Ronald Gasser

We knew it was coming:  the inevitable screaming of clueless media pundits and dimwitted politicians blaming “stand your ground” laws that none of them have bothered to read and comprehend after former NFL running back Joe McKnight was shot and killed during a road rage incident in Louisiana.

Two days after the fatal shooting of Joe McKnight, hundreds of people gathered at the Lincoln Manor Gym in Kenner to hold a vigil for the slain high school football star and NFL running back. Among the attendees were McKnight’s family, friends and former teammates, who grieved and called for unity as the  Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office investigation into McKnight’s death proceeds.

McKnight was shot dead Thursday afternoon (Dec. 1) at the intersection of Behrman Highway and Holmes Boulevard in Terrytown in what authorities have described as a “rage rage” incident. The suspected shooter, Ronald Gasser, was released by the sheriff’s office Thursday night after questioning. Authorities say Gasser admitted to killing McKnight, but he has not been charged with a crime. At a press conference Friday, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand hinted that Louisiana’s “stand your ground” self-defense law “looms on the horizon” as a potential factor in the case.

Gasser’s release has sparked outrage across the country, with a host of observers on social media and elsewhere fuming that Gasser, a white man, was set free after admitting to slaying McKnight, a black man. But with the vigil underway starting around 6 p.m. Saturday, a host of speakers called for unity in the face of mounting unrest.

“We all need to come together,” said Robby Green, one of McKnight’s former teammates at John Curtis Christian School. “Regardless of what happens here and what happens with this situation, I think we all need to come together. White, black, Spanish — it doesn’t matter what we are as a race, gender. I think we all need to come together.”

Members of McKnight’s family did not speak alongside the dozen or so speakers at the vigil, among whom were a handful of elected officials who called on the Louisiana Legislature to take a renewed look at how the state’s “stand your ground” law should be applied.

“You can believe that we will be going back to the Capitol to work on legislation to make it clear (that) when people commit these crimes, they cannot hide behind laws that were intended to do one thing, and are used to disguise what appears to be (murder),” said state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans. He was echoed in his commitment by state Rep. Rodney Lyons, D-Harvey.

“When we get back to the Legislature, we’ve got to find a way to look at these laws,” Lyons said. “As we move forward, stand strong. Remember Joe, and remember his family.”

Other dimwitted journalists are making similar claims.

Let’s be 100% clear on what “stand your ground” law is, and isn’t.

“Stand your ground” laws are not the “get out of jail free” card that the media so consistently and dishonestly portrays.

As Louisiana’s statute makes very clear, all stand your ground does is remove the duty of a citizen to attempt a retreat from the situation that may end up putting a person under attack by a violent criminal at a greater risk of being killing.

“A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”

That’s it, folks. That’s “stand your ground” law.

It doesn’t reduce the threshold for using deadly force. It simply means that you don’t have to turn your back on someone trying to kill you. This is one of those “common sense” laws gun control supporters—excuse me, “gun safety advocates”—keep claiming they want.

Further, “stand your ground” law isn’t relevant in this case, any more than it was when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

In the Zimmerman case, Martin attacked Zimmerman from behind, sucker-punched him, mounted him, and began a MMA-style ground and pound from a top mount position. Zimmerman didn’t have the option of retreat from such a position, and so stand your ground was entirely irrelevant, to his defense. While the media screamed “stand your ground!” about the case, it played no part of the trial at all. Zimmerman’s case was one of straight, conventional self-defense, and it would have played out the exact same way if Florida’s “stand your ground” law had never existed.

The same is likely to be played out in Ronald Gasser’s killing of Joe McKnight. No part of incident presented thus far suggests that “stand your ground” is relevant to McKnight’s death.

Ronald Gasser was apparently boxed in in traffic when the shooting took place. There were cars in front of him, to his left, and behind him, with McKnight’s SUV to his right. Like in Zimmerman’s case, “retreat” was not an option, and therefore stand your ground is irrelevant to the case.

Gasser’s defense is going to be a straight case of self-defense. It’s also one that is very likely to fail. Gasser shot a man that does not appear to have been a credible lethal force threat.

Barring a major piece of exculpatory evidence that suggests McKnight was a lethal force threat which has not presented itself yet, Ronald Gasser will be charged for a criminal homicide. It is also very likely that he will be unable to mount a successful defense, as McKnight was unarmed, and therefore not an especially plausible lethal force threat if he was outside the passenger side of Gasser’s car when shot, as a picture taken after the shooting released through TMZ suggests.

joe-mcknight-shooter-ronald-gasser

The photo shows Gasser standing behind and between the two vehicles. His pistol is on the trunk of his car. McKnight is mostly obscured, but seems to have fallen where he was shot between the vehicles.

Again, despite the misstatement from the Sheriff who immediately cut himself off for misspeaking, Ronald Gasser’s shooting of Joe McKnight does not have anything at all to do with Louisiana’s implementation of stand your ground law.

This will be a conventional self defense case, like so many others where the media claimed “stand your ground” laws were at the heart of the matter, but were actually entirely irrelevant.