The “Stand Your Ground” statute states that “a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony” (Sherman). Many people will say that the “Stand your Ground” law is a great law that has diminished the crime rate, made people feel safer in their neighborhood and has given the people back the power to protect themselves and their loved ones from fatal danger. I would have to agree with them, but at the same time since the law was introduced in 2005, justifiable homicides have increased by 200%, the amount of concealed carry permits have gone up significantly and now there is not only a fear of the criminals but of everyone around them. Since 2005 numerous cases have been deemed “self-defense” and over 70% of the shooters were set free because of the claim that they stood their ground (Goodman).
The concept of the law is a good one, but the specifics of the law need to be reviewed. Although the law has decreased the crime rate, the negative aspects of the law are far too great to be ignored; therefore something has to be done to prevent further miss use of the law. Violent crime rates were up just slightly after the introduction of the law in 2005 and began to decline in 2008. According to an article published in the Tampa By Times by Angie Drobonic “By 2011, the violent crime rate had dropped 14 percent since 2005”. The fact is that there was a decrease in the crime rate, but according to Senator Chis Smith who was the House Democratic leader in 2005 when “stand your ground” passed “since the law’s passage, deaths due to self-defense have jumped over 250 percent.” That kind of percentage in anything is significant, especially when it concerns the lives of citizens. No one can say for sure that the rise in justifiable homicides is due to the law itself; there may be many contributing factors. For instance the significant rise in concealed Carry permits in the state in the last few years. More Floridians have been walking around armed so it would only make sense that “From 2005 until 2012, the number of concealed weapons permits in Florida skyrocketed, from 347,350 to 979,000” (Lantigua).
Georgia State researchers Chandler McClellan and Erdal Tekin suggest that “One potential explanation offered for a relationship between Stand Your Ground laws and homicides is that an increased number of individuals may carry guns in public and be willing to use them as a result of these laws” (Lantigua). Most of the increase in justifiable homicides was due to police shootings which rose from 22 in 2004 to 65 in 2011, “Stand Your Ground” situations where civilians shot civilians, went from “eight in 2004 to 47 in 2011” (Lantigua). One would expect for the police shootings to rise because of the fact more citizens are carrying weapons. Police officers are going to be a lot more cautious on every traffic stop and on every call because there is more risk of being shot or injured in some way. The rise in civilian shootings from 2004 to 2011 is the statistic that has everyone on edge. Since the law was introduced there have been many controversial cases that were classified justifiable homicides where the shooter was cleared of all charges. In September 2010 Patrick Lavoie was killed by a single bullet on a Pompano Beach street. He charged toward a pickup truck driven by Cleveland Murdock, upset that Murdock had been tailgating him. According to an article published in the South Florida Sun by Nolin, Haughney and Williams “When Lavoie reached into the truck to open the door, Murdock fired.
\A grand jury, citing Stand Your Ground, absolved him”. In a case like this, one might say that Murdock had a legitimate reason to fear for his life. Lavoie, unknown to Murdock was charging angrily at him; this in most cases would cause a certain amount of fear and would justify defending himself and or his family, but does self-defense always mean killing someone? Why wasn’t there a warning shot or why didn’t he shoot just to incapacitate and not kill, is it because he knew the law would protect him? Another case that fell under the “Stand Your Ground” law happened In November of 2009. Shane Beil, whose Tavares home business had been burglarized in the past, caught a prowler in his yard early one morning. According to an article published in the South Florida Sun by Nolin, Haughney and Williams “He shot the man, Brett Lee Canada, 23, in the back. He was also cleared under the Stand Your Ground law”. Again, in this case one might feel a certain amount of fear for their lives, but the victim was shot in the back; which in most cases means that he posed no immediate threat to Beil, and the situation could have been handled with a 911 call.
That is the problem with this law, there are no specifics governing how the law can and should be used. The most famous case to date is the 2013 shooting of Treyvon Martin a young black teenager in Florida who was shot and killed by Zimmerman a neighborhood watchman. According to John Lantigua “Zimmerman had called police to report what he considered suspicious behavior by Martin and was instructed to remain in his vehicle. He didn’t, and the altercation with Martin followed, leading to Martin’s death. Martin, it turned out, was simply returning from a trip to the store with a can of Arizona Iced Tea and a bag of Skittles”. In this situation Zimmerman was instructed not to engage Martin and he did anyway. Should this be classified a justifiable homicide even though he disregarded the advice of the police which led to the death of Martin? This laws states that deadly force is authorized if a life threatening situation was to occur, but was his life in danger before he confronted Martin? The specifics of this law need to be reviewed to prevent things like this from happening. The law itself is a good one, but without specific instructions on when are how this law can be evoked, more and more cases like these are going to occur. Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, said state “Stand Your Ground” laws should be carefully reconsidered because of recent shootings of unarmed victims.
Durbin goes on to say “Whatever the motivations were behind the passage of these laws, it is clear that they often go too far in encouraging confrontations to escalate into deadly violence. They are resulting in unnecessary tragedies, and they are diminishing accountability under the justice system”. Laws like these will only cause a simple argument to escalate to a deadly confrontation quicker because the shooter knows that there is a very good chance he/she will get away with it under the “Stand Your Ground” law. The law has been under review several times since the introduction of the law, but lawmakers have not found enough evidence that would support a change in the law. With all the bad press and controversy surrounding the “Stand Your Ground” law, one would assume someone in government would ask the question; is this law something that makes society better and safer for its occupants or is it just an excuse for people to shoot first and ask questions later? In my opinion it is a little of both. Yes since the law was introduce the crime rate has gone down, but has it gone down because there is less crime or because the criminals are not being prosecuted for their crimes.
People are going to have disagreements, arguments and maybe even fights in some cases; it’s all a part of life. With this law in place as it stands those arguments are going to turn deadly very quickly and there will be no justice for the person who was slower on the trigger. That is not the type of place I want to raise a family. I don’t want to have to worry about my child not coming home because they were shot and killed over stepping on someone’s shoes and not apologizing. This law has got to change, or it’s only going to get worse.
Fallstrom, Jerry. “Concealed Weapon Permits On Rise As The Crime Rate Goes Up In Central Florida, More People Are Applying To Carry A Gun.” Orlando Sentinel: 1. Jul 10 1994. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr. 2014 . Angie, Drobinic H. “Crime Rates In Florida Have Dropped Since ‘Stand Your Ground,’ Says Dennis Baxley.” Tampa Bay TimesMar 23 2012. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr. 2014 . Sherman, Amy. “Self-Defense Deaths In Florida Have Increased Dramatically Since ‘Stand Your Ground’ Became Law In 2005, Lawmaker Claims.” Tampa Bay TimesMar 26 2012. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr. 2014 . Nolin, Robert, Kathleen Haughney and Dana Williams. “Killings Up Under ’05 Florida Law Justifiable Cases Double After ‘Stand Your Ground’.” South Florida Sun – SentinelApr 01 2012. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr. 2014 . Lantigua, John. “‘Stand Your Ground’ Self-Defense Raises More Questions than Answers.” McClatchy – Tribune Business NewsOct 14 2012. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr. 2014 . Goodman, Lee-Anne. “‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws Under Scrutiny.” Telegraph-JournalJul 19 2013. ProQuest. Web. 4 Apr. 2014 Durbin, Dick. “It Is Time For Stand Your Ground Laws To Be Carefully Reconsidered” Lanham: Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc, 2013. ProQuest. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
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