Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Attacking Stand your ground laws in the wake of the Zimmerman case

President Obama's comments about the GZ trial

In the wake of the George Zimmerman trial, many politicians are seeking to exploit the situation by bring up two issues; race, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the trial, and Stand your Ground laws, which were not invoked in George Zimmerman's defense.

In case you haven't heard about this case, basically what happened was, one night in Sanford Florida in Febuary, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, spotted Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old walking down the street and thought he looked suspicious; he followed him and the two ended up in some sort of altercation which resulted in Trayvon Martin getting himself on top of the Zimmerman and punching his face repeatedly and slamming his head into the concrete; Zimmerman responded by using the Kel-Tec pistol he was legally carrying to shoot Martin. Zimmerman's defense rested on the justified use of force in self defense, the threshold for proving this is simply that the person who is claiming self-defense is in fear of great bodily harm or death. According to the jury (and therefore the justice system) Zimmerman had good reason to fear great bodily harm or death.

Zimmerman after being beaten by Martin


Personally, it seems to me that justice has been satisfied; is George Zimmerman smart? No. Was he necessarily correct in chasing after Martin? Probably not. Does that justify beating him to death on the street? No. He did what he had to do to survive, poor choices notwithstanding. My beef comes from the way that politicians are handling the situation and the way certain "protesters" are acting.

Certain politicians and pundits have decided that this case gives them a good reason to "speak up." They insist that this is a racial, even a civil rights issue. They say Trayvon was singled out for being black. However, this does not seem to reflect the facts of the case: when GZ first spotted Martin, Martin was wearing a hoodie over his head, and GZ spotted him from behind in the dark; there is no reason to assume his race was immediately evident to Zimmerman. These are the facts as stated in the case. However, some greedy-for-attention pundits and politicians have attempted to turn this into a racial issue. They act as though Martin was targeted for his skin color; this does happen, racial discrimination is real, but it does not appear to have played a part in this case. So why being it up? Attention; pure and simple, certain figures would like to bring any attention to themselves and their cause; the truth is they are grasping at straws in this case, if they would stop focusing on dumb issues like this and focus on real racial discrimination maybe we could better move forward as a nation.

What annoys me even more than the race-baiting, flippant claims of civil rights violations however, is the seemingly random attack on "Stand your Ground laws." A Stand your ground law basically means that a person defending themselves doesn't have to try and run away if attacked in a place they have the right to be. In the GZ case, both Zimmerman and Martin were on a public street. However, while the defense probably could have invoked Stand your ground laws, they did not. Stand your ground laws had little bearing on the case except for the common sense behind them; the opposite of "Stand your ground" laws are "duty to retreat" laws, which mean that you must try and run away from someone attacking you before retaliating. These laws have their root in English common law and came into common usage in English shire's in the 1500's. Back then, the laws mostly applied to roughneck's knife fighting in the street. Today, the practicality of "Duty to retreat laws" is in doubt. After all, if you are too slow to escape, have you not doomed yourself? "stand your ground laws" are vitally important for self-defense to remain a legitimate defense in court. How on earth are innocent citizens of this country supposed to protect themselves from attack if they first have to physically run away?

Self-defense in an intrinsic human right, call it natural law, call it whatever you want. Human beings have the right to defend themselves against aggressors. Without "Stand your ground" laws, legal recognition for this right is damaged significantly, this would affect every person the same, and it hands the tactical advantage to the aggressor rather than the defender, and it gives criminals an advantage over their victims. This would be, in my opinion, a grave violation of basic human civil rights. We must not revoke "Stand your ground laws."

Think of it this way, if George Zimmerman had attacked Martin first (according to the recent case, Martin attacked first) it would have been Martin who was justified in using force to defend himself. "Stand your ground laws" do not discriminate between white and black; they only even the playing field for the defender.

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