Anti-Gun Group Distorts Zimmerman Case In “Stand Your Ground” Campaign

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has produced a “public service announcement” urging repeal of the stand your ground provisions that are part of most states’ laws on self-defense. The ad features, naturally, the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, even though that provision of Florida law had no application to the case–you can’t retreat when you are lying flat on your back–the defense did not invoke or rely on “stand your ground,” and the prosecution agreed that there was no such issue in the case. But since when have liberals cared about reality?

The ad features a partial re-creation of the encounter between Zimmerman and Martin–partial, because it skips from Zimmerman following Martin to Zimmerman standing up as Martin lies dead on the ground. So we don’t see Martin jumping Zimmerman, bloodying his nose, knocking him to the ground, jumping on top of him and pounding Zimmerman’s head repeatedly into the pavement. An objective person would consider those to be serious omissions:

The CSGV text that accompanies the video is consistently false or misleading:

With “Stand Your Ground” (aka “Shoot First”) laws, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its partners in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have turned 3,000 years of jurisprudence on its head. Now you can provoke a fight, and if losing that fight, kill the person you attacked.

That is incorrect. The Florida statute is typical; stand your ground applies only if you are defending yourself after being attacked by someone else:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

This part is wrong, too:

The NRA’s laws represent a dangerous and unprecedented escalation in the use of force in the public space, allowing individuals to kill when they merely fear “great bodily harm” (i.e., a fistfight, shoving match, etc.).

The Florida statute, like all other stand your ground laws (and self-defense laws generally) requires that the person invoking the defense reasonably believe that he or she will suffer “death or great bodily harm.” And I don’t think you would want to try to convince a jury that a “shoving match” gives rise to a reasonable apprehension of death or great bodily harm.

This is misleading, too:

Additionally, “Stand Your Ground” laws remove the duty to retreat from a conflict in public, allowing individuals to shoot and kill even when they could otherwise walk away safely from an altercation.

One of the principal reasons for stand your ground laws is that you can’t always “walk away safely” from an altercation. Remember that the principle can be invoked only if you have been “attacked” in a place where you have a right to be. At that point, we probably aren’t talking about walking away, we are talking about fleeing. But what if the person who attacked you can run faster than you can? Or what if he is armed, and shoots you in the back? Imposing a duty to flee, rather than defend oneself with deadly force, if necessary, places innocent victims of attacks in needless danger. Which is why most state legislatures have enacted laws allowing self-defense, with the usual qualifications, when residents are attacked outside their homes.


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