|States In Yellow Have Stand Your Gound Laws|
The most absurd moment in the Travyon Martin stand your ground killing came on March 13, when Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee stated that he could not arrest George Zimmerman because there were no grounds to disprove George Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. And that was the moment anyone in their right mind should have concluded that stand your ground laws are ridiculous. When you get to kill the other guy, claim self defense and walk, solely because you claimed self-defense, we know we have a problem.
The fact that Zimmerman carried, and used, a firearm while serving as a neighborhood watch volunteer should have been enough for Bill Lee to make the call that maybe something was amiss here. The fact that Lee didn’t even test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, while Travyon Martin’s body was tested, should be enough for any observer to conclude the presumption of innocence afforded under law has been breached by the stand your ground laws that are now found in more than two dozen states.
Why We Should Repeal Stand Your Ground Laws?
1. They require “law enforcement officials to prove that a suspect did not act in self-defense. [NYT] ” This burden of proof is a bridge too far on the presumption of innocence continuum. You cannot prove motive with confidence on the basis of circumstantial evidence when the other guy happens to be dead.
2. They protect shooters from civil suits, where the burden of proof for a civil judgment is lower. This means that when the state doesn’t press charges, no civil options remain to the victim’s family.
3. Many of the victims have been unarmed (12 of 13 studied in a recent Orlando Sentinel investigation).
4. Police chiefs do not understand the laws, and thus abrogate their duty to investigate fully in the first crucial hours following an incident, allowing vital forensic evidence to be destroyed.
5. Dumbass gun owners, like George Zimmerman, who are inclined to ignore or misunderstand regulations regarding use of a firearm, will falsely believe they have rights that they do not, in reality, possess.
6. They encourage vigilantism by codifying a set of assumptions that magnifies the real degree of threat posed by “suspicious” persons possessed of unknown intent. This effect is exacerbated by racial profiling, as well as outright racism, and further fueled by the now well-known “hoodie effect.”
7. They represent an attempt to “normalize” the use of firearms in situations where the standard of proof is that of “feeling threatened,” a standard that is not codified with objective criteria under the laws.
8. People under investigation for having committed a crime involving the use of a firearm already possess a presumption of innocence.
9. They serve to reinforce the brutality of American society, driven by a paranoid sense of threat experienced by some armed civilians.
10. They represent a license to kill. And, as I have said before, it’s not gun nuts who bother me, it’s nuts with guns. I agree with Chattanooga, Tennessee gun enthusiast Sally Peterson who told WRCB TV,"You can't approach a person and draw your gun. I just think there are too many wannabe cops.”
Twenty threes states have the "stand your ground" law.
Click on the state to see its law.
Illinois (The law does not includes a duty to retreat, which courts have interpreted as a right to expansive self-defense.)
Oregon (Also does not include a duty to retreat.)
Washington (Also does not include a duty to retreat.)
These laws are very problematic, and it's the police and public interpretation of the law, which makes it even more dangerous. Moreover, in nearly all cases, you have two people....one dead and one holding the gun. Ultimately, the murderer can always claim stand your ground...without anyone alive to dispute his claims.
Perhaps stand your ground laws, also known as “Shoot First” laws, should be called "The Last Man Standing Laws", because the last man standing in a fatal altercation calls the shots, so to speak. And it seems to me that the last man standing in a Zimmerman-Martin type situation always claims self-defense. The expansion of this presumption of innocence creates an impossible situation for prosecutors when there are no witnesses, which plays nicely into the hands of those who would commit murder, intentional or otherwise. While it has always been a goal of those so inclined to avoid witnesses, under stand your ground laws they really do have a free-shot zone.
One way to ensure that we put pressure on these law makers and the NRA is to to reach out to the more than one million signers of the Change.org petition calling for George Zimmerman’s arrest to sign a petition calling for the repeal of the laws nationwide.
If ever there was a bad idea, bad law, this is the one. These laws lay the groundwork for a shoot-first, think-of-a-defense later environment. These laws expand the danger zone to threats within the personal space that exists in public arenas.
What's' next, too many items in the express checkout line? An attack of road rage? An argument with an umpire at a kid’s baseball game? A sideways glance from a street person?
In such an atmosphere how long will it be before citizens began arming themselves as they left the house in the belief that they would need to protect themselves from fellow citizens who logically would be doing exactly the same thing?
There’s a good reason why we entrust public protection to police officers who are trained in the use of deadly force and have the experience of what do in stressful situations.
The last thing this country needs is a return to the Wild West when disputes were resolved by who had the quicker draw. Having more guns in public with a legal shield to use them is a very bad idea, especially in the hands of the galactically stupid.