought to disarm neighborhood watch volunteers who patrol the suburbs, even if they’re lawful gun owners.

The original plan, coming in the aftermath of the now-infamous show trial of Sanford resident George Zimmerman over the stand-your-ground shooting death of Trayvon Martin, appeared to be a police effort to rehabilitate the city’s maligned public image by preventing neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns so that there would never be a repeat — however unlikely — of the circumstances that led to Zimmerman’s self-defense shooting of Martin.

But, according to the Orlando Sentinel, the police department has adjusted its stance from recommending an outright legal ban on neighborhood watch volunteers bringing their weapons with them on patrol to a simple “recommendation” that they should leave their guns at home.

“We originally came out with a stern, ‘You should not,'” said Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith Monday. “We took a second look at it.

“We want people to feel as though they are part of a movement. And it’s smarter for us to say, ‘Listen, if you’re going to be a part of it, you need to abide by the rules. And it’s a voluntary organization and if you choose not to be a part of it, you don’t have to be a part of it.’”

That sounds a bit like grudging equivocation from the police chief, but his department faced a backlash from locals who take the Bill of Rights seriously.

The Sentinel cites the argument of one such resident, neighborhood watch coordinator Phil Unser, as illustrative of how fallacious a ban on guns for watch volunteers would have been.

If a Neighborhood Watch volunteer was driving home with a gun in the car and saw someone breaking into a house, for example, would he have to take his gun home and lock it up before reporting the crime to the police?

“It doesn’t even make sense,” Unser said.

In all, the department floated the gun ban idea for only a week before the city council voted to “recommend” that volunteers remain unarmed. However, the “Legal Insurrection” blog reports: “It remains true that volunteers in a more thoroughly organized form of neighborhood watch — called ‘Citizens on Patrol’ — will be prohibited from being armed.”

In other words, after a week’s worth of protestation from local watch volunteers, nothing has changed, except that the city council held a meaningless hold-harmless vote to absolve it — if only in spirit — from the bad press that could attend another progressive outcry over any future stand-your-ground incidents.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • dan

    I’ll bet the Brits wish they could go back to when their ‘Bobbies’ only carried truncheons (nightsticks) but then I’d like to go forward to a time when we all get along in a civilised fashion…

  • lbrack

    Florida has a firearms preemption law that prevents local governments from regulating firearms and ammo except for zoning issues. Therefore, unless the city made changes to zoning requirements for residential areas, that would apply equally to everyone, to prevent the carry of firearms it would be unlawful. And if they tried that approach it would likely be preempted by other state firearm law.

  • nonstopca

    And I “recommend” the Sanford police officers “all leave their guns at home ” when they go on petrol…gun for me but not you…

    • Jeff

      Are you suggesting Neighborhood Watch Vigilantes are the equivalent of Police? They’re supposed to be “eyes and ears” and report to actual police. Otherwise, you have fat morons like Zimmerman playing cop.

      • nonstopca

        YES..I’m suggesting Neighborhood Watches are a LOT more connected to a community then the police, and have a RIGHT to protect themselves and their communities with any mennes available.(remember that thing called the constitution).the cops respond to a crime…they rarely prevent it.

        • Jeff

          I believe you said the same about the KKK and lynchings about 50 years ago. Times change; bigoted vigilantes don’t.

          • vicki

            ad hominem

          • vicki

            ad hominem

          • Jeff

            Over-ruled!

          • vicki

            Not possible to over-rule facts. Sorry

          • vicki

            Not possible to over-rule facts. Sorry

          • Jeff

            TIPFW
            (Too idiotic and pedantic for words).
            Sorry

    • emerutil

      Feinstein’s sentiments exactly!

  • Jeff

    Stand your ground, indeed! It should be called the License to Kill Black People.

    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/11/08/4449259/fatal-michigan-shooting-similar.html#.Un2iK_kU84Q

    • Robert Messmer

      Neither case has anything to do with Stand Your Ground.

      • Jeff

        It’s not true because “stand your ground” includes a reluctance by the police to even charge a person who claims “self defense,” even in cases where the claim seems a bit far-fetched. Why was so little investigation done of the Trayvon Martin shooting in the following days? Why has there been no arrest of the shooter in Michigan? Self defense has always been a valid defense but it had to be shown by the defense. Now, it seems it has to be ruled out by the police before a person can even be charged with shooting an unarmed Black person.

        • Robert Messmer

          Now you are trying to “re-define” the term “stand your ground”. Neither case in your link has anything to do with Stand Your Ground. In the Charlotte case the gentleman was shot by a cop. Cops don’t use “Stand Your Ground” as a defense because they don’t have to. BTW you forgot to mention that the cop was charged within 24 hours of the shooting. The shooter in Michigan, while saying he thought that the person was trying to break in, claims the shotgun went off accidentally. The police are still investigating and until the investigation is complete the DA refuses to arrest. Why arrest the innocent is probably what he is thinking? The burden of proof has always been on the State, not the defendant. There was investigation done in the Trayvon Martin shooting and the police determined insufficient evidence to justify an arrest. Apparently they did a damn good job of investigating since the jury found Mr. Zimmerman Not Guilty. Oh, and Stand Your Ground had nothing to do with that case either.

          • Jeff

            Here’s a hypothetical for you. Young Black man “accidentally” shoots and kills White person. The only thing that might happen faster than an arrest is for the shooter to be killed or beaten within an inch of his life.

          • Robert Messmer

            Hmm you mean like the black guys were arrested/beaten/killed for dragging white guy out of truck and smashing him repeatedly on national television? Instead of focusing on the alleged injustice of Stand Your Ground, why not focus on the injustice of hundreds and hundreds of cases every week of blacks shooting blacks? Or is that like the difference between using and “a” or an “e”?

          • Jeff

            No one is excusing the Black thugs that commit crimes regardless who the victim is. They are immediately labeled criminals and no one phrases the debate in terms of “accidents” or “stand your ground” or 2nd Amendment rights. It’s only when unarmed Black kids get shot that we hear these lame excuses.

          • Robert Messmer

            Hmm I thought the veep said it was an accident when he blasted his hunting companion—pretty sure they both are white. Maybe the lame excuse of “accident” is used when it really is regardless of the victims color.

          • Jeff

            If you think the Cheney shooting is the same as a young Black girl at the door “accidentally” shot, then I can’t help you. You need a massive injection of common sense.

          • Robert Messmer

            Since you think that “Stand Your Ground” is a lame excuse justifying/covering up white people killing blacks here is some facts to show you that just ain’t so.

            “Blacks make up 16.6 percent of Florida’s population but account for 31 percent of the defendants invoking the stand your ground defense. Black defendants who invoke this statute are actually acquitted 8 percentage points more frequently than whites who use this very same defense”

            http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-10-28/opinion/ct-oped-1029-guns-20131029_1_ground-laws-blacks-ground-defense

          • Jeff

            Was that written by Col. McCormick’s ghost? I’d feel a bit more comfortable with statistics not coming from the source of the most iconic wrong headline in journalistic history (Dewey Defeats Truman).

          • Robert Messmer

            The author is John Lott and the data is apparently from the Tampa Tribune. Don’t know for sure but pretty sure they didn’t run the wrong headline for that election.

            Here’s a quote that sound’s interesting. “In 2004, then-state Sen. Obama co-sponsored and voted for a bill expanding the protection of Illinois’ 1961 stand your ground law.”

            here’s a link: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jul/22/then-sen-obama-co-sponsored-stand-your-ground-law-/

          • Jeff

            The Washington Times is even more right wing than the Chicago Tribune, but be that as it may, the text summary of the bill Obama co-sponsored reads as follows:

            “Provides that it is an affirmative defense to a violation of a municipal ordinance that prohibits, regulates or restricts the private ownership of firearms if the individual who is charged with the violation used the firearm in an act of self-defense or defense of another. Effective immediately.”

            That has nothing to do with “stand your ground.” It merely provides that actual use of a firearm in self defense (or defense of another) is an affirmative defense where the user of the gun is charged with violating a local gun ordinance.

            The thing about “stand your ground” is that it fundamentally changes the concept of self defense by removing the requirement of reasonable retreat. It may be that the problem is law enforcement’s overly-generous interpretation of the statute as it appears saying the magic words (“I’m in fear for my life”) somehow trumps common sense. Remember the case in Texas where the guy told the 911 operator he was going out to shoot some guys who stole something from a neighbor. He was not charged. I’m sorry, that’s just not self defense under any interpretation.

          • Robert Messmer

            There is no such thing as the requirement of “reasonable retreat”. The requirement is don’t try to attack.
            That is an entirely different law in Texas based on the concept of its your property and no one has the right to steal it. In Texas they allow you to defend your neighbor’s property as well. The first case after they expanded it to allow protection of neighbor’s property, if I remember correctly, involved a 67 year old man who shot and killed 2 thugs robbing his neighbor’s house. There was some comment because they were only armed with baseball bats but he wasn’t charged for shooting them. Guess the prosecutor remembered cases of “blunt force trauma”.

          • Jeff

            Traditional self defense law required that before using deadly force, a person claiming self defense had to retreat if retreat was possible. So, if you’re armed with a gun and someone else is unarmed but bigger and stronger than you, you could not shoot him just because he was looming. If you could reasonably retreat, you had a duty to do so before using deadly force.

            The major exception to that general rule was at your home where there was no duty to retreat. Someone actually posing a threat at your home could be shot without the Court inquiring into possible avenues of retreat. “Stand your ground,” at least in theory, widens that exception, creating a “bubble” around you so no matter where you go, you can use deadly force just as you might if someone were breaking into your house.

            It has had the effect of allowing law enforcement to ignore shootings where the claim of self defense would otherwise be weak at best. And it’s not just the fact that “stand your ground” allows for a person to not be charged where he claims he was in fear of his life. Even when a case goes to trial, “stand your ground” impacts the instruction to the jury on the issue of self defense.

          • Jeff

            Robert:

            “if I remember correctly, involved a 67 year old man who shot and killed 2 thugs robbing his neighbor’s house. There was some comment because they were only armed with baseball bats but he wasn’t charged for shooting them. Guess the prosecutor remembered cases of “blunt force trauma”.”

            This part of your post baffles me a bit. If the shooter wasn’t claiming “self defense,” why would it matter that the burglars had baseball bats? If you think it’s OK to kill people for taking property from a neighbor, is there a dollar limit on that? Is it OK to shoot a kid for stealing a plant from your yard? How about your newspaper? How about a shopkeeper shooting a kid for stealing a comic book or a candy bar? Even you might have done such a thing once.

    • emerutil

      Bullfeathers. What’s mine, is mine, is mine. I’ll see you in hell before I share anything with you!

      • Jeff

        So, you “thinking” someone may have designs on your “stuff” is justification for shooting them? No questions asked? I’m glad I don’t live in your dump of a neighborhood! In none of the cases illustrating the idiocy of the “stand your ground” mentality has there been even a suggestion of stealing by the victim.

  • Jonathan

    Ben, “stand your ground”, or “self defense”? You managed to call it both ways in the same paragraph. Mr. Zimmerman’s legal defense was that he fired to save his own life. The jury accepted that argument. “Stand your ground” is just another media catchy phrase targeted to arouse the uneducated masses – like the abused term “assault rifle”.