The deadly consequences of ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws

By Mark Hoekstra
February 13, 2014

The trial of Michael Dunn in Florida has again raised questions about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Dunn, 47, is charged with fatally shooting Jordan Davis, an unarmed 17-year-old, in the parking lot of a Jacksonville convenience store, over loud music. Many questions swirl around whether Dunn was legally justified under current Florida law, as he insists he was, to fire into the car where Davis sat listening to music. As the jury deliberates, there will be many more discussions about how factors like race and the jury’s interpretation of Stand Your Ground determine the verdict.

This misses the bigger question, however, which is whether this lethal confrontation would have happened without the law. If Florida had not passed its law so that a person has no “duty to retreat” before using lethal force, how would Dunn have responded? Would he still have gotten his gun from his car and fired repeatedly into Davis’s vehicle? Would he have even had a gun with him?

These same questions can be asked of the other cases that have received so much media attention. Would George Zimmerman have followed Trayvon Martin, with a gun, and confronted the teenager if Florida law had not offered him these additional self-defense protections? Would Raul Rodriguez, convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years for the murder of his Houston neighbor, have confronted his neighbor over loud music and killed him, if not for Texas’s similar law?

For any given case, these questions are impossible to answer, and you can make arguments either way. But it is possible to say something more definitive about whether these laws have led to a greater number of total homicides. That is the question my coauthor Cheng Cheng and I addressed in our recent study in the Journal of Human Resources. We asked what happened to homicide rates in states that passed these laws between 2000 and 2010, compared to other states over the same time period. We found that homicide rates in states with a version of the Stand Your Ground law increased by an average of 8 percent over states without it — which translates to roughly 600 additional homicides per year. These homicides are classified by police as criminal homicides, not as justifiable homicides.

It is fitting that much of this debate has centered on Florida, which enacted its law in October of 2005. Florida provides a case study for this more general pattern. Homicide rates in Florida increased by 8 percent from the period prior to passing the law (2000-04) to the period after the law (2006-10).By comparison, national homicide rates fell by 6 percent over the same time period. This is a crude example, but it illustrates the more general pattern that exists in the homicide data published by the FBI.

The critical question for our research is whether this relative increase in homicide rates was caused by these laws. Several factors lead us to believe that laws are in fact responsible. First, the relative increase in homicide rates occurred in adopting states only after the laws were passed, not before. Moreover, there is no history of homicide rates in adopting states (like Florida) increasing relative to other states. In fact, the post-law increase in homicide rates in states like Florida was larger than any relative increase observed in the last 40 years. Put differently, there is no evidence that states like Florida just generally experience increases in homicide rates relative to other states, even when they don’t pass these laws.

We also find no evidence that the increase is due to other factors we observe, such as demographics, policing, economic conditions, and welfare spending. Our results remain the same when we control for these factors. Along similar lines, if some other factor were driving the increase in homicides, we’d expect to see similar increases in other crimes like larceny, motor vehicle theft and burglary. We do not. We find that the magnitude of the increase in homicide rates is sufficiently large that it is unlikely to be explained by chance.

In fact, there is substantial empirical evidence that these laws led to more deadly confrontations. Making it easier to kill people does result in more people getting killed.

Of course, it is also possible that these laws have benefits. For example, perhaps criminals respond to these laws by committing fewer burglaries, given that victims are now more empowered to use lethal force to resist. Or perhaps people now avoid fights and confrontations out of a fear that they will end badly.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much evidence in the data of this type of deterrence. That means that whatever benefits these laws have, they are limited to the actual victims of crime, who may now be more willing or able to defend themselves, or may experience lower criminal or civil costs for doing so. We don’t know how to quantify those benefits. But we do know there is no evidence that fewer violent crimes are committed as a result of these laws.

So where does that leave us with respect to the Dunn trial, and the broader debate over Stand Your Ground laws? Regardless of the trial outcome, the main damage has been done, and cannot be undone by one verdict or another. But it would be a mistake to ignore the evidence that deadly confrontations like this are more likely to occur as a result of these laws.

So the question people ought to be asking is this: Are the benefits of these laws to actual innocent victims sufficiently large to justify an additional 600 violent deaths per year?

*Correction: An earlier version of this column described one aspect of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law as allowing for the presumption of “reasonable fear.” That provision, however, would not apply to the Michael Dunn case. The column has been corrected. 


PHOTOS: Michael Dunn returns to the courtroom during jury deliberations in his murder trial over the killing of Jordan Davis, in Jacksonville, Florida February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Bob Mack/Pool 

A woman holds up a sign while attending a rally for Trayvon Martin in New York July 20, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri 

51 comments

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It is wonderful to see actual empiricism instead of ideologically based nonsense.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

With respect to your questions,Please let me speak my mind, perhaps a simple reminder of what Self Defense is, and what law enforcement isn’t, might help.

Law Enforcement or Calling the cops” isn’t “self defense”.
The Criminal Justice system is only capable of its duty of Enforcing, Investigating,Apprehending, Prosecuting and Incarcerating suspects “AFTER” the violence has already destroyed the victim.

Self Defense is very different its,
“Prevention” of your own victimization at the scene of your attack.

Stand your ground or FL,776 is just those obvious things spelled out.

No honorable sworn Police officer would willingly witness a violent crime and not come to your aide. But they do not accompany us anywhere.
You are responsible for your own Self Defense safety.
It might surprise you but Police are not in the Personal Security business,that’s not there job, Its not in their charter.
The only time You have Police protection is if you are wearing handcuffs They will stop anyone from hurting you in there custody.
You are on your own in a free civilized society.

Posted by TruthSeeker427 | Report as abusive

But wait a minute. I thought more people carrying guns would lead to less gun violence. You mean to say that people running around in public with their guns may not always act calmly and rationally? Wow, that’s weird.

Posted by carnivalchaos | Report as abusive

The “Stand your ground” laws were enacted to prevent prosecutions like the case in Massachusetts where a woman was convicted of killing her abusive ex-husband because the jury thought she had a reasonable chance of getting herself and her two young children past the man; the same man that broken into her home, chased her around the house, outweighed her, outreached her, and was blocking the top of the basement stairs threatening to kill her. Said stairs were the only way out.

But because the original ‘duty to flee’ laws were interpreted to be absolute, she was convicted of murder.
Though she was pardoned, this was only one case of many where ‘duty to flee’ led to cases of actual self-defense turning victims into convicted murderers.

Thus, the “Stand your ground” laws. Now, said “stand your ground” laws are being misinterpreted by the general public, but that does not mean their original purpose is negated in any way.

Posted by Burns0011 | Report as abusive

Texas does not have a Stand your ground law. Texas law states on that lethal force can only be used in self defense if a reasonable person fears for their own or someone else’s life or to prevent great bodily injury. It was under this doctrine that Raul Rodriguez and many other have been convicted of murder when trying to use self defense to justify killing someone in anger. Get your facts straight before you pigeonhole Texas in with Florida. Texans are far more reasonable than people give us credit for.

Posted by DVDA | Report as abusive

“there is substantial empirical evidence that these laws led to more deadly confrontations. Making it easier to kill people does result in more people getting killed…whatever benefits these laws have, they are limited to the actual victims of crime”.

Sorry, WRONG! (see below)

“Are the benefits of these laws to actual innocent victims sufficiently large to justify an additional 600 violent deaths per year?” When the 600 “violent deaths” are, for the most part, actual or wannabee thugs like Trayvon Martin, YES!

ALL of society benefits by the subtraction of these sociopaths from society and it’s gene pool BEFORE they deliver the full extent of mayhem that is their “full potential”. Society is also saved the considerable expense of the trials and subsequent costs of incarceration of such individuals over the years as each becomes “all they can be” as criminals.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

I find the findings in this very interesting. I believe the 8% rise in homicides that are being talked about in Florida must be a rise in the actual numbers. You seem to overlook the fact that the homicide rate in Florida peaked in 2007 at 6.2 per 100,000 but then dropped (since the population rose by 3,000,000 people during the twelve year period specified, a per 100,000 average is the most fair look at the rate).
2000 5.6
2001 5.3
2002 5.5
2003 5.4
2004 5.4
2005 5.0
2006 6.2
2007 6.6
2008 6.3
2009 5.5
2010 5.2
2011 5.2
2012 5.2
Wow, it looks to me like the last 3 years of data were lower than any year prior (except 2005, but the year it was SYG was passed). How odd…. What about Texas, also mentioned here?
2000 5.9
2001 6.2
2002 6.0
2003 6.4
2004 6.1
2005 6.1
2006 5.9
2007 5.9
2008 5.6
2009 5.4
2010 4.9
2011 4.4
2012 4.4
Is it my imagination or did that rate actually go down too? Try Michigan, who also went down since we adopted a Stand Your Ground Law. Seriously, averaging the whole time period does not show the facts.

http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/flcr ime.htm
http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/txcr ime.htm

Posted by teiger25 | Report as abusive

A good and relatively reasonable study, with one massive, fatal flaw. The 600 additional murders are assumed to be homicides committed under criminal circumstances. Very little is done to verify this assumption. The FBI UCR data used for this study represents only “offenses that become known to [law enforcement]“, i.e. arrests primarily, and do not represent convictions. Without knowledge of the outcome of these cases the authors are only guessing at their character. For example, it could have been the case that some of these ended up being ruled self defense or justifiable by the court, as opposed to the number ruled so in the field by police before charges are filed, as reported in the UCR data. Without looking at convictions, we are missing a huge part of the story and the authors have chosen to fill it in for us, stating over and over again how their conclusive analysis proves their political point.

Posted by koko67654 | Report as abusive

Here is some additional debunking of this paper. Regardless of whatever hocus pocus they try to pull here, the undeniable fact is that, contrary to their “findings”, crime in general is down in Florida, including homicide, and yes, even after these laws passed. It amazes me that such garbage can possibly be published in s “journal”. Here are the REAL per-capita number for Florida… see for yourself:

Year Population Violent Property Murder Rape Robbery Assault Burglary Theft
2000 15,982,378 812 4,882.7 5.6 44.2 199 .0 563.2 1081.8 3,242.9
2001 16,373,330 798.3 4,779.2 5.3 40.6 2 00.7 551.7 1,075.2 3,154.8
2002 16,691,701 771.2 4,656.4 5.5 40.5 1 95.2 530.1 1,061.9 3,064.3
2003 16,999,181 731.1 4,457.3 5.4 39.6 1 85.4 500.6 1,003.8 2,973.6
2004 17,385,430 711.8 4,182.5 5.4 38 172 .5 495.8 956.7 2,775.2
2005 17,768,191 708.9 4,012.8 5 37.1 169 .6 497.2 927.4 2,661.6
2006 18,089,888 712 3,968.1 6.2 35.8 188 .8 481.2 944.6 2,619.0
2007 18,251,243 722.6 4,089.3 6.6 33.7 2 09.1 473.2 996.3 2,689.4
2008 18,423,878 685.3 4,119.1 6.3 32.4 1 96.9 449.7 1023 2,751.4
2009 18,537,969 612.5 3,840.8 5.5 29.7 1 66.7 410.6 981.1 2,588.6
2010 18838613 541.3 3551.4 5.2 28.5 138. 50 369 897.7 2433.6
2011 19082262 514.6 3517.4 5.2 27.6 134. 3 347.5 891.8 2418
2012 19317568 487.1 3276.7 5.2 27.2 123. 7 330.9 794.9 2288.6

Posted by koko67654 | Report as abusive

With respect to your questions, perhaps a simple reminder of what Self Defense is, and what law enforcement isn’t, might help.

Law Enforcement or Calling the cops” isn’t “self defense”.
The Criminal Justice system is only capable of its job of Enforcing Investigating,apprehending, prosecuting and Incarcerating suspects AFTER the violence has already destroyed the victim.

Self Defense is very different its,
“Prevention” of your own victimization at the scene of your attack.
.
Stand your ground or FL,776 is just those obvious things spelled out.

No honorable sworn Police officer would willingly witness a violent crime and not come to your aide. But they do not accompany us anywhere.
You are responsible for your own Self Defense safety.
It might surprise you but Police are not in the Personal Security business,that’s not there job, Its not in their charter.
The only time You have Police protection is if you are wearing handcuffs They will stop anyone from hurting you in there custody.
You are on your own in a free civilized society.

Posted by TruthSeeker427 | Report as abusive

@OneOfTheSheep
“When the 600 “violent deaths” are, for the most part, actual or wannabee thugs like Trayvon Martin, YES!” While the courts presume innocent until guilty, you are saying that a concealed weapons permit should allow preemptive executions based on stereotypes?

“ALL of society benefits by the subtraction of these sociopaths from society and it’s gene pool BEFORE they deliver the full extent of mayhem…” Getting pretty close to ethnic cleansing here.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

So-called “stand your ground laws” are merely codifications of one view of the common law of self-defense. All forms of the defense require a “reasonable” apprehension of death or serious bodily injury before using deadly force. The variations relate to differences in the duty to retreat before using deadly force. There are three versions:

– No duty to retreat (“stand your ground” version).
– No duty to retreat if you are within your own home or curtilage (standard version – the “curtilage” is the property around your house in the city, the fenced-in yard around a farmhouse in the country).
– Always a duty to retreat until it is impossible to do so anymore (“back to the wall” version).

As stated above, all versions have the requirement that the person using deadly force must have a “reasonable” apprehension of death of seriously bodily harm before using deadly force.

Firing into a car does not sound reasonable, but what is reasonable is always a jury question.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

Stand your ground laws are not always bad. But Florida’s is particularly idiotic because it basically says:

This law does not cover you if you provoked the fight. Unless….. you provoked the fight and now you feel threatened by the fight.”

What?

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

@QuietThinker,

There have been conflicts between the civil and the uncivil since time immemorial. In the Trayvon Martin case, a judge and jury decided “the line” was not crossed by George Zimmerman according to available evidence. In that case the presumption of innocence worked in HIS favor. So, all I am saying is “good riddance”.

There seems to be an apparently endless number of violent “in yo’ face” aggressive sociopaths inflicting their thug “gangsta” culture on polite society in the form of “knockouts”, car-jackings, purse-snatchings, home invasions, etc. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that, once a society believes themselves collectively victimized, WHATEVER measures deemed necessary will be taken to counter a real and present danger to their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

This is the origin of “stand your ground” laws. If the result meets the definition of “ethnic cleansing”; so be it. When the uncivil will not or can not modify their behavior so as to live in harmony with the civil, the civil must remove them from society if social order is to be preserved. Such removal may be temporary, through incarceration, or permanent. Choices have consequences.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

No matter how much Mr. Dunn wishes this is a “Stand Your Ground” case, it’s clearly not. It’s a case of a man with a big ego gunning down a kid. This guy did everything wrong. If you’re threatened, and fear for your safety, you can shoot, but you stop shooting when the threat is gone. You don’t riddle a car with bullets. You don’t leave. You don’t try to invoke Stand Your Ground when you realize you screwed up. You call 911, identify yourself, tell the police what happened, and render aid if you can while you wait for authorities to arrive. Mr. Dunn should have paid attention when he took his CCW course.

Posted by JKSF | Report as abusive

Law of small numbers. The data in the paper show only a three-year positive blip in Florida that overwhelms dips in the other states, creating the appearance of a correlation between the implementation of castle doctrine and an increase in homicide rates. Even according to the authors’ data, homicide rates in castle doctrine states are now in line with those of other states. The authors are to be commended for applying other checks and tests, but they can’t overcome the basic fact that their data are not statistically significant.
In any event, we wouldn’t expect a change in castle doctrine laws to have much effect on homicides, would we? In science, it isn’t enough to just observe data, we need to be able to explain it, and no such explanation appears to be forthcoming here.

Posted by pglask | Report as abusive

Oneofthesheep & others

You guys need to take courses in philosophy.

It is beyond reason that Martin at the time could be called a thug when he was the one stalked, or that one can shoot into a car blindly.

Any professional gun user, policeman, military personal, etc., will tell you the first thing to know is restraint and know your target.

What it is, is that we have people running around who do not have the mental range or the training in gun use.

Guns should be easily accessible but a mental health exam is necessary, and training should be required in gun safety and storage, gun restraint, the use and protection of the weapon, and how not to lose it.

Posted by Flash1022 | Report as abusive

The law will not be repealed or amended in Florida until black people start to use it in their favor. Sad but true.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

That’s a nice analysis, but this wasn’t a Stand Your Ground case. Dunn didn’t invoke SYG as his defense and according to his story, he didn’t have any opportunity to retreat anyway. *According to Dunn’s story*, it’s cut and dried self defense.

The reality of the situation is much different though, but I’m not going to delve into that.

Posted by George21 | Report as abusive

OneOfTheSheep: “ALL of society benefits by the subtraction of these sociopaths from society and it’s gene pool BEFORE they deliver the full extent of mayhem that is their “full potential”.

And just who is to be the arbiter deciding who is a sociopath in need of execution before they’ve done anything wrong? You? Who are you to say that Trayvon Martin wasn’t going to be a productive US citizen? How many kids Trayvon Martin’s age have gotten into a little minor scrap with the law only to “grow up” and become productive citizens? George Zimmerman also had some minor run-ins with the law. The difference is that his were more significant and he was the adult, so it’s really less likely that he would turn his life around. It sure hasn’t looked that way. But Trayvon was only 17. How do you know Trayvon wasn’t going to be, and yet, just another young person putting on airs who later gets his act together? A white man’s hunch about a black kid? I’m sure old people said the same thing about John Lennon when he was Trayvon’s age, because he, too, came across as a thug. Should John Lennon have been executed when he was 17? I don’t think you realize what you’re saying.

Bear in mind that in our society if everything was the same except it was an armed Trayvon Martin chasing down George Zimmerman and shooting him dead, Trayvon would probably have been found guilty of murder. Or if Trayvon happened to be carrying a gun that night and George Zimmerman was unarmed, and Trayvon ended up killing George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin would have been as within the law as George Zimmerman was, because Zimmerman would have been dead and Trayvon would have said he was in fear for his life, and according to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law Trayvon would have been innocent in the eyes of the law because he was in fear for his life. In fact, he would have had a better case because he was being followed by a grown man, a stranger, at night. Trayvon was minding his own business until he was confronted by George Zimmerman. However, unlike George Zimmerman, Trayvon would have probably been found guilty of murder because he’s black and seventeen.

Can you think of any other place on this planet besides the USA where guns are so widespread, stand your ground laws are in place, and it’s working well for those people? I’m asking that you name just one other place. Because if it’s so great, certainly other people would want the same. Do you think Americans are the smartest people on earth? I don’t.

Posted by carnivalchaos | Report as abusive

@carnivalchaos,

If they are aggressive and “in the face” of a neighborhood watchperson “on duty”, jump him and pound his head into the sidewalk causing physical trauma, that’s a pretty good quick definition of someone intentionally deviate from the behavior society expects as the “price to belong”. I don’t have to say a thing about Trayvon Martin other than his “attitude” got him killed.

I don’t CARE how many kids of Trayvon’s age got “into a minor scrap with the law”. The point is that they are out looking for trouble and finding it instead of minding their manners and acting in a manner consistent with the average non-aggressive citizen. These idiots victimize far more of “their own” than others simply because they are THERE.

I have never heard anyone characterize John Lennon as a thug. A hippy, or an idiot maybe; but these are harmless. More than a few hippys got their heads and butts busted by white skinhead types, which is also wrong; but the hippy threat to society was intellectual, not physical. BIG DIFFERENCE.

In this discussion my opinion of Americans in general is not the subject. Do I think Stand Your Ground laws are appropriate in today’s American society? YES! In fact I’d support open carry because that might make some of these dummies realize their needless provocations could at any time erupt in lethal force.

To an intelligent and rational person, the threat of death is a powerful deterrent. To the average gang-banger, it’s a threat they live with every day BECAUSE OF THEIR CULTURE, so no big deal. Does our society in any manner need “gangstas”? I can’t think of a single reason why.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

OneOfTheSheep: The point that I made that you’re glossing over is that stand your ground laws invite people to play judge, jury, and executioner based on appearances. You’re arguing that if some young person APPEARS to be a thug, they should be eliminated from society via the application of stand your ground laws: “ALL of society benefits by the subtraction of these sociopaths from society and it’s gene pool BEFORE they deliver the full extent of mayhem that is their “full potential”.” My question was, who gets to be the arbiter in deciding who is the thug or sociopath on the street?

As an example, I pointed out that both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman had incidents in their background that could lead one to concluded that either one of them is a thug. The difference on that particular night is that Zimmerman was (1) the adult, (2) following a 17 year old at night, and (3) carrying a loaded weapon. Martin? He was walking through the neighborhood with a drink and some candy, minding his own business. So an UNBIASED observer would have to conclude that Zimmerman posed the greater threat, giving Martin a better argument that the stand your ground law should give Martin the right to shoot and kill Zimmerman because Martin had more of a reason to fear for his life. However, Zimmerman (“polite society”) was the one carrying the gun and following Martin, the guy you’re suggesting was a sociopath or thug.

My reference to John Lennon is a fair and justifiable point, one I’m confident he’d endorse. John Lennon was no more a sociopath/thug than Trayvon Martin, but on paper and simply going by appearances, your standards, Lennon could easily have been placed in the category of those you want to eliminate from society. He wore his hair like the “thugs” of his day. He was a bit of a trouble maker and got into more than his share of fights. He hung out on street corners wearing a leather jacket and smoking cigarettes. He came from a troubled childhood, raised by a single mother until she gave him to her sister, his Aunt Mimi, to raise him. His mother was killed shortly after that, hit by a car.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/live rpool-news/beatles-legend-john-lennon-de tention-6361085

The point about Lennon is that his background isn’t that different from Trayvon Martin’s except that Lennon was white and Martin was black. My question to you, since you favor this vigilantism that stand your ground laws promote and its role in removing “sociopaths” and “wannabe thugs” from society, is who on the street gets to decide who is a thug worthy of death? Should Lennon have been gunned down at 17 like Trayvon Martin? I could easily imagine if John Lennon was simply walking home at night from the store and some stranger started following him, that Lennon would have confronted Zimmerman much like Martin did, because he probably would have been in fear for his life. You’re not considering Trayvon’s right to the stand your ground law, only Zimmerman’s. If I’m walking at night and I see a guy first following me in a car, then he gets out of his car and starts following me on foot, I’m going to assume that he means to harm me. Now, if I’m riding in my car and see a black teenager walking down the street, I’m NOT going to assume that he means to harm me. Why should I? So who was more justified in feeling that their life was being threatened?

Posted by carnivalchaos | Report as abusive

Davis would likely not have lost his life if there had been laws with teeth to prohibit noise disturbances. Dunn should have been able to phone the police, and the police should have promptly enforced the law.

People are more likely to take the law into their own hands when the police do not enforce laws, and when appropriate laws do not exist.

We all deserve a constitutional right to peace and quiet. This may sound far-fetched, but noise adversely affects our concentration, mood, and ability to converse. We cannot depend on each and every community to enact laws to protect this important right. Hence, the right to peace and quiet should be protected constitutionally, and enforced uniformly across the nation.

People who violate our right to peace and quiet should face stiff fines and imprisonment. Companies that violate this right should have to pay compensation to their victims.

Unfortunately, a lot of money is made selling loud stereos to disgruntled teenagers, and those profits must support a very effective pro-noise lobby. Yet car stereo makers know that blasting loud music is likely to enrage at least some passers-by, and trigger impulsive, violent behavior. Hence, those stereo manufacturers share some of the blame for Davis’s death. Likewise whatever politicians failed to enact anti-noise laws in that community.

This death was preventable, regardless of any stand-your-ground-laws.

Posted by DifferentOne | Report as abusive

Oneofthesheep

You do not belong in a civilized society.

Your attitude to others make you another’s target.

You, yourself are the thug, emboldened with a weapon.

Hopefully the person you meet will be more intelligent and rational than yourself.

Posted by Flash1022 | Report as abusive

@carnivalchaos,

“The point that I made that you’re glossing over is that stand your ground laws invite people to play judge, jury, and executioner based on appearances. You’re arguing that if some young person APPEARS to be a thug, they should be eliminated from society via the application of stand your ground laws”. Not at all. It isn’t their appearance that makes such decisions necessary, but their actions.

“…who on the street gets to decide who is a thug worthy of death?” Now THAT’S simple. The person the thug chooses to confront aggressively.

The actions of one who assaults acts so as to bully or physically threaten another in any manner, with their fists or other weapon, by attempting to snatch a purse, break in a car, invade a home, all violate those rules of society as make and keep it “polite”.

This would not be so much of a “black and white” issue because there are those of us who remember being able to leave our homes and vehicles unlocked and even leaving them running when running in to check a post office box or grab a container of milk. No more, and that, too, is a “loss” to society. But these transgressions are not of the level that bring about a majority of “fight or flight” confrontations.

In the end, we are discussing what kind of “society” we want. Do we want a society that protects the rights of thugs to walk unchallenged through our neighborhoods at times when most working Americans are at work or asleep or to intimidate, accost or otherwise make ordinary citizens uncomfortable? I don’t think so.

Do we want a society in which the average citizen can feel safe in their car, home, or on the street? That’s the one I want. In the overall, either way, there is a balance and ultimate limits that must be set and met, such as the one where your freedom ends at my nose.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Oneofthesheep

You do not get it.

A civilized society evolves through a community, not vigilantism.

If your community is so broken down as you are stating that you feel unsafe you need to participate in going to municipal meetings. Make your voice heard.

Use your head, not your gun.

You may need to tighten your municipal regulations or/and raise taxes to obtain the services in your community. In our community we have found that tightening quality of life issues prevents further crime.

Are your streets cleaned weekly and your building codes up to date. The better a street and community look deters crime.

Do you get it?

Posted by Flash1022 | Report as abusive

Would someone detail what a person from “polite society looks like?

Laws are not just in place to protect “polite society” from harm, inconvenience or annoyance, but to also protect everyone else from the tyranny of “polite society”. Judging by some of these comments, with good reason.

Ring any Constitutional bells?

So, my 12 year old granddaughter wears hoodies: grey, purple, pink and blue primarily. She also tests at the college level for science and math and is in the gifted program at her school. But, unfortunately she’s 12 and can cop a negative ‘tude with the best of them. If she were in my car at a convenience store, wearing her grey hoodie and listening to my Joni Mitchell CDs too loud to suit “polite society”, should she be shot to prevent her from sliding down into the bowels of impolite crime even further?

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

@Flash1022,

No, it YOU that don’t “get it”.

MY “community” is just fine. About the only way a “stand your ground” confrontation is likely in the places I transverse or frequent is if thugs are “goin’ to Mayberry” and try to snatch a purse at Walmart, or attempt a home invasion (in which case they, likely as not, wind up dead; and, rightfully so). I know anyone that somehow got through my metal, deadbolted doors or locked windows when I am at home is going to leave with the coroner.

I know I will sleep with a completely clear conscience that same night and thereafter. That’s because I see such people as commit such acts non-human or sub-human. Any who act as ruthless, dangerous predators by choice will receive no empathy or compassion from me because the nightly news tells me those who indulge in such exercise and hesitate may well pay with their own lives.

Not everyone can afford to live in a gated community apart from general society, not should they have to have the means to do so. All levels of society have a right to feel and be safe, and it is largely in areas of majority poor and hispanic or black residence that innocent children are killed and ordinary citizens and seniors genuinely afraid to go out, particularly after dark.

Yeah, I “get it” just fine.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@JL4,

“Would someone detail what a person from “polite society looks like?” This question is as impossible to answer as it is irrelevant to the purpose of ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws. You know that even as you pose it.

“Laws are not just in place to protect “polite society” from harm, inconvenience or annoyance, but to also protect everyone else from the tyranny of “polite society”. I utterly and completely disagree, but we agree (I think) that reality requires due consideration of past and contemporary interpretation of the Constitution of these United States, enacted amendments thereof, and applicable court precedents. It is what it is.

The differentiation that bothers you largely didn’t even exist before 1960. There is a difference between actions of even the largest, most overindulged 12 year old “acting out in public” and wearing clothes that conceal their features and the actions that “ring bells” as to genuine threat of violence or danger to the ordinary citizen going about their legitimate business or the shop owner concerned with petty theft that literally reduces the possible income from doing business with “the public”.

You know perfectly well what I am advocating. For the record, I have no interest whatsoever in meeting the little creature you describe as your granddaughter until she has matured sufficiently to be and act nice. Savvy?

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@OOTS, what the ^%#@ are you talking about, “reality requires due consideration of past and contemporary interpretation of the Constitution…”? Lots of gibberish that answers/addresses nothing. The framers of the Constitution understood your kind, even if you don’t understand yourself – that power in your hands is an evil thing, and you exemplify their fears.

You brought up “polite society”, not me. You circumvent defining “polite society” because you can’t, except you ego-maniacally consider yourself its poster boy, so you deflect with insults.

I DO know perfectly well what you advocate, and others here do as well. You advocate a form of ethnic, racial and economic cleansing, and no drivel you spout or insults you sling can put any shine on you. What was it AlkalineState said in another post about “polishing a turd”? Can’t be done…

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

This is why I no longer vacation in Florida.

Posted by jChicago | Report as abusive

OneOfTheSheep: “Not at all. It isn’t their appearance that makes such decisions necessary, but their actions.”

That’s the excuse those making these laws hide behind, but that’s obviously irrational, as we see with the Trayvon Martin case. Zimmerman made his judgement to follow Trayvon Martin because of the way he looked, a judgement that cost Trayvon his life. It wasn’t fair for Zimmerman to put Trayvon in that position based on his appearance. At that point Trayvon had a better argument to stand his ground against Zimmerman than Zimmerman had against Martin. After all, if Zimmerman really felt that Martin was a threat to his life he wouldn’t have been following him with a loaded gun. What I find so unsettling about your take on the Martin/Zimmerman case is how the law seems to only apply to Zimmerman, that Martin didn’t have a right to defend himself, to the death if necessary, against a strange man following him in the dark with a loaded gun. I certainly would have felt that my life was in jeopardy. Had Florida not passed that stand your ground law there’s a good chance that Zimmerman would have shown the restraint that a responsible “polite” citizen is supposed to practice, the restraint the police told Zimmerman to use by NOT following Martin. After all, Zimmerman didn’t have a good reason to be following Martin with his loaded gun based just on Martin’s looks.

Take the Michael Dunn case. Had a group of white teenage girls been sitting in that car blaring Imagine Dragons instead of teenage black males blasting hiphop, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would have been shot because Dunn would assume that no one was reaching for a gun. But Dunn based his bad assumption on appearances. So again, appearances played a pivotal role, and if Dunn did shoot up a carload of young white girls, I doubt that the trial’s outcome would be in question. Imagine Dunn trying to argue that he thought one of the girls was pulling out a gun to shoot him. His lawyer would have probably tried another defense.

So you can’t say that appearances have nothing to do with the application of stand your ground laws. They have everything to do with it because appearances play a big role in how we judge a person and, by extension, what that person might do. And there lies one of the stand your ground laws’ fatal flaws because in America people have the right to dress the way they want, listen to the music the feel like listening to, and they have the right not to be judged by the color of their skin.

Trayvon Martin didn’t violate those “rules of society” that you refer to unless you consider his actions against Zimmerman to be a violation of those rules, but because of the stand your ground law in Florida you can’t even say THAT was a violation because obviously he felt that his life was at risk, and as I already pointed out, he had far better reason to believe his life was being threatened than George Zimmerman or, for that matter, Michael Dunn.

Stand your ground laws are fatally flawed in a way that guarantees abuse. They make it easy for people to act irresponsible rather than walk away from a possible violent confrontation. Anyone living in a state that has such a law can literally commit murder and without too much difficultly make it look and sound as if they killed the person because they felt that their life was in jeopardy. There are plenty of white people who always feel threatened by blacks, so it wouldn’t take much for those people to believe their lives were being threatened, and in such cases the stand your ground law gives them an excuse to act on their irrational fears, as we are seeing time and time again. We already have the right to defend ourselves when our lives are at risk. Why have this flawed law that actually increases violence and homicides, as this op-ed clearly, and scientifically, points out?

Posted by carnivalchaos | Report as abusive

@JL4,

Well, woman (ladies don’t use that kind of language, nor do they think in such terms), I’ll try to explain further in terms even you MAY understand, willful denial notwithstanding.

The Constitution of these United States was written a long time ago, and matters not originally contemplated have been added by amendment over the years. From those beginnings, more than a few concepts, sentances or words have proven to have more than one possible interpretation.

Various level courts over the years have had to clarify genuine ambiguities as best possible. As any society matures and changes over time, other changes have been proposed and adopted by amendment or by court precedent.

So, as of today our Constitution “is what it is”; i.e. the sum of all these good faith efforts over the years. If your mind is unable to contemplate genuine real world complexity and accept that it exists, your comments here are mere individual opinion…”static” without significance or substance.

Polite society” is a concept that has also changed rather incredibly over my lifetime. “Polite society” is that which is NOT impolite; the normal, as opposed to the abnormal or abnormally indefinable deviation from the “norm”.” It is civility, as opposed to incivility.

It is the complex and intertwined culture and behavior demonstrated by a representative sample of those who “set priorities and style”. Today, as compared to yesterday, the “standard” is abysmal and still falling.

As each successive generation takes it’s turn at challenging that which is “acceptable behavior” at a given time, those limits inevitably stretch toward what can only be described as complete and utter chaos. One very visible result is the ever-increasing number of children being born to unmarried or single parents.

The conditions under which such children grow up are more typically of low or variable income with little in the way of example in the way of positive and loving male-female commitment and mutual responsibility. The lack of such example over time has a cruel and disproportionate effect on what those children perceive as “normal”. This can put them at a distinct and measurable disadvantage as their lives unfold beyond their earlier “formative” years.

The pride you express in your granddaughter’s antisocial behavior at age eleven is beyond my comprehension. Her mother, whom you presumably raised and whose “values” you established, is most likely going to find this young person’s demands and expectations impossible to meet as her teenage years unfold.

I would estimate the odds at 75% that she will be pregnant before graduating high school (if she ever does) and unmarried at that time. She is obviously “growing up” absent worthwhile values and meaningful limits on behavior.

A female child reaching puberty without having developed the self control and self respect necessary to avoid personal and social disaster along the way to mental and emotional maturity is ill-equipped indeed for such journey. That said, I wish her well, and the best of luck. She’ll need it.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@carnivalchaos,

Your perspective is nothing less than fascinating in it’s ignorance. You obviously don’t understand the difference between an excuse and a reason. Trust me, it’s a big difference that everybody needs to be fully aware of. There is no such thing as a “Trayvon Martin” case. George Zimmerman was the person accused, and therefore the defendant due the presumption of innocence.

In the course of the Zimmerman case” evidence was presented establishing he had wounds consistent with being the victim of a violent physical assault. I’m not going to play Monday Morning Quarterback with the judge and jury that reached a verdict that freed Zimmerman. I also am aware that said verdict did NOT establish Zimmerman’s innocence or “good character”.

It was just announced that Michael Dunn was convicted on 4 of 5 counts of attempted murder. Speculate what or if anything “went wrong” with that verdict since I didn’t hear the evidence. While I have shared his frustration at teeth-vibrating noise from an adjacent vehicle, I’m simply not going to put my one and only life at risk just to explain common courtesy to one or more people that are obviously unfamiliar with the very concept.

I do not believe that appearance has nothing to do with application of Stand Your Ground laws. Appearance has material significance as to “credible threat, as in your example of a “carload of young white girls”. In the end it is not appearance but perception that causes individuals to feel threatened.

What young people of all races must consider is how great is the variation in how individuals perceive their size, dress, location, actions and companions. If you convey the image of “gang”, “gansta”, criminal, desperate drug addict, carjacker, purse snatcher, or whatever you should not be surprised that some will believe your image even if you are an altar boy.

That’s why it’s REALLY STUPID for innocent blacks and hispanics to dress like their genuinely dangerous “brothers” or “talk the talk” if they are not prepared to “walk the walk”. Such choices may have unintended consequences.

Americans have great freedom in their dress, but they cannot choose to wear NO clothes, or overly suggestive clothes at school which would be detrimental to the learning process for which they exist. They may listen to any music they like, even to the point of destroying their own hearing.

They may NOT assault the ears of others in public with sound of levels as can damage hearing. They may NOT intimidate others by inflicting their culture’s “taste” on another culture in a manner provocative, such as boom box Hip-Hop full volume in the audience of a symphony concert.

When they intentionally provoke confrontation by excessive challenge to majority culture and opinion they lose control at some point of what reaction will occur. The very choice to provoke has consequences utterly unpredictable, which make such decisions unwise from the start. Unfortunately our society has yet to figure out how to fix STUPID.

The society you profess to prefer is one in which a minority can intentionally provoke and intimidate without effective restraint anyone and everyone, whose only recourse is then to lower their eyes and walk away? I doubt you’re going to sell that idea to a majority of average, voting Americans. This “flawed law” exists because society refuses to all uncivil thugs to determine the cultural “norm” of acceptable behavior.

Most Americans will, if pressed, defend their personal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without threat from or intimidation by the uncivil who would otherwise dominate life away from home by any and all means necessary. Several hundred years ago there was “civilization” in the settled eastern states, and out in the “wild west” it was “anything goes” until towns became populated in the majority by families. About that time, it was vigilantes that brought order of a sort until effective law could govern antisocial behavior.

As I have pointed out, violence to incorrigibles and killing, if necessary, is unavoidable in some situations if “peace” is to be maintained FOR THE CIVIL of society. The simple fact that this situation is not all that different from that of the old west may indicate American evolution has reached it’s zenith and is now on it’s way back to pond scum and it is FOR THE CIVIL to decide who will prevail between these two utterly incompatible visions for the future.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

OneOfTheSheep: Flash1022 is right: you DON’T get it. You fail to address, well, most of my points, but in particular, why the stand your ground law in the Martin/Zimmerman case only pertained to Zimmerman and not Martin. And let’s not pretend that the way a jury rules is the same as the truth. Judges and juries are often wrong. Do you also believe that O.J. Simpson was innocent? After all, that’s how the jury ruled.

Yes, Zimmerman had cuts on his head. There was a fight. Martin had the right to bash Zimmerman head into the concrete until Zimmerman was dead, according to Florida’s stand your ground law. After all, he was being followed in the dark by a stranger, an adult male who was carrying a gun. There’s a good chance Martin saw Zimmerman’s gun, though he wasn’t around to testify to that. Regardless, since his life was on the line he would have been wise to assume that Zimmerman had a gun. Had Zimmerman respected Martin’s right to walk home without being followed and confronted; had Zimmerman shown intelligent restraint, common to polite society; had Zimmerman followed the directive of the police and not pursued Martin, Martin would be alive today and Zimmerman would have avoided a violent confrontation and a trial.

We know Zimmerman lied and wanted the jury to believe that his actions weren’t the result of a premeditate consideration of the stand your ground law because he claimed not to be aware of it, but a witness testified that they went over it in class in careful detail and that Zimmerman learned the material well enough to make an A in the class. So we really can’t take Zimmerman’s word on what happened that night. He knew he could get away with murder when he pulled that trigger. He was recorded expressing his frustration that “These a**holes always get away.” And he said, “Sh*t, he’s running,” and that he was in pursuit of Martin, at which time the cop said not to. He did anyway. So at what point is Martin allowed to defend himself against this threat to his life? It was Zimmerman’s actions that cause the confrontation, not Martin’s.

You write, “In the end it is not appearance but perception that causes individuals to feel threatened.” You should know that a large part of perception is appearance. But I think you’ve come around to agree with me that appearance, and the perception it lends itself to, does play a significant role in application of stand your ground, and, as I’d previously pointed out, reveals a fatal flaw within the law. There are a lot of not particularly perceptive people running around with guns
who are quick to jump to conclusions about feeling threatened and, thanks to stand your ground, will rely on their guns to eliminate the perceived threat. In most cases these are people are not trained to recognize a genuine threat, and more often than not, untrained in the use of a firearm. The law unnecessarily creates an incentive for disaster. It invites confrontation when walking away is a better response. And once the perceived threat is eliminated, then the person who did the killing has a lot of leeway in the account he gives the police, especially if there are no eye witnesses. In short, the law does a lot more harm than good. People can already defend themselves. Stand your ground just encourages a madcap response when cool restraint is needed.

And something you might want to bear in mind if you’re at all hoping to consider yourself among the “polite society” you seem to covet. Just because a person disagrees with you doesn’t make them ignorant. I’m not ignorant. We simply have a difference of opinion, one which I carefully and clearly presented to you, and one you were unable to refute.

Posted by carnivalchaos | Report as abusive

@oneofthe sheep

First of all, you make a comment that sounds something like: innocent blacks and hispanics should not dress the same as their guilty conterparts.

What kind of sense does that make?

As if white teenagers don’t dress like Miley Cyrus or Justin Beiber – who by the way, are SUCH great role models. Or even Selena Gomez- she’s in rehab, you know.

As if the only “thugs” in the world wear hoodies and fitted caps. Have you ever heard of a motor cycle gang? Their apparel of choice involves leather jackets and chains. Would you call them “thugs”? Or does “thug” only apply to a certain group of people? I would say those white men that generally make up the 1% motor cycle clubs are pretty “thugish”.

As if your perception of what is acceptable dress has any real meaning in the grand scheme of scoiety. I’m sure that neither yourself or any of your friends at the ripe age of 17 ever wore anything that would have been considered garb of the threating in your culture of the time. Did you listen to rock and roll music as a teen? Thug.

In case you were ever interested in some perspective – a large part of the black culture comes from the need for identification. All humans have it – that’s psychology. A black person can not identify with white culture – whether in dress, mannerisms, behavior, etc., – because they are mocked by both cultures. Our media has forced stereotypes of racial identification that the average American citizen conforms to, whether they like it or not.

Personally, I know a lot of people that tend to choose flannels, carheart jackets, and work boots that have caused more trouble than anyone I’ve met wearing a hoodie.

Also, I grew up in a town wheer there were no minority groups represented except for one man of half-asian decent who owned a restaurant in town. We had a stinrg of robberies and a murder that were eventually decided to be all perscription-pill related: the culprits were not black. They were white meth head farmers. We stopped being able to leave our houses and cars unlocked because of white men – who I guess you would NOT consider thugs interestingly enough.

Not everyone conforms to your life experiences and ideologies. “Polite society” understands that.

“Polite society” does not go around justifying judgement that leads to violence based solely on the clothes that someone wears or the type of music that they listen to.

Posted by boredatwork | Report as abusive

@oneofthesheep

And your condescending use of the word “woman” is incredibly off-putting. That’s how most woman-beaters talk to their wives. Your language makes you sound like a thug – that is my perception.

What rights do I have to defend myself from that?

Posted by boredatwork | Report as abusive

@OOTS, there is something very wrong with you.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

@carnivalchaos,

Oh yes, I “get” that you and I have differences of opinion. I will consistently “agree to disagree” with HONEST differences of opinion presented for consideration.

The position you would put forth and defend here is simply not credible. It’s not rare, just fundamentally dishonest and illegitimate; utterly unworthy of respect.

Your incessant attempts to justify the thug behavior of Trayvon Martin (and all like him) are pathetic. It is that very “pants on the ground hat turned around” mentality that today pervasively denies young blacks the benefits of public education and their rightful futures as a productive Americans.

You say that Stand Your Ground laws “…create an incentive for disaster”. Nope. Those who clothe themselves so as to make identification difficult concurrently assume the appearance of the wolf even if they are sheep. Sheep in wolf’s clothing assume the risk of the wolf whether they know it or not.

Thug “dead-enders” today make those with potential and genuine ability jump to THEIR tune, denying them the better future their grandparents (and generations before) were also wrongfully denied by white society. Oppressors come in all colors.

Every time youngsters unwisely choose to look like or act like a thug they place their very lives at considerable risk. That whole idea is so fundamentally indefensible that I must refuse to participate.

The black and hispanic communities are as ineffective as the muslim community in controlling violent minorities who act contrary to the best interests of a good life for the majority. The same thing happened in Germany where the “toughs” were the SA thugs of Hitler who, over time, intimidated their entire society such that Hitler became Chancelor. Those who read and understand history know how that turned out.

You say that Stand Your Ground “…invites confrontation when walking away is a better response.”. I disagree. I am not willing to accept the idea that American society benefits by granting undisciplined thugs the right to act deliberately provocative without risk in public.

It is THEIR behavior which is aberrant to the extreme. Effectively yielding the streets to them and their ilk will NOT result in a better, more sustainable society. That said, it doesn’t give me the right to go out and hunt them down and kill them. So long as they keep their challenges in THEIR neighborhoods I leave the policing to the police.

On the other hand, if they be so bold as to seek me out on my property, in my home, or in my car they will not be dealing with a meek and willing victim. You have made it clear who and what you are. I have done the same. End of discussion.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

What has become of our society when “walking behind” someone becomes a “threat”. If part of our society is so traumatized that one can not walk behind them without causing an extreme threat trigger, then it means the authorities are negligent in not posting signs on sidewalks sdviseing pedestrians to keep a 20 yard seperation between people using the walkways. That scenario sounds as ridiculous as it is to me as it should sound to 99% of the population, but to the gang member it makes perfect sense. We will not live the life of a gang member and we will protect ourselves according to law. The ones that will have to adjust are the gang people.

Posted by gregio | Report as abusive

gregio: I’m assuming you’re referring to the Martin/Zimmerman incident. Let’s not paint a false picture. Just walking behind someone doesn’t ordinarily pose a threat. But that hardly describes what happened on the night Trayvon Martin was killed. He was walking home from the store and was followed in a car. Then the car pulled over and after sitting in the car for a minute, an adult male (Zimmerman) gets out and starts following the 17 year old on foot. The 17 year old was obviously in fear for his life because, according to Zimmerman, Martin started running. It was nighttime and a teenager was being pursued by an adult who, at some point, could be seen carrying a gun. But even if Zimmerman didn’t expose his gun to Martin, it would have been wise for Martin to assume his pursuer was carrying a gun. So, yes, there was plenty of reason why Martin would feel threatened by Zimmerman. Who wouldn’t? I sure would.

The question YOU should be asking is, what has become of our society when walking home from the store with a drink and some candy is seen as a threat to the point where it gets you killed? Had Zimmerman practiced restraint, like the police directed him to, there would never have been a confrontation. It would have been the appropriate response. Even if Zimmerman believed that Martin looked suspicious, the appropriate response would be to call the police and repress any urge he might have had to pursue Martin. Zimmerman failed to do this, and that failure made all the difference. It got an innocent young man killed and Zimmerman wasn’t punished for it.

This is why stand your ground laws do more harm than good. It encourages people to act irresponsibly, to shoot first and ask questions later. In our society, “polite society,” as one poster calls it, only people trained to use a firearm to maintain order in a community should be allowed to. Stand your ground overrides this rational practice. It is guaranteed to lead to unnecessary problems, and even death, as we’re seeing and as this excellent op-ed has proven. It is just too difficult to act responsibily when you’re carrying a loaded weapon and you feel your life is being threatened, but you haven’t had the proper training in how to deal with it.

Posted by carnivalchaos | Report as abusive

Good article but since these cases are so racially charged I am looking at how the stand your ground law has been applied according to race; victims and perpetrators.
Anyone knows where to find that info?

Posted by Northlight | Report as abusive

OneOfTheSheep: “The position you would put forth and defend here is simply not credible…fundamentally dishonest and illegitimate; utterly unworthy of respect.”

If you really want to refute a point someone makes, you should spend your time doing that with facts rather than fatuous insults. That contributes nothing to the discussion and says more about your shortcomings than anything else. Obviously you fall short of the “polite society” you seem to be lamenting the passing of. Your polite society seems to be more about appearances than substance anyway.

I’ve made my main point unambiguously. It is not dishonest nor illegitimate. If it was, you would be able to take it apart. Instead, you lob sophomoric insults, which is much easier. I want to know why you think stand your ground only applied to Zimmerman and not Martin. Martin, a teenager, was being pursued by an adult male wielding a loaded gun at night, first by car and then on foot. Most people would feel that their lives were in jeopardy under those circumstances. Not until Martin decides to exercise the right that stand your ground affords him does Zimmerman claim that HE felt his life was in jeopardy, but whose fault was that? Think about it: anytime one person thinks their life is being threatened by another, the moment he acts in accordance with the stand your ground law, then the other person involved WILL feel that HIS life is in jeopardy. That’s the nature of stand your ground. So the question should always be, did the first person to employ stand your ground have sufficient reason to feel that his or her life was being threatened. In Martin’s case there’s no doubt that he had ample reason to believe his life was in jeopardy.

Had Zimmerman shown restraint and not pursued Martin, the kind of restraint necessary for a peaceful, healthy society; the kind of restraint that the police told Zimmerman to exercise; the kind of restraint that Zimmerman seemed incapable of practicing to the point where the police wouldn’t accept him as a law enforcement officer, then Martin would be alive today. But I suspect that that’s the point. You’re glad Martin is dead. You’ve written him off as a thug, unacceptable to society, but what you base that on is superficial. He was a 17 year old kid trying to find his way in a difficult world. He had the right to try, but Zimmerman robbed him of that. Now Zimmerman’s own wife, now ex-wife, claims he threatened her and her father, just like he previously did to a police officer. He lied to the prosecutor about his knowledge of the stand your ground law, and he lied to the judge about the amount of money he had. There’s more to conclude that Zimmerman was a thug than Martin, but I wouldn’t classified Zimmerman as a thug. To me he’s just a screwed up, confused, and insecure man who seems to be angry at the world. Unfortunately, he got away with taking that anger out on a 17 year old boy, and it was clear that he was angry and not willing to let “this one” get away.

Perhaps you’re defending Zimmerman because you relate to his anger and confusion. How a young person wears their pants or their hat has little to do with who he is on the inside. When I was his age I had long hair and wore bell bottoms. Folks your age made the same kind of bigoted, superficial comments, and I turned out just fine.

You display a trait that I see far too much in many American conservatives. You think the world should fit your insular notion of how people aught to be and can’t seem to accept it when people, most people, don’t fit your narrow view. This is why stand your ground laws are so dangerous. It makes it too easy for folks like yourself to lose their cool and kill. Then all they have to do is claim that they felt threatened. The problem is, they always feel threatened by those different than themselves. They want to force them to change, apparently by any means necessary.

Consider this statement of your: “Every time youngsters unwisely choose to look like or act like a thug they place their very lives at considerable risk. That whole idea is so fundamentally indefensible that I must refuse to participate.”

I’ll disregard that last sentence because it doesn’t make much sense. But you’re trying to dictate to people how they should look. Sorry, but that doesn’t work here in the US. Trayvon and any other American has the right to look and act the way they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, and they should be able to do so without having to worry about some nut with a gun taking his anger out on the world around him. It’s called freedom. For you to suggest that Trayvon deserved his fate because of the way he looked is unAmerican, and frankly despicable. There’s no indication that Trayvon Martin was doing anything different from what you’d be doing if you were walking home from the store. This is why I brought John Lennon up. You would have been okay with Zimmerman shooting John Lennon based on the fact that he was a teenager trying to be cool, wearing his hair long, a leather jacket, smoking cigarettes and whistling at the chicks walking by. It’s called being a teenager. Lennon my very well have responded the same way Martin did if he felt that Zimmerman posed a genuine threat to his life. And once you decide to stand your ground to some crazy guy following you in the dark witha gun, you’d better be ready to take him out. A punch in the arm would only get you killed. And that’s what Martin tried to do. He tried to take Zimmerman out before Zimmerman killed him. Stand your ground gave him that right.

The point is, you shouldn’t go around judging people by the way they look. Judge them by their actions. Everything we know about that night suggests that Martin was minding his own business, walking home from the store talking on the phone, a very typical picture for a young person today. Everything was cool until he was chased down by a gun toting George Zimmerman. Not only should Martin have felt threatened by Zimmerman, Martin WAS being threatened by Zimmerman. When a man chases you down at night with a gun and all you’re doing is walking along talking to a friend on the phone, then you’d better conclude that your life is at serious risk.

Consider how unreasonable this statement of yours is: “I am not willing to accept the idea that American society benefits by granting undisciplined thugs the right to act deliberately provocative without risk in public.”

You’re suggesting a spurious choice, we either should have the right to shoot someone when someone is acting out or allow people to act “deliberately provocative” without any consequences. If they’re breaking the law then call a cop and have the person breaking the law arrested. That’s what cops are for. But we don’t need Joe Public running around with loaded weapons trying to enforce his idea of how people should act. It’s usually better to walk away than to engage in an act of violence just because you don’t like what someone is doing or how they look. That’s just reality. The world will never be exactly the way you want it to be. I bet Michael Dunn is wishing HE had just walked away. Now he’s forfeited his freedom. I bet that guy who shot a man in the movie theater for texting wishes HE just walked away, or just ignored the texting.

Humans often do not act rational. If everyone is allowed to run around in public with a loaded gun and they are informed that if they ever feel threatened they can shoot the person they feel threatened by, then a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt. We should be passing laws that minimize that, not laws that exacerbate it. Mark Hoekstra has given us the proof of that in this op-ed. But you shouldn’t take that to mean that anything goes and lawlessness should rule the day. There are better ways of dealing with people who break the law than to give citizens, who lack the proper training, loaded guns to carry with them so that they can try to keep others in line as they see fit. If you can’t understand that rather simple concept, then you certainly are not justified in calling ME ignorant.

Posted by carnivalchaos | Report as abusive

To One Of The Sheep. . .

Did you, personally, know Trayvon Martin? Had you spent hours counseling him, listening to his hopes, his dreams, his fears? If the answer is “no”, then you have no right to call him a thug, a hoodlum, a gangsta, or any of the other pejoratives you have used to attempt to turn him into the ‘bad guy’ instead of the victim that he, unfortunately, became.

Did you personally know Michael Dunn, have you spent hours counseling him, drinking with him, socializing with him and his family? Do you know first-hand what his hopes, dreams and fears are? If this answer is also “no”, then you have no basis for your support of his actions, no support for your supposition of what his motives were or are.

Every single one of your arguments, then, come down to your projection of what you believe over the actual complex reality of two different complex people. Michael Dunn is as likely to have shot YOU over an argument about which beer is better grown violent, and Trayvon Martin could just as easily have given his life attempting to keep Michael from putting the second bullet into you.

You cannot argue against either of the possibilities I have just put forward with any basis of knowledge. You can only argue against what I have suggested as a possible alternate scenario through your clearly-displayed paranoia and ingrained bigotry.

I am tempted to ask if you watch Fox News, and avidly listen to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, nodding in time to the ranting and hate-mongering, but I believe I know the answer. And so, I expect, does everyone who has partaken in this discussion with you, OOTS.

Stop being one of the sheep, OOTS. Stop being PROUD of being herded, along with the rest of the flock, toward that shiny-fenced enclosure right outside of the slaughter house. Take your mind back from the Becks and Hannitys of this world, the people who glory in being able to lie gleefully to you, and who exult in your belief of their lies, their hatred.

I am an old, white male, and am not using a screen name other than my own. Feel free to look me up, come on over, we’ll talk. I’ll show you how to free your mind from the hate-mongers and rabble rousers, if you have any interest at all in being your own person, instead of a parrot for Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch.

It’s not even hard, OOTS. The most difficult thing you’ll have to face is embarrassment when you read some of the things you wrote again, and choosing a more appropriate screen name.

You might even choose to be proud of your own name. . .

Henry D. Rinehart

Posted by HenryDRinehart | Report as abusive

SYG is not about self-defense. It is about gun owners not having to act like civilized people. I got a gun, mine is bigger than yours, I won’t act like a girl and retreat.

Posted by Gaius_Baltar | Report as abusive

@Gaius_Baltar
I’m a gun owner and I don’t feel even remotely like you seem to think all of us gun owners do. Perhaps your statement tells us more about your thought processes than about ours.

Posted by JRTerrance | Report as abusive

@Gaius_Baltar,

Yes, SYG goes beyond self defense. It is society’s way of deciding that thugs do NOT “own the streets” wherever and whenever a cop isn’t in sight. It allows “we, the people” to say “NO!” to self-indulgent people that have never heard the word from birth in a way they had better understand.

None of the “civil population” sheds a tear when gangs have their shoot-outs and kill one another, unless one of the bullets kills an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time. We do sympathize with those who are hard working, upstanding citizens that dare not speak out against the toughs that reign supreme most of the time in minority communities. No one deserves to have to live that way.

If you ask any policeman they will tell you the average time it takes from the time they get a call (or 911 does) and they are at your door. If someone is kicking down your door, they will be in, you could be dead and your stuff gone; likely never to be recovered.

The choices of the average American aware of those facts are few. They can buy a gun, learn how to keep and use it, and assume primary responsibility for their protection and that of their family. They can look in the mirror and admit they are a “victim in waiting, as is their family, totally at the mercy of those who have little, if any. They can do nothing (see sentence preceding). Choose wisely.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

“…perhaps criminals respond to these laws by committing fewer burglaries, given that victims are now more empowered to use lethal force to resist…. Unfortunately, there isn’t much evidence in the data of this type of deterrence.”
****
Give it time… as noted, there has been little evidence, but America has just started to be able to legally respond in like kind to the open threatening of hoodlums, burglars, assualts, and home invasions. It will take a little time before the perpetrators learn that they may meet potentially deadly force opposition to their unacceptable actions.
When under attack, the intended victim should be able to respond with any defense at hand.

Posted by Mikon | Report as abusive

Well, Dunn is going to prison where he belongs. He’s an idiot, just like the theater shooter in Florida who killed a guy for texting during previews.

Now Dunn can explain it all to the other inmates. In the showers.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

@HenryDRinehart,

I guess I should be proud that my recent words, after years of posting on Reuters, have drawn YOU from under your rock to spew personal revulsion at me for a whole TWO comments on successive days. Because you are unknown, your comments pop up out of proper sequence and only now do I see and read them. Fine.

Let’s presume you’ve heard of free speech guarantees in the American Constitution? That means I can state a personal opinion in a public forum regardless of whether you like my nom de plume or not, regardless of where I live or the cross section of “my” community, whether or not I “know” Trayvon Martin (in the nromal or biblical sense) or Michael Dunn.

You seem unaware that, while I agree with the latter that there “outa be a law” against adjacent vehicle-rattling noise from another vehicle, an excellent example of “in yo’ face” public harassment that is all too commonplace, I understand that there isn’t. Accordingly, I think his convictions thus far are appropriate; and that the one on which the jury deadlocked a “reach too far”. Perhaps the next trial (if there one, what’s the point?) will be a lesser charge of murder for which he can be convicted. I have no “dog in that fight”.

As an American citizen who sees on the evening news daily the demographics of the “uncivil” in our society, I remember a time fifty years plus ago when I did not have to be VERY AWARE of who is around me when refueling my car in an unfamiliar area, or entering a convenience store, or even getting out of my car to enter a restaurant or a store. When prudence dictates ordinary Americans of ALL races have to verify the absence of a threat before proceeding with “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, something very precious has been taken without discussion, debate or consent.

Those younger than my 73 years may have no such “frame of reference”. I feel it important to shine a light on such loss so as they may at least be aware of a kinder, simpler time.

Do I have to know and counsel at length every criminal my society catches, convicts and incarcerates to recognize a pattern that warrants greater attention and discouragement? I think not. If your ambition in life is to become a social worker, have at it.

If I see someone in a convenience store with a gun, knife or other weapon that obviously isn’t the proprietor or his employee, I don’t HAVE to know what he will do. As an ordinary citizen interested in protecting my society, I will slip out, if possible, and call 911.

My reaction will not be based on race, but on observation; and it is the reaction of someone willing to “become involved” rather than avert my eyes and yield the streets to sociopaths. What would you do?

But my purpose here is to make people think, not make myself a target for those who might choose to violently object to them “with extreme prejudice”. So, while I’m quite proud of my name, I don’t share it with those I don’t trust.

My home is in the country, more than a few miles from the nearest police station. Accordingly, the only defense of my home, wife, pets, etc. from predators, whether four legged or two legged, is me. All my guns are kept loaded and accessible. In the military I shot “Expert”. At present I don’t have a license to “carry”, nor feel the need to; but that could change.

When people who think as you do can do no better than call me names, I really get the giggles.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

There seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding of the math being used here.

There is one person citing homicide rates but that is not what the authors are using. The homicide rate in one quoter is the number of deaths per 100,000 people which is not the way the authors are referencing. They are referencing the total number of homicides as being pointed out by the second citer of statistical information found here:

http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/flcr ime.htm

If you take the 5 years proceeding the enactment of the law and total the number of homicides average them out to about 911.6 deaths per year up to 2005 when SYG was enacted and then the total number of homicides the 5 years after you see a jump to an average of 1100.6 deaths per year. The homicide rate as a percentage versus the proceeding 5 years has increased by a large number. Very large.

If you look at the states homicide total number, Florida homicides were falling till 2005 when SYG was passed. Afterwards, you had a very big jump in homicides. Well over 600 additional deaths that their study is attributing to no other factors other than the one thing that changed, the passage of the SYG law.

Posted by khazhadar | Report as abusive