Since the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin at the hands of a neighborhood watchman who was not arrested after claiming self-defense, the Florida Stand Your Ground law has been a subject of controversy.
While the law may serve its purpose by protecting those attacked in their homes or workplaces, it has historically benefited those who meet any sense of threat with deadly force, according to the Tampa Bay Times, and must be repealed or amended.
The Florida statute states that a person who is not doing anything illegal in a place they have the right to be, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if they reasonably believe it will save their life.
According to the Times, former Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed the law into action, said, Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesnt mean chase after somebody whos turned their back.
Yet the law has historically protected many who have done just that. At least a dozen of the 140 cases the Times found that have used Stand Your Ground as a defense have not fit the intentions of the law.
While other states have similar laws, such as Ohios Castle Doctrine, limits are placed on where and when it is acceptable to fight off attacks. In Ohio, the law protects a persons right to self-defense if they are attacked in their home or car. But if the attack occurs anywhere else, the person must be able to prove they are not at fault.
In Florida, the list of cases where a person has difficulty proving they are not at fault is ever growing.
In Tampa, a manslaughter charge against 71-year-old Trevor Dooley may be dropped due to Stand Your Ground, according to NPR. After getting into an argument with his neighbor, David James, about whether kids should be allowed to skateboard on the basketball court across from his house, Dooley went home, got a gun and returned to a park where James was playing basketball. The two allegedly got into an altercation that resulted in Dooley shooting James.
The problem with Stand Your Ground is not only how the law is written, but also how it is upheld. Too many cases, such as Dooleys, are being tossed out of courts in favor of a statute that should not protect actions such as pursuing or continuing an argument with weapons on hand.
The law is not protecting the right to fight back, but an ability to legally pursue and even provoke victims.
While citizens should have the right to protect themselves inside their own homes if attacked, the Stand Your Ground law takes self-defense a step too far by allowing pursuits to qualify as self-defense. This invalidates the very problem that Bush and others hoped to confront in passing the bill.
When the law protects the attacker instead of the victim, it must be reconsidered.