Guns have become a contentious debate across the nation and in many cases, the world. Stand Your Ground laws have become a popular topic of news segments with outlets large and small arguing the rights to gun ownership. Nearly 25 states in the union have these laws, but many believe that this is law simply applies to Florida and that it has nothing to do with other communities. What citizens don’t realize is that half the states in the US have these laws, and many more have amendments to current legislation that allow for the arguments in court. The right to own guns are not what these laws or the debates are about.
The law states there is no duty to retreat in a situation before using deadly force. This is not limited to your property. A person is no longer required to keep themselves out of unsafe situations in most of the United States. More importantly, district attorneys are refusing to even take cases to trial because defense attorneys are finding the most outrageous uses for the law across the country. In Arizona, the district attorney in Maricopa County has decided not to press charges against Kyle Wayne Quadlin in the shooting death of Kriston Charles Belinte Chee because the defendant claims he was losing a fist fight with his unarmed opponent. Many states have standing laws that include all law enforcement officers and prison guards hold immunity from any prosecution in any situations that result in death. With many proven cases of extreme overreach by law enforcement, this has become a terrifying risk for many communities. Some cases include immunity when death is the result in beatings at the hands of law enforcement officials. These laws are only getting worse and harder to fight.
In Florida, the legislature has expanded these laws that have already caused international outrage. The language in Florida’s statute provides that: “a person is justified in the use of deadly force.” This legislation has absolutely nothing to do with guns or gun ownership, but simply protects those who use guns over reason. Requirements to keep one’s self out of dangerous situations or to leave if reasonable ability to do so exists is no longer considered. The new expansion changes the law from being a prosecutable offense when you miss a target. Now a citizen has protection against prosecution when you hit and kill your target and protection against prosecution even if the attempt to hit the target and it is unsuccessful.
The NRA has been lobbying for these laws since the 1970’s. The architect of the Stand Your Ground has been a 70-year-old grandmother named Marion Hammer. Hammer, who has been a member of the National Rifle Association longer than most of us have been alive, believes, “an armed society is a polite society.” The belief of the NRA is that every citizen should be armed. But the truth is the laws are creating a survival of the fittest society. These laws do not take any reasonable argument into account such as one’s criminal history or mental health background. Psychologists have studied the mentality of gun ownership and those who have used guns in aggressive situations. They found that someone with a gun is 79 percent more likely to use that gun in an argument. Creating a false sense of safety, one is 5 times more likely to put themselves in unsafe situations where they may need to use a gun. Citizens are now more likely to use a gun beyond any other reasonable outcome. The reason for this is that for every one case that goes to trial, there are an average of twelve cases that are not even brought to trial due to the existing laws. So the statistics of criminal past or mental stability cannot be calculated because these are only statistics averaged in a trial situation.
In many states felons are now given rights to use stand your ground even in cases where their felony convictions have taken gun ownership rights away. The reasoning for giving a convicted felon the right to shoot and kill someone who isn’t allowed to own a gun side steps reason. With gun ownership comes responsibility. No one is allowed to get behind the wheel of a car without following strict guidelines of training and education. One must pass a strict guide of testing and skill assessment before someone can drive any motor vehicle. Also, one must be required to hold a certain level of financial responsibility in registering a car and keeping it insured. However, in most states not a single one of these requirements are needed for gun ownership. Everyone agrees that one has a right to protect one’s self and gun proponents feel they hold that same right. The right to protect themselves from unreasonable citizens with guns. These unreasonable laws puts the rights of gun advocates over the rights of the average citizens on the street. Stand your ground does not preserves citizens rights to own guns, it simply preserves one’s right to kill at will.
Opinion by Kimberly Beller