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Editorial: ‘Stand Your Ground’ law should be repealed

In the days since George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin, many Americans have no doubt had the same confounding reaction: It is somehow possible to hold two contradictory opinions about this case in your head simultaneously.

First, given the murky and conflicting evidence, the lack of eyewitnesses and the weak performance by at least one critical state witness, it’s not impossible to understand how jurors found reasonable doubt about the prosecutors’ case against Zimmerman.

Second, a kid on his way back from the store armed with only iced tea and Skittles was shot to death, and no one will be held accountable. How can that possibly be? How can the justice system create a verdict that feels so far from just?

The case has forced an uncomfortable national dialogue about the racism that exists even still in the United States. When Zimmerman told a 911 dispatcher on the night of the shooting, “These a--holes, they always get away” (together with an even harsher expletive), he was surely referring to young, African-American men – casting them as different from himself, revealing an us-versus-them mind-set that poisons daily life and, as it turns out, can be lethal. Curing ourselves of such racism is an effort 300 years in the making. But while progress on this front can seem achingly slow, there is one concrete effort that might just make such episodes less frequent: a renewed push to rethink gun laws that make it easier to kill.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute played a tragic role in this case. That law – like similar statutes across the country, including in New Hampshire – allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat, not only in his own home but also anywhere he has a legal right to be. In the Zimmerman trial, jurors were told specifically that “If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and use deadly force.”

Such laws encourage Americans in nearly two dozen states to introduce deadly force into situations where it doesn’t belong. They escalate confrontations rather than defuse them and make a violent outcome more likely. They decrease public safety and increase homicide rates. In Florida, where Stand Your Ground has been the law since 2005, homicides are up dramatically, and the law has been cited as a defense in an increasing number of incidents, including shootouts between rival gang members.

New Hampshire enacted its “Stand Your Ground” law during a national campaign by the National Rifle Association and the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council to persuade states to adopt such legislation. The Legislature did so over the strong objections of law enforcement, including the association that represents the state’s chiefs of police, and then-Gov. John Lynch’s veto. This year, an attempt to repeal it was unsuccessful.

Penacook Rep. Steve Shurtleff was the sponsor of that effort, and he should keep at it. New Hampshire’s law should be repealed before someone here is killed by a gunman intent on standing his ground when he could instead walk away from a fight. Many Americans have concluded that it was Zimmerman, not Martin who “got away,” despite what the gunman said before the shooting. Making that less likely in the future is a cause we must all embrace.

Legacy Comments26

Once again, the the Concord Monitor has an opinion on a matter upon which they have, at best, a tenuous grasp of the facts. Mr Zimmerman did NOT use Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law in his defense. His defense was predicated solely upon "self defense." This, plus a politically-motivated prosecution, inept prosecutors, competent defense counsel and six women with common sense and willing to study the facts vis-a-vis the law was the reason George Zimmerman is now a free man.

I think the CM should just fold as a credible newspaper. It has become nothing but a mouthpiece for the radical left totalitarians that are seeking to destroy this country and the freedoms provided for under our Constitution. Stand You Ground was NOT EVEN IN QUESTION in the TM/GZ case but CM doesn't mind grandstanding over it in any case. Really CM do you expect anyone in the #1 safest state in the nation to fall for this baloney?

I agree with this editorial. Stand Your Ground laws encourage vigilantism and the escalation of conflicts such as street-corner arguments. Furthermore, thy run counter to centuries of legal tradition, which imposes a reasonable duty to retreat except in one's home ("castle doctrine"). As such, SYG has no place in the civil society crafted by our nation's founders. Combined with the senseless proliferation of guns in this country, SYG costs real lives. By the way, I just sent a "thank you" email to NH Representative Shurtleff for his efforts on behalf of HB135.

I believe that the Monitor's editorial is quite the result of emotion and has little to do with Florida law. A jury has acquitted Zimmerman. If you find it hard to accept, you should look into what the Sanford police did immediately AFTER Martin was killed; they were NOT going to arrest him. The on-scene police found no reason to arrest him. Why? Perhaps, it is because they saw, first hand, what happened and all the evidence they had made it quite obvious that NO Florida law had been violated. Is the whole incident regrettable-of course! Did Zimmerman do anything illegal?? The jury said NO !! Is the 'stand your ground' law justifiable?? Some may disagree, but I believe that it is. And, I applaud New Hampshire for adopting SYG, although, so far, it has not shown any effectiveness.

Walter - that's the whole point of the editorial. Zimmerman did nothing illegal, so the jury aquitted him, as it needed to under Florida law. The problem, as the editorial points out, is that the law that protected Zimmerman probably led to Martin's death. If that protective law did not exist, Zimmerman might not have confronted Martin, and if he did, he might not have used deadly force to protect himself when he apparently believed he was in danger. No SYG law - no dead, innocent kid. (Kid, by the way, was standing his ground, was he not?) It's a CF, if you ask me.

FOF, SYG was never brought in this trial - wasn't an issue before or after.

That's exactly right -- this confrontation was in no way a Stand Your Ground issue. Who and when -- under the terms of that law -- stood their ground in the face of actual deadly threat when retreat was an option? Zimmerman -- under the legal term "but for", but for his following Martin none of this would have happened -- was an initial cause of the shooting and in the context of admonition by the police dispatcher he most certainly never should have been so incredibly irresponsible. Trayvon Martin - well known for his mixed martial arts training, size and strength and violent history (most certainly no longer "a kid") -- was the legally associated "proximate cause" of the actual violence. Knock your antagonist down, begin punching and smashing his head against concrete, and no retreat option exists. They both share guilt, Zimmerman as temporally primary and Martin as he actually executed far beyond that. Thinking that SYG abolition offers any relevant solution to this particular sort of sequence of events is both legally and morally confused.

"When Zimmerman told a 911 dispatcher on the night of the shooting, “These a--holes, they always get away” (together with an even harsher expletive), he was surely referring to young, African-American men – casting them as different from himself, revealing an us-versus-them mind-set that poisons daily life and, as it turns out, can be lethal." Funny, I thought he was referring to THEIVES! How could you possibly believe he was referring to young A-As?! Wow, Editorial Staff, you certainly sound racist.

And if you had watched the trial at all you would know TM jumped GZ and started bashing his head against the cement. What would you do in this situation? ...borrowing the sentiment from a line in the movie, My Cousin Vinny: Now I ask ya, would you give a "bleep" what color of the skin the S*B that was beating your head against the ground was wearing?

Would Martin have had an opportunity to bash Zimmerman's head, if GZ had not felt empowered to follow and confront him under the SYG law? Probably not. Wasn't TM also standing his ground?

FOF - so now you can read Zimmerman's mind for long ago. Please teach me that trick.

Did he "jump" him, or was he trying to defend himself from some nutcase who was chasing him? Did he not try and run away? If some guy you never saw before was chasing you for several blocks, for no reason you could fathom, and finally caught up to you, what would you do, shake his hand? Try to be friends?

I would ask him if he needed help with something. I certainly wouldn't start punching him unless I knew he intended to do me harm.

I don't beleive Zimmerman went out that night looking to hurt anyone and felt he was simply looking out for the neighborhood. But I really have problems when someone ignores direct police instructions to stand-down and instead purposely puts himself into harm's way, on neutral ground, where he suddenly needs to use a stand your ground deadly defense. That is where the law really violates my personal ethics. If he had only followed police instructions, both men would be alive, free and out of the public's eye.

I am in total agreement with this comment. When Martin took off running, any claim that Zimmerman made about potentially being harmed ended then. By persuing Martin, who had done nothing wrong, committed no crime, Zimmeman is 100% responsible for initiating the encounter and the violence that ended Martin's life. This is NOT the intent of SYG laws. He should be locked up for life. And yes, I am a gun owner, a carrier of a conceled handgun at times, and a very firm believer in SYG laws and the 2A rights so many want to end or alter.

African Americans benefit from Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law at a rate far out of proportion to their presence in the state’s population, despite an assertion by Attorney General Eric Holder that repealing “Stand Your Ground” would help African Americans. Black Floridians have made about a third of the state’s total “Stand Your Ground” claims in homicide cases, a rate nearly double the black percentage of Florida’s population. The majority of those claims have been successful, a success rate that exceeds that for Florida whites. Nonetheless, prominent African Americans including Holder and “Ebony and Ivory” singer Stevie Wonder, who has vowed not to perform in the Sunshine State until the law is revoked, have made “Stand Your Ground” a central part of the Trayvon Martin controversy. - Patrick Howley - Investigative reporter

never confuse liberals with facts - they have a hard enough time

Look, you want to pass sensible gun laws, right? Well here is something to think about: if one wants to hunt any game in any State, before you are allowed a license to do so you MUST take a hunter safety course. Period. No exceptions. Much of the class focus is on gun safety. This requirement greatly reduced the numbers of hunting accidents across the country, doing exactly what it was intended for. To carry a gun in the wilderness, where generally nobody is around, requires gun safety training. So why then, here in NH, are there no requirements for any sort of training or proficiency testing for those who want to carry a concealed handgun in areas where people are everywhere? Fill out a form, submit it with a $10 fee, and within 10 days they must issue the carry permit without any assessment of the applicant's level of knowledge, or ability to hit the broad side of a barn. I am a pretty hard core gun right supporter, but even I think this contrary law is just plain crazy.

I couldn't have said it better gnd1. I feel exactly as you regarding guns and training. Along with the responsibility of owning a gun comes the responsibility of of knowing how to properly handle one. When you carry you're responsible for whatever happens when you use it.

gd, I hear you want to hobble law-abiding citizens and empower violent criminals - why? (this would be the net effect as criminals don't take course, get permits or obey laws). Why do you feel a law abiding citizen with a weapon is more of a threat than assailants, rapists and murders? Who is selling you that message and why would they want you to believe that illogical and preposterous idea?

They are a threat to everyone, if they don't understand how guns work; how to properly unload a semi automatic, to never point a gun at someone you would not want to shoot. Plenty of people with carry permits are half or nearly total gun-ignorants who have no business carrying. A guy shot himself on Loudon Rd a few years ago while driving. While unloading his pistol. Look at the road rage numbers involving guns being pointed at people, guns in legal carry status. I am not "hobbling" law abiding citizens, just looking for a training requirement for those who want a permit but don't have a hunter safety certificate. In many States one has to take a class AND demonstrate basic markmanship before a carry permit is given. I don't see this as a hobble, I see it as common sense gun law.

gdn1, " Guns a threat to everyone.." As are knives, hammers, axes, cars, machetes, knives of all kinds, fire, electricity, nuclear energy - in short virtually any tool mankind has invented. Guns can used to kill & maim or guard & protect. Law-abiding citizen (not police) use weapons 1mil/yr to protect self/family - the greatest majority of the time not having fire a shot. Its human behavior that has any tool used for good or evil. I am OK with training, for all the same reasons we repeatedly practice CPR - when you need those skills - the situation is dire and time to act/react is extremely short.- As as a long as its not just a prelude to database formation and then confiscation. (I trust all here -are too intelligent to say, "Oh, they would never do that...)

The old law never required one to retreat. If you're going to editorialize a topic you ought to at least first understand the facts of the situation.

Its not yours or any ones to repeal. Its a natural law. The natural right of all of us to defend our lives where we have a right to be is the right of all free people as well as a natural right that is protected by our constitution. Even if you come up with some way to restrict it, I will still choose to use what force I deem necessary to defend my life, my families life, the life of my neighbors or even my property. As its stated in the New Hampshire Constitution. You and many more have fell victim to the political and media propaganda about the case and the issues surrounding who George Zimmerman is. Zimmerman does not have a racist bone in his body and was working to make his neighborhood a better place and was attacked for it. We should all wish we had more men like him in our communities. The day we hold up people like Travon Martin as role models and put down people like George Zimmerman is the day this nation is truly lost. Look into the back ground of who George Zimmerman is. He is a good man.

Strangely, I agree with you in part. I do believe we have the right to defend ourselves. However, I think that right to self defense ought to be null and void for the person who "starts it." When someone stalks another person, they should not be able use SYG as a defense when the person they are stalking (or threatening, or provoking in some other way) fights back. SYG then should revert to the person being stalked or threatened. That's where the law falls dreadfully short and ought to be amended. You don't get to threaten someone with deadly force, then claim self defense when they fight back.

From democrat talking points to the Monitor's Editorial page. Looks like cut and paste to me.

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