Stand Your Ground laws get a lot of attention these days. They have for quite some time now.
The thing is, most people don’t understand what the law means. They think it empowers people to shoot anyone they think is “scary,” or even the more ridiculous “it lets white people shoot black people.”
However, Dougherty County, Georgia District Attorney Greg Edwards took the opportunity to explain Stand Your Ground laws, recently.
Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said because of recent crimes committed, it’s important for people to understand when it’s appropriate to act in self defense and when it’s not.
The district attorney said this law, called “Stand Your Ground Law,” has been around for years, but some people may be confused about when to use deadly force when in a dispute or when a victim of a crime.
“Stand Your Ground” means you can defend yourself wherever you are, only if deadly force is brought against you, Edwards said.
This means if a person comes to you looking to kill or cause bodily harm, you can defend yourself.
Georgia enacted its Stand Your Ground law in 2006. Before that, Edwards argues that there was a duty to retreat, though I seem to recall it almost never being enforced. My memories matter because Edwards is the DA of the county I grew up in.
Some try to present Stand Your Ground laws as somehow morally wrong. Some have even gone so far as to argue it legalizes murder. Yes, they really have. They’re none of those things. It’s about being able to protect yourself and not having to seek a way of escape that may not even exist.
I disagree with Edwards’ choice of phrasing, though.
History has shown that deadly force may not be necessary, just a perception of deadly force. For example, someone pointing a BB gun at you is unlikely to be fatal, even if they pull the trigger. But if you don’t know it’s a BB gun, your perception is that they’re threatening you with a firearm. Using deadly force in response is understandable in such a circumstance.
That’s an important distinction because we’ve seen air guns used in violent crime before. At a glance, they look real enough, and it doesn’t matter how small the barrel is if it’s pointing at you, it seems like the main gun on a battleship.
So the key here is whether a reasonable person would believe your life was in danger under the same circumstances.
In fairness to Edwards, it was a TV interview that condensed the topic down to a soundbite. It’s a far more complicated topic that the news media tends not to want to get involved with, and that results in a lot of people not understanding the law at all. Edwards’ explanation, however, is far closer to an accurate portrayal than most of what we see in the media, and he gets my appreciation for it.