I don’t want to comment on the particulars of Trayvon Martin case. I don’t want to opine on whether or not George Zimmerman is innocent or guilty of 2nd degree murder. I do believe that there is intense political pressure in this case, and I also believe that people have taken advantage of this tragedy to push their agenda – whether it is to incite racial tension or to push anti-2nd Amendment legislation. I agree with Tony Beam who earlier wrote a few days ago that the shooting has been shamelessly exploited and with Dean Butterfield who wrote last month that people are jumping to conclusions.
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, ABC News wrote last month, is under new scrutiny as a result of this shooting. Reuters reports that the killing puts the spotlight on the “Gunshine” state. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg whose anti-gun mindset has *surely* led to a decrease of homicides in his city is on a crusade against “stand your ground” laws. Not surprisingly gun control activists are jumping on this tragedy to target Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, as well as, similar laws in other states.
People are complaining that the law is confusing that people are not sure when they can legally discharge their firearms in self-defense. Twenty-nine states have either a castle doctrine law or something similar that would state basically if someone invades your home you have the right to use deadly force to protect yourself and your family and any guest you have in your home. You must legally be in the residence and the intruder must be there illegally. Generally speaking most laws require that you believe the intruder intends to do serious harm. You must believe they intend to commit a felony. You can’t provoke the intruder. Some states require that you announce your presence and intent to retaliate. Some states include your workplace and car within their “Castle Doctrine” laws. Some state also give full immunity even from civil suits.
That is the basic law that outlines when you can legally use deadly force. However carry permits allow you to carry pretty much anywhere in the state unless state law or city ordinance says otherwise (like in schools, etc.). If the “Stand Your Ground” law is confusing I think states that enforce a “duty to retreat” law would make things even worse. When can I discharge my weapon without fear of reprisal. How far do I have to retreat? What if retreating puts me into further danger?
“Stand Your Ground” clears that up. You don’t have to retreat. If you are being attacked or a reasonable belief of a threat you can use deadly force. There is no requirement to retreat. The Castle Doctrine makes that clear within the home, there is no duty to retreat. Some states go further and say you have no duty to retreat anywhere.
If you have a reasonable belief of a threat or if you are being attacked you can shoot. That is pretty clear cut. In the case of Trayvon Martin’s shooting, we’ll wait to see the facts play out, but what “Stand Your Ground” doesn’t allow. It doesn’t allow you to be a vigilante, it doesn’t allow you to hunt somebody down, it doesn’t allow you to provoke people, and it doesn’t allow you to go looking for trouble.
The law isn’t the problem, people who don’t follow it are. But there are far, far more people who legally carry who don’t discharge their weapons than the minuscule number of those who are alleged to have done so improperly.