You’ve likely heard about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in the news ever since the Trayvon Martin shooting. The law clearly states that a person has the right to use firearms against his or her attacker regardless of whether or not there’s another way to handle the situation. Let’s take a look at 5 facts about this law and how it has caused a great deal of controversy.
1) Before the law was passed in 2005, the previous law stated that firearms could not be used against an attacker if the victim was capable of retreating. In the case of Zimmerman shooting Martin, this means that had the event taken place prior to 2005, Zimmerman might have actually been prosecuted. However, according to the more recent version of the law, he was obeying it.
2) According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, since the “Stand Your Ground” law was enacted, the number of justifiable homicides has risen from 13.2 between 2001 and 2005, to 42 between 2006 and 2012, with a peak of 66 in 2012. Whether or not these homicides are in fact “justifiable” is debatable, but the numbers don’t lie- more victims are choosing to defend themselves with firearms. Some states with similar laws, such as Texas, have seen a similar trend, but others have not.
3) When the victim is white, the shooter is convicted 43% of the time. When the victim is black, the shooter is convicted 22% of the time. Odds are that racism does complicate the “Stand Your Ground” law, but then again, it complicates a lot of other laws as well.
4) The Florida Police made combat training mandatory at the end of the Zimmerman trial. It makes sense, really. Had Zimmerman been equipped with better police skills, the whole event might have been avoided all together. Patrolmen should have more combat training because there have been so many cases, like Zimmerman and Martin, where the use of firearms might not have been necessary.
5) The “Stand Your Ground” law is showing up in the oddest of places. From an 81-year-old man who shot his neighbor when his son was playing too close to his property line to a 14-year-old who shot someone who was trying to steal his Jet Ski, the law has been stretched to its limits.
There are at least 21 other states that have laws similar to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. These states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. Several states are now trying to expand their “castle doctrine” laws, which state that a person has the right to violently defend himself in his own house, to include businesses. In Oklahoma, a law was passed in 2012 that allows permit holders to openly display their guns in a holster.
Whatever you stance is on gun control and the right to defend oneself, laws like “Stand Your Ground” and “castle doctrines” will probably be around for a while. In spite of all the controversy over them, they are, if anything, on the rise.