Saturday, July 20, 2013
The lethal shooting of Florida teen, Trayvon Martin, has focused national media attention on the Stand Your Ground laws. Are such laws safe?
Since the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, Stand Your Ground Laws have once again become a part of the national discourse. Such laws are in effect in at least 21 states, including Florida, Texas, Idaho and Alaska. The self defense laws, which allow citizens to use deadly force if they fear for their lives, have sparked much controversy since the shooting death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Martin, while walking home in his own neighborhood, was shot by a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was acquitted of the charges.
Definition of the Stand Your Ground Law
The Stand Your Ground Law allows ordinary citizens to use deadly force if they reasonably believe their safety is threatened. The law applies to such use of deadly force in public places, such as a park or a street. Under the terms of such a law, citizens who reasonably believe their safety is threatened would no longer be restricted by what is commonly called a “duty to retreat.” The Stand Your Ground law in Florida allows citizens using deadly force to be free from prosecution or civil liability if they acted in self-defense.
Origin of the Stand Your Ground Law
In 2005, Dennis Baxley, a state representative, with assistance from the NRA, managed to get passed the previously unprecedented Stand Your Ground law in Florida. Since then, the NRA has aggressively promoted adoption of similar laws in other states, as well. It is part of the NRA agenda to increase gun-carrying rights.
Stand Your Ground laws have their origins in an old English common law concept known as the “Castle Doctrine” which asserted that the right of self-defense is accepted in one’s own abode. Today’s version of the law extends that right beyond the confines on one’s own home.
Controversy over the Stand Your Ground Law
The Stand Your Ground law, particularly the one in Florida, is now under a cloud of controversy due to the shooting of teenager, Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman who claims he acted in self-defense after a confrontation with Martin. The lethal shooting of Trayvon Martin and the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman has inflamed passions and controversy all across America.
Justifiable homicides by private citizens have been slowly rising nationally since 2005. Some advocates of gun control, including the attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, believe the increase in murders since 2005 draw attention to an increasingly more aggressive mentality of violence on the streets. Some believe the increase is caused partly by Stand Your Ground laws. Those in opposition claim that such laws provide shooters a broader interpretation of self-defense in violent confrontations in public places. Some believe that such an extensive interpretation can open a “Pandora’s Box” of unjustifiable killings in the name of self-defense. Attorney General, Eric Holder, recently condemned such laws citing that such a broad expansion of the self defense concept could escalate violent and deadly encounters.
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.org: “NRA Pushed ‘Stand Your Ground’Laws Across the Nation”
Washington Post.com: “Attorney General EricHolder Denounces ‘Stand Your Ground Laws”
Picture credit: Anne Runia