September 20, 2019
This past week in Rockdale County, Georgia, three masked teenagers - ages 15, 16 and 16 - allegedly tried to rob three individuals in front of their home.
One of the teens allegedly fired a shot in the direction of the would-be robbery victims. None of them were hurt, but, and this is a big but, one of the targeted victims returned fire and killed all three of the retreating teens.
Georgia allows people to take deadly action when they have a reasonable belief it is necessary to protect themselves or others from death or serious injury, or to prevent a felony that involves the use or threat of physical force.
In 2005, Florida passed the first stand-your-ground law expanding on what was known as the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine permitted the use of deadly force within one’s home without first attempting to retreat.
Florida’s stand-your-ground law stated “a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” Georgia’s law mirrors the Florida statute.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, laws in at least 25 states provide that there is no duty to retreat from an attacker anywhere in which one is lawfully present. At least 10 of those states have language stating one may stand his or her ground.
Research published several years ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that stand-your-ground increased homicide rates. Soon after the law took effect in Florida, there was a sudden and sustained 24% jump in the monthly homicide rate - the rate of homicides caused by firearms increased by 32%.
An investigation last year by the Tampa Bay Times, a Florida newspaper, found that the rate of homicides declared justifiable tripled in the five years after the passage of stand-your-ground.
More than 11 million Americans now have concealed carry permits. Stand-your-ground and the proliferation of gun ownership has increased the potential for unnecessary violent confrontations.
Professor Ronald L. Carlson of the University of Georgia, told The New York Times that the Georgia law provides that someone may “use whatever force to protect themselves if a felonious assault is about to be made upon him,” and is not obligated to retreat.
According to the Washington Post, the Georgia case joins a national debate over stand-your-ground laws fueled by high-profile cases. The Florida law came under scrutiny after the police invoked it in declining to arrest George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
In 2012, 17-year-old Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman after Martin allegedly punched Zimmerman, slammed his head against the sidewalk and knocked him to the ground. The outrage that followed Zimmerman’s acquittal helped launch Black Lives Matter. As for Zimmerman he had several brushes with the law after the trial, including assaultive behavior.
Not all cases have ended the way Zimmerman’s did. Last year, a Florida jury convicted Michael Drejka of manslaughter for shooting Markeis McGlockton in the parking lot of a convenience store in Clearwater, Florida. Drejka unsuccessfully sought the protection of Florida’s stand-your-ground law.
Maybe the senseless loss of three young lives in a Georgia neighborhood will cause lawmakers to rethink the idea that gun slinging is the answer to America’s ills.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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