On October 29th, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing chaired by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), assistant Majority Leader, titled, “‘Stand Your Ground Laws’: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force.”
According to the NRA-ILA, “Present were several witnesses who attacked not only SYG laws, but also the Right-to-Carry, and even the American jury system.”
During his testimony, Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan incorporated the themes of the previous witnesses and also shared his opinion of the highly publicized case involving George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Coming to a different conclusion than that of the jury who acquitted Zimmerman, Sullivan theorized that Zimmerman was motivated by racism and that he shot Martin as Martin was attempting to defend himself from attack. In a radical statement, Sullivan noted that as a result of the Zimmerman case, residents of Florida are led to believe “they can incorrectly profile young black children, kill them, and be protected by stand your ground laws.”
One of the witnesses who defended the right to self-defense was Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato institute Illya Shapiro. Shapiro’s testimony made clear that that the concept of no duty to retreat has been part of the American legal tradition dating back 150 years and that it is the law in 31 states. Shapiro went on to note that the Supreme Court enshrined the concept in federal law with the 1895 case of Beard v. United States, and that as an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama sponsored an expansion of the state’s self-defense laws.
Christopher Amore, a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and an associate at the law firm of Mound Cotton Wollan & Greengrass in New York, in the National Security Law Journal, published by George Mason University writes:
The concept of self-defense has long been a part of most legal systems. For example, the Bible endorses the principle of self-defense in its recognition of the right of the homeowner to kill the unlawful intruder. The Talmud acknowledges a right to use force against aggressors who threaten human interests, or threatened to kill. Saint Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth century Italian Catholic priest and philosopher, reasoned that the purpose of using deadly force in self defense was not to kill, but rather to repel the attacker.
“[The] force had to be directed against the attack, not the attacker. The death was a side effect of the legitimate purpose rather than the goal itself.”
In 1688, English lawmakers, affirming the natural right for people to defend themselves, codified the right to bear arms in the Declaration of Right: “the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.” The Convention Parliament, the legislative body responsible for the drafting of the Declaration of Right, believed that the right to bear arms for the purpose of self-defense was one of the “true auntient and indubitable Rights and Liberties of the People.”
England’s recognition of the inherent right to self-defense in the seventeenth century would be echoed over three hundred years later by the United States Supreme Court. Interpreting this provision of the Declaration of Right in the landmark Second Amendment case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court explained that “the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence” was necessary in order to protect “the natural right of resistance and self-preservation.”
Guns.com reports, “Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith announced this week that the city’s neighborhood watch program has been revamped and has now banned neighborhood watch members from carrying guns, local media reports…Opinions on the shooting – and the trial – remain a highly debated and heated topic, just as the program’s decision to ban firearms likely will be. The new rules and regulations of the neighborhood watch program, which will be announced at a community meeting next Tuesday, include prohibiting volunteers from pursuing any individual who they deem suspicious.”
Smith appears to be implementing procedures that not in accordance with Florida’s concealed carry and stand your ground statutes. The decision to carry and use deadly force is made by the individual.
The Florida legislature will take up stand your ground during the 2014 legislative session. According to Robert M. Levy:
With the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial — in which he was acquitted in the shooting of a black teenager — some lawmakers are calling for a serious revision of Florida’s 2005 “stand your ground” self-defense law.
Following Trayvon Martin’s killing, Scott convened a task force to look at the law, but the panel did not recommend any major changes and none were achieved this year. But Senate Democratic leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale has re-filed legislation [SB 0122] that would prevent individuals from “unreasonably escalating” a violent conflict and then claiming self-defense. The bill would also prevent a self-defense shield for individuals who chased someone down or left a safe place.
The bill also requires local law enforcement agencies to develop guidelines on neighborhood watch programs.
The House has agreed to hold hearings on the self-defense law, although the chairman of the panel has said he doesn’t support any changes to it.
Is disarming Floridians and weakening Florida’s stand your ground laws the best way to ensure “the natural right of resistance and self-preservation”? We expose, you decide.