A short time ago I wrote an article entitled “George Zimmerman Verdict: Just or Unjust.” In that article I described Florida’s Stand Your Ground law as a “doorway to hell.” If you missed that article you might want to take the time to read it. Some of the points in that article are salient to this article.
Stand Your Ground laws exist in many states. Some are better written than others and by their very nature some are quite different from others. Perhaps the most notable difference is that some laws require that the person that you are “standing your ground” against, must have a deadly weapon.
So some laws are better than others but prosecutors and judges, in every state in which these laws exist, have been critical of their states’ Stand Your Ground law.
All of these laws were intended to do what their very name states: you don’t need to retreat from a dangerous situation, you can simply “stand your ground.”
Now let’s look at why the idea of these laws was so appealing to so many people. The appealing part is the belief that now you can protect yourself and your family from dangerous villains, criminals, rapists and general ne’er-do-wells. Don’t get me wrong, I like that idea myself. The world is a dangerous place. There are people out there who want to rob you and would gladly kill you to achieve that end. Not to mention the people out there, who really don’t care about your money, they simply want to kill you. As recent history has shown, you aren’t safe in a movie theater and your children are not safe in a public school. The safety of you and your loved ones is not guaranteed in this world.
So the idea of a Stand Your Ground law, sounds pretty appealing, especially if you don’t think it through, as our politician-legislators never do. Is “never” too strong a word? Probably not.
The Stand Your Ground laws are political moves. They are designed not to protect you but to acquire your vote. That’s the ugly truth of it. They sold us those laws by promising to make us safer. Do they make us safer?
They sold us those laws by presenting us with fantasy scenarios. Not all the possible fantasy scenarios but just the ones that were the most politically beneficial. They sold us scenarios where we are the innocent victim walking down the dark street, when we are approached by the perpetrator monster. It’s frightening indeed to imagine having to try to defend yourself, against a monster, unarmed. So as the scenario continues, we need to be able to pull out our gun, kill the monster and when the police arrive, to be comforted by the police, told “poor baby, poor baby,” receive a pat on the back by the police and return to safety in the comfort of our home.
It’s a great fantasy but the real world is far too complicated to allow for a simple fantasy. Reality says, it can’t happen that way. Now you might say, but the laws allow us now to do exactly that. Look at what George Zimmerman did to Tryavon Martin. Zimmerman shot an unarmed kid who had just turned 17 three weeks earlier. Zimmerman had a gun, outweighed him by 50 pounds, had studied martial arts three nights a week for a year, had followed Tryavon after being told not to by the 911 officials and he got away with it.
Yes he did. Does that tell us that the law works? Not at all. Here’s the problem. In the fantasy scenarios you are always the good guy. The other guy is always the bad guy. You always play the part of the innocent, law-abiding, victim who was never looking for trouble, was minding his own business and was as pure as the driven snow.
But remember, there are two parts that need to be played in this fantasy scenario. One we have already mentioned and that’s the part that the politicians have sold you. The politicians sold you a screenplay and assured you that in this play you would always play the part of the innocent, good guy, victim and you could never play the part of the bad guy criminal because after all, you aren’t a bad guy.
It’s a play and there’s two parts. There have to be two parts because for you to be a victim there has to be a perpetrator. So that’s two. Bad guy tries to hurt good guy. We all know that you are a good guy in real life and that’s no BS. So why wouldn’t you assume that you are going to play the part of the good guy? Why wouldn’t you look at the Stand Your Ground law from the vantage point of the innocent, would never hurt anyone, good guy perspective?
And the answer is: you wouldn’t! You know yourself. You know your intentions. You are pretty much a good guy. But what about the guy playing the second part? Does he know you? Does he know you are a good guy? Does he know you would never harm another or commit a crime? Don’t forget he’s walking down that same dark street that you are and he very well may also be a big believer in the Stand Your Ground law. He made be carrying, legally, a gun to protect himself from bad guys. Now you know you’re not a bad guy but does that stranger know that you are not a bad guy?
What standard is that stranger in the dark using to determine your “bad guy” status? Well, he certainly doesn’t have your school records to look at. It could be the way you’re walking, the way you look but it’s got to be something pretty superficial because there isn’t that much perceptual information available.
There won’t be time for him to talk to your neighbors, your fellow parishioners at church, your past teachers, or your friends or family members. If you look like a crook, if he perceives you like a crook, well my friends– prepare to die.
That’s the problem. Who’s the bad guy? I mean it doesn’t really matter who the bad guy is. What really matters is how the other participant in this two-part drama, perceives you to be. If he perceives you to be a crook, you’re going to die.
Remember, George Zimmerman was completely wrong about Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman believed that Martin was a criminal, a drug addict, someone up to no good. But he was wrong. Martin was legally residing in that community. He was doing nothing wrong, except slowly walking in the rain, talking on the phone, on his way home to eat skittles and to drink iced tea.
He’s dead. And you could very well be next. Please don’t think otherwise. Being innocent does not stop you from dying, in the Stand Your Ground laws. If the guy with the gun thinks you are a crook, thinks you are dangerous but is wrong, completely wrong, he can kill you and get away with it.
That’s a fact, Jack. Read the Tampa Bay Times article.
That’s right. It doesn’t matter if you are completely innocent. It doesn’t matter if the shooter is wrong. The way the laws are written, you are allowed to be shot and killed, if someone “believes,” not “knows” but simply believes that you are a danger to him.
Remember, when those slick-vote, hungry politicians sold you on how great it would be to protect yourself from a crook in the night, they never bothered to tell you that you might be the guy who is mistaken for the crook in the night.
At the very least the laws need to be rewritten. Before somebody shoots you because he “believes” he is in danger, he should know the following. He better be right. He better think it through and through. Before he shoots you, he should know that if he’s wrong and you are not a crook but instead are really the innocent victim, that he will be himself executed or face a lifetime in prison.
The way the laws are written now, someone “believing” you are a danger is enough. It should not be enough. The laws need to be rewritten. If someone decides to take your life they had better be right in their assumption that you are a danger. There should be a massive penalty for being wrong and killing an innocent person.
It’s easy to think that you are always going to play the good guy in that two-part, real-life drama. In reality, it’s up to the other guy to assign you your part in the play and hand you the script that he’s written.
If you jump ahead to the end of that script, you might find a death scene. A scene where you have been tragically miscast into the starring role.