aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Regarding Stand Your Ground

So, let's say you're a woman. You're leaving work or maybe an evening's entertainment. You're walking to your car. You're on a public street, but not close to any public establishments, when you notice you're being closely observed. The person observing you looks like he could be dangerous. He's certainly larger than you. Maybe younger than you. Doubtless stronger than you. And he's paying very close attention to you. He starts to approach you. What do you do?

If you believe what the Attorney General says, then you should start to run. Now. Get away. But what if you're not only smaller, but slower than this guy is? What if you're elderly, or you've got a bad leg? What if he's between you and your car, and so you'd be running away into regions you don't know well? How long can you keep this up? Where will you go?

Running away isn't a bad idea. It may be all you've got. But running TO somewhere beats running FROM somewhere any day. And if there's no friendly looking place or person you can find for shelter, then what do you do?

The Stand Your Ground doctrine isn't about giving permission to trigger-happy types to shoot people. It's clarifying that if you feel threatened -- using the "reasonable person" standard of perception -- then you can defend yourself, even with deadly force, and the law will back you up. You are not obligated to run away, when running away would be bad for you. Your inherent right to self-defense is not only invocable within your home, or when you're actually struggling with an attacker, but in any place you have the right to be, even before you've been hit.

How you defend yourself is up to you. Some people carry pepper spray. Wasp spray will shoot farther, straighter, and is probably as effective. Either allows you to try to defeat an attacker before you come to grips and are overwhelmed. But if you happen to be in legal possession of a firearm, you can also use that.

It may not come to that. Flicking your shirt or jacket as if clearing away encumbrances to drawing your weapon (even if you don't have one) has been shown to be pretty effective at getting muggers to back off and look for easier prey. Flicking your jacket also doesn't escalate the situation the way actually pulling a weapon and aiming it does. But let's be clear: the law recognizes that if you are being attacked, you have the right to defend yourself, even by drawing, aiming, and, if necessary, firing a gun at your attacker.

All Stand Your Ground does is state clearly that you are not required to run away until you're backed up against a wall before you can defend yourself. Nor do you have to wait until your attacker has actually made contact with you. It does NOT give you permission to go on the attack; once you go on the attack, you become the aggressor and you are not engaging in self-defense. Stand Your Ground is meant to give comfort to the weaker party in a confrontation, not the stronger party.

And it had no relevance to the Zimmerman case, where it was not invoked. So when AG Holder says that Stand Your Ground laws should be repealed, he's suggesting an action that would have changed nothing about the trial of George Zimmerman, nor would it do anything to prevent the killing of someone in Trayvon Martin's situation. All it would do is make weaker people -- like women -- easier prey for stronger people -- like thugs of all colors.

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