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Stand Your Ground Goes Global?

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Much of the furor surrounding the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin in an
Orlando suburb seems to be directed at Florida's controversial "stand your
ground" law. The 2005 statute, signed into law by then-Governor Jeb Bush, states
that a
person can apply deadly force
without attempting to avoid a conflict, even
in a public place, when "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". Critics
of the law say that when you combine what they claim is an overly broad statute
with Florida's extremely liberal laws governing the carrying of firearms, you
have a recipe for tragedies like the one that has captured the nation's
In the Florida, a "forcible felony" is defined as any of
the following
, "treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking;
home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault;
aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing,
placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony
which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any
individual". So theoretically, under Florida's "stand your ground" law, one
could witness a stranger prying a lock or brandishing their fists at someone and
respond by pulling out the gun they are carrying and shoot that person dead.
Under Florida's justifiable self-defense definition the shooter would have been
well within the law because of a reasonable belief that a forcible felony was
The Trayvon Martin shooting has led to individuals across a
broad political spectrum, from George
to Bill
, to caution against the continuation of the "stand your ground" laws
currently on the books in Florida and twenty-four other states. They argue that
these type of laws increase confrontations and allow citizens to apply deadly
force way too casually, without having to find ways to avoid conflicts. Under
these circumstances, it is asserted, the lawless chaos of "frontier justice"
will become more and more prevalent. I, for one, agree with them. When taken to
their ridiculous conclusion, overly liberal self-defense laws basically drop the
standard for the use of deadly to a ludicrously low level. As long a
someone feels threatened they are entitled kill someone, regardless of whether
or not a threat of harm even existed.
There is no shortage of irony,
however, that most of the individuals who rightly criticise Florida's "stand
your ground" law have no hesitation to use the same type of flawed logic to
justify our nation's policies and actions on an international scale. The
current justifications for possible military action against Iran by both the
United States and Israel are little more than "stand your ground" taken to a
global scale. In fact, the same absurdity used to justify any so-called
"preventive war" mirrors the Florida law. The standard used by proponents of
military action against Iran is no different. They are basically saying one
nation is entitled to engage in the unprovoked killing of another nation's
citizens as long as they feel threatened, whether or not a threat actually
exists is irrelevant.
If someone were to discover that the neighbor
they disliked had purchased a firearm, no rational person would think that the
individual, even though they may have felt threatened, had the right to kill
their neighbor. As absurd as that sounds, that is exactly what many in
Washington and Tel Aviv are calling to do to Iran. We have already started down
this dangerous road with the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I hope we don't make a
similar misjudgement going forward. To adopt a standard like this invites the
same chaos we see in Florida, only it takes place on much larger scale. Consider
the anarchy and destruction that could unfold if all nations decided to have
similarly low standards. What if North Korea were to decide they felt threatened
by the 30,000 American troops stationed right on their border? By the standards
many here at home are applying, they would be well within their bounds to use
any means they feel appropriate to eliminate the threat. Many people like to
argue about the cost of inaction when dealing with Iran. However, if we want to
leave a better world to our children, I would worry about the price that would
be payed if someone does take action.
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