In recent news from Florida, a teenager was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch member.  The fact that this local tragedy has become national and even global news is indicative of the effects of relentless media coverage as I pointed out in my post “News All Day Every Day”.  None of us know all of the facts in this case and I believe an investigation is in order before we rush to judgment on the guilt or innocence of the shooter.  The Courts will need to determine whether or not the shooting was justified; however, that determination should not affect the validity of the so called “stand-your-ground” law.   Regardless of how this particular case turns out, in principal, I support that law.

The key section of the Florida law states: “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

This law is not about vigilantism, which by the way is what some of the extreme reactions to the Florida incident may amount to, since the goal of a vigilante is to seek retribution after the fact for himself or on behalf of someone else.  This law simply provides for a clear and present choice.  Law abiding citizens, when brought face to face with a crime, can turn tail, run for their lives and accept their fate as the intended victim of a crime or they can choose to stand their ground and defend themselves by meeting threat with threat and force with force.  I am in support of this law as I believe that as a free society we should have laws that give you the right, if you so choose, not to run and hide from the criminals.

If the law requires you to run, what message does this send?  The message becomes loud and clear that the streets belong to the thugs and criminals who are free to seek out their victims who they know are at a disadvantage since their intended victim does not have the option of fighting back.  Also, as a practical matter, we all know that under these circumstances, the criminal is long gone by the time the police get involved and the criminal goes unpunished.  I believe that this is wrong because it gives the criminal control of the situation and reduces the victim to a helpless pawn in the criminal’s game.  This is no way to stop or discourage crime.

There will be some who will argue that running from your attacker is safer and less likely to end in injury to you or your attacker.  This may be true up to a point; however, I would argue that being required to flee also has its drawbacks.  First, fleeing could make you even more vulnerable, particularly, if your efforts fail and your attacker is able to catch you now off guard.   Second, attempting to flee may only embolden your attacker and may cause him to ramp up his attack.   Third, just like bullies, many criminals are cowards and you may be better able to prevent the crime and protect yourself with a show of strength and resistance.  Fourth, and most importantly to me, since we all have an interest in and benefit from stopping crime, I simply find it objectionable and counterproductive for a society to require its law abiding citizens to retreat from criminals.   Finally, I am little persuaded by any desire to spare injury to the attacker.  It should be noted that the law in question does not require you to fight back. It simply supports your right to do so if you reasonably believe that you can prevent the crime.

Whether you run or stand your ground should be your choice and the law should support any effort you make to prevent yourself from being someone’s victim.

On Wednesday, Joe makes an observation about the rage that can exist beneath that calm exterior in “Quiet Desperation”.