Target: Florida Governor Rick Scott
Goal: Repeal controversial “shoot first” law
In the national outcry over George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, it is impossible to ignore the state law that enabled Martin’s shooting. Florida’s “stand your ground” law, passed in 2005, states that a person who feels he is in danger may use force as a first resort instead of attempting to flee. Though it was not a main plank of Zimmerman’s defense at the trial, “stand your ground” unmistakably played a role in the unfolding drama.
USA Today, writing after Zimmerman’s acquittal, noted he was not arrested for Martin’s death until nearly two months after the shooting because “stand your ground rules…require police to have specific evidence to refute a self defense claim in order to arrest someone claiming self defense.” The lack of a demand for proof of legitimate self-defense can create a “shoot first” environment enabling lethal vigilantism.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently made this exact point in stating that these laws, which currently exist in over 20 states, should be re-examined. Florida can begin the work of repairing its image, marred by the Trayvon Martin shooting, through repealing “stand your ground” and affirming a reasonable right to self-defense without the “shoot first” mentality that creates potential tragedy.
Dear Governor Scott,
I am writing to you because of the “stand your ground” law that exists in your state and the controversy over its role in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. “Stand your ground” states that someone who feels they are in danger is authorized to use force as a first option instead of attempting to flee if possible.
The problem with these laws is they create a potential “shoot first” environment where any confrontation can escalate into a tragedy. Though George Zimmerman’s defense at his trial did not use “stand your ground” as a foundational plank of their arguments, it played an unmistakable role in the tragedy that unfolded from Martin’s death.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated recently that because of this ambiguity, “stand your ground” laws in Florida and other states must be re-examined. Florida should lead the way in reaffirming a legitimate right to self-defense that does not foster a shoot first or vigilante mentality through repealing “stand your ground.”
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr