Is Stand Your Ground really just an excuse?
Is the "stand your ground" law, made famous in State v. George Zimmerman, a necessity or is it just an excuse to shoot someone?
I raise this question since there is another Florida case happening right now, State v. Dunn, that is raising the stand your ground defense.
Dunn is claiming that, while at a gas station, he got into an argument with a vehicle full of teens over the loud music they were playing. He claims at one point he felt threatened, so instead of just leaving he felt it was necessary to shoot at the boys in the vehicle. He left, went on with his night, did not call the cops or act like anything was wrong. He claims he had no idea someone had died until the next morning.
Dunn is claiming he felt threatened and essentially had the right to stand his ground and shoot.
Think back to last summer when Zimmerman almost argued that he had a right to stand his ground and shoot Trayvon Martin instead of running away. Had he made and been successful in this argument he would have escaped both criminal and civil prosecution.
Instead, he put forth a self defense argument and won (the two arguments are very similar). That trial was plastered on every national network and I venture to say a majority of the local networks across the country. I myself was commentating on the trial for HLN and CNN, including the night the verdict came in. I remember sitting in the chair, in front of the cameras and hearing the verdict.
What a night, what a result, but I digress.
That trial introduced the concept of "stand your ground" to our nation which instigated discussions across our country about whether it should be recognized or not.
Florida has a law that essentially states if you have a right to be in the place you are and you feel threatened such that you need to use deadly force, then you have the right to use that deadly force to "stand your ground."
There is arguably no requirement to retreat.
Arizona does not call the law "stand your ground," however, it does have a law that is similar to Florida's.
Under Arizona Revised Statutes 13-405(B) "a person has no duty to retreat before threatening or using deadly physical force...if the person is in a place where the person may legally be and is not engaged in an unlawful act."
Additionally, under ARS 13-404 "[a] person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another...to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful physical force."
However, you cannot use or threaten use of physical force in response to words alone. Basically, in Arizona you can use physical force (including deadly force) if a reasonable person would believe it was necessary and you do not have a duty to retreat.
There are also several states that have similar laws although some may be working on modifying the law regarding the duty to retreat in the wake of Zimmerman.
Both of these cases and the reactions elicited by them have led me to wonder if the stand your ground defense is really just an excuse, an excuse to pull your gun and shoot instead of running away.
Maybe it is the influence of the movies and television shows in our society. After all, at any one time on any given channel (except the Disney channel) you see citizens shooting to protect themselves with no legal repercussions.
I would like to say that I could turn the other cheek yet I have not been in this kind of situation so I am unsure of how I would react. I can say that my first instinct would be to run, not pull a gun, and yes, I do own a gun. In fact, I wouldn't even start a conversation let alone an argument.
There was something missing that night that Dunn killed a young man. That was common sense. Where was the common sense? Doesn't common sense tell you to just mind your own business? Doesn't common sense tell you to not get into pointless, senseless arguments? This goes for both sides.
In Dunn, was the volume of the "rap crap" or "thug music" really enough to cause a reasonable person to start an argument with strangers? To then escalate that argument and not only pull a firearm but to use it? Yes, these are rhetorical questions and ones that many across our country are thinking when they hear about State v. Dunn.
The takeaway here is this, and it has been said many times before, just because you have it and can use it, does not mean you should. Sometimes it is necessary to just swallow your comments and turn the other cheek, especially when you are old enough to know better. Sometimes you should listen to common sense instead of your ego.
Monica Lindstrom, Co-host of The Agenda