Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has been the circle of controversy and criticism since its inception. The law gives someone the right to use deadly force if the person reasonably believes his or her life is in imminent danger, or if the person believes deadly force is necessary to protect his or her property.
This defense may not be asserted against things like law enforcement officer or to prevent the lawful repossession of property.
The Stand Your Ground law is not textually absurd. In fact, this law has been mimicked by more than 20 other states. The problem lies in the precedent the law sets. This statute, while well intended, incentivizes possessors of deadly weapons to avoid retreat and unnecessarily use deadly force to subdue the threat at hand.
Human nature tells us to use what we have. When you buy a new dress and heels, you look for the dinner party to wear them to. Similarly, when we acquire deadly weapons, we subconsciously find reasons to use them. Stand Your Ground provides a justifiable defense for using deadly force. Why bother to exhaust all options to escape from harm’s way when you don’t have to?
A vaguely stated “reasonable belief that such force is necessary” births the ugly face of discrimination. A person with a firearm may exacerbate the perceived threat of harm in encounters with people of different ethnicities. This was the case in the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis in Florida last year.
As long as Stand Your Ground is a justifiable defense, the George Zimmermans and Michael Dunns of the world will have more reason to unnecessarily pursue and amplify the threat of different people on the premise of discrimination.
Despite its application and criticism, it is unlikely that the law will be repealed or modified in the nearby future. Still, this law should serve as a message to lawmakers that if not careful, statutory misinterpretations can have severe unwanted consequences.
Christopher Ivory is a second-year law student.