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Scoot Blog: Do 'Stand Your Ground' Laws Promote Gun Violence?

There are new questions about ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws that are now on the books in over 20 states.  Laws already allow citizens to use deadly force against intruders and to protect life and property, but ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws have eliminated the need to retreat if possible. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder said, that ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws may encourage violence and “undermine public safety.”  Sunday on CNN, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said he wants Arizona to review its ‘stand your ground’ law.  

In a recent high-profile case in Texas, a retired Houston firefighter, Raul Rodriquez, killed a neighbor during an argument about a noisy party at the neighbor’s house.  Rodriquez went to Kelly Danaher’s home to confront her and during the argument, which was videotaped by Rodriquez, he is heard saying at one point, “My life is in danger now” and “these people are going to go try to kill me.” He also said, “I’m standing my ground here.”

Rodriquez shot and killed his neighbor and injured two of her male friends.  In his defense he claimed that one of the males made a move that he felt was threatening.  But on the video, Rodriquez was obviously setting up his own defense by claiming his life was in danger and he was standing his ground.  The state of Texas has a ‘Castle Doctrine’ law, which is similar to ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws on the books in other states.  Rodriquez was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Since the ‘Castle Doctrine’ law went into effect in Texas in 2007, the state has seen an increase of 16 fatal shootings over a 4 year period.  However, that doesn’t mean that lives may not have been saved because citizens acted.

While the Zimmerman defense team did not use Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in its defense, the law has attracted national attention.  From the first reporting of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, I have questioned whether George Zimmerman would have gotten out of his vehicle if he had not been armed.  If there are laws that give citizens the right to defend themselves, then the question is whether ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws protect citizens who go beyond protecting themselves.

Violent crime, even murder, among America’s youth has actually declined and is now at the lowest point since 1993, but the perception is that crime is up and many argue that we should all be armed to defend ourselves against the criminal element.  ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws have appeased those Americans who believe that citizens should have more legal protection in situations where guns are arguably used proactively.  But it’s fair to question whether these laws have also contributed to a ‘gun-happy’ America.

With complete respect for the Second Amendment and gun ownership in America and with respect for EVERY American’s right to defend themselves, ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws seem to feed a growing sense that citizens must become more aggressive in fighting crime.  Being more aggressive against crime can be a positive thing, but not if it encourages some ‘gun-happy’ citizens to aggressively take the law into their own hands or protect themselves when settling a confrontation that might otherwise have been averted by retreat.  

Laws should encourage, not discourage, any opportunity to avoid the use of a gun.  Additional legal protection for citizens, who shoot to kill, rather than remove themselves from a confrontation, may do more to feed a macho attitude than protect the public from crime.  I understand and accept the jury’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, but Zimmerman must live with killing a young man when he knows that there were things he could have done to prevent the shooting death.  And yes, there were things that Trayvon Martin could have done as well, but it is reasonable to assume that the concept of a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law gave George Zimmerman the courage to place himself in a situation that he might not have been in without a gun.

Anyone who is too quick to stand behind a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law may be using the law to support a predisposed mentality that essentially supports gun violence and the use of guns as the only answer.

Tags :  
Topics : Law_Crime
Social :
Locations : ArizonaFloridaHoustonTexas
People : Eric HolderGeorge ZimmermanJohn McCainKelly DanaherRaul RodriquezTrayvon Martin

07/23/2013 6:05AM
Scoot Blog: Do 'Stand Your Ground' Laws Promote Gun Violence?
Please Enter Your Comments Below
07/23/2013 6:33AM
You are absolutely right!
I have read a number of responses to articles on this issue and 'gun happy' citizens have absolutely lost their minds with destructive joy. Thanks for your reasonable and articulate post, America needs more of this type of rational thinking.
07/23/2013 7:26AM
Some good, some bad
The law gives an option. Some will use it for good and some as in the fireman from TX example will use it for bad(which justice prevailed in that case). It is legal to drive under a specific blood alcohol level where some bad will push the limit and some good will not. Overall, the show this morning seemed too far on one side of the fence and not laying out all the pros and cons. The bashing of the caller that said he challenges someone in neighborhood went a little overboard. How does he challenge? Is it ok to go say “hey how are you, can I help you” in your challenge to determine if there is need for concern?
07/23/2013 5:56PM
Some are confused
You have a right to protect your life, but the "protect property" rule goes out the window.
07/31/2013 4:03PM
MANY are confused
Listening to your on air discussion of this Monday morning, almost ALL your callers referenced protecting their property by killing someone. Your representative from Concealed Carry NOLA (or something like that) nailed it - the threat must be imminent and a reasonable person would believe the threat is grave (i.e., deadly). "He could've killed me" isn't a defense. I got my CCP pre-Zimmerman incident and the instructor told the class at the beginning and the end, if you are going to carry you MUST have your CCP in your possession, and they recommend your priest/minister's card and a great defense attorney's card. You are going to need it if you shoot someone.
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