The growing outrage over the killing of Trayvon Martin has not stopped the National Rifle Association (NRA) from pushing for more states to pass so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws. That’s the law under which someone can be shot, the shooter say it was in ‘self defense’ and prosecutors have little to no way to call them to account.
The failure to arrest Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, because of the law has evoked outrage among African-Americans, as they can identity with Martin’s family.
Jonathan Capehart wrote in the Washington Post:
One of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions. One minute you’re going about your life, the next you could be pleading for it, if you’re lucky. And far too many aren’t. That’s why the Feb. 26 killing of Trayvon Martin has black parents around the country clutching their sons a little closer.
Mark Thompson from Sirius/XM radio’s ‘Make it Plain’ told Lawrence O’Donnell:
By not arresting Zimmerman, and every day that goes by that they don’t do that, really lends credence to the belief, and really to the fact in many ways, that not only do we still have institutional racism here, but they are somehow thinking this is okay and no big deal.
Thompson went on to explain how this has a detrimental effect on the African American community.
Many African Americans are still very, very concerned about the value of their lives and if this is not addressed swiftly and directly then that concern will remain.
For NPR, the Center for Inspired Teaching’s Cosby Hunt writes about clothing advice he plans to give his two sons:
“We did not plan to give them advice about hoodies, but now I see we’ll need to have that talk, too. We will have [to] say, ‘You know how you used to wear your hooded Batman sweatshirt when you wanted to fight the bad guys as a kid? Well, now that you’re older, some people will be confused and think that you are the bad guys if they see your hoodie and your skin color. It’s silly and wrong that anyone would think that you are the bad guys, but we don’t want you to be hurt. We don’t want the real bad guys or even some guy playing superhero to hurt you.’”
Those concerns are being fanned by racist reactions such as from commentators on a Fox News story about the shooting, one of whom wrote: ‘Good Shot Zimmy’.
According to Mother Jones, Florida courts have found that under the ‘Stand Your Ground’ statute, a “defendant’s only burden is to offer facts from which his resort to force could have been reasonable” while “the State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.”
The law has been unpopular with law enforcement officers in Florida, since it makes it much more difficult to charge shooters with a crime and has regularly confounded juries in murder cases; many Orlando-area cops reportedly have given up investigating “self-defense” cases as a result, referring them to the overloaded state attorney’s office for action. A 2010 study by the Tampa Bay Times found that “justifiable homicides” had tripled in the state since the law went into effect.
“Stand Your Ground is a law that has really created a Wild West type environment in Florida,” Brian Tannebaum, a criminal defense lawyer in Florida told The New York Times.
“It allows people to kill people outside of their homes, if they are in reasonable fear for their lives. It’s a very low standard.”
Speaking to Lawrence O’Donnell, Arthur Hayhoe of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said that his group had logged more than 100 cases since the law was enacted. This has included someone being able to kill a member of a rival gang in a shootout, claim they were acting in self-defense, and avoid prosecution.
Former Washington, D.C. Police Department homicide investigator Rod Wheeler told Fox News that the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was really the ‘Make My Day’ law.
“The police department in [Sanford, Florida, where Martin was killed] oppose that law. What that law is saying in the state of Florida — and look at the case law — you can actually shoot a dog. It happens all the time. You can shoot and kill a dog and get arrested and put in jail, but if you kill a kid — and especially a black kid in Florida — you can walk away. That’s what that law means,” Wheeler said.
The NRA has referred to Florida’s statute as “good law, casting a common-sense light onto the debate over the right of self-defense.” On the passage of Florida’s law Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s then executive director, said:
“The only people that have anything to fear from this type of law is someone who plans on robbing, shooting or raping someone.”
16 states now have a similar law.
Media Matters reports that the NRA continues to push for similar laws.
· On March 16, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) criticized the Judiciary Committee chairman of Iowa’s state Senate for failing to hold hearings on “NRA-initiated HF 2215, the Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine Enhancement.” According to NRA-ILA, the bill would “remove a person’s ‘duty to retreat’ from an attacker, allowing law-abiding citizens to stand their ground and protect themselves or their family anywhere they are lawfully present.” The group urged supporters to contact state Senators and tell them to support the bill. NRA-ILA previously told supporters to contact Democratic members of the Iowa House after they “left the Capitol building in an attempt to block consideration of these pro-gun bills” on February 29.
· On March 14, NRA-ILA urged Alaskan supporters to contact their state Senators and tell them to support House Bill 80, which it termed “important self-defense legislation that would provide that a law-abiding person, who is justified in using deadly force in self-defense, has ‘no duty-to-retreat’ from an attack if the person is in any place that that person has a legal right to be.” NRA-ILA also promoted the bill on March 5, March 8, and February 29.
· On March 5, NRA-ILA executive director Chris W. Cox criticized Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton for vetoing House File 1467, which Cox said “would have removed the duty to retreat for crime victims currently mandated under Minnesota state law and precluded victims from facing prosecution for lawfully defending their lives.” NRA-ILA also urged supporters to contact Dayton and urge him not to veto the bill on March 1 and February 29.
Further progress for these laws may continue to go virtually unchallenged in state legislatures despite growing outrage over the Trayvon Martin case. According to Arthur Hayhoem one of the reasons that Florida passed America’s first so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was because locals Democrats “caved.”
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