For some reason, the name Trayvon Martin and Stand Your Ground laws are linked together in the minds of millions of Americans. They see the image of a smiling young man and all they can think is that this heinous law led to an innocent boy being struck down just as he was about to enter the prime of life.
Of course, those of us who actually followed the trial know damn good and well that Stand Your Ground wasn’t part of the proceedings, and for good reason. George Zimmerman couldn’t retreat, thus negating any relevance for the law.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press–an organization that did follow the trial and has had ample opportunity to learn–is doing its part to keep the law and Martin linked in people’s minds.
The “stand your ground” self-defense law had been in effect in Florida for more than six years when it became part of the national vocabulary with the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. When the 17-year-old was fatally shot, Florida was still one of the few states with the law that removes the duty to retreat before using deadly force in the face of danger.
Now, upward of 30 states have some form of the law and recent research indicates they are associated with more deaths — as many as 700 additional firearm killings each year, according to a study published this week in the journal JAMA Network Open.
The study found that stand your ground laws in those states could be associated with a national increase of up to 11% in homicide rates per month between 1999 and 2017. The largest increases, between 16% and 33%, were in Southern states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, the study found.
“These findings suggest that adoption of (‘stand your ground’) laws across the U.S. was associated with increases in violent deaths, deaths that could potentially have been avoided,” the study’s authors concluded.
Advocates for the laws, especially the National Rifle Association, have argued they act as a crime deterrent by ensuring a person can protect themselves and others against a would-be assailant.
My question, though, is whether it was the Stand Your Ground law itself that resulted in these increased homicides, or the media’s continual misrepresentation of what the law actually was that did it?
I ask because the media and anti-gun activists (but I repeat myself) continually called the law legalized murder. They presented it as if all you had to do was say you were scared and you were sure to walk from any homicide charges.
That’s simply not true, of course. Stand Your Ground laws actually require there to be a threat to your life. You can’t just say you were afraid for your life, either. There has to be enough of a threat that a reasonable person would agree with you.
The media ignored that and continued to run with the claim that it was legalized murder.
So, again, I ask whether the rise in homicides is because of the law itself or because the media did everything they could to make the law look like something it’s not?