Perspective: In defense of stand your ground laws
As Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) Judiciary subcommittee hears testimony on “stand your ground” laws Tuesday, charges of racial discrimination will be the central focus. Two black women, one of them Trayvon Martin’s mom, are expected to testify about losing their sons to gunshots by white or Hispanic men. It’s anticipated that a Harvard law professor will also emphasize race.
This racial angle is nothing new. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have already weighed in, linking race and these laws.
Nevertheless, Trayvon Martin’s tragic death, which motivated this debate, had nothing to do with stand your ground laws. These laws allow people who face serious bodily harm or death to defend themselves without first having to retreat as far as possible. George Zimmerman was on his back and had no option to retreat, so the law was completely irrelevant.
Who benefits from the law? Actually, since poor blacks who live in high-crime urban areas are the most likely victims of crime, they are also the ones who benefit the most from stand your ground laws. The laws make it easier for would-be victims to protect themselves when the police can’t arrive fast enough. Therefore, rules that make self-defense more difficult disproportionately impact blacks.
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