Ralph Yarl was reportedly shot simply for ringing the wrong doorbell. Yarl thought he was at someone else’s home. That’s not a crime in anyone’s book. While answering a doorbell when someone’s at the wrong house may be annoying, it’s not criminal.
As such, a “stand your ground” defense cannot be used.
That’s not stopping some people from blaming the law for the shooting anyway.
In America, seemingly any interaction, no matter how innocuous, can end in gun violence.
Consider this month alone. In Kansas City, Ralph Yarl, a Black 16-year-old with dreams of pursuing a career in engineering, was shot at point blank range for ringing the wrong doorbell. A group of young cheerleaders in Texas were shot when one accidentally entered the wrong car in a grocery store parking lot. Kaylin Gillis, 20, was fatally gunned down in rural New York after mistakenly pulling into the wrong driveway. And Kinsley White, a six-year-old from Gastonia, North Carolina, was shot alongside her parents when her basketball rolled into a neighbour’s garden.
Experts say random acts of violence are made worse by so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws, provisions that the US Commission on Civil Rights once dubbed a “license to kill.”
Except, as with Yarl, none of these even look like they fall under Stand Your Ground.
Stand Your Ground laws say that if you have a reasonable fear of being injured or killed, you can use lethal force to defend yourself. Look at those cases for a moment. Do any of them really look like a case where someone reasonably feared for their life?
The one possible exception as presented here would be the cheerleaders. The problem there is that while one entered the wrong vehicle, she also extracted herself from that vehicle well before the shooting happened. While one might be able to justify being afraid of being killed when a strange person enters the vehicle you’re sitting in, when they leave, that argument leaves with them.
What’s more, absolutely none of these shooters are getting a pass. They’re being prosecuted, as they probably should be based on what we’ve seen.
Of course, there may be information that hasn’t made it into the news that would change things, but if so, it’s unlikely to be anything that undermines Stand Your Ground laws.
People like to pretend these laws just let you get away with murder by saying you’re scared, but that’s literally not what happened.
It didn’t work for Michael Drejka in Clearwater, Florida. Nor should it have, based on what I saw. He was actually assaulted but pulled his weapon and fired after everything appeared to be over. At least in that case, there was an assault preceding the shooting, and if Drejka didn’t get away with it, why would Stand Your Ground laws cover any of these other knobs?
Then again, I don’t think anyone really believes it will. Those who are familiar with the laws know they won’t. Just shooting people isn’t protected by the law no matter how scared you were unless there was a legitimate reason to fear for your life. None of these incidents suggest there were such grounds to shoot.
What they’re doing, though, is trying to use this to justify overturning Stand Your Ground laws.
That may sound reasonable to some, but doing so now puts the onus on law-abiding citizens to try and determine if they can get away from an attacker in the split second they have to figure out what to do while allowing a prosecutor to look at things through the cold light of day and decide what they should have done well after the fact and with hours to examine what happened.
And so they’ll take some completely unjustified shootings (or so they appear based on what we know) and pretend it’s exactly the same thing.
It’s not and I’m not going to play like it is.