We are going ahead with our coverage of Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws. This primer may help us prepare ourselves to understand the hearing and support our broader discussion about defensive gun use, which began yesterday with Defensive Gun Use: The CDC Report on Gun Violence by Hugh Jim Bissell. His next article in this series will focus on defining what actions are permitted as lawful self defense with a firearm. Defensive Gun Use - You Decide, will publish tomorrow. To add Hugh Jim Bissell's original diaries to your stream, click on the ♥ or the word "Follow" next to HJB's name.
Stand Your Ground laws have one defining feature; they lower the burden of proof a shooter must show when they invoke their right to self defense as justification for homicide. Most self defense laws require a potential shooter to retreat if it is possible to do so safely. Stand Your Ground laws remove the duty to retreat. In some states it is sufficient for the shooter to state that they were in fear for their life or imminent bodily harm. If the shooting victim is dead and there are no other witnesses, a Stand Your Ground law may prevent police from doing anything more than a cursory investigation. In that case estimation of reasonable fear rests largely on the shooter's judgment, which obviously can be used to cover the shooter's own aggressive behavior. According to the Law Center for the Prevention of Gun Violence, "In certain circumstances, the [Florida Stand Your Ground] law actually creates a presumption that a shooter had a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when using deadly force."
A Policy Position: [Lilith Gardener's Policy Position]1 Stand Your Ground laws have introduced confusion that undermines legitimate use of a gun for defense of one's self, one's family and one's home. Stand Your Ground laws have created a moral hazard for both gun owners and for professionals in our criminal justice system. Vague and confusing laws are difficult to enforce and should be repealed, amended or replaced. Our country has a long history of using gun laws to further racial discrimination; see 43north's diary for a Cliff Notes version of our sordid history, Fear: the common ground in Gun Control. Differential enforcement of current law is another facet of our larger gun violence problem. If we are going to take political risk to repeal bad laws or pass new laws we need to be cautious about unintended consequences and to remain clear about which problem legal reforms are attempting to address.
...Continue reading Justifiable Homicides Up 200 Percent in Florida Post-Stand Your Ground at Mother Jones
An article at Mother Jones by Tim Murphy on Mon. September 16, 2013 12:36 PM PDT
Justifiable homicides increased by an average of 53-percent since 2005 in the 22 states that have passed stand-your-ground laws—while falling in the rest of the country—according to a new report from the National Urban League* and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a pro-gun-control organization helmed by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. In Florida, where the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman first thrust the laws into the national spotlight last spring, the increase in justifiable homicides was even higher—200 percent.
The report also highlights stark racial disparities...
Change in Annual Justifiable Homicides Pre-and Post- Enactment of Stand Your Ground Law
...Continue reading Shoot First: ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAWS AND THEIR EFFECT ON VIOLENT CRIME AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM from the National Urban League* and Mayors Against Illegal Guns
When I look at the graph above I see three groups of states. From the left through about Minnesota I see 38 states that are within what is probably a normal variation in the annual rate of justifiable homicide. The middle group of 7 states (SC, IN, CO, LA, OK, OH, PA) shows cause for concern that the SYG laws appear to have unintended consequences. Correlation is not necessarily causation though and there are confounding variables that must be investigated. E.g. Is there a difference in the language of the law or in the way the laws are enforced?
The third group of 6 states, on the right, (VA, AZ, KY, GA, TX, FL) are states that clearly show an increase in "justifiable homicide" after passage of Stand Your Ground laws. This group is deeply troubling. Supporters of Stand Your Ground laws are essentially supporting a notion that in those states ordinary citizens are justified in killing people who "deserved to die" without due process under the law. How can it possibly be true that significant numbers of residents in just 13 states, SC, IN, CO, LA, OK, OH, PA, VA, AZ, KY, GA, TX, FL, deserve to die at the hands of someone in their community who volunteers to serve as judge, jury, and executioner? The parallels of these local killings to our national Drone policy suggest that we, as in we Americans, collectively, suffer significant cognitive dissonance at this intersection of the death penalty, the "war on terror," and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self defense.
Additional Background for Stand Your Ground Laws
Uneven application, shocking outcomes
A Tampa Bay Times investigation has found that Florida's "stand your ground" law is being used in ways never imagined — to free gang members involved in shootouts, drug dealers beefing with clients and people who shot their victims in the back.
Who goes free sometimes depend more on where a case is heard than its merits.
Key questions to ask:
1. Did the victim initiate the confrontation?
… Explore the analysis of SYG cases at The Tampa Bay Times: Florida's STAND YOUR GROUND Law..
2. Was the victim armed?
3. Was the victim committing a crime that led to the confrontation?
4. Did the defendant pursue the victim?
5. Could the defendant have retreated to avoid the conflict?
6. Was the defendant on his or her property?
7. Did someone witness the attack?
8. Was there physical evidence?
|A Tampa Bay Times Case Study
A shooter's lament: He's free but not proud of it
by Susan Taylor Martin, (June 1, 2012)
The fight started over a barbecue grill. It ended on Christmas Eve with a man dead.
More than two years after the incident in which he killed Jose "Tito" Ramirez, Owen Eugene Whitlock is still trying to sort his own feelings out. "I really kind of liked the guy," he said.
Whitlock, 62 at the time of the incident, had lots of reasons to dislike Ramirez, 30. The younger man had spent time in prison for cocaine trafficking. He had been dating Whitlock's 25-year-old daughter for about a year. The unmarried couple were expecting a baby.
But Whitlock, an insurance adjuster who lives north of Orlando, said he was friendly with Ramirez and even found an occasional job for him. The night before the confrontation in 2009, the two had talked about where they'd have Christmas dinner. "We'd had a great conversation," Whitlock recalled.
...Continue reading A shooter's lament: He's free but not proud of it.
|A Tampa Bay Times Case Study
Sometimes, the 'stand your ground' defense cuts both ways
by Kris Hundley, Times Staff Writer (June 1, 2012)
Both men were arrested and spent weeks in jail. Both eventually walked free, spared in part by the prospect of a "stand your ground'' defense that would have made prosecution difficult.
"It's certainly unusual to have two individual neighbors shooting and both being shot and testimony coming out favorable to each for self-defense,'' said Kendall Davidson, an assistant Pinellas-Pasco state attorney. "We took a long time to investigate because it was a strange facts scenario.''
...Continue reading Sometimes, the 'stand your ground' defense cuts both ways.
Shoot First Laws Policy Summary (Posted on July 14, 2013)
Florida’s “Shoot First” Law
Under traditional principles, when a person is confronted with a possible threat to his or her safety in a public place, the person must retreat as much as is practicable before using deadly force in self-defense. Florida’s “Shoot First” law radically departs from these principles, providing that a person who reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm has no duty to retreat from a confrontation outside the home before engaging in deadly force.
In reality, Florida’s law shields individuals who use deadly force to injure or kill, by granting civil and criminal immunity to any shooter who convinces a judge that he or she reasonably believed a threat existed by a preponderance of the evidence. Florida’s law even prohibits law enforcement agencies from arresting a person who used deadly force in self-defense unless the agency determines that probable cause exists that the force used was unlawful. In certain circumstances, the law actually creates a presumption that a shooter had a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when using deadly force.
...Continue reading Shoot First Laws Policy Summary [my bold and minor formatting for readability]
The Daily Kos Firearms Law and Policy group studies actions for reducing firearm deaths and injuries in a manner that is consistent with the current Supreme Court interpretation of the Second Amendment. We also cover the many positive aspects of gun ownership, including hunting, shooting sports, and self-defense.
To see our list of original and republished diaries, go to the Firearms Law and Policy diary list. Click on the ♥ or the word "Follow" next to our group name to add our posts to your stream, and use the link next to the heart to send a message to the group if you have a question or would like to join.
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1Membership in the Firearms Law and Policy Group is not dependent upon personal opinions about any specific gun laws and does not imply agreement with LilithGardener about Stand Your Ground laws. Our guiding standard is the constitutional right to keep and bear arms as set forth in Heller and McDonald. Members of the group hold a range of opinions about the current Supreme Court interpretation of the Second Amendment.
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