Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white male, was recently tried for shooting into a car with four African American teens and killing one of them. The dispute was over the volume of the teen’s music. Dunn claimed self-defense under Florida’s confusing and controversial Stand Your Ground law, arguing that he saw a shotgun in the teen’s car.
Dunn’s case has been compared to George Zimmerman’s case, which also used the Stand Your Ground defense. This ambiguous law has often been used recently to justify the murder or injury of another party.
Part of Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute states that a person had to reasonably believe that his or her life was in danger prior to using excessive and possibly deadly force. The presumption that the person acted reasonably has led to some of the ambiguity surrounding this law, because there is a fine line between taking necessary action to preserve one’s life and vigilantism.
Also, people have different standards concerning what is reasonable, and so though their actions may have seemed reasonable to them, the court and public opinion may see the situation differently.
In one Stand Your Ground case, an 18 year old was stabbed to death by his 31-year-old guardian after he punched him during a fight; the guardian was given Stand Your Ground immunity. In another case, a woman fired warning shots at her alleged abusive husband during a fight and not only was she not allowed to invoke Stand Your Ground, but she was sentenced to jail.
Activists are calling for this law to be reviewed, revised and possibly abolished, in order to ensure that justice is actually being served. As they should.
The law is meant to protect its citizens, but how can it do so if no one has a clear understanding of what the law means? Everyone has the right to protect themselves from harm in places that they are lawfully allowed to do so. However, the law needs to be rewritten so that it’s easy for all parties to understand and so that it closes the loopholes that allow vigilantism to be masked as self-defense.
Taylor Duckett is a junior majoring in economics.