The Consequences of Standing Your Ground

Posted: June 13, 2012 in General, Law Enforcement
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I may get a few negative comments in regards to this one.  They will come in two flavors: those who actually know what I am talking about, they have taken a life or have the skills to do so; and, those who think because they have the right to bear arms, that they actually have the emotional capacity to deal with the life they take.  The last being the loudest proponents of standing their ground and living within the bounds or “law” and their “god given rights”.  They more often than not speak the loudest, they are also generally speaking part of the statistic of those who are killed or injured by their own firearm.

This post is in part inspired by the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case in Florida.  I do not intend to discuss it in any depth, nor will I debate the merits of the actual case.  In my opinion it has already reached the point of no return for a fair jury thanks to the press and ineptitude of lawmakers.  The issue I have with the case revolves more around the vagueness of the Stand Your Ground law that Florida and numerous other states have enacted.  There are very key points that are missing, one of them being the allowance for the situation being developed by the person who has stood their ground and their complicity in making said situation happen.  I am going to make a few assumptions in regard to this statement and I will use the Zimmerman case as an example.  I do however make the disclaimer that I do not know what happened, I have no great insight, I just intend to use it as an example of how an application of common-sense could have avoided the whole thing.

I am all for defending the bubble around you and your loved ones, even extending that to someone you witness bearing the brunt of a violent act.  That bubble can be your “castle” and the grounds it stands on, or, it could very well be that invisible area around you as you visit a place of business or simply walk down the street.  You have the right to defend yourself to the extreme you deem necessary, most importantly, when it is an unprovoked attack.  You even have the right to defend yourself in circumstances in which you may have either, wittingly or unwittingly, been an instigator in the situation.  The difference being in this case, you should still be responsible for dealing with the consequences of the end-result.

This is where I transition to George Zimmerman as an example.  Again, I am not read in to the circumstances, but he is prevalent in the news these days and for my purposes he is a perfect example for what I mean.  The few things we do know is that Zimmerman had some level of complicity in how the situation developed.  We know what the outcome was, a young man lost his life.  We know the argument is Zimmerman was “defending” himself from an unprovoked attack, essentially “standing his ground”.  This is where I personally break from the Florida party line in this case.  If indeed he was physically confronted by Martin as is claimed, he was not standing his ground as it was meant to be, he was applying deadly force in a situation in which he was at a minimum partly complicit in developing to the point in which deadly force was used.  No different in my mind than if he had picked a fight in a bar and the outcome was the death of the person he was fighting.

The problem I see with standing your ground, is it sounds really good on paper, and it is a fundamental right to defend yourself.  Having said that, their is a difference in not allowing someone to hurt or kill you when it is entirely unprovoked and when you are responding to violence in a situation that you at least partially provoked.  Standing your ground only has fim ground to stand on when you started the situation completely innocent in the matter.  What most people do not realize, particularly the second group mentioned in the first paragraph is there are other consequences beside legal they have to deal with when you take a life, regardless of whether or not it is intentional or in self defense.

Taking a life face to face, with a weapon of simply from a physical confrontation is an emotional trauma.  In the case of soldiers and law enforcement, it is often the result of training, yet each time it happens for them, there is a change that takes place in the person, regardless of the circumstances.  People that do not have that training face the additional issues of moving past their personal barriers in place in order to proceed to the point of violence to defend violence.  It sounds really good when it rolls off their tongues that they will do what they need to in order to protect what is theirs, it is a wholly different matter actually getting there.  Even someone who has killed before has self-placed barriers they must move beyond in order to reach that point.

The problem I see overall, is standing your ground has consequences.  Even if you are truly innocent in events leading up to the situation, there are consequences you will have to deal with.  Most of them being from an emotional perspective.  Many, if not most people, are not equipped to deal with what they will have to deal with when they have taken a life.  For those who have an additional layer of complicity in the matter, they have a greater emotional road to travel.  Standing your ground is the right of every American, but self-defense is a very well known and well-defined term, there should not be a legal out due to the vagaries of statute law in regards to the complicity of both parties in the outcome.


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