COMMENTARY | The Trayvon Martin case, which originates from Florida, has gained international interest within the past week. Martin is the 17-year-old boy who was killed by a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, on his way home from the store. People are outraged due to the fact that Zimmerman allegedly ran after Martin, thinking he was up to no good, although the 911 dispatcher told him not to confront him. The Stand Your Ground law allows for someone to defend themselves when there is an immediate threat of danger, and this is what is causing confusion in this particular case. As a supporter of the law, which is also in 23 other states, here is why I feel the law does need to be changed, in order to put some accountability back on the books.
The biggest issue with the Stand Your Ground law is that there is no real clear cut way to describe what is considered imminent danger. In the Martin case, Zimmerman went after Martin to confront him, which should not be allowed in the law. You are allowed to protect yourself in public, but only if someone is coming after you, and you feel there is an obvious threat. The law needs to specifically state that only if someone comes onto your personal property you can defend yourself. I am all for this law, including shooting the suspected criminal, but you cannot just go out onto the streets and shoot someone because you think they are doing something wrong or illegal. I fear that if Zimmerman is not charged in this case, then more people are going to just shoot anyone they feel is acting suspiciously, which was not the intent of the law.
The law should be changed to also include that anyone running towards the threat, instead of away from the threat, should be charged with murder. The law also needs to define what a threat is, since anyone can say they felt threatened in any situation, and there is no way to definitely confirm or deny those feelings. I believe the law needs to specifically state that if someone is acting erratic, threatens to shoot or kill you, or threatens your well-being, then you have the ability to shoot. I do not think changing the law will impact domestic abuse victims, which was basically the group of people this law was created to help. If someone is being abused, that is an obvious safety threat, so changing the law to create more specific standards of threats, is not going to hurt the self-defense claims of the abused. I also feel that anyone that has claimed self-defense in these situations should undergo a medical evaluation, to see if any injuries appear, which could back up the self-defense claims. If no injuries are visible, then I believe the law enforcement officials need to take further steps to ensure there was a real threat, especially before clearing the person of wrongdoing.