7/19/2013

New Op-ed in Philadelphia Inquirer on Stand Your Ground Law

My newest piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer starts this way:
On Sunday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg knew what was responsible for Trayvon Martin's death: Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Or, as Bloomberg calls it: a "shoot-first" law.  
According to Bloomberg: "'shoot-first' laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns. Such laws - drafted by gun-lobby extremists in Washington - encourage deadly confrontations by enabling people to shoot first and argue 'justifiable homicide' later."  
Many others have taken the same line since Saturday's verdict. But they don't understand the law. Nor do they understand why it was completely irrelevant to the George Zimmerman trial. . . . .
The relevant part of the law for Zimmerman's case is unchanged in the US from before the country was started.  When you can't retreat, as with someone on top of you, the relevant law is no different than if the same case had happened in Florida 150 or 200 years ago. 

The Pennsylvania law is available here:


(i)  the actor has a right to be in the place where he was attacked;
(ii)  the actor believes it is immediately necessary to do so to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse by force or threat; and
(iii)  the person against whom the force is used displays or otherwise uses:
(A)  a firearm or replica of a firearm as defined in 42 Pa.C.S. ยง 9712 (relating to sentences for offenses committed with firearms); or
(B)  any other weapon readily or apparently capable of lethal use.
(2.4)  The exception to the duty to retreat set forth   under paragraph (2.3) does not apply if the person against whom the force is used is a peace officer acting in the performance of his official duties and the actor using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a peace officer.

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