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"Stand Your Ground" Is a Flawed Law | Rhonda Swan

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"Stand Your Ground" Is a Flawed Law | Rhonda Swan

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"Stand Your Ground" Is a Flawed Law
Friday, December 21, 2012 — Rhonda Swan

Steel courage.

It’s what George Zimmerman, Michael David Dunn and Michael Jock have in common. That and the belief that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law allows them to use guns to solve problems their egos created.

Each of these men has been arrested for shooting – and killing in the case of Zimmerman and Dunn – someone they confronted.

Had Zimmerman, Dunn and Jock simply minded their business, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Russell Davis, both 17, would be alive. Randall White would not have suffered bullet wounds. And the three shooters wouldn’t be facing criminal charges.

Stand Your Ground, a 2005 law authored by the National Rifle Association, gives Floridians the right to use deadly force without the duty to retreat when they feel threatened. It also gives them immunity from criminal and civil prosecution.

As President Barack Obama and members of Congress begin to deliberate new federal gun regulations in the wake of Adam Lanza killing 20 children in Newtown, Conn., it’s time for Florida lawmakers to have a serious debate about the senseless laws that make this the Gunshine State.

A task force appointed by Gov. Rick Scott found that the law is basically fine as is. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Defenders of Stand Your Ground say it wasn’t intended to apply to individuals like Zimmerman, Dunn and Jock, who initiate confrontations. They didn’t get the memo.

Neither did dozens of others who have used the law to get away with killing and attacking their victims.

The Tampa Bay Times analyzed nearly 200 Stand Your Ground cases earlier this year and found that in nearly a third of them, “defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim — and still went free.”

Nearly 70 percent of those who pleaded “stand your ground” went free. Among them are a man who killed two unarmed people, one who shot a man as he lay on the ground and others who shot their victims in the back.
Since the enactment of Stand Your Ground, the number of Floridians with concealed weapons permits has tripled to 1 million. Men hold about 800,000 of those permits.

Studies show the mere presence of an aggressive stimulus like a gun can increase the probability of aggression.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, might have left Martin alone as a Sanford police dispatcher advised him to do, had he not been armed.

He told police the unarmed Skittles-toting teenager walking through his gated community looked like “a real suspicious guy.” Who in their right mind confronts a stranger they consider suspicious? And at night, no less?

A man with a gun.

Yet Zimmerman says Trayvon was the aggressor and he killed him in fear of his life.

Dunn got into an argument with Jordan Davis in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station over the loud music coming from the SUV where Jordan was sitting with friends.

He fired eight or nine shots into the vehicle, two of which hit and killed Jordan. Dunn says he saw a gun and felt threatened. Police found no gun.

Loud music shouldn’t warrant the loss of a life. But a man with a gun is more likely to turn a nuisance into a life-and-death situation. Especially, if he thinks he’s got Stand Your Ground on his side.

That was the case with Jock, who got into a shouting match with Randall White at a Little Caesars Pizza in St. Petersburg. White was complaining about slow service when Jock chastised him for his impatience. White allegedly raised his fist and Jock responded with two shots to White’s torso.

Jock told police that Stand Your Ground justified his actions. “He felt he was in his rights,” said a police spokesman. “He brought it up specifically, and cited it to the officer.”

Note to Tallahassee: We’ve got a problem when someone believes it’s OK to bring a gun to a fistfight.

“There are arguments every day, but how many people pull out a gun?” White told the Tampa Bay Times. “He was in my face and I pushed him. His life was not being threatened.”

The courts will ultimately decide the fate of Jock, Dunn and Zimmerman. The courts, though, are bound to uphold a law that is so flawed each of these aggressors could go free without so much as a trial.

Where is the justice in that?

Rhonda Swan is an editorial writer for The Palm Beach Post and author of Dancing to the Rhythm of My Soul: A Sister’s Guide for Transforming Madness into Gladness. She can be reached at [email protected]

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