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Florida Going Soft on Stand Your Ground Defense

by | Oct 23, 2018 | Articles, Politics

Stand Your Ground legislation allows citizens to use a firearm for self-defense in most public places. While these statues vary from state to state, generally they allow the public to use deadly force in any area they have a legal right to be, without a duty to retreat. Removing that duty is what has made the legislation both desired, and controversial.

Michael Dunn

In Lakeland, FL, Michael Dunn, an elected city commissioner, was charged with murder after shooting a shoplifter, Christobal Lopez. The suspect entered Dunn’s Vets Army & Navy store and stole a hatchet. Armed with a handgun, Dunn confronted Lopez, grabbing his shirt to prevent him from leaving. Lopez tried to pull away, but did not attempt to strike Dunn with the small ax. When Lopez broke Dunn’s grip to flee, Dunn fired two shots, hitting Lopez in the torso. Lopez died from the gunshots on the scene.

Dunn told law enforcement he feared for his life and used Stand Your Ground as a defense. However,  the store surveillance video shows Dunn placed himself in an indefensible position.

The video shows that the store owner attempted to halt Lopez with his firearm already drawn. Dunn gave an exit path to Lopez, then tried to stop him. Lopez had the hatchet in his right hand, which was away from Dunn, and never presented it as a threat. All of these facts, captured on film, do not meet the requirements for a Stand Your Ground defense.

The Florida state legislature enacted Stand Your Ground in 2005, replacing the older common law of Lovett v. State of Florida, where the statute did not condemn the use of deadly force but required the subjects of assault to attempt to retreat before using force, unless they were in their own home.

George Zimmerman

Zimmerman versus Martin

Currently, 23 states have Stand Your Ground laws. The legislation  became highly controversial after the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin confrontation, in Florida also, in 2012, when Zimmerman shot and killed 16-year-old Martin after being attacked. Those who sided with Martin argued that Zimmerman should not have followed the teenager, which prompted a confrontation. Since then,  the Stand Your Ground law has become hotly controversial.

The left defined the Martin-Zimmerman incident as racist. NBC deceptively edited Zimmerman’s 911 call to the police, cutting and splicing until it sounded like Zimmerman said, “This guy looks like he is up to no good … he looks black.” The media was extremely negligent, and the skewed coverage poisoned the jury well. Nevertheless,  Zimmerman was found not guilty on all counts.

Law Enforcement Sentiment [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”24″]Ignorance of the law can be a deadly mistake.[/perfectpullquote]

For the most part, law enforcement officers (LEOs) understand the need for Stand Your Ground laws. LEOs are constantly placed in positions where they must stand their ground against dangerous suspects. But for the public, it is not feasible to legislate on every variable situation in which people feel a need to defend themselves and have to make snap decisions on retreating before fighting back. The police understand this can be a very tricky situation in the heat of a confrontation. Just so in the Lakeland situation. Because there was no evidence that Lopez attacked Dunn, the storeowner was not able to use the shield of Stand Your Ground.

Stand Your Ground remains respected law. However, it is important that members of the public understand their burden of culpability when invoking their rights of self-defense. Ignorance of the law can be a deadly mistake.

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