In 2005, Florida became the first state to explicitly expand a person's right to use deadly force for self-defense, that is, deadly force to “stand your ground” is justified if a person believes his or her life is in danger, both inside and outside of their home. Moreover, once a person takes action to defend his or herself, the burden is then on the prosecution to disprove the claim.
George Zimmerman, the shooter in , currently is protected under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law as he awaits trial.
But for the millions of protestors across the country appalled by the law who are demanding justice be served for the Martin family and who are calling the law unjust and outdated, newsflash: “Stand Your Ground” and other very similar laws have been passed in many more states across America.
For one, in many other states across the country, there is a similar law, the Castle Doctrine, which also allows the reasonable use of deadly force for self-defense. But that law allows for protective force only inside one's home; outside of the home, people generally still have a "duty to retreat" to avoid confrontation. In other words, if you can escape your threat and you shoot anyway, you can be prosecuted.
However, in Florida, with the “Stand Your Ground” law, there is no duty to retreat. You can use deadly force outside your home, too.
And Florida is not alone.
Twenty-three other states now allow people to stand their ground. Most of these laws were passed after Florida's, while a few states never had a duty to retreat to begin with. These states include: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois (The law does not include a duty to retreat, which courts have interpreted as a right to expansive self-defense.), Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon (Also does not include a duty to retreat), South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington (Also does not include a duty to retreat.) and West Virginia.
It’s important to note that many of the laws were originally advocated as a way to address domestic abuse cases. For example, how could a battered wife retreat if she were attacked in her own home? But this same legislation has been co-opted and has been pushed by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups.
What do you think about the “Stand Your Ground” Law and similar laws that allow for the use of protective force? Do you feel these laws are necessary in cases of self-defense, and that, perhaps, the case of Trayvon Martin and a small handful of others represent cases that are the exception?
Or do you feel that portions of these laws are needed, while other parts of it need to be amended? Or maybe you feel that these types of laws do more for protecting gun rights advocates and overzealous vigilantes than its intended targets and that they need to be done away with altogether.
Take our poll, and tell us what you think in the comments.