Stand Your Ground

Stand Your Ground 041112

Fringe Analysis and Opinion


Firearms possession and use by civilians is a controversial and complicated topic, one that has flared over the shooting of Trayvon Martin but never quite completely dies down. 

To those who own and use firearms, the right to defend one’s self is seen as explicit in the Constitution.  That right isn’t actually clearly defined, though, either in the Constitution or in many of the various state laws which define the right of the use of force in self-defense.  However, out of the recognition that even a cornered rat is entitled to try to defend itself, most American courts recognize some route by which people may use force to save their own lives, or the lives of others.

The term “stand your ground” applies to different circumstances in different states.  In some states, it requires a significant expectation of serious injury or death, rather than a reasonable expectation. The majority of states allow persons to use deadly force to protect themselves and their families in the home, the “Castle Doctrine.”  “Stand your ground” extends that right, in some instances in a limited sense, for example the family car or van, and in other instances, more broadly, so that a person accosted on the street who fears for her life can use deadly force against an aggressor.  Some states provide protection from civil action if the actions are legally considered self-defense.

In most states, killing someone is a homicide*.  Trayvon Martin is the victim of a homicide, and it’s up to the DA and the jury whether it is justifiable homicide, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter or murder.  If there is no evidence to believe Zimmerman wasn’t attacked, the DA might have to find, under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, that it was justifiable homicide. 

Indeed, the criticism with “Stand Your Ground” is that it broadens the definition and increases the number of justifiable homicide pleas.  Want to kill someone?  Meet them outside a convenience store, invite them to your car and shoot them claiming J.H. 

But does that criticism extend to someone who has been beaten or stalked who finally determines their life is in danger and uses deadly force to end the torment?  Does an old man have to be hit to convince the jury the young thug was dangerous, or is it enough that a broken hip could mean death, and no blows are required.  Should we surrender our right to protect ourselves and hope and pray the cops get there in time?  Recently a widowed teen mom shot and killed someone breaking into her home, someone who had threatened her in the past; she was talking to the dispatcher (cops were, presumably, on the way) and asked for permission to shoot if the intruder broke in.  The Oklahoman didn’t need the cop’s permission, Oklahoma has a strong Castle law.  When the persistent intruder was killed, he was looking for prescription drugs left over from her husband’s recent cancer death, was high on hydrocodon, and had a knife.  The 18 year old’s story is found HERE.   Do we really want to prevent young single moms from defending their homes?  Should she have just waited and hoped and prayed the cops would come in time, because the name for such people is “victim.” 

Had Trayvon Martin been a year older we might have sent him to die in war, as we have often sent young Trayvon Martins to die.  Or, he might have died in an industrial accident; many young men are killed on construction sites.  How do we measure those deaths against the outcome of two young men fighting in the dark?

The anti-gun lobby will always try to make use of instances like this and the recent shooting at an Oakland Christian university.  But there are many other ways to kill; a knife is as deadly as a handgun in most instances, but it gives the advantage to the stronger person.  A rock will kill; a stick will.  Trayvon Martin is not a case against Stand your Ground laws, it is a case against a society where wannabes admire cops.  Most likely where George Zimmerman failed is he watched too many TV crime dramas. 


Good luck, keep your powder dry.






*Some combat and self-defense instructors recommend killing an aggressor, instead of wounding, because it is more difficult for family to successfully sue than the wounded aggressor.  For this reason many shooters are taught to “double tap” which is firing two rounds in very rapid succession, resulting in a second shot slightly higher than the first, “center of mass” shot.  It’s a tough world out there.

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