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EDITORIAL

Phony Stand Your Ground concerns

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 12:01 am

The Zimmerman case had absolutely nothing to do with that law.

Now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, must we endure a lot of insincere hand-wringing and pointless debate over Indiana’s Stand Your Ground law that is similar to Florida’s?

Apparently so. “The Zimmerman case has state lawmakers like Jean Breaux calling for a review,” says an “analysis” by an Indianapolis TV station. “‘Now that we have seen the real-life implication of how these self-defense laws function, we have an obligation as legislators to our citizens to make sure those laws do everything they can to prevent an act of violence …,’ said Breaux. A review of Indiana’s self-defense laws, including the Stand Your Ground law, could be presented at the next legislative session.”

There is just one problem: The Zimmerman case had nothing to do with Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Zimmerman’s legal team did not invoke that law in his defense, and prosecutors have said they were not trying a Stand Your Ground case.

Zimmerman claimed Martin jumped him, held him down and began pounding on him and that he therefore felt his life was in danger, so he acted to protect himself. That is a standard, run-of-the-mill self-defense claim that could be made in any of the 50 states. Whether you believe it or not, that’s what his lawyers argued on his behalf. Stand Your Ground laws are about when a situation requires someone to retreat from a potentially dangerous situation and when retreat is not called for. If there is no chance to retreat, which is what Zimmerman alleged, then that question becomes moot.

So why have a debate here in Indiana over something that has absolutely no relevance to the case at hand? Well, perhaps because the law has created a cowboy atmosphere in which vigilantes and wannabe cops will go out of the way to put themselves into dangerous situations. People will start shooting first and asking questions later. That was the possibility raised by critics when the law was being considered.

But can anybody honestly say that has happened? Have our courts been clogged with Stand Your Ground cases? In fact, can anybody name one such case?

We are getting into “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” territory. Provisions such as Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine are important components of a right older than the republic: the absolute right to defend ourselves. If there’s no evidence the law has gone too far, leave it alone, please.