In 2005, Florida's legislature easily passed a new gun law that greatly expanded the list of situations in which gun owners can use deadly force; then-Gov. Jeb Bush (R) signed it, and more than 20 states have since adopted similar laws. The "Stand Your Ground" law took the "Castle Doctrine" — which holds that your house is your castle, and you can shoot anyone who attacks it — and extended it to virtually any public space. CNN's Jeffrey Toobin calls Florida's law "an invitation to use deadly force under basically any circumstances." After self-styled neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman invoked it to avoid arrest after shooting unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month, some Florida lawmakers are calling for repealing the "dangerous" law. Should Florida listen?
Yes, scrap the law: It's insane that Florida laws "just let people blast away with their guns, and ask questions later," but that's how the NRA and the "gun-crazy legislature" want it, says Gary Stein in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. So it's no surprise that Zimmerman is taking advantage — heck, "shooters have been using and abusing the law for a while." But it's unacceptable. Stand Your Ground "does nothing but protect the shooter and the NRA, not the citizenry," and we should repeal it.
"Should Florida's Stand Your Ground law be repealed?"
The law needs fixing, not repeal: "Contrary to what many liberal pundits have written, Florida should not reimpose a 'duty to retreat'... on innocent people who face violent attackers," says Robert VerBruggen in National Review. But it does need to fix its "Stand Your Ground" statute to clarify that Zimmerman's type of "vigilantism" is illegal. People need the tools to protect themselves, but "it should be a crime to chase down a fellow citizen who runs away."
"Standing Your Ground and vigilantism"
"Stand Your Ground" is clear enough already: Flawed as it is, Florida's gun law "does not permit residents to hunt down other residents, to corner them, to kill them, and then to allege that they killed in self defense," says Andrew Cohen in The Atlantic. "You can't 'reasonably' be trying to avoid serious injury or death... if you are at the same time chasing down the very person you claim to be deathly fearful of." The law is unambiguous on this point "even under its most strident interpretation from [Florida's] worst judge."
"Trayvon Martin's killer was looking for trouble — and found it"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Why the West should accept ISIS as a sovereign nation
- 9 Harvard dropouts who became fabulously successful
- Why baseball is America's most dangerous spectator sport
Subscribe to the Week