Whatever happened in Sanford, Fla., when a self-appointed neighborhood policeman shot down Trayvon Martin, a kid armed with Skittles, it has served another important purpose — illustrating the excesses of the NRA promotion of more firearms and more use of firearms in every aspect of life.
E.J. Dionne writes here about the need to repeal Stand Your Ground Laws, now in 25 states. Do we really want a society where a gunman’s word that he felt threatened and had to shoot gets the benefit of the doubt? Stats are piling up on the grim toll. Self-defense has always been a valid legal defense. Retreat from potential problems where possible remains wise police counsel. Why legislate an encouragement to vigilantism or, worse, score-settling with advantage given to the gun-toter against the unarmed?
The problem is too few Michael Bloombergs in the political class and too many of the Arkansas legislative stripe. Writes Dionne:
You can imagine that if the NRA proposed a statute to arm all 10-year-olds to make our schools safer, hundreds of state legislators and members of Congress would robotically vote yes. You can also predict what the NRA slogan would be: “An armed child is a safer child.”
What’s insidious about Stand Your Ground laws is that in every jurisdiction that has them, these statutes tilt the balance of power in any street encounter in favor of the person who has a gun. That’s what happened in the Martin case. The law provides a perverse incentive for everyone to be armed.
Equally problematic, these measures complicate law enforcement, breeding confusion for both police and prosecutors. They weren’t even necessary, since courts have long recognized the right to self-defense. As Glaze noted, “it’s not about standing your ground, it’s about taking authority away from police and ignoring 400 years of common law that has always allowed you to defend yourself.”