License to Kill

By this point, we’ve all been innundated with coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida over a month ago. And probably the biggest takeaway from this entire fiasco has been learning about the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, which, on the face of it, are probably the singly worst conceived and drafted piece of legislation that I’ve ever encountered.

We’re all familiar with the narrative of both parties in this tragedy, George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.  According to Zimmerman, he claims that in pursuing Martin, he became so afraid after apparently being attacked that he feared for his life, thus making him entitled to use deadly force on the teenager that was beating him up.  Though Martin isn’t alive to speak, the evidence from various sources, including eyewitnesses and the 911 call paint a very different picture, one wherein Zimmerman was the aggressor (even though he’s now claiming self-defense).

But let’s explore a hypothetical situation here that looks at the logic of the laws from another angle.  A man who will not identify himself as a cop and is armed with a semi-automatic 9mm pistol begins following you in a neighborhood at night.  In attempting to detain you, a fight breaks out, and you resist his efforts.  Now, in this scenario, would the Stand Your Ground Laws apply equally?  That a man approaches with deadly force and begins threatening you?  Such would describe the case of Martin in his encounter with Zimmerman.

If Zimmerman was relying on the law to avoid prosecution, then Martin could have equally relied on it to defend himself from an armed stranger following him in the night, which would make the law useless.  My point is this: any law that attempts to institutionalize violence is on a slippery slope, because when you start doing it for one party, you have to apply the law equally.  When that happens, you just end up with more violence.  ‘Stand Your Ground’ is just a euphemism that feels good, strong and just.  But the reality is that it comes with a steep, steep price.  And I doubt that it’s one we’re willing to pay.


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