George Zimmerman’s attorneys did not seek a “stand your-ground” hearing but this reprehensible law was at the core of their case and the judge’s jury instructions. His acquittal turned on the jurors’ belief that, in the final minutes of the confrontation between the armed crime watch volunteer and the unarmed Trayvon Martin, the teenager was the aggressor and Mr. Zimmerman had the right to shoot him in the heart to defend himself.
That is the sort of bizarre scenario which this law can produce and the reason for the widespread outrage that the man who initiated the events that led him to kill Trayvon has escaped any punishment.
It is sometimes forgotten that the law is a child of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Michael Daly, in a Daily Beast story in March 2012, reported that Marion Hammer, a Floridian in her mid-60s, was the prime mover behind the law. She served three years as the first woman president of the gun lobby, became an NRA consultant paid $300,000 a year and formed an NRA affiliate, United Sportsmen of Florida.
Of course, the NRA’s motive is hardly self-defense. If people are made to feel insecure and are given the power of life and death under the illusion of self-defense, they will rush to buy guns and the merchants of death profit handsomely.
Seeming to bow to pressure, Gov. Rick Scott appointed a “Governor’s Task Force On Citizen Safety And Protection” to examine the law after Mr. Zimmerman killed Trayvon. Every objective observer concluded, after the task force issued its report last Feb. 21, that it had all been a con job; there was no serious intention to repeal or substantially amend the measure. And even though some of the recommendations involve the Legislature revisiting the law, that has not happened. Mr. Scott refuses to call a special session, despite the glaring flaws exposed by the Trayvon Martin killing and the not-guilty verdict.
In fact, Professors Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra of Texas A&M University, in an exhaustive study of Florida’s “stand your ground” law – since replicated in more than 20 other states – reported: “We find no evidence of deterrence; burglary, robbery, and aggravated assault are unaffected by the laws. On the other hand, we find that murder and non-negligent manslaughter are increased by seven to nine percent. This could represent either increased use of lethal force in self-defense situations or the escalation of violence in otherwise non-lethal situations. Regardless, the results indicate that a primary consequence of strengthening self-defense law is increased homicide.”
So when President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder join the millions who want this law abolished, they know whereof they speak. To paraphrase former President Ronald Regan: “Mr. Scott, tear down this law.”