Ten years after Trayvon Martin's murder, the fight for'stand your Ground' is resurgent

The focus of self-defense laws was put on the table after the teenager was shot to death. 

Ten years after Trayvon Martin's murder, the fight for'stand your Ground' is resurgent

Gun control advocates claim that the rise of "stand your ground," has made it easier to "shoot first".

Ten years ago, Trayvon Martin , a Black teenager, was shot to death by an armed neighborhood watch volunteer. This sparked a national debate about gun violence, race, and the power of self defense statutes that allow the use of deadly force.

Sybrina Fulton was Martin's mother. She channeled her grief to a purpose. Fulton wrote this month in an essay titled " Trayvon: Ten years Later" that her first goal after the death of her son, February 26, 2012 in Sanford (Florida), was to support the repeal of the so-called stand-your ground laws.

The formation of a task force in each state on the matter did not result in any changes to the legislation. It was originally passed in 2005.

Fulton wrote that even though we didn't succeed, we will be more prepared for the next. Trust that there will be another time.

Gun control advocates as well as racial justice activists have been preparing for this time by announcing this week that a national taskforce of state legislators will be formed. They will push for the repeal and replacement of "stand your ground" laws, or "shoot first" laws, and stop other states from passing such legislation.



 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures , at least 28 states have a self defense law. This law does not require an attacker to flee if they are located in a legal place. If they feel they are under imminent danger of being hurt or killed, they can "stand your ground" using force, even deadly force.

Some states, such as Florida, allow people to declare a "standyourground" defense and claim immunity from legal actions. However, prosecutors must prove that the person used force in an unjustified manner. The National Rifle Association and gun lobbyists have advocated for the full scope of the law.

"Laws that allow people to seek out dangerous circumstances, to shoot first, and then ask questions later do not make our family more secure," said Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), who created the task force. The task force is supported by gun advocacy groups Everytown for Gun Safety, and Moms Demand Action.

McBath's 17-year old son, Jordan Davis was shot and killednine month after Martin. The shooting, which tested Florida's "stand Your Ground" law, left McBath with no choice but to say that the matter is at a crucial juncture.

The death of Ahmaud Arbery was a Black man from Georgia, who was shot and killed as he tried to escape. However, the three white men were also convicted this week of federal hate crime . Republican legislators in the state have introduced a bill which would remove the requirement for a permit to conceal or carry a firearm.

Gun safety advocates saw Georgia’s repeal of a citizen’s arrest law that predates the Civil War last year as a significant step forward after Arbery's passing. Arbery was jogging with his friends when he reached for one of their guns. Two of the white men who were accused of shooting him in self-defense failed to win their trial.

Critics of "stand Your Ground" claim that the law makes some think they can use deadly force or insert themselves into potentially dangerous situations. At worst, it encourages vigilantism.

Researchers have also looked into the role of race in determining how "stand your ground” laws are applied and who is arrested. A 2015 study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine showed that someone charged in such cases is twice likely to be convicted of killing a white person than a person who killed someone of color.

However, the laws are still being enacted. A bill in Hawaii is being considered. It would allow people to withdraw from places they don't need to.

"We want law-abiding citizens to be protected and allow them the freedom to defend themselves, regardless of whether they use a potato peeler or a gun, it doesn’t matter to me," said Bob McDermott (a Republican) during a hearing .

Cynthia Ward, a Virginia law professor who studied the language of "stand Your Ground" nationwide, stated that the increase in such laws where states like Ohio and North Dakota have recently expanded aspects of them, occurs at a time when many people are at odds over personal liberty and reports of random attacks having gripped some cities.

Ward stated, "Right now in the context of widespread public concern over the rise in violent crimes in some of the cities, I'm not surprised to see this issue surfacing again."

Critics also question whether "stand Your Ground" has been effective in deterring crime and reducing violence. Supporters cite these as reasons for the law.

A peer-reviewed study published this week by JAMA Network Open showed that "stand your Ground" is associated more firearm deaths, up to 700 extra homicides per year.

These deaths could have been prevented, according to the authors.

Lars Dalseide, spokesperson for the NRA, described the study as biased against those who oppose the fundamental rights to self-defense by law-abiding citizen citizens.

Dalseide stated in an email that "Stand Your Ground laws allow crime victims to choose how they respond to a lethal attack."

Fulton spoke out to NBC News about the 10th anniversary of her son's passing. She said that there is more to be done so that people don't lose their lives, and that those who take a life are held responsible.

She said, "I'm talking about more than just police officers." "I also mean civilians, vigilantes and people who are willing to take the law into their hands." "I'm referring to neighborhood watch captains."

George Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Martin, a high school student aged 17, as he was walking through the gated community his father was living in. Zimmerman claimed self-defense.

Zimmerman was later convicted of murder but was acquitted. Although Zimmerman's attorneys didn't use "stand your Ground" as a defense, the law remained a flashpoint.

Martin, wearing a hoodie, and carrying a pack skittles is a symbol of the movement that inspired the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.

Fulton stated that there is too much "gray" and "stand your ground" where investigators face the task of determining who was the aggressor and who might have been the victim. This hasn't stopped the flow of deadly incidents and will continue to do so.

She said, "I want people know that there are many Trayvon Martins they don't even know and that they haven’t named their names," and that it continues to happen.

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