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

Pioneer Arms PPS-43C Pistol

Pioneer Arms PPS-43C Pistol

The PPS-43 served Poland and the Russians during WWII. It is now available as a pistol for the US market.

Springfield Hellcat OSP Review

Springfield Hellcat OSP Review

Patrick Sweeney takes the Springfield Hellcat OSP to the range to test it out!

3 Ring Silencers

3 Ring Silencers

Patrick Sweeney heads to the range to look at suppressors from 3 Ring Silencer Corporation.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

One New York lawmaker is pushing legislation to bypass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and allow gunmakers to be sued if their lawfully made products are used for criminal purposes. 2nd Amendment

New York Targeting Gunmakers Instead of Criminals

Mark Chesnut - August 19, 2020

One New York lawmaker is pushing legislation to bypass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in...

While Germany is the Edenic home of modern sniping, they were always one step behind the Soviets during World War II, despite fielding some excellent sniper rifles. Rifles

German Sniper Rifles of World War I and II

David M. Fortier - August 13, 2020

While Germany is the Edenic home of modern sniping, they were always one step behind the...

First fielded during World War I, the Browning Automatic Rifle or BAR went on to serve through World War II, Korea and into Vietnam. Historical

Inside Story on the .30-caliber BAR

Samantha Knight - August 15, 2020

First fielded during World War I, the Browning Automatic Rifle or BAR went on to serve through...

The Wilson Combat-SIG Sauer WCP320 pistol is now legal for IDPA Stock Service Pistol Class Competition and USPSA Production/Carry Optics Classifications. Handguns

WCP320 Pistol Now Legal for IDPA and USPSA

Firearms News Staff - August 14, 2020

The Wilson Combat-SIG Sauer WCP320 pistol is now legal for IDPA Stock Service Pistol Class...

See More Trending Articles

More 2nd Amendment

Virginia Republican Rep. Glenn Davis introduced two pro-2A measures in a special session that are designed to partially roll back some restrictive laws. 2nd Amendment

Fighting Back in Virginia

Mark Chesnut - August 24, 2020

Virginia Republican Rep. Glenn Davis introduced two pro-2A measures in a special session that...

While Mark and Patricia McCloskey had some important things to say in their Republican National Convention speech on Monday night, a more interesting story is all the hatred they received from rabid anti-gunners. 2nd Amendment

The Left's Incredible Hatred of the McCloskeys

Mark Chesnut - August 26, 2020

While Mark and Patricia McCloskey had some important things to say in their Republican...

Riots are impacting many cities around the United States and more and more Americans are realizing that they are their own protectors. 2nd Amendment

Rioting's Unintended Consequences

Mark Chesnut - September 08, 2020

Riots are impacting many cities around the United States and more and more Americans are...

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