Defending “Stand Your Ground” Laws: Opposing the Provocation of an Attack to “Defend” Yourself

In the month since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, some have called for the repeal of the law that may have allowed the young man’s killer to remain out of a jail cell. The law in question is referred to as a “Stand Your Ground Law” which states that “[a] person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another [person] against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” Deadly force, like that used by Zimmerman, is allowed under the law only if the person “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another [person] or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.” Zimmerman’s own lawyer, Craig Sonner, says “In my legal opinion, that’s not really applicable to this case. This is self-defense, and that’s been around for forever — that you have a right to defend yourself. So the next issue (that) is going to come up is, was he justified in using the amount of force he did?”

The Ocala Star-Banner reports, “Recently released records show that before the shooting, Zimmerman called 911 and was told by a dispatcher to wait for police, but he continued to follow Martin. Zimmerman told police there was an altercation before the shooting. The case was sent to the local state attorney’s office and is set to be heard by a grand jury in April.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed “Stand Your Ground” into law, also said he does not believe it applies to the case, “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”

As someone who believes in the right to self-defense, I support the existence of “Stand Your Ground” laws and believe that every person has the right to defend themselves wherever they have a right to be. I draw the line at instigating or provoking someone to attack so that you can then “defend” yourself and/or using unwarranted or excessive force to defend yourself; as it seems may have been the case with Zimmerman, who admittedly followed Trayvon Martin before an altercation that lead to Martin’s death.