In the wake of the Trayvon Martin’s death, many on the Left have been blaming Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, a statue passed last year that allows use for the use of deadly force in self-defense (my home state of Georgia passed a similar law a few years ago). They say that the law empowered George Zimmerman to target Martin and claim self-defense.
While I have no opinion on Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence in the case at this point — I believe too little is known to jump to conclusions one way or the other, the ire over the “Stand Your Ground” law seems a little misplaced and, in some cases, dishonest. Dave Kopel, a Second Amendment scholar, explains:
The assertion that Florida law allows shooting whenever someone believes it to be necessary is a flat-out lie. The actual law of Florida is that “a person is justified in the use of deadly force” if “(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony” (Florida Statutes, Section 776.012).
The second part of the law provides special provisions for self-defense against violent home invaders or carjackers. Neither of those is relevant to the Zimmerman case.
If the factual claims of Trayvon’s supporters are true, Mr. Zimmerman criminally attacked Trayvon and killed him, while having no reasonable belief that Trayvon was perpetrating a forcible felony, or imminently about to kill or gravely wound Mr. Zimmerman. So Florida’s self-defense laws simply would not apply, since Mr. Zimmerman would have no right under Florida law to use deadly force.
In order from worst to not-all-bad:
Strongly-ideological, highly-committed gun prohibitionist: Harold Koh.
Extensive record of anti-Second Amendment leadership: Secretary of State Clinton, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Gov. Deval Patrick.
Mixed record, but with very little positive: Amy Klobuchar.
Mixed record: Cass Sunstein, Janet Napolitano [negatives include the ridiculous Dept. of Homeland Security report conflating political dissent with terrorism; as governor she signed some pro-right to arms legislation, and vetoed other bills], Jennifer Granholm [like Napolitano, a mixed record as governor, including signing some important reforms].