Not a ‘License to Murder’

Since the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Fla., made headlines, various commentators have called on states to repeal their “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle Doctrine” laws. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has called Stand Your Ground a “license to murder.” However, these laws are reasonable protections for citizens who defend themselves, and in fact they are unlikely to determine the fate of Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman.

States without these laws typically impose a “duty to retreat.” This means that when a person is attacked, he may not fight back unless he is unable to get away safely. A Castle Doctrine law removes this duty on one’s own property, and a Stand Your Ground law removes this duty in public places, allowing victims to meet force with force. In Florida, victims may assert immunity from prosecution under Stand Your Ground — but they have to prove to a judge at an evidentiary hearing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they acted in self-defense.

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