Is Stand Your Ground a justifiable law? (Point)

Politicians and ordinary citizens alike have weighed in on the recent death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But rhetoric aside, the fact remains that an American teenager was murdered last month — and faulty arms legislature is letting his killer go free.

Christina Ellis | Daily Trojan

George Zimmerman evaded arrest because of a law passed by the Florida legislature in 2005. The Stand Your Ground law stipulates that a person attacked in any place “has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so.”

Though there is nothing inherently wrong with expanding the right to self-defense, this law introduces a dangerous technicality into the investigation of those who commit gun crimes.

How do you contest someone’s “reasonable belief” that his life was in danger? How do you evaluate a shooting based on the mental state of the person involved?

Ambiguities inevitably arise in the American justice system, but it is the responsibility of lawmakers to reduce their occurrence as much as possible.

Martin’s death represents a call to legislators at the state and federal level to re-examine our laws involving self-defense and gun control.

In a press conference last week, President Barack Obama stated, “It is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together — federal, state and local.” He called specifically not only for an examination of the incident but an examination of the relevant laws as well.

Compared with much of the world, the United States has a fairly liberal gun policy. Many commentators justify these policies on the grounds of the Second Amendment, which grants all citizens the right to bear arms.

But at what point does this right infringe upon the even more fundamental right to life?

A study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993 shows that gun ownership acts as a risk factor for homicide in the home.

Countless news stories from the past several decades remind us of its more specific dangers: school shootings, fatal accidents involving young children and family member suicides.

And with many states allowing gun owners to carry their guns on their persons, a distinct class of trigger-happy vigilantes has emerged.

These laws lead to scenarios such as the Martin shooting, in which a gunshot somehow becomes the appropriate response to a minor altercation.

People have the right to defend themselves — but this right has a flip side.

One should be allowed to purchase a gun for protection, but strict and specific legislation is necessary to protect the unarmed among us.


Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies. 

Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays. 


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4 replies
  1. kafantaris
    kafantaris says:

    To understand the Trayvon Martin vs. George Zimmerman case, you need to listen to the recorded phone call made by the neighbor to 911.
    The fatal shot is heard during this call.
    Merely listen to it.
    Then draw your own conclusions.
    No need for experts. No need for pundits. No need even for an open mind.
    Just listen to the haunting call.
    A transcript won’t do. It must be heard.
    Here it is:

  2. Katherine Harms
    Katherine Harms says:

    Francesca, if you are upset that law enforcement officials ruled that George Zimmerman complied with Florida law the night Trayvon Martin died, your beef is with the “legislation” (not the “legislature.” You should doublecheck your text before you post.) If Zimmerman is free due to the fact that he complied with the law, then he has not “evaded” arrest. You may mean that you think he “avoided” arrest, but that is not what you said.
    Francesca, I applaud your statement that you support a right to life. I do, too. Life is precious. Every life is precious. Do you value the lives of unborn babies as much as you value Trayvon’s life? They are no different, by the way. If you want the Florida Stand Your Ground law done away with, will you also be advocating for an end to legalized abortion on demand? Unborn babies are human beings, too.
    All the “rhetoric” you want to put aside seems to be about a label called “race.” People are spouting rhetoric that this is a “racial” crime and that Zimmerman is guilty of “racism.” If we really value life and consider every human life of equal value, then should we not decree an end to the use of the words, “race,” “racism,” and “racist?” I value every human being, and when people ask my race, I answer “human.” How do you answer that question?

  3. Left Coast Conservative
    Left Coast Conservative says:

    Much of this article conflates the right to keep and bear arms with an imagined right to shoot people. This is not the case. Even though there is a right to keep (meaning “to own”) and bear (meaning “to carry”) firearms, all usage of firearms is subject to police investigation, and rightly so.

    The author is attempting to indict the legitimacy of the 2nd Amendment by equating the effects of illegal activities with a newly emergent civil right.

  4. Bill
    Bill says:

    “How do you contest someone’s “reasonable belief” that his life was in danger? How do you evaluate a shooting based on the mental state of the person involved?”

    That is for a judge & jury to determine…. The law was designed so that if I have a legal right to be in a place and I am being attacked I have the right to defend myself and if by defending myself I have to shoot the other person in order for the attack to stop, so be it.

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