Many states have their own interpretations of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. These laws are in place essentially to allow people to defend themselves when endangered by means that would otherwise be deemed illegal.
In addition to allowing people to use force to defend themselves, “Stand Your Ground” can be used as immunity from civil or criminal law suits.
While people should be able to defend themselves from attack without fear of punishment, this law can make administering justice very difficult. In the statute it says that a person may use force if they reasonably believe it’s needed. When people are overcome with strong emotions, the decisions they make may seem reasonable or rational in the moment. In actuality, many people choose the wrong course of action. People can wrongfully invoke self defense.
The Trayvon Martin case is a perfect example of when the “Stand Your Ground” law was wrongfully used. George Zimmerman shot and killed Martin but claimed that it was in self defense.
There are three sides to every story: side A, side B, and the truth. It is harder to discern the truth if side B is dead, as in this particular case. Zimmerman called the police and was instructed not to take any action. Knowing this fact, when does “Stand Your Ground” turn from self defense to vigilante “justice”?
In one news report, a police officer said that many investigators have a hard time understanding the law. The police are in charge of understanding and enforcing the laws set up by local, state and national government. If the police can’t even interpret this one, how can the average citizen correctly interpret the law? Laws need to be straightforward with no gray areas. In some cases self defense is necessary, but the law needs to be modified to ensure that justice is being served.
Taylor Duckett is a freshman majoring in political science.