Yes — repeal the “Shoot First” laws

The best thing that could happen as a result of the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin is that Florida’s so-called self-defense law “Stand Your Ground” and the similar laws in two dozen other States are repealed.

It’s hard to think of a worse law, and I was heartened to read on the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog that prosecutors in Florida have grave doubts about the law and that they are poised to recommend changes in the law, even its repeal. The law is presently being invoked by many to justify shootings, even by gang members when killing members of rival gangs.

It’s clear who is behind the “Stand Your Ground” law, or the “Castle Doctrine, as it’s also called. It’s the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) – just check out the New York Times on what happened in Wisconsin after a major campaign by the NRA. It’s not only about the right to bear arms it’s also about the right to carry them everywhere and to use them.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long been a leading voice on strict gun control, has launched a nation-wide campaign to reform or repeal these, what he calls, “Shoot First” laws.

“In reality, the NRA’s leaders weren’t interested in public safety. They were interested in promoting a culture where people take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for it. Let’s call that by its real name: vigilantism…These laws have not made our country safer; they have made us less safe…all Americans already have a right to defend themselves with commensurate force, but these ‘Shoot First’ laws have nothing to do with that or with the exercise of Second Amendment rights. Instead, they justify civilian gunplay and invite vigilante justice and retribution with disastrous results.”

Well said, Mr. Mayor!

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The favorite won in Florida — order is restored

In South Carolina ten days ago, Newt Gingrich won with 40 percent of the vote against Mitt Romney’s 28 – the numbers in Florida today were completely the opposite. The favorite won, order has been restored in the republican primary and a strengthened Romney can confidently look forward to future battles.

The Florida election turned just as the polls predicted – Mitt Romney won with 46 percent of the vote against Newt Gingrich’s 32, Rick Santorum’s 13 and Ron Paul’s 7 percent. According to CNN, Romney won in nearly all voter groups, even among the Tea Party supporters by 41 percent to 37 for Gingrich, among women by 52 to 28, and among Hispanics, who accounted for 14 percent of the more than 1.6 million voters, by 54 percent to 29. Only among those who called themselves “very conservative” and among the evangelicals did Gingrich beat Romney.

Romney’s victory came through an outrageously expensive TV campaign totaling 15 million dollars, against Gingrich’s 3 million, mostly through the so-called Super PACs, which so far during the campaign’s four weeks have spent over 44 million dollars on television advertising.

Almost all TV ads in Florida were negative. And the candidates were not throwing pies; they were throwing knives from deep down in the mud. The question now is how this ruthlessly negative campaign in Florida will affect the continuing campaign. There is a lot of bad blood between Romney and Gingrich, as noticed in their speeches tonight. None of them was particularly generous, no warm congratulations, and that cannot be good for the GOP in the long run, ahead of the battles against President Obama.

Republicans answer these concerns by saying that we will come together in the end, we will unite around our party’s candidate, whoever he is, in order to defeat Obama. That remains to be seen. But the White House cannot but be delighted with the bitter internal Republican campaign and hopes it goes on for a long time. That depends on money, of course, and only Romney has plenty of that.

For Gingrich, the future must now seem bleak, even if he boldly announced tonight that 46 States remain in the campaign. His negative tactics to insult Romney – a moderate, yes, a liberal from Massachusetts – did not seem to go over well. Neither did his tactics to appear as the conservative heir to Ronald Reagan, as an anti-establishment and anti-Washington candidate when, in fact, he is the archetype of a political insider, the archetype of Washington insider with a long career in the capital both as a politician and a lobbyist.

The message did not fit the messenger. Florida’s voters seem to have realized this. And that does not bode well for Gingrich’s future in this campaign.

Romney can expect a big victory in Florida

The uncertainty and excitement are gone ahead of tomorrow’s Republican primary in Florida. All opinion polls have Mitt Romney in the lead, some by as much as 20 percent, and political statistician Nate Silver on his blog FiveThirtyEight writes that Romney has 97 percent chance of winning and is expected to capture nearly 45 percent of the vote.

So, a big victory for Romney, according to Silver, well ahead of Newt Gingrich’s 29 percent, Rick Santorum’s 13 percent, and Ron Paul’s 11 percent.

If Silver’s predictions come true, Gingrich will have serious difficulties to continue his campaign. He is already short of money and a big loss in Florida will make it much more difficult to raise more funds, while the situation for Romney would be the exact opposite.

Romney is also the favorite in most of the contests in February — in Nevada and Arizona because of their substantial Mormon populations, and in Michigan because Romney was born there and his father was once its governor.

The road ahead for Gingrich after the expected loss in Florida tomorrow is not easy. However, he has already said he intends to continue until the party convention in Tampa, Florida this summer. But we have heard such declarations before during this campaign, and they have often been followed by a somber press conference with the candidate giving up and going home.

The two remaining candidates, Santorum and Paul, have barely campaigned at all in Florida, and it is hard to understand why they are still in the race, other than to continue to promote their ideas and to make PR for themselves. For Santorum, there might also be with something else in mind, such as a cabinet post if Romney beats Obama, or another attempt to represent Pennsylvania again in the U.S. Senate.