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ZT Madness is Spreading!

You might think “Zero Tolerance” is a playground issue — just a way for school administrators to deal with violent kids. If you did, you would be wrong. ZT is a mindset of black-and-white rules applied to a gray world. “We tolerate no disobedience on the topic of [fill in the blank].” Thus, a “no guns” policy meant to keep firearms off school grounds (a laudable goal) gets applied to “squirt guns” (a silly result) — or even crude crayon drawings of guns (a ridiculous result).

Since these rules are “black and white,” that means the punishment is the same: suspension and expulsion. So in the name of keeping firearms away from schoolchildren, kids are being kicked out of school for drawing pictures — treated the same as a kid who brings a real loaded gun to class. Outrageous! The “punishment” should fit the “crime” — the actual crime.

And kids getting tossed out of school for silly, innocent, childish behavior happens again and again and again. For just some of the examples reported on in This is True, see my main Zero Tolerance essay.

And the concept is spreading outside the school setting and into the adult world, as the following story from True‘s 26 August 2001 issue demonstrates:

Rule Of Law

Detrick Washington, 25, was at his business partner’s San Francisco, Calif., home office when two men forced their way in. The robbers got $3,000 from the safe, but figured there must be more and beat and cut their victims to get them to talk. “I’ll go and kill the kids and that girl if you don’t give me the rest of the money,” one of the robbers said. While they ransacked the home, Washington saw his chance: one robber put his gun down, and Washington grabbed it. When the robber lunged at him, Washington shot him. He then handed the gun to his partner to cover the other robber and went to call police. “Stay down! Don’t move! Don’t get up!” his friend told the second robber after Washington left the room. Then Washington heard, “He’s getting up, he’s getting up!” and a shot rang out — the second robber was killed too. “He took a chance. I believe we could call him a hero,” police Inspector Armand Gordon said. Washington “basically saved five people’s lives, including his own” by grabbing the gun. Police ruled the shooting justified, yet Washington is in jail: he is on parole from a previous drug conviction, and parole rules say parolees cannot “possess” a firearm. Because Washington grabbed the robber’s gun, he was in “possession” of the weapon and violated his parole. (San Francisco Chronicle) …And here you thought “zero tolerance” was only for school kids.

Update: the San Francisco Chronicle reported six days later: “At the time, agents said Washington could be held at San Francisco County Jail for six business days while they reviewed the case, meaning he would have been behind bars until [Wednesday]. Instead, they quietly let him go Friday, after The Chronicle reported he had been jailed.” Yep, that’s a bit hard to calculate — the paper doesn’t actually say how long Mr. Washington was in jail for saving several lives. As near as I can tell, however, it was two days. No doubt he would have been there much longer if the media hadn’t highlighted his outrageous arrest by state parole officers.

Most people readily made the connection — why this was a “zero tolerance” story, rather than just an ordinary outrage. A reader letter — and my response — will help clarify it for you:

Obviously, we’re not talking “zero tolerance;” we’re talking stupidity and narrow-mindedness. It is truly frightening to consider the number of small-minded, undereducated people who have power over us. Our schools, our judicial system, businesses, all are rife with these petty power-grabbers who either are incapable of thinking, or are scared to death of it. This is the type of person who made up, with such enthusiasm and abandon, the SS and the Gestapo; fortunately, this modern version is too stupid to organize. What we need, in “expose” articles such as this, are the names of the bugwitted individuals responsible. A little (direct) publicity might do wonders. –Tim, Pennsylvania

Tim, you just described Zero Tolerance exactly! Stupidity; narrow-mindedness; scared of thinking for themselves. That is the ZT mindset! And unfortunately, they do organize — all to support each other that they’re “doing the right thing” even in the face of evidence that they’re causing more harm than good. And as this story shows, we’re seeing it expand from school bureaucrats into larger society. ZT is idiocy. It’s a lack of judgement in favor of “following the rules” even when the rules don’t make any sense! Suspending a 6-year-old child under a ZT “anti-drug policy” when he gives candy to friends on the playground makes no sense (even if the teachers did initially think the candy was cough drops), and defending that action when they learned it wasn’t cough drops is an outrage. (Yes, that did happen: see my ZT essay!)

Similarly, arresting a parolee for “possessing” a gun that he wrestled away from a robber is ridiculous when investigators all agree that he had to do it to save many lives. It’s the exact same mindset, and if reasonable, thinking people don’t object strongly to it and demand a common sense approach replace it, ZT will continue to spread for the reasons I outlined long ago in my essay.

Some reader comments, the first responding to Tim’s bringing up “the SS and the Gestapo”:

I am very familiar with the German history — because I am German and think of it as an important lesson in history that may not be forgotten neither by the Germans nor by any other people — and I don’t see how Tim can say that the SS and the Gestapo were made up by “a number of small-minded, undereducated people…incapable of thinking, or scared to death of it”. I’d really like to say that they were. But that’s not true. The men who created the system of the so called Third Reich, the SS and the Gestapo were definitely not undereducated. We, as “educated” people tend to dismiss the atrocities of that era as acts of people different from ourselves but it is established fact that the system was organized and run by some really intelligent people. People who used their brains for the worst possible crimes but nevertheless they used them. Don’t get me wrong: I am absolutely not saying that I admire them or tolerate what they’ve done. Quite the opposite, in fact. I just say that it were intelligent people who did these things. Can anyone imagine some “undereducated, small-minded” idiots planning the murder of millions of people — of a whole people? Intelligence does not protect us from being misguided and comitting genocide. Undereducated people are 9 out of 10 times not the ones who plan and start a world war. They are the ones who die in it. –Florian, Germany

Wishful thinking, perhaps….

I haven’t reviewed the laws recently, but I suspect that the problem here is with the law, rather than with those enforcing it. I don’t think there’s a “do what has to be done” exception to the law against felons posessing guns. I agree that the fellow’s treatment was wrong, but I also wouldn’t want to encourage every law enforcement officer to concoct a unique interpretation of whether a particular law should be enforced. (Remember “rule of law, not of men”.) –Jordan, California

Police officers have always been allowed discretion in the application of the law. It’s extremely rare for anyone to be pulled over and ticketed for going 1 mph over the speed limit — and when they are, I’ll bet in most cases the cop’s using that as “probable cause” to stop someone he’s suspicious about. Someone had to interpret the law to equate “wrestled gun away from a robber” with “possession”. And they did a damn poor job of it.


Another letter on the story shows that such thinking is not just a bureaucratic thing, and not just a U.S. thing, but rather something that’s creeping into everyday consciousness (although some readers think this is more a reflection of political differences between the U.S. and the U.K.):

I do not think that Detrick Washington’s arrest was entirely unjustified. I respect and admire him for being willing to kill to save the lives of those he cared for. For risking his own life to save lives. But at the end of the day, the robbers were killed. I am not in a position to say if one person’s life is more or less important than another’s, except for what we *feel* personally. That is, without a doubt we value the lives of those we care about higher than those of strangers, or in this case armed robbers and would-be murderers. However, I don’t think that it is possible for anybody to ever give up their right to life, no matter what they do. Put in the same position I would like to think that I would have done exactly what Washington did, but I also like to think that I would not expect to escape punishment. It is a difficult situation. Certainly Washington made the right decision — it was a true dilemma for him when both outcomes carried negative repercussions — but I still think that we can not leave killing unpunished. I do think that it was ridiculous Washington was jailed for parole violation, because he technically was ‘in posession’ of a gun, however I do think that killing robbers would also count as parole violation. No matter how much worse the alternative was — and it would surely be a greater crime to stand by and let innocent people die when it can be avoided — I do think that there needs to be *some form* of punishment. He saved many lives, and for this he should be rewarded — however I don’t think it should be ignored that in doing so he took a life. Under no circumstances do I believe we should ever just let it pass when someone takes a life. I know that wasn’t the point of the piece, but I felt the need to comment and hope I haven’t made myself sound stupid. –Jay, England

I don’t think Jay is stupid, but man do I think he is misguided! Punishment is for people who do wrong, either by doing something they know they shouldn’t have been doing, or (to some lesser extent) by their own negligence. These were robbers who chose to do wrong. They clearly would not have hesitated to kill their victims — just as they threatened. Washington just didn’t grab a gun and start shooting, he grabbed their gun and told them to stop. They didn’t stop: they tried to grab the gun back to continue their crime, so they were shot. The only people who did something “wrong” here, in my opinion, were the robbers. They got their “punishment”; Washington deserves no punishment if in fact the situation went down as described (and, to make it clear, the police are satisfied it did happen that way). People who, as Jay said, “do the right thing” don’t deserve punishment!

Even after thinking about it more — and reading my reply to his letter — Jay didn’t change his mind. He replied: “You make a good point. I think we’ll agree to disagree on whether it is possible to give up your right to life unwillingly. Yes, Detrick Washington was more than justified in killing to protect himself and his family — this I do not dispute — but I do not think that there should be differences in murder. But I will not convince you of my case, and I doubt if I would admit it if you convinced me.” Huh? No matter what evidence you’re shown that your argument is wrong, you wouldn’t admit it if you changed your mind?! Admitting you’re wrong is the first step toward getting it right, Jay. No one is right all the time.

Several True readers had plenty to say to Jay:

When I read the letter from Jay in England, all I could think of was that he and like-minded, though clueless, people ought to work in a busy county morgue for a while. When the coroner performs a post mortem on a victim of violence, it’s to ascertain which of several possible causes of death killed a person. Trust me Jay, you do not want to die from violence. The human being is a tough organism and it takes quite a bit of abuse to kill one of us. During those autopsies, I’ve seen, in grisly detail, from the inside out what happens to people who die violently and those people died hard, painful, nasty deaths that were not quick. And they knew they were dying so they were terrified. I can’t think of a more horrible way to die. And Jay thinks it’s unfair to take a life in defense of himself and others? When I confronted a criminal breaking into my home and I got my gun before he got me, all I could think of was “please go away so I don’t have to kill you because I WILL kill you.” I have no doubt that he meant to kill me and every autopsy I ever saw flashed in front of my eyes so I knew I’d blow him away if he stepped so much as one step closer to me. It’s been almost 30 years since that night and I still thank God I didn’t have to kill the guy. But I would have, without hesitation. Criminals are not bound by any kind of moral reasoning except for their own selfish, brutal, sicko interests. The only reasoning that works is the threat of force, and a loaded gun is the very best way of making “no” stick. –Barbara, Maryland

What Jay doesn’t understand is that the robbers did not give up their right to life “unwillingly”. They gave it up the instant they willfully and credibly threatened someone else’s life. –Ray, California

Jay states “I think we’ll agree to disagree on whether it is possible to give up your right to life unwillingly.” That is not what these individuals were doing. They willingly embarked on actions that any reasonably rational individual simply must know could lead to a dire or fatal conclusion. Mr. Washington also embarked on that kind of journey when he picked up the gun, but his actions were in response to the actions of the robbers. I can’t imagine living in a society where reacting to lethal threat and force is punishable, as long as your actions are just that… “reacting to lethal threat.” The outcome of reacting to lethal threat may or may not lead to death. You stated that the police were satisfied with Mr. Washington’s actions, and therefore, I am as well. The only way that Jay would be right (that Mr. Washington should be punished for his actions) would be if the robbers surrendered at the time Mr. Washington got the gun and he shot them down anyway. That would be crossing the line and improperly assuming that they had “…give[n] up [their] right to life unwillingly.” –Michael, Texas

The comments made by Jay from England seem to grapple with an idea that I have also heard many “modern”, liberal friends take on: when does an act of self-defense or an act intended to stop a crime start to encroach on the “rights” of the criminal? I must be an alien, but the idea that criminals have rights is entirely nonsequitur (and completely preposterous) to me. In my opinion, a person knowingly engaged in the commission of a crime has waived his rights by making a conscious choice to violate the law. He or she has chosen to take the ultimate risk, gambling their own devious devices, skill, and power, and their very life and liberty against that of a victim who has no such choice. When the would-be robber, murderer, or rapist loses their gamble, how can anyone other than themselves be at fault? I believe our society errors when it judges the response of the prey, rather than the actions of the predator. –Bob, Colorado

You said “I don’t think Jay is stupid,” but I do. (I realize that, even if you also think so, you might not say so in so many words –at least given that Jay is trying to be thoughtful and openminded.) I’ve been disappointed in the typical use of the term “misguided” for at least a few years now, because, by itself, it implies that somebody else misguided the person(s) in question. Maybe Jay was literally misguided by somebody else’s influence but he certainly is carrying this stupid-ball all by himself right now. (And I gotta admit that often, when I’m trying to find a substitute term for the way most people use the term “misguided”, I can’t think of an appropriate substitute. Darn it! Anyway…) Why do I say he’s stupid? He’s obviously thinking really hard, trying to cover all the possible bases, so to speak, in this matter. By my interpretation, he’s trying to reach the Nth degree of moral correctness; to deserve to stand in the court of god, if I may so exaggerate the point. But, in trying to do so, he has obviously gotten himself in over his head, and he doesn’t even realize that he is drowning in a sea of convoluted pseudo-reasoning, and that he unwittingly walked into that over-his-head depth, basically on his own accord. Consequently, I refer to him as stupid. Maybe he’s not stupid but, rather, he’s simply in a stupid rut, regarding this issue at this time. Let’s hope he figures out his need for a life-preserver and gets back to shore before it’s too late for his mind, if it’s not too late already. –John, Illinois

Wow — this is fantastic (as in mad, crazy, insane, foolish, idiotic, lunatic…). Two days [in jail] for saving five lives. If he stopped the Unabomber would he get life or death row? –Vikki, U.K.

I wonder if what Jay is trying to say is that killing is wrong and that, as such, one who kills another, even if it’s justified, should have some sort of punishment so he is able to atone for his “sin.” If you serve some sort of punishment for your sin, you might not feel as guilty for taking someone’s life, even if it was justified (as I believe was in this case). –Rebecca, Illinois

Yes, Jay clearly worries about any killing being “wrong.” And I do understand that many philosophies have a problem with it. If that’s yours, and you are “forced” to kill someone, and you feel guilty about it (even despite being exonerated by official investigation), fine: go see your pastor and talk to him or her about it. But that’s not what Jay’s main point was — the part I so strongly object to. Jay was saying that Washington should be “punished” for his defense of his own life, and the lives of four other people. Punished! He used the word several times in his messages to me.

People who do the right thing shouldn’t be punished. Washington is a hero! What I particularly worry about is that by saying Washington should be “punished”, what Jay is really saying is that Washington should live by Jay’s philosophy. Wrong. If Washington feels guilty about doing “the right thing,” he can talk to his pastor, or friend, or parent, or parole officer, or therapist — his choice. Not Jay’s choice.

Jay’s letter is symptomatic of the curious mindset displayed by many of my fellow Englishmen, and is one of the reasons we have such draconian gun laws in the UK. They seriously seem to think that passing laws against crime — or the tools used by some to commit crimes — will deter criminals, and that all anti-social/dangerous behaviour can be legislated out of existence. I’m sure nearly all rational human beings think it is wrong to take life lightly, but in the circumstances described there was no time for philosophical debate. Life must sometimes be taken instantly to preserve other lives. But some people cannot see a difference between murder and killing. And of course we value the lives of our loved ones and friends more highly than we do those of strangers, that truly is human nature. As for Jay seeming to accept all your arguments but refusing to admit that he is wrong, he’s just being English, Randy 😉 We like to think we’re a cold blooded and logical race, but we rarely are; it’s just the way we dress up our emotions and instincts. –John, England

I think it’s important to remember that parole is very strict contract between a criminal and society. In exchange for a chance to prove oneself fit to live outside prison walls earlier than the court system’s sentence, the parolee agrees to terms that free members of society do not have to heed. This was not a normal member of society and the same rules, and even “common sense”, do not apply. Judging by reports of the conduct and especially fabrications and manipulations of some parolees, I’m not convinced that 6 days back behind bars is unwarranted while the system double-checks the judgement of the local police. Innocent citizens are subject to short jail stays all the time under our system while the process cranks out an appropriate result and everyone seems to agree this an unfortunate but necessary part of the process. As a parolee, you agree to a much more thorough scrutiny of every move you make — 2 days or 2 weeks, I think detention in this case was justified, if unfortunate. Police officers are always pulled from active duty any time they’ve shot someone, no matter how obvious it was that the shooting was justified in order for the process to verify that fact. That’s part of the process they agreed to. I think being a parolee signs you up for some contractual issues and that’s the way it should be. I think the American ideal of our right to defend life and property has clouded people’s judgment in this case — the system is far from ideal, but it was working, and in this situation I’d bet it would have worked itself through to proper conclusion. How many of us are willing to pay the taxes needed to have a system that can get to that result in a few hours time in situations of similar seriousness? Once again, as a parolee, you should expect that the discretion of police and parole officers will err on the side of caution and harsher enforcement, that’s the deal you accepted and it may mean that you will be subject to the slow wheels of justice in more situations than the rest of society expects, that’s reasonable. Sorry, but no sympathy here. –Jeff, California

You have, to be sure, provided the first reasonable explanation behind the actions in the case, but you missed a few points. For instance, the stated reason for tossing Washington in jail was because he violated his parole for “possessing a firearm” — not to let the “system double-check the judgement of the local police.” Even a parolee, who indeed gives up many rights (e.g., the police can usually pat down a parolee at will, despite the Constitutional prohibition against “unreasonable search”), is presumed “innocent until proven guilty.” Since the police did clear Washington of any crime — and did not arrest him — I submit that he, even as a parolee, should have been given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to remain free while any necessary investigations were concluded, rather than be incarcerated for what surely anyone with common sense agrees is a ridiculous excuse (being in “possession of a firearm” because he grabbed it from a robber!) After all, he was hardly a flight risk: he was cleared by the police, he was employed, etc.

I have been enjoying (for the most part) your e-columns for some time and have never felt the need to respond to on of your articles. That changed when I read your response to the reader letter on the parolee totting a pistol. As a matter of fact your comment, “I don’t think Jay is stupid, but MAN do I think he is misguided!” rightly infuriated me (which is to say I was taken aback by it). The fact is that I believe that you will find that Jay’s viewpoint is not such an aberration and are likely to find it throughout Europe, if not much of the world. I personally do not agree with Jay’s view point, but I can sympathize with it, as I know many people who would agree here in Italy. For instance, in reaction to the death of a protester at the recent G8 summint in Genoa, several police chiefs and officers have been fired for the handling of the issue. I belive if something similar were to happen in America (the shooting of a masked black-clad violent protester brandishing a fire extinguisher, posed to smash a police officers head in) the reaction would not have been of public condimnation of the police officer, but condimnation of the assailant. After all the cops was defending the peace, no? In closing I feel that you should keep in mind the many varying viewpoints that can be found amonst you readers in the 169 countries you purport to reach. –Chris, Italy

Actually, the issue in question notes True goes to 192 countries. In any case, True is not about all the possible viewpoints of all the readers, it’s about my viewpoint. True is, as this web site says on the opening page, my commentary on the news. I think that commentary is based on reason, common sense, and a sense of humor. Sometimes, I don’t think the news I comment on is funny; “ZT” is one of those issues, and I use my space to rail about it. My ZT stories are usually about kids who have done nothing wrong who are punished anyway because of silly interpretations of serious policies or laws. This story is about a man who did nothing wrong who was being punished anyway because of a silly interpretation of a reasonable law. Jay insisted that a man who saved five lives be “punished.” I think “misguided” is a very reasonable description of the mindset behind that demand. I was, to use your word, “infuriated” by Washington’s treatment; I was “infuriated” by the suggestion that he be “punished.” If you’re “infuriated” by my “fury,” fine. At least I made you think about it.

Jay, you twist upon a fabricated dilemma like so many in freshman philosophy. “Someone is going to kill two innocents unless you select one to die, in which case the other will survive.” You are meant to discover that the moral offender is not the person who selects an innocent to save; the offender is the monster who forced the deadly choice. Please grasp this concept before reading the next part: The robbers said “kill us or you die.” Who forced this choice? Surely, Jay, you do not think that by virtue of being a robbery victim, Detrick Washington had unwillingly given up his right to life? Detrick Washington did not mete out justice or punishment, but elected to save innocents in a horrible, deadly scenario set by the robbers. They died as a natural and unavoidable consequence of the choice they themselves forced. –John, Washington

Jay is indeed misguided in his thinking. Your line of reasoning is exactly to the point. The evil would lie in allowing the perpetrators to continue their nefarious acts when presented with an opportunity to rescue the situation. It was the actions of the perps throughout that narrowed the choices to the use of deadly force. Even if religion is set aside, our laws derive in part from the Bible. A relevant point is the moral stricture contained in the Ten Commandments which is properly rendered, “You shall not murder.” The popular mistranslation, “Thou shalt not kill” nullifies the duty to protect innocents against aggressors. A behavior often sanctioned, indeed commanded, by the same God. The only contradiction is the one created by trying to ‘out moralize’ the ultimate moral authority. An activity often engaged in by the zero tolerance pinheads. –Dan, New Jersey

I think you were much too easy on Jay in England. Jay is torn by the fact that Detrick saved several lives, but in doing so took a robber’s life. To him, the lives of violent, murderous thugs are equal in value to the lives of the innocent, peaceful people in the house (including, apparently, several children). To Jay, defending one’s self and family is morally equivalent to attacking others; resisting aggression is morally equivalent to aggressing; the defenders of the Warsaw ghetto were morally equivalent to their Nazi attackers. Jay claims to “respect and admire” Detrick Washington and says that letting innocent people die is “a greater crime.” But he also claims that such judgments are just based on personal feelings. So, to him, they are no more than whims or matters of taste, such as preferring jazz to rock or steak to sushi. Jay’s world view is shared by many others nowadays. These people often speak in terms of “tolerance,” “inclusiveness,” and “broad-mindedness.” They are the people who argue that: * Western values (such as reason, progress, and liberty) are no better than those of primitive savages. Indeed, the latter may be preferable because they lead to living “more simply” and “closer to nature.” * Creators (such as Henry Ford and Bill Gates) are no more deserving than the junkies asking for handouts on the street. Indeed, the latter are more deserving because being needy trumps the “judgmental” concept of having earned something. * The lives of rats, toads, and suckerfish are equal in value to the lives of human beings. Indeed, they rank ahead of human beings because they don’t “despoil” nature. Jay and those who think like him aren’t just stupid or misguided. It’s worse than that: they’re evil. –Richard, Colorado

How about the view of a corrections professional?

As a corrections sergeant in a small city jail for 7 years, I found it appalling that parole/probation officers arrested Washington on the gun charge at all, and thank you for clarifying the difference between P&P officers and regular police officers. In my experience, I have noticed that often P&P officers called to pick up inmates from our jail for probation violation will simply give them a business card and send them on their way… and for much worse deliberate offenses of parole violation. What Washington did could in no way be construed as wanton or pre-meditated (which is the very definition of a crime). He simply did what was necessary to save his family. I would have done the same without second thought and held my head high afterwards. Frankly, it pays to be a criminal. As for the gentleman from England and his mis-guided way of thinking of the whole thing, WAKE UP! I had a similar arguement with an Englishman while visiting Scotland regarding our views of capital punishment. What most hypocritical Englishmen tend to forget while on their soapbox is that our ideas of capital punishment and an eye for an eye, so to speak, came from England with the pilgrams, and that only in the last century or so has England abandonded their identical views. England can punish people with prison there because it is still a punishment and a deterrent! Unlike the kinder, gentler prisons and jails of America, they don’t treat their ciminals like first-class citizens with 3 squares, private ‘rooms’ and 60 channels of cable TV, while the honest, working man keeps two jobs just to feed his family and pay the bills. Here is a man, living right with a past mistake and trying to stay out of trouble. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. Thank you for defending his cause. –Christine (no location given)

My Conclusion

OK, let’s cut to the bottom line here: is this story really “about” whether or not a parolee was justified in killing a robber? No. To me, it’s about supposed professionals not using common sense, discretion and reason in doing their jobs, but rather officials with control over other people’s lives applying rote “rules” to situations that don’t require them; it is, at its heart, an example of silly schoolyard “zero tolerance” expanding into the “real world” — not a good trend. None of us want kids taking guns to school. None of us want people robbing us at gunpoint. But neither do I want kids to be treated like criminals because they shared candy at school. I don’t want men who save lives to be thrown in jail. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, giving up our rights to marginally increase our security means we deserve neither. (And, as I discussed in my ZT essay, ZT does not actually increase security!)

Would you want someone who saved your family from being murdered to be tossed in jail? I don’t. But if people are “punished” for “doing the right thing,” they’ll learn to walk away and do nothing. We have — plenty of times — heard of people who “don’t want to get involved,” and that attitude is to the detriment of our society. I want people to “get involved” if they see me or my family being held at gunpoint! Don’t you? Thus, if society starts pressuring us to move in that direction, common sense demands that we speak out against it. It’s self destructive. It’s uncivilized. It’s irrational. It is wrong.

2010 Update

When this story was featured on its 10-year anniversary, not a lot had changed when it comes to zero tolerance graduating from schools into the real world. But I heard back from Jay in England! He writes:

I don’t want to discuss the story again, thankfully, but I would like you to know that I wish to distance myself from the comments made by my 20-year-old self in 2001. I was an idiot. I really really wish I hadn’t read the whole thing again again this morning, including the comments.

While there are no doubt intelligent debates to be had somewhere, some other time, in a more suitable forum, about issues such as gun control and capital punishment and everything else, the story was not about these things. Nor did I did enter any intelligent comments — my comments were just plain stupid and failed to grasp the point.

I just wanted to tell you what I should have said at the time: what was I thinking, of course I was wrong, my comments were stupid. Although I would like people to distinguish between stupid comments and comments made by a stupid person. I appreciate that you were kind enough to see me as misguided.

As we’ve seen over the years, many people I argue with stomp away mad, unsubscribing in protest. A select few — the brave ones — stay on, continue to read, and (most importantly) start to think about their positions. With this note, Jay has justified my faith in him. He proved the important difference between “stupid comments and comments made by a stupid person.” This is not to say I’m always right, of course; sometimes I’m the one to rethink things and admit, in public, I was wrong. (Example.)

Growth happens, and follow-up letters like this help me know it’s worth it to spend the energy to get people to think. Thanks, Jay!

29 Responses to ZT Madness is Spreading!

  1. Jim from Canada December 20, 2008 at 12:37 pm #

    “Tim, you just described Zero Tolerance exactly! Stupidity; narrow-mindedness; scared of thinking for themselves. That is the ZT mindset!” (italics mine)

    As a culture, we re being taught not to think for ourselves – that doing so just gets you into trouble.

    Express an opinion? Get shot down via internet, editorials, and media, depending on how important you are and how controversial the opinion.

    Do something one way, get sued. Do it the other way, get sued by someone else. It’s no wonder that so many of us follow the “Only Following Orders!” way – the ZT mindset. We need to spread the idea that there are no perfect solutions, and that sometimes you have to accept a judgement that you don’t agree with. Otherwise, we will not have any judgements – just ZT.

  2. Mekhong Kurt, Bangkok, Thailand January 21, 2009 at 11:25 pm #

    This ZT stuff really gets me. On the rare occasion I visit the U.S. (my home country), I’m *very* careful to obey all people in authority — especially in this post-9/11 era. I’m also careful in all my interactions with anyone to try to avoid doing or saying anything that others might find objectionable. Happily, I’ve had no problems on those visits. But I dislike being on edge every time I’m in public, at a stranger’s home, etc.

    I suppose had the parole officers (or the regular police, for that matter) had said up front they were holding Washington while the case was investigated, I guess there’s something of an argument there. But to hold him for parole violation was ludicrous. At least he was released fairly quickly. And I’m no apologist for ex-criminals, but I do believe in fairness — including for parolees who are meeting their obligations.

  3. Susan in Mississippi September 24, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    Just thought I would add my story. My 17 year old A student son was recently expelled from his senior year for consuming alcohol in route to a Friday night out of town football game. First, let me say he was not driving nor was the alcohol taken onto campus nor were there any problems associated with my son while attending the game. A teacher smelled the alcohol and that was it, expelled! Let me also say that I was in attendance at that game and never had any idea that he had had the alcohol. We are your average middle class family in small town USA and now we find our son in an alternative school.

  4. Richard, Texas January 1, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    I had two occurrences with my ten year old son and twelve year old son. My ten year old has ADHD and ODD during a critical medication change prescribed by his Dr. He was subject to four hours of harassment by the behavioral specialist and later forced to sign a citation from the police department for threatening the aide.

    My other son twelve is an A & B brilliant student that just wants to do his work and then read on his own. He is harassed as school and in self defense threatened another student that was taunting him about his mother. Today he was booked at the police department for “terrorist threats” and will have to appear in court.

    I have tried to file formal complaints with the school board but they will do nothing. They hide behind the zero tolerance law. I am unable to file charges against the students that harassed my children. I am going to pull them and home school them. The school system has lost it directive.

  5. Robert, Florida, USA July 16, 2010 at 5:02 am #

    Zero Tolerance scares the crap out of me. It’s not a obscure fact that thinking requires effort and somewhat sound judgment… but come on, really? Did everyone who came up with this honestly say “Let’s make every ludicrous offense deserving of the harshest punishment! There is no way anything could possibly go wrong!”

    Just as diet pills don’t instantly give you a six pack, and just as those get-rich-quick house buying schemes don’t actually make you super rich, zero tolerance provides neither an easy nor an effective substitute for thinking, nor does it serve to actually stop whatever it’s trying to stop. It does an absolutely amazing job, however, at creating an environment of fear, paranoia, and distrust.

    All of which, scarily, are used primarily to control…

  6. Zachary, New York, USA September 5, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Once in school a kid was really bothering me so I yelled a threat at him, a student overheard and told the teacher. She sent me to the Assistant Principle’s office and she sent me to the In School Suspension room while she debated my case. She said that because I was provoked, and because I didn’t have any marks on my record that I would only get one day on In School Suspension. I was so relived that my school was not a Zero Tolerance school. But the sad thing is that there are four Assistant Principle’s, and had I been sent to any of the other three then I would have been Suspended out of school for two weeks. I was lucky that I was sent to the nice Assistant Principle, but I know that most Assistant Principle’s are mindless Zero Tolerance drones who will punish anyone for anything in the name of Zero Tolerance.

    All I can say is, pay more attention in school. Especially in English class. -rc

  7. Mark, Austin TX September 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    I’d like address Jay from England:

    By his rational, as soon as some one intended to do you harm, _you_ will be punished: Either you or your loved ones will be killed or injured, or if you defend yourself, you will be punished for that defense. He presents you with a lose-lose situation of someone else’s making. Like the freshman psychology situation you are presented with the choice of which innocent get punished, rather than focusing on the true evil.

    It has always been the tradition of the western civilization that you have the right to defend yourself. I guess Jay (and many of his English countrymen) feel that right is no longer there.

    I feel sorry for them.

  8. Archaya, Indonesia April 25, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Being lost, I’d comment REAL late….

    Let me speak to Jay: you are an IDIOT! Seriously, everyone above has said what I felt when I read the news.

    If you are attacked, you have the RIGHT to defend yourself. If a person threatens the lives of your family members, especially children, you have the DUTY to defend them. Even if it means killing somebody else and you feel sorry for the person afterwards.

    I have a rather similar case, or rather, my friend did (similar in the way that his life was threatened, a robber threatened him with a knife on a running, crowded train).

    My friend fought the robber and flung him out, and the robber died. He (robber) was desperate, couldn’t find a job or loans while his pregnant wife and four kids were starving. Bueno — he chose his path, got himself killed in the process for doing the wrong thing.

    The others have said before me, even you, Jay: it is WRONG to ATTACK. But Washington did NOT attack — he was DEFENDING. If he stopped to think, HIS FAMILY WOULD HAVE DIED. It is basic human nature, the protective instinct, as simple as that.

    It is WRONG to punish a man for wanting to PROTECT HIS FAMILY. One does NOT think when one’s family is threatened, one REACTS. If one feels sorry afterwards, like my friend did — he visited the dead guy’s family and contributed something, to relieve his guilt, and he regret killing the man, even though it was in self-defense, and he even wondered if he should have defended himself…. Well that just means that my friend is human, no?

    But my country is slightly more realistic than yours: naturally there were interrogations and reports, but my friend, he was not punished. Why? Because it was NOT HIS FAULT. The person at fault is THE ROBBER.

    There, I said it, in the same way as the others have spoken. I am glad that we do not have ZT here in Indonesia, and I pray that American politicians will wake up and revoke the kind of stupid law that punishes a man for protecting his family.

    Amen.

  9. claire, England August 27, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    I have just caught this (very old!) article from this week’s TIT (from the abbreviated version, even though I am a premium subscriber – yes, I do read it twice!!!) and know where Jay is coming from. I am NOT saying I agree with him in the slightest (I would kill anyone threatening my family, for example) – but am agreeing with him from the English Law perspective, which is basically that you can only use ‘reasonable force’.

    There have been several cases in England where a ‘baddie’ was shot by a ‘goodie’ and the ‘gooodie’ was done for it. The most famous one I can think of was a farmer called Tony Martin who shot two burglars, injured one and killed the other. He was found guilty of murder (reduced to manslaughter on appeal) because it was felt he had used excessive violence. I agree he should not have had an illegal shotgun but, at the same time, the two ‘baddies’ should not have been burgling him! Oh, and the injured burglar tried to sue Martin for loss of earnings because of the injuries caused – he lost because he was not as badly injured as he claimed, not because he was injured while committing a crime (and, as he was a career criminal, I have often wondered what income he claimed he was losing!)

    A neighbour of ours had problems with people getting over his 6′ wall to get into his garden. He called the police and said he was thinking of putting broken glass along the top of the wall to stop them. He was told that, if he did, HE would be done if anyone climbing over the wall was injured. He said that, instead, he would put broken glass in the flowerbed, so it was obviously on his property and would only affect anyone trespassing. He was told exactly the same would apply because he had done it intentionally to hurt somebody, even though they had to be acting illegally to get hurt.

    So Jay was correct from an English legal perspective. However, I think that both examples prove that sometimes the law is an ass! Oh, and I think the example of my neighbour also goes along the Zero Tolerance route!

    (ps please keep up the good work – and I was wondering if the old TV series, America’s Dumbest Criminals, got its idea from TIT as the theme is very similar!)

    I’m slightly familiar with the Tony Martin case, and my understanding was that he lost the case because the burglars were not threatening him directly, but were in fact attempting to flee. When he shot them, they were outside his home. A similar case in the U.S. would likely be adjudged similarly. In the case reported on this page, it was reasonably clear that had the intruders been able to retrieve their weapon(s), they would have killed the victims. In other words, unlike Martin, they had a reasonable fear for their own lives — and that was so clear from the outset, the police hailed Washington as a “hero”. Yet he was still arrested for a ridiculously thin technical violation of the law. So, I still don’t see how Jay could come to the conclusion that Washington was morally unjustified, even in the light of the Martin case. -rc

  10. Rick, USA August 27, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    I think it is possible Jay does not know what love is, to risk your own life or take a life when it comes to saving someone you love. He appears to me to be someone who would had ran away from the situation, caring only about his own.

  11. Anker, Germany August 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    We had a similar case near Neumunster in Northern Germany. A 77-year old man was threatened in his own home by robbers, who also applied force against him in order to make him hand out his money (he was known locally as being affluent, but reclused).

    To the misfortune of the poor(!) robbers the old man was also a handgun owner (not too common here), and at a point he got hold of one of his guns whereupon the robbers fled. The old man fired a shot at the fleeing, killing a 16-year old. The district attorney dropped charges after a longer investigation, but criminal charges were pending for some time. The shooting was justified because of the threats and violence against the shooter who had been in a state of fear and anger.

    He fired but one shot, which happened to hit the robber with his purse. It was found beside the body.

    It took a couple of months of investigations, but in my opinion justice was perfectly served.

  12. Randy, Bellevue, WA August 28, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Lots of interesting comments on this dilemma and as the correct perspective is applied I won’t give a ‘me too’, except to note that many obsess over the unnecessary details of relationship and age of the threatened victims. Of course Detrick would be personally motivated by threats to his family, but the justification to use deadly force is not dependent on that relationship.

    There are many who decry ‘philosophy’ after the fact and insist that you ‘just react’ during such a situation; that strategy leads to serious errors such are featured in your websites. Knowledge and thought about similar situations give guidance in the moment, allowing us to make rapid decisions based on past experience of others. Your readers, for example, are largely satisfied with the moral justification to shoot an attacker if the threat is imminent and serious. They should also know from the discussion that shooting after the immediate threat is ended is not justified. (For those who don’t get it, the former is to prevent serious bodily harm, the latter is motivated by revenge. Tempting, but not sanctioned.)

    Keep up the good work.

  13. OJB, NZ August 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    So two people were killed – maybe justifiably, maybe not. I think 2 days in jail while the matter was sorted out is perfectly reasonable. The message needs to be clear that using violence — even in self defence — should only be used if all else fails. I totally agree with the concept that ZT is just a lazy way to avoid real responsibility but I don’t think this is necessarily a case of that. So really Jay has a good point and many of his detractors haven’t really thought about this too carefully, I think.

    Read the page more carefully! The police made it clear that there was no investigation needed; they were quite satisfied that Washington acted “heroically” and in self-defense, and saved all of the victim’s lives. The only reason he was jailed was because of the specious charge of weapon “possession” — not for any sort of investigation into whether the shootings were justified. This is clearly a case of ZT. -rc

  14. Tiffany, Tenn August 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Jay is a very rare bird. Most everyone agrees that his original moral stance was wrong-headed, and he was “misguided” by his own attempts to argue everything except the point of the story.

    BUT. 10 years later, upon revisiting the story, and his unfortunate comments, he owned up to it, called himself out on it, and admitted he was wrong. Nothing in his original comment led me to believe he was stupid (in fact, for anyone of any age, much less a 20 year old, his arguments were extremely well formed, intelligently worded, and perfectly, grammatically, correct) just wrong.

    The intestinal fortitude it takes to look upon ones actions of a decade ago and actually go back to the person to whom the comments were made and admit, whole-heartedly and unreservedly, that he was wrong, puts a little glow in my heart and a bit of a sheen in my eyes. It’s a happy ending kinda feeling.

    Thanks Jay, for coming back and submitting your redaction for the edification of Randy’s readers, and thank you Randy, for posting it here so this tangent of the tale has closure.

  15. James, Mexico August 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Criminals still have rights, and there is a limit to how much force you can apply to stop a crime — based on the severity of the crime. If someone is digging up a daffodil in your garden shooting them in the head is excessive, and should be punished.

    In this particular case, an in regards to the comments of Jay of England, this clearly wasn’t a case of murder — the intentional and premeditated taking of human life. At most it was manslaughter, and that being “in defense”. In this case no punishment is warranted, since it wasn’t causeless or excessive.

  16. OJB, NZ August 30, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    Re: “Read the page more carefully!…”

    I take your point that the police opinion was that the shooting was justified and that the charge used was possession of a weapon. I’m just saying in general that given the significance of the event (2 deaths) that a couple of days in prison hardly justifies this degree of outrage compared with far more egregious cases of people being imprisoned unjustifiably.

    I’m as much against ZT as anyone but we do have to be careful not to start seeing it where it either doesn’t exist or is relatively minor.

    Maybe here in New Zealand we are a bit more sensitive to shootings of any type because we don’t have the same culture of gun violence as the US.

    Because there are other things that are more outrageous, we should just ignore this? Sorry, but I don’t understand that logic. It’s wrong, and it deserves to be called out as wrong. It’s an indication we are indeed going in the wrong direction, and it should be corrected. Simple as that. There are other things wrong too, and I can’t call them all to everyone’s attention, but this is something I’ve (unfortunately) become an expert on, and I’m working hard to reverse the trend before it does become “more outrageous” — as I fully expect if this isn’t stopped. -rc

  17. Luke in DC August 30, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    I have scenario for my English and European friends. In the UK, it’s illegal to carry a butcher knife in public. Imagine for a moment, you are in your kitchen and look out the window to see a rabid dog attack some children. You run out the door carrying the only weapon you have, the butcher knife you were cutting chicken with. You are forced to kill the dog so save the child who has been mauled. The cops come by, say every thing is fine but then you later get arrested and thrown in jail for carrying a butcher knife in public. Does that sound like justice to you? Should you be fined and punished for carrying a knife? Or should you be declared a hero for risking your life to save a child?

    The person in the story did just that. He grabbed a robbers gun when he saw a chance. It could have gone horribly wrong. The robber could have been faster, the other robber could have seen him and he could be dead right now instead of the robber. I think he should be applauded for his heroism and the parole officer should have been soundly castigated by his boss for that bone headed interpretation of the law.

  18. OJB, NZ August 31, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    Re: “Because there are other things that are more outrageous, we should just ignore this?”

    Yes. Picking the wrong battles both wastes time and effort, and makes the battle against more serious cases more difficult. Ironically, it’s almost as if you have a ZT policy on ZT! 🙂

    Of course I have “zero tolerance” for stupid policies that hurt others and causes damage to society as a whole! You’re seriously thinking that’s a problem?!

    And I reject your dystopian notion, where only the most severe problem will be addressed (say, starvation) while all other problems are ignored (murder, child beating, robbery, rape, etc. etc. etc.). We as a society have the capability to address more than one problem at a time. When we see something wrong, the time to address it is immediately, not wait until it becomes the most-severe problem we face. I would not want to live in the world you propose — and I don’t think you would want to, either. -rc

  19. Daren, UK August 31, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    Wow, all this discussion and some people still don’t get the point of the story. Perhaps you should have removed all of the detail so that people’s emotions weren’t engaged:

    A man who is on parole found a gun in the street, called police and stood over the weapon while he waited for officers to arrive. The conditions of his parole prohibit him from being ‘in possession’ of a gun, so officers arrested him for violating his parole.

    Now, does this man deserve to have been put in jail?

  20. Mike from Dallas August 31, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    While I disagree with Jay from UK’s assessment of the situation (as does he, after 10 years), I have to point out that many here in the U.S. do hold similar views, that killing is not justified EVEN in self-defense. So many people of that mindset believe that we, as GOOD citizens, are required to die as a Duty to society and let the police and courts resolve the loss (if and when they can), just so that society doesn’t have to agonize over the details whether it was justified.

    Hence the response between Bad and Worse, in a Zero Tolerance society, “It’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.”

    Yes, there are people in the U.S., as well as elsewhere, who are that stupid and/or ignorant. I view it as a part of my job to try to get them to think, and vanquish their ignorance. It’s a tough job, but someone needs to do it. -rc

  21. OJB, NZ August 31, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Re: Of course I have “zero tolerance”….

    And you don’t see the irony here?

    I think we basically agree on almost everything here, but I also think this might have turned into a bit of a crusade for you which means you might be engaging in a bit of “tilting at windmills”. Sorry about the mixed metaphors!

    Irony? None. I’ve said all along (including the first paragraph of this essay) that the response to transgressions must be commensurate with the “crime”. Kid brings a real loaded gun to school, sure it should be dealt with very seriously! Kid draws a gun he saw in a history textbook? Of course he shouldn’t be expelled — but sometimes, they are.

    Felon is caught committing a crime with a gun? Absolutely: put him up on charges. Felon grabs a gun away from a murderer, thus saving multiple lives? Of course he shouldn’t be thrown in jail — but this time, he was.

    You can’t grasp this? Really? Seriously? -rc

  22. Mike from Dallas September 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    I think the descriptive word for those that can’t grasp the concept is “pedantic.” They’re LITERALLY quibbling over the semantics OF the semantics. If Randy was truly against the words, “Zero Tolerance,” then yes, his own Zero Tolerance would be ironic. However, it’s the CONCEPT of Zero Tolerance, that thinking is prohibited and one response must cover all situations. Seriously, one does not need to spend hard time thinking each and every time it occurs that blind, stupid, NON-thinking responses are, well, stupid. Therefore, I do have Zero Tolerance for stupid, non-thinking people. This really is not Zen, people. (And even if it were, Zen is not about hard absolutes, but using thought about abstract principles, not avoiding thought in real life.)

  23. OJB, NZ September 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    re: “You can’t grasp this? Really? Seriously?”

    Of course I can see your point. I just think this case isn’t sufficiently serious to make a big deal about. And the initial reaction of authorities should be to follow the law until the matter is properly checked. That seems to be what happened. Whether that counts as zero tolerance or not is a matter of opinion.

    re: “that thinking is prohibited and one response must cover all situations”

    I totally agree. I am against that mindset in every situation, including the pathetic “best practice” many managers follow, as well as ZT. I’m just disputing whether this case is really ZT at all and, even if it is, whether it’s sufficiently serious to cause so much outrage.

    If a simple blog post is “making a big deal” and “outrage,” what the hell is coming back again and again and again to gripe about it, all the while totally missing the point? This is your last comment on this topic that I’ll be approving. (Well, in 10 years I’ll be happy to approve your letter telling me how you were “an idiot” 10 years before.) -rc

  24. Lynne in Milwaukee September 16, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    Jordan, California: “I don’t think there’s a ‘do what has to be done’ exception to the law against felons possessing guns.”

    Yes, there is. Necessity is always a defense.

    And felons may possess firearms in certain circumstances, such as hunting, though that may have to be OKd by a judge.

    I’ve even read about a man here in WI (a felon) who was visiting family, there was a rifle in the room where he was, people broke down the front door, he grabbed the rifle to act in defense, then when he realized it was the police breaking in he put it down.

    He was arrested for “felon in possession”, but acquitted because he was acting in defense of the people in the home & possessed the gun for the shortest length of time possible to accomplish that defense.

    Common sense survives! At least, in Wisconsin. -rc

  25. Mike from Dallas September 16, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    One of the things I keep hearing is that federal law prohibits felons from possessing any firearms. This is NOT true. Federal law does not apply to possession; only state law. What federal law DOES apply to is PURCHASE through a dealer, since all dealers must be federally licensed.

    For what it’s worth, in Texas a felon may still possess rifles or shotguns. Further, a felon may legally possess a handgun for a certain class of felonies (usually non-violent) after a 10-year period following the final disposition of the sentence. However, a felon will never be granted a CHL (Concealed Handgun License) to carry in public, and there is no Open Carry in Texas (except on one’s own private property or business).

    So, as Lynn points out, there ARE exceptions which vary among states.

  26. Sean (UK) May 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    I find it slightly Ironic that you are complaining about people placing Black and white views onto this case whilst, basically applying black and white thinking to it (this goes to most people and not just randy). Personally i think that jay has got it the wrong way round. the guy SHOULD and MUST be tried for manslaughter. He went over the top. when he first Got hold of the gun he had many options, all would of been saved 7 lives and allow the criminals to be punished properly. he could of thrown the gun behind him and tackled this guy, He could of fired a warning shot and shouted at them, this might too of worked, he could of hit the guy around the head with the gun or even shot him in the leg. depending on the exact situation. (size of room and location in said room and relative sizes of the two men)

    IT was not a kill or be killed situation IMHO. but he could of disarmed both men with no lives lost.
    however in the mans defense had it gone to court it would (because this is America) been thrown out or given a very kind sentence because of the huge mitigation’s of this case.

    I personally cannot say what i would do if i was in his shoes but i would hope that i did not kill him (but hopefully maimed him for life!) At the risk of going to far into capital punishment death is far to kind to people like this.

    The black and white thinking is yours, not mine nor the majority here. “It’s a felon, he has a gun, he must be prosecuted and put on trial” is B&W; looking at the nuances of the case beyond that is now B&W — aka, the “reasons” for his actions.

    If you would like to trust shouting as a response to a deadly threat, please feel free. To argue that everyone must do so is exactly what you’re condemning here: black and white thinking. -rc

  27. Randy, Bellevue, WA May 28, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    I wonder if the difference in opinion is a UK vs. USA thing. Unlikely, but….

    Sean, thing this through. Our friendly ex-con has an opportunity to grab a gun. He is outnumbered 2-1 with the second assailant armed. (The question of gun vs. knife is immaterial here.) They have already demonstrated a willingness to use torture and deadly force.

    Now I have rarely had to fight for my life, but there is a considerable element of risk in any fight. Giving up an effective distance weapon to directly attack is sheerest lunacy (and yes, that includes hitting them on the head with a gun). The only suggestion you gave that has the remotest possibility of success is a warning — and yet the first was shot attacking his victim who was pointing a gun. How much more warning do you need? The second attacker was shot and killed after the most direct warning possible, the death of his accomplice. How could you not see this?

    As for aiming for a leg, I can only surmise that lack of experience with firearms leads you to this suggestion. Guns are not very accurate with milliseconds to aim and fire, especially for us amateurs. What seems in the movies to be a cold, calculated aim at exactly the right right spot is a convulsive spasm of pointing in the general direction of the danger and pulling the trigger fueled by panic, desperation and general revulsion. Even cops who practice frequently know they aim for the general body to try to hit SOMETHING.

    Perhaps you feel, like some others do that there are always options, always a way out. If only. Yes, it would have been better had Washington been superman, able to laugh as bullets bounced off while he thwarted the evildoers, but most of us just aren’t that tough. Are you?

  28. Mike from Dallas May 28, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Randy from Bellevue, WA has already summed up reality. Apparently there are many people who watch too many movies or TV and think that everyone is a crack shot in the heat of the moment. That only ONE well-placed shot is necessary, and deliberate aim can be taken to make sure it’s only to “wound.” When one suddenly finds himself in a fight for his very survival, one round is not enough, and you empty the clip to make sure of a hit. And wounded men can do serious damage, including death. Trust me, I’ve been shot and I’ve driven myself to the hospital for treatment. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled about the use of deadly force in 1921 that a crime victim who is attacked has no duty to consider retreat before defending himself since “detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife.” (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Brown v United States.) Also refer to Beard v U.S. in 1895, as well as Alberty v U.S., and Allen v U.S., both in 1896, that uphold the right to use deadly force in self-defense without consideration of retreat.

    As for ZT, I’m often seeing, even in these forums, is an absolute belief that the Rules Are the Rules, and are more important than the human beings that are guided by the rules. That the Rules are more important than the purpose for which they serve. If that were so, then there would have been no need of a process to amend the Constitution. Nor would there ever need be any exceptions as specified in most of our laws. But the law is not a broadaxe; rather, it’s a surgical instrument. And evidence is examined in the light of the circumstances. Without rational thought, the law becomes nothing more than bureacracy, another name for NOT thinking.

    ZT is a new term, but not a new concept. We all salute our incredible intelligence for the human advancement over the last 10,000 years; yet so many of us are reluctant to permit exercise of that intelligence to others. Even to the point of denying the use of that intelligence for ourselves.

  29. Angela in England October 24, 2016 at 6:22 pm #

    I noticed your sensible reaction to Claire in England’s comment about the farmer Tony Martin.

    However the far worse example she cites is the man being warned by police against setting broken glass as a defense against intruders — apparently we have ‘a duty of care’ for burglars!

    And just imagine the outcome if I disabled the brakes on my car in case it was stolen and the thief was injured!

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