The killing of Trayvon Martin last month temporarily united both political parties, as President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidates lamented the teenager’s death.
The issue has become politicized, however, as the debate over whether Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law was responsible for Martin’s death.
The law itself has been put on the defensive as George Zimmerman managed to avoid prosecution by claiming that he shot Martin in self-defense.
Regardless of whether Zimmerman believed his actions were protected by the Stand Your Ground law, it is imperative that citizens have the right to protect themselves by use of force if they are attacked.
Following a 39-0 vote in the Florida Senate, then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed Stand Your Ground into law in 2005. The law grants citizens the right to use lethal force in self-defense if an attacker threatens them “unlawfully and forcefully.” Unless authorities can prove the person did not act in self-defense, that person is immune to criminal prosecution and civil suit under the law.
The high-profile and tragic nature of the Martin case has prompted the GOP presidential field to not only extend their condolences but to defend the vilified Florida law as compatible with a pro-gun rights agenda.
In an interview with Piers Morgan last week, Newt Gingrich stated that the law should not be applicable to the case. Gingrich opined that Zimmerman’s pursuit of Martin was not about “[standing] your own ground” but about “[chasing] the other person into their ground.”
Though Gingrich is right to assert that we do not know the full details of what happened, Martin’s unjust and untimely death should not be attributed to the law.
Putting aside the important question of whether Zimmerman acted in self-defense, the idea behind Florida’s law should be codified in every state as an affirmation of our constitutional right to bear arms.
Government has shown time and time again that it cannot be relied upon for everything. We must be especially cautious in guarding our lives instead of depending on the government to do it for us. The police are not infallible.
This is not to say that guns should be passed out on street corners. People should meet certain requirements before they can access firearms. But once they are legal gun owners, they should be able to use them to defend their lives.
There is no question that what happened to Martin is utterly horrible, but we cannot allow opportunistic political rhetoric to blame his death on anything other than the actions of a depraved man.
Sarah Cueva is a sophomore majoring in Middle East studies and political science. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.
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