Stand Your Ground

Submitted by Ken Watts on Wed, 03/28/2012 - 16:37

There are many issues intertwined in the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin—race, gun control, the entire question of why the NRA would go out of its way to encourage so-called "stand your ground" laws—but there is one point about such laws that needs to be clearly made.

When a state passes a law which says, as the Florida law does, that a person can use force with immunity simply because he or she "reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent...great bodily harm," it runs the risk of causing the very situation it is trying to address.

Let me explain.

The law is intended, if we take it at face value, to discourage attacks on innocent citizens by emboldening those same citizens to be more aggressive in their own defense.

In order to do that, it gives them a free pass to use violence simply because they "reasonably believe" themselves to be in danger.

But it ignores the fact that the "attacker" is covered by the same law.

George Zimmerman's story is that he was attacked by the young man, Trayvon, and that, in spite of outweighing him and being in possession of both a gun and a car, so feared for his safety that he was justified, under the law, in shooting.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that that is exactly what happenned, and let's go so far as to even assume that Trayvon knew all about the Florida "stand your ground" law.

Is there any reason to believe that the law would have discouraged the "attack"?

Put yourself in young Trayvon's shoes for a moment.

He is simply walking home from the store, and he finds himself being followed by a man in a car.

He walks faster, and the car sticks with him.

He has a perfect right to be there. He has, at the outset, every right to "stand his ground."

So he confronts this intruder into his life and demands an explanation.

The intruder, completely convinced of his own right to "stand his ground," does not back down. After all, the law is on his side.

As it is on Trayvon's.

Perhaps Trayvon sees the gun; perhaps he simply sees an older, bigger man menacingly close.

Whatever the case, he "reasonably believes that...force is necessary to prevent...great bodily harm," and so he does exactly what the law encourages him to do, and takes a swing at the man threatening him.

Zimmerman, of course, makes exactly the same judgement at this point—only he has a gun.

The problem in this scenario is the law, and the mentality behind the law: the idea that we would all be safer if we were all more violent.

And there is a very good case to be made that the worst culprit in this scenario is the State of Florida, for passing such an ill conceived and dangerous law.

At least, that's what I think today.