Monday, February 27, 2006


Instead of embracing a citizen's "duty to retreat" in the face of a physical attack, states may be taking cues from the days of lawless frontier towns, where non-deputized Americans were within their rights to hold the bad guys at bay with the threat of deadly force. First enacted in Florida last year, "Stand Your Ground" bills are now being considered in 21 states including Georgia, according to the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The South Dakota senate approved one just last week.

These new measures would push the boundaries beyond the self-defense measures already on the books. Twelve states already allow citizens to shoot intruders in their homes, and 38 states permit concealed weapons in public places. The "Stand Your Ground" laws would allow people to defend themselves with deadly force even in public places when they perceive a life-threatening situation for themselves or others, and they would not be held accountable in criminal or civil court even if bystanders are injured.

Laws putting more judgment in an individual's hands stem from people's increased concern about crime in their communities. Proponents say it helps shift the debate from gun control to crime control, and that these laws are part of the rugged individualism of Americans. "These laws send a more general message to society that public spaces belong to the public - and the public will protect [public places] rather than trying to run into the bathroom of the nearest Starbucks and hope the police show up," says David Kopel, director of the Independence Institute in Golden, Colo.....

Currently, Florida's new law is being tested for the first time. In Tampa, a tow- truck operator who shot and killed a man he said was trying to run him over used the "Stand Your Ground" law as a defense. The district attorney is evaluating other forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony that the shots came from behind, and therefore were not in self-defense.

To be sure, the laws challenge the notion of "duty to retreat" from attack upheld by many state supreme courts. Yet the US Supreme Court came down against the "duty to retreat" in a 1921 ruling....

Indeed, those lobbying for the "Stand Your Ground" legislation say the proposed laws are more symbolic, sending a powerful message to would-be criminals. These laws "make it very clear that the good guy has the advantage, not the bad guy," says Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Va.

More here

FL: Homeowner kills intruder : "A homeowner fatally shot an intruder Tuesday afternoon after the man had approached four homes and kicked in the front door of one home, police said. Melbourne resident Pete Frink told police he feared for his life when the man approached him 'aggressively' and 'irrationally' in his Colbert Circle home. He used a small-caliber handgun to shoot the man once near his rib cage, Melbourne police Cmdr. Jim Gibbens said in a statement. Witnesses said the man approached four homes: First on the west side of Colbert, then headed north on the road's east side. He approached homes, banged on or broke windows, jumped over chain-link fences and ultimately broke through the Frinks' front door. ... No charges have been filed and an investigation continues. Pete Frink said he initially tried to get the man, whom he described as out of control, to leave his house, Gibbens said. When that failed, he fired."

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