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July 2013 Archives

The bloody idiocy of stand-your-ground laws

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Whatever one might think about the jury's verdict in the case of Trayvon Martin, in which George Zimmermann was acquitted of murder and manslaughter, the stupidity of "stand-your-ground" laws is ever more self-evident.

As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday, such laws arguably contribute to "more violence than they prevent."

Stand-your-ground laws, which have spread to as many as 25 states, essentially erase the common sense behind a practice enshrined in common law for centuries -- when in the face of imminent danger, retreat before resorting to deadly violence.

Under stand-your-ground laws, to quote from the Florida statute, people in public areas have the right to "stand their ground" and "meet force with force, including deadly force."

That sounds terrific, we know. Very John Wayne. As Tom Petty sings, "No, I won't back down."

But such laws in practice, as Holder said, "Try to fix something that was never broken" and "sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods."

There is no dishonor -- and we'd like to think John Wayne would have agreed -- in using the better part of caution -- retreat when possible -- before pulling the trigger and leaving somebody dead.

Florida's stand-your-ground law was invoked again last November when a 45-year-old white man, Michael Dunn, pulled alongside an SUV at a gas station in Jacksonville and asked the four black teens in the van to turn their music down. After an exchange of words, Dunn fired 8 or 9 shots at the SUV, killing 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis.

Dunn's defense? He felt threatened and stood his ground.

Though the four teens were not armed. Though they never got out of the SUV. Though Dunne could have driven off.

Stand-your-ground laws make sense in a Road Warrior movie, not a civilized society.

And now Dunn sits in jail, charged with first-degree murder.

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