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Walter Rodgers

Florida-style 'Stand Your Ground' gun laws sub impulse for intelligent thinking

Even as George Zimmerman stands trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, many Americans argue these laws make us safe. I've had pistols held to my head from Bosnia to Beirut. Your best self-defense is your tongue. Those who put their faith in guns will ultimately be outgunned.

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But if it’s illegal for police to shoot impulsively, why are so many state legislatures empowering people to become judge, jury, and executioner anytime they are afraid?

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As a society we are increasingly dressing up murder in the gown of “justifiable homicide.” The Washington Post reports that in the five years before Florida’s law was enacted, Florida prosecutors identified an average of 12 “justifiable” killings each year by private citizens. In the five years after the law was passed, that number tripled.

Stand Your Ground laws are perilous. They get people killed, because they substitute impulse for intelligent thought.

It’s also been my overwhelming experience that those who put their faith in guns will ultimately be outgunned.

In December 2001, my CNN camera crew and I were high up in the White Mountains of Afghanistan following a cold trail left by Osama bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora.

A Taliban gang offered to show us some vacant Al Qaeda caves if we paid them several hundred dollars. When I refused, they pronounced us “prisoners.”

Our private security guard had only one Kalashnikov AK-47. The Taliban were aiming 20 Kalashnikovs at us.

Waiting calmly while they conferred was the only option. One of the fighters noticed we had a hand-held satellite phone. He asked if he could borrow it to call his mother in a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. After a 10-minute conversation with “Mom” he became all smiles, telling us we were welcome to leave. He also handed back the $1,000 sat phone.

Patience, fearlessness, and a quick wit are more likely to save your life, and they trump guns any time. I have had pistols held to my head from Bosnia to Beirut, and knives at my throat from Beirut to Afghanistan. From my experience it is all too often bullies and cowards who carry and use handguns.

Americans’ faith in guns is sorely misplaced. Ultimately, they encourage fear and fantasy, and they leave everyone more insecure.

Mexico, Colombia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza, and the West Bank are awash in guns. Their societies are not ones that Americans should emulate.

Walter Rodgers is a former senior international correspondent for CNN.

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