Self-Defense is Now Illegal in San Jose
Alec Rawls © 1998 (1100 words) Published in The Stanford Review, 2/17/98.

Stanford students should know that, in their own backyard, a defining act of injustice has just been meted out in San Jose. To satisfy a racial agenda, and to secure an unconstitutional monopoly of power over The People, San Jose has made self-defense illegal. To achieve this atrocity, the city prosecuted a hero for murder, and a gullible jury convicted him of manslaughter. Two weeks ago Robert Gremminger was sentenced to 9 years in prison. It is a day that will live in infamy.

Imagine you are an ex-police officer walking across a parking lot to your car. You see a security guard pull his vehicle across behind the car of two men he has followed from a store. One of the suspects gets out of the car and is belligerant to the guard. You see the other suspect slide to the driver's side and reach under the seat. Sensing a high liklihood that the guard's life is in danger, you go to your car to retrieve a .38 Special revolver you keep there.

Suddenly you hear a loud bash and fear that the guard is being attacked. In actuality it is the car being using to bash the security guard's vehicle aside. In a frenzy, thte driver bashes into thee more vehicles to get clear. As you hurry back to the scene you suddenly find yourself standing in front of the get-away-vehicle, whose escape route is now blocked only by yourself. Your training kicks in. You raise your gun and aim it at the driver's side of the windshield.

The suspect has just used his car as a battering ram. That same weapon is now 15 feet from you, poised like a lion. Slowly, the lion starts advancing. If it leaps before you pull the trigger you are dead. You fire. The driver is hit in the head and is killed. The deceased is later determined in fact to have been stealing and to have had a long criminal history that includes multiple instances of assault while resisting apprehension. A longtime acquaintance declares that the dead man "would have run over anybody to escape."

This is the true story of what happened to Robert Gremminger a year and a half ago. The facts are not in contention. It was a very close shave with death. Responding to give dearly needed help to a stranger, Gremminger suddenly found himself confronted with a deadly threat, and when it advanced upon him, he successfully defended himself. Pretty cut and dried case of heroism, right?

Not according to the San Jose District Attorney's office and the local race activists. The San Jose chapter of the NAACP, along with other race fixated groups, have agitated from day one for first degree murder charges and the death penalty, because Gremminger is white and the criminal he shot is black. Apparently the NAACP cares nothing for the content of anyone's character or the truth of their behavior, only the color of their skin.

In lockstep with the race mongers, but with a different agenda, the District Attorney's office filed charges of first degree murder. Their obsession is the war that they, and Mayor Hammer and Sheriff Gillingham and a host of other local government functionaries, are waging against the right to keep and bear arms. The greatest enemy, in their eyes, is the citizen who is prepared to defend himself and others, because he is outside of the government and they want a monoply on power.

Where the founders of this nation believed that it is government that is inherently corrupt and must be strictly limited, reserving as much power as possible to the people, these statists believe that only government is moral, and if they must shed the blood of a few heroes in order to cut down the tree of liberty, so be it.

The position taken by Joyce Allegro, the Assistant District Attorney assigned to the case, was that Gremminger committed a wrong by getting involved at all. He had no business trying to help a fellow citizen. That is the job of the police, she asserted, and citizens must be discouraged from taking steps on their own to interfere with crime.

This was the sole grounds for the prosecution, for there was never any doubt that if it was a policeman who had blocked the car's escape route, and fired when the car advanced upon him, it would have been a clear case of self-defense. A citizen, she asserted, had no right to interpose himself.

"He could have stepped away. Instead, he shot," is the summary appeal Allegro made to the jury, and the jury bought it. "You can't just pull a gun out at a shopping mall and start shooting, so someone has to pay for that," said the jury fore-woman.

The fundamental principle of self-defense is the principle that one is not required to retreat. You do not have to run away. You are allowed to stay and defend yourself. If the threat then advances upon you, you can fight back. What you cannot do is aggress.

There is no question that a policeman is allowed to interpose himself and stand his ground. But just as the state is trying to disarm the citizenry by denying the right to bear arms, it is also trying now to reserve the right of self-defense only to the state. You must not be a hero. You have to run away, or the government will prosecute you for murder. This is what America is coming to on your watch.

District Attorney George Kennedy, Joyce Allegro's boss, is running for re-election this June. He needs to be thrown out on his ear. As for the NAACP, I had no idea previously that they were so blinded by racial hatred, but one thing is for certain: no group needs a well protected right to self-defense so much as black America, which faces by far the highest rate of criminal victimization in our society. By siding with the statists and against citizen self-defense, just because the criminal who got shot in this case was black, the NAACP does a terrible disservice both to black interests and to colorblind justice.

(Alec Rawls is pursuing a Ph.D. in economics)


Last year I wrote an earlier article on the Gremminger case (also for The Stanford Review). You can view it by clicking: Collective Guilt Infects Criminal Law (1100 words).


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