Who does the “Stand Your Ground” law really protect? Eugene Robinson, a well-known columnist for the Washington Post, asked that very question in an interview on Martin Bashir's MSNBC news program Thursday.
The Sanford Police Department in Florida did not pursue charges against George Zimmerman in the slaying of Trayvon Martin, 17, based on that statute. The outrage which followed has led to calls for the repeal of the “Stand Your Ground” law. The claim from the radical left, and from those who have distorted the purpose of the law, is that it has only worked to the advantage of vigilantes and trigger-happy gun owners. Robinson called the law “redundant,” and a “license to kill” in his March 26 article on the Washington Post.
Prior to the enactment of the “Stand Your Ground” law there was a duty to retreat which prevented those threatened with great bodily harm or death from fighting back against an aggressor immediately. It protects victims by authorizing the use of deadly force upon feeling threatened, allowing victims to respond to those threats while confronted in a place they were lawfully permitted to be. Whether or not Zimmerman felt reasonably threatened by Martin as he was allegedly bludgeoned by the teenager is to be decided by jury and due process with what evidence is presented.
Whether or not the “Stand Your Ground” clause is valid for Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case will also be determined through the courts. The decision by Zimmerman to give chase, as perhaps verified by his phone call to 911, may even jeopardize his protection under the law. Even Robinson, in the March 26 article, stated “[Zimmerman] followed Martin, despite instructions from a 911 operator not to do so.”
As citizens across the nation become further impassioned with the developments in the case, the story has been politicized and has transformed into a point of contention for civil rights and racial tension. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a Democrat of Florida's 3rd District, was interviewed during CNN's News Room with Brooke Baldwin, also on Thursday.
Rep. Brown: "Let me tell you something. We had an incident in my area where a young white female was murdered, and I was just as concerned, absolutely. I care about all of the children.”
Baldwin: "Congresswoman Brown, what was her name?"
Rep. Brown: "The young lady that got killed?"
Baldwin: "Yes, ma'am.”
Rep. Brown [stammering]: "In Orange County?"
Baldwin: "What was her name?"
Brown: "The young lady that got killed... I don't remember her name, but we had all kinds of rallies in the community in Jacksonville that I participated in, and I made sure that the Sheriff's Department had the money that they need to pursue the case.
[ Source: CNN News Room: http://www.news4jax.com/news/Corrine-Brown-forgets-Somer-s-name-on-CNN/-/475880/9765636/-/3o75em/-/index.html ]
Though Congresswoman Brown brought up the incident with seven year old Somer Thompson, she'd been unable to remember the name of the young girl who was abducted, sexually assaulted, and later dumped lifelessly in a Georgia landfill back in 2009. Baldwin, of CNN, called to viewers' attention the need to question lawmakers' investment in these high-profile cases. As some journalists and columnists get entrenched in these issues, however, it is necessary to hold them responsible when it comes to fair reporting or a lack thereof. The question posed by Eugene Robinson, “what kind of people does the 'Stand Your Ground' law protect,” and the answer he provided, did not take into account the lawful
defensive firearm uses within Florida and other states which take place every year.
Back in January a man by the name of Luis Alberto Gonzalez, 50, had been trolling Palm Avenue, spewing racial slurs from his truck on a South Florida street. Two black men, Andy Alexander, 20, and Travis James, 21, were walking when Gonzalez pulled up to them and began spouting hateful speech.
When he made another pass, accelerating toward them in his pickup truck, James drew his licensed .25-caliber handgun and shot the aggressor who then crashed into a near by funeral home. The first to contact law enforcement, Gonzalez told a very different story from what actually happened; he'd told police he had just been robbed by the two black males. However, the truth soon came forward, and Gonzalez was charged with a hate crime. [ Source: WPLG-10, Miami: http://www.local10.com/news/Man-shot-in-Hialeah-now-charged-with-hate-crime/-/1717324/7796228/-/grsi2w/-/index.html ]
This is the type of scenario which makes the “Stand Your Ground” law necessary, to preserve the lives of law-abiding citizens, and to afford them protection from persecution after deploying deadly force to prevent injury or death. Although such stories rarely make the national headlines, it is important for both lawmakers and journalists to realize that they do happen. These are the people that benefit from the “Stand Your Ground” law.
As emotional as Martin's family and friends are over the loss of Trayvon, as heated as people are, the call for blood – for Zimmerman's arrest and prosecution – would be a very slippery slope if it ends with the removal of rights when future potential victims become involved in lawful self-defense shootings. The bias from some media sources refers to the call of attention toward Trayvon Martin's character as a “smear campaign” rather than an analysis of whether or not he had the capacity to carry out the alleged acts which provoked Zimmerman to shoot. Just as easily, the case can quickly become a smear campaign against law-abiding gun owners who are in need of the law to protect their own rights. With no confirmed eye-witnesses who can tell the tale of what exactly happened, or what motives may have been in play, the burden of proof is currently on Zimmerman's character with comparison to Martin's.
This is why it is imperative that the Sanford Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and other authorities consider all of the evidence, forensics, and statements by witnesses within ear-shot of the Sanford shooting. That there are so many voices calling for one action or another, however, sways decisions through passions rather than with ration, reason, or fact. If Zimmerman is found to be guilty of manslaughter, or that he was not covered by the “Stand Your Ground” law, then it could hardly be considered a self-defense shooting.
There is no question, the tragedy of a child's death is great, and cannot be known to anyone but the parents of that child. Without any intent to diminish sensitivity to that loss, it is necessary to consider the obligation to not let a murderer walk free or send an innocent man to prison or worse.