Stand Your Ground A Failure

handgunWhen you stand your ground, it means that you are protecting yourself from someone who is going to hurt you. You must be in serious danger to have the right to brandish a weapon and shoot to kill. If not, then can you really call it standing your ground? There are many problems with this so called law, with many people using it as an easy defense. On the other hand, people who legitimately stood their ground were denied the right to use the law in their defense. I believe that there is a double standard to this law, allowing people to use it as a defense for being reckless or for being punished by doing exactly what the law allows. I also believe that this law does more harm than good.

The stand your ground law is based on the castle doctrine, which allows a person to protect their property.  The castle doctrine also allows a person to “stand their ground” and use deadly force against an intruder who intends to commit a burglary or cause harm to a person or property. Stand your ground is similar because it states that someone “[doesn’t] have to retreat and can legally use deadly force if the person reasonably believes doing so is necessary ‘to prevent imminent death.’” Essentially, if you fear for your life you are allowed to kill someone who may do harm to you. It sounds like a good idea on paper because people have the right to protect themselves. However, the law is controversial because it seems that it is readily abused or just outright ignored.

Theodore Wafer was just convicted of murdering Renisha McBride in Detroit. McBride was unarmed when she went to Wafer’s home. She was looking for help after crashing her car. While she did have alcohol and marijuana in her system, prosecutors argued that he didn’t have to use deadly force to get her off his property. Wafer testified that he feared for his life because he heard banging on his door and saw Renisha on his porch when he opened his door. That’s when he shot her through a locked screen door with a shotgun. Prosecutors also argued that he should have sought non-lethal ways to deal with his “intruder”, and I agree. He shot first then asked questions later. Wafer also changed his story many times, saying it was an accident and his shotgun discharged on its own. This was evidence of Wafer trying to cover up his criminal behavior.

I think that’s the problem with this law. It gives an easy excuse to people who don’t think their actions through. Wafer told police that it was “self-defense as far as I’m concerned” and at the same time said “I should have called you guys first.” I can feel for him. When you do something bad, you obviously want to minimize your own guilt. It’s just in this case, someone died.

Then you have Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for actually doing what this law allows you do to. She says that her husband was abusive and even put her in the hospital nine times. In August 2010, she was trying to gather her belongings and leave while her husband was away. He came home unannounced and began to shove, choke, and hold her against her will. She got away but was trapped in the garage after the garage door wouldn’t open. Alexander, who did have a concealed carry arm permit and was licensed and trained, proceeded to take out her gun. She went back inside and saw her husband in the kitchen. He told her that he was going to kill her so she fired at him. The shot didn’t connect and he ran away. For that, she was given a 20 year sentence.

This is appalling because she was in danger for her life. Her husband threatened to kill her so she defended herself. The courts argued that because she wasn’t harmed, the law couldn’t apply. Also, at the time the law stated that the person needed to actually be shot for it to count. Because her husband dodged the bullet, she couldn’t use the law as a defense. This is sad because in court, her husband admitted to attacking and threatening Marissa. The judge instead put the blame on Marissa, stating that she put her husband, who threatened to kill her, in danger.

Studies have been done to see what affects the stand your ground law have. One study done by Texas A&M University showed that stand your ground laws did not reduce homicides, and it actually increased crime rates. The study found that murders and manslaughters rose by 7 to 9 percent in states that had these laws, which equals to about 700 nationally. They also found no evidence of burglaries, robberies, or assaults being decreased due to the law being implemented. Another study done by Georgia State University found similar results. This study found that white males were killed more each month due to stand your ground laws. This seems to disprove the commonplace that many people in our nation have of more African Americans being killed due to stand your ground. There was nothing consistent to prove otherwise. The study also found an increase in emergency room and hospital visits due to firearm related incidents. I believe most damning is the following statement “…it cannot be argued that the SYG laws are saving the lives of innocent people in this scenario as these individuals would not have been killed in the first place.” Both findings concluded that this so called stand your ground law was more harmful than helpful.

There are many problems with this law. It gives people the right to participate in violence and act recklessly. It puts other people in danger over misunderstandings and gives people the right to hurt one another. When the laws do apply, you have to jump through hoops to get them to apply. In Marissa’s case, you had to actually be hurt and shoot someone. It has even been proven to be ineffective by studies. It’s time to end this needless violence once and for all.

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