The following is a discussion of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. For my reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict, head over to Yahoo! where my reaction was posted just minutes after the verdict was read.
All states have what is commonly referred to as the castle doctrine. This law allows people to defend their life and property when attacked on their property. A few states, like Florida, have expanded this to what are called Stand Your Ground laws, or, as some prefer, shoot first laws. You see, these laws allow you to kill someone, anywhere, if you feel threatened. No longer do you have a duty to retreat in public when attacked. No longer do you have to react in kind when attacked. No, we’ve gone so far back that we’re now in the wild west yet again. If you feel threatened, just go ahead and kill the attacker.
It baffles me that this is the law! Laws such as these not only allow, they encourage vigilante justice. Nevertheless, let’s look at this law and its application to the George Zimmerman case.
Under Florida law, did the jury get it right? Yes. Trials are about facts; the media is about emotion and sensationalism. Law is black and white and the jury determined the actions of Mr. Zimmerman fell under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Plain and simple. How do I know this? Because those six women were on the jury and they had more information than you and I. Of course, juries sometimes get it wrong. Innocent people have been convicted and guilty people have not.
Did Mr. Zimmerman kill Trayvon Martin? Yes, he did. Everyone knows that. But, that was not the question for the jury. Rather, the question was, under Florida law, did Mr. Zimmerman have an excuse for killing Mr. Martin? Here, the jury said yes. So, even though Mr. Zimmerman killed Mr. Martin, his actions were excusable under Florida law.
Would Mr. Martin be alive today if Mr. Zimmerman was not allowed to carry a gun? Probably, yes. And that is the point. People are too quick to action. If someone cuts me off and I honk at them, do they have a right to shoot me? If I am at a bar ready to leave but my ride is not, do I have a right to shoot my gun into the air to get the attention of my friend? Both of these examples have occurred rather recently… in Florida.
No, guns would not kill people if someone did not pull the trigger. But, if I don’t have a trigger to pull, it becomes drastically more likely that everyone will walk away from the scuffle alive. What happened to getting over things, letting it all roll off your shoulder or using your words instead of your trigger finger? Why is there this deeply held desire to carry a gun at all times? Does that really make you feel more secure? Does knowing that, if I make you mad, you can kill me instantly give you some sort of comfort? Does that make you better than me? Unfortunately, I do not have answers to those questions, except the last one: no, it does not make you better than me. It makes you less intelligent, ignorant and too quick to anger.
The text of the Second Amendment starts, “A well regulated Militia…” I don’t think the framers meant two guys in a pick up truck. So, legally speaking, yes, Florida law allows you to get away with murder.