‘Stand your ground’ laws proliferate after Trayvon killing

By Curt Anderson and Lindsay Whitehurst | Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The “hold your own” self-defense law had been in effect in Florida for more than six years when it became part of the national vocabulary with the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. When the 17-year-old was shot, Florida was still one of the few states with the law eliminating the duty to withdraw before using deadly force in the face of danger.

Now, more than 30 states have some form of law and recent research indicates they are associated with more deaths, up to 700 additional gun killings each year, according to a study published this week in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The study found a national increase of up to 11% in homicide rates per month between 1999 and 2017 in those states with “hold your position” laws. The largest increases, between 16% and 33%, occurred in the southern states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, according to the study.

“These findings suggest that the adoption of laws (‘maintain your position’) in the U.S. has been associated with increases in violent deaths, deaths that could have been prevented,” the study authors concluded.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Florida was the first in the nation in 2005 to pass such a law. It was in effect when on February 26, 2012, self-proclaimed neighborhood watchdog George Zimmerman, Martin was shot dead. Martin was black; Zimmerman had a white father and a Hispanic mother.

The initial police report said Zimmerman called authorities to report a suspect, a guy he said “seems to be doing nothing.” He followed Martin despite instructions not to do so. In the ensuing confrontation, Zimmerman would tell the authorities, Martin attacked him, forcing him to use his weapon to save himself. Zimmerman was allowed to go free.

Martin’s parents questioned Zimmerman’s version of events, and eventually the media and others picked up on the case. Zimmerman was arrested six weeks later after Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor for the case.

Zimmerman’s lawyers have chosen not to file a lawsuit to “hold his position” before the trial, which could have resulted in dismissal of the murder charges against him and immunity from prosecution. But the law was used essentially as a self-defense argument during the trial, which resulted in his acquittal.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who was involved in the Martin case, called the Florida law “a virtual card to get out of jail that is essentially a license to kill.”

Today is the battle. Proponents of gun rights argue that people should not have to try to withdraw before defending themselves, said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation. He pointed to a Florida homeowner who recently shot dead a man suspected of shooting a police officer while the man was trying to break into his home. While that case could be covered by other self-defense laws, Gottlieb said the laws of “hold your position” offer reassurance.

“It made a big difference in self-defense situations,” he said.

Three new states last year passed laws removing the duty to withdraw: Ohio, Arkansas and North Dakota, where its sponsor said the legislation “ensures that no one has to flee before protecting themselves or their family.” .

Six looser requirements for carrying weapons in public eliminating the requirement for a permit, the highest number in a single year. More than 20 states now allow transportation without a permit.

The U.S. Supreme Court is also expected to issue a ruling in this session on whether New York’s restrictive gun permit law violates the Second Amendment’s right to “keep and carry weapons.” Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Gun control activists say the growing presence of weapons and laws such as “hold your position” is a deadly combination.

“Laws like ‘hold your position’ or the first shooting laws give people like Jordan’s killer, my son’s killer, the idea that you can shoot first and ask questions later,” said Rep. Lucy McBath. who entered politics after his son Jordan. Davis was killed at a Florida gas station in 2012 by a white man who was angry at the loud music the black teenager and his friends had played in his car. Michael Dunn used the law to “hold his position” in his defense, but was convicted and faces life in prison.

Likewise, Rovina Billingslea’s family has never been the same. Her cousin Jasmine McAfee, a mother of two, was killed by an intimate couple near Orlando about four years ago. The shooter was later acquitted by the law of “hold his position,” leaving his family shaken.

“There was no justice, no closure, just pain,” Billingslea said.

There are new efforts to reject the measures in a context of growing armed violence: lawmakers from 19 states have signed a new working group to amend or repeal laws, especially in Georgia, Kansas and Pennsylvania, as well as in Florida. . The impetus is backed by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, whose founder Shannon Watts said they should be called “first-shot laws,” as they differ significantly from other self-defense laws already in the books.

Since Martin’s murder, Florida has amended its “hold its position” law to transfer the burden of proof from the person claiming self-defense to the prosecutor leading the case.

Prosecutors and many police organizations have opposed the laws, arguing that they can protect criminals and hinder the ability to do justice to deadly shootings.

“Stand your ground laws provide safe havens for criminals and prevent prosecutors from bringing cases against those who claim self-defense after killing or injuring others unnecessarily,” said David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecutors. Congress testimony.

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