After the murder of Trayvon Martin, there’s been a lot of criticism of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Some people are incorrectly calling it a “It’s OK to murder people!” law. The “Stand Your Ground” law shouldn’t apply here, because George Zimmerman initiated the confrontation with Trayvon Martin.
There are a couple of laws regarding use of deadly force. These are “Castle Doctrine”, “Duty To Retreat”, and “Stand Your Ground”.
“Castle Doctrine” says “If someone breaks into your home, you can murder them.” This one is pretty obvious.
One problem is that police sometimes act like criminals. During no-knock raids, the victim can confuse the police for criminals, and kill a policeman. The correct answer is “Police should not do a no-knock raid for nonviolent offenses. Police should only break down a door if someone’s life is in immediate danger.” A Statist would say “You need a no-knock raid for drug offenses, because otherwise the victim would destroy evidence!” That misses the point, because “possession of (certain) drugs” isn’t a real crime.
There is a double standard. If you confuse a policeman for a criminal during a no-knock raid and kill him, you will be prosecuted for murder if other other policemen don’t execute you on the spot. If a policeman said “I thought he had a gun!” and murders you in a no-knock raid, that’s just too bad and these things happen.
Another problem with “Castle Doctrine” occurs when you have an “illegal gun”. If you use an “illegal gun” to defend yourself from a criminal, you’ll be prosecuted for “possession of a gun”. The correct answer is “You have an absolute right to defend yourself. There should be no State licensing requirements for guns.” In case like that, I’d like to see “jury nullification”, but that is rare.
“Duty To Retreat” says that you have an obligation to run away. This can get silly in states with no “Castle Doctrine”. If a criminal breaks into you’re home, you’re supposed to run away, rather than defend yourself and your property.
Trayvon Martin thought that George Zimmerman was a criminal. Trayvon Martin was trying to avoid George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin was actually following “Duty To Retreat”.
“Stand Your Ground” means that if you see a criminal, you don’t have an obligation to run away. You can stay where you are, and defend yourself if necessary.
Suppose you see a criminal with a knife coming towards you. Under “Duty To Retreat”, you’re supposed to run away, and can only use a gun if you’re cornered. (Presumably, if you see the criminal hurting someone else, you’re allowed to help, but that isn’t clear.) Under “Stand Your Ground”, you can stand where you are, and defend yourself if the criminal threatens you.
“Stand Your Ground” does not allow you to start a fight with someone, and then shoot them. “Stand Your Ground” should not apply to George Zimmerman, but a judge eager for an acquittal might take that interpretation.
I’ve noticed negative spin on the Trayvon Martin story. This story is being used to promote racism. This story is used to promote the idea “Only policemen should be allowed to carry guns.” People want to repeal the “Stand Your Ground” law, making it hard for someone to legitimately claim self-defense.