Lynching the Law

Lynching the Law

The media circus surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin has largely focused on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. That focus is misplaced. Stand Your Ground (or SYG) provides certain narrow protections for individuals who use deadly force in self-defense, but the basic standards for whether the use of deadly force is justified are not changed by the SYG law, nor are the penalties and liabilities for the unjustified use of deadly force.

In the Trayvon Martin case, the specific part of the law that has applied so far is a provision that a person claiming self-defense should not be arrested unless there is some clear evidence that self-defense was not the motive. In this case, George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot Martin, was beaten and bloody with grass stains and mud on his clothes when police arrived. Zimmerman told them he had turned around and was going back to his vehicle when he was attacked by Martin.

There was nothing to suggest Zimmerman was lying then, nor has any new evidence surfaced indicating that his story was not true. Martin's girlfriend, who was talking to Martin on the phone just prior to the shooting, says she told him to just go on home, but that he said he was going back for the guy following him. Another witness said he saw Martin straddling Zimmerman and beating him. He said that Zimmerman was calling out for help.

Stand Your Ground laws were developed in response to state laws which have been seriously eroding self-defense rights over the past several decades. In many states, laws had shifted to a "guilty until proven innocent" standard for self-defense. People who had just been involved in the most traumatic event of their lives were treated as criminals until they could prove in court that their actions were justified.


Some prosecutors and judges have stretched existing legal requirements that a person try to avoid using deadly force, into a "duty to retreat." They suggest that if there was ever any opportunity for the victim of an assault to run away, that the use of deadly force was not justified. Even after successfully proving self-defense in criminal court, people have been subjected to civil suits by the "victims" or their families. SYG laws address all three of these issues:


* Placing the burden of proof on police and prosecutors and rejecting automatic assumptions causing a victim to be treated like a criminal.

* Making it clear that when a person is threatened with death or serious bodily harm he can respond with deadly force without having to try to run or evade first.

* That a person who uses deadly force in a legally justified manner may not be sued for such actions.

No provision of SYG laws gives a person a "license to kill" or absolves them from the requirement that their actions meet what is known as the "reasonable person standard." The question for jurors is, would a reasonable person in this situation react as the person in question did. Were their actions reasonable under the circumstances? If not, the event rightly moves into the realm of assault, manslaughter, or murder.


The case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin is going to a grand jury, and I won't speculate here how it will turn out. A key consideration will undoubtedly be whether it was reasonable for Zimmerman to have started following Martin in the first place. If the grand jury does not think this action was reasonable, everything that happened thereafter is tainted by that initial act of instigation, and George Zimmerman is in trouble. If, on the other hand, the grand jury concludes that Martin was justified in trying to see what this young man was doing wandering the neighborhood at 3 in the morning, it is likely that his subsequent actions will be considered reasonable as well — barring some significant revelation in the case.

No matter what the outcome in the grand jury or in a subsequent trial, the SYG law did not lead to Trayvon Martin's death. No one knows why George Zimmerman thought Trayvon Martin was "suspicious" when he saw him walking through the neighborhood. Zimmerman himself may not really know. It might have been that Martin was black — as so many keep insisting — but it could just as easily be that it was so unusual for anyone to be about in that neighborhood at such an hour. If George Zimmerman was — as some have suggested — a deranged racist bent on homicide and relying on Florida's Stand Your Ground Law to shield him from prosecution, he's likely to be seriously disappointed.

On its face, this appears to be a tragic case of an over-zealous do-gooder and a young man with a chip on his shoulder coming together in just the wrong way. It is sad and frustrating whenever a promising young person's life is cut short, but disarming the law-abiding and criminalizing self-defense are not reasonable responses to this tragedy.


Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit and link to www.FirearmsCoalition.org is included.

To receive The Firearms Coalition's bi-monthly newsletter, The Knox Hard Corps Report, write to Box 1761, Dept. SGN, Buckeye, AZ 85326 or subscribe at www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

Copyright © 2012 Neal Knox Associates — The most trusted name in the rights movement.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

M134 Mini-Gun

M134 Mini-Gun

While filming the 2018 season of Guns&AmmoTV we had the unique opportunity to fire the M134 Minigun.

SCCY CPX-4 in .380 ACP

SCCY CPX-4 in .380 ACP

New for 2019 is the SCCY CPX-4, a .380 ACP semi-automatic pistol that extends beyond the existing SCCY CPX-3 line of pistols.

Hornady Kestrel 5700 Ballistics Weather Meter with Hornady 4DOF

Hornady Kestrel 5700 Ballistics Weather Meter with Hornady 4DOF

The Hornady Kestrel 5700 combines complete onsite environmental measurements with Hornady 4DOF trajectory solutions.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Governor Northam is calling a special session of the General Assembly on Tuesday, July 9th, to do nothing but pass more gun control! 2nd Amendment

Virginia Governor Northam Declares War on Gun Owners

Virginia Citizens Defense League - July 09, 2019

Governor Northam is calling a special session of the General Assembly on Tuesday, July 9th, to...

CRKT makes 17 different knife models exclusively for Ruger, from fixed hunting knives to tactical folders, and many of their models are offered in several different styles. Accessories

Ruger CRKT Knives Review

James Tarr - July 08, 2019

CRKT makes 17 different knife models exclusively for Ruger, from fixed hunting knives to...

If you want to keep the peace, keep and bear arms. Don't give up your guns. Any other choice would be ridiculous. 2nd Amendment

Is Red Dawn Really Just Ridiculous? If Not, Who Would Citizen Disarmament Help?

David Codrea - May 29, 2019

If you want to keep the peace, keep and bear arms. Don't give up your guns. Any other choice...

Please sign and share the petition to get the required 100,000 signatures by July 27. 2nd Amendment

Tell the White House that the 2nd Amendment Was Not Given to the People by Government

Firearms News - July 02, 2019

Please sign and share the petition to get the required 100,000 signatures by July 27.

See More Trending Articles

More 2nd Amendment

The new rallying cry for protestors and rioters has become “Defund the Police!” with no real explanation of how the function of law enforcement will be handled, except for vague “community-based alternatives.” 2nd Amendment

Defunding Police Already Showing Results

Mark Chesnut - June 24, 2020

The new rallying cry for protestors and rioters has become “Defund the Police!” with no real...

According to several D.C. news outlets, the Supreme Court of the United States passed on a dozen cases pertaining to infringements on the 2nd Amendment. 2nd Amendment

Where's My 4D Chess? SCOTUS Passes On All 2nd Amendment Cases

Firearms News ALERT - June 15, 2020

According to several D.C. news outlets, the Supreme Court of the United States passed on a...

One anti-gun law that Trump did institute through an executive action is coming under fire by at least a few judges. 2nd Amendment

Supreme Court Judge Questions Trump's Bump-Fire Stock Ban

Mark Chesnut - June 23, 2020

One anti-gun law that Trump did institute through an executive action is coming under fire by...

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms advised residents, and especially Minneapolis business people, to arm themselves after the City Council voted to disband the police department, yet is spending thousands of dollars providing private security for three council members. 2nd Amendment

CCRKBA: ‘No Private Security for Minneapolis Citizens; Buy Guns'

Firearms News Staff - June 30, 2020

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms advised residents, and especially...

See More 2nd Amendment

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW OUR CURRENT ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Firearms News subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now