Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stand Your Ground

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence published a wonderful article which Laci tipped me off to.

Earlier this year, an interesting study was published in the University of Miami Law Review by Zachary Weaver. Entitled “Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law: The Actual Effects and the Need for Clarification,” it raises some serious questions about the expanding parameters for the use of lethal force in our country.

On April 26, 2005, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed “Stand Your Ground” (aka “Shoot First”) legislation into law.

The law eliminated the state’s common law duty to use every reasonable means available to retreat prior to using deadly force, which the Florida Supreme Court had legitimized by explaining, “human life is precious, and deadly combat should be avoided if at all possible when imminent danger to oneself can be avoided.”

The law states that any individual who is in a place where he/she has a legal right to be, and who is “not engaged in an unlawful activity ... has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” Individuals using lethal force in this manner are immune from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits.
To me, that's a sick law which is indicative of the sickness that is taking over America. When state after state is abandoning the common sense of using "every reasonable means available to retreat prior to using deadly force," we're heading in the wrong direction. When laws are enacted which encourage people in their macho, never-back-down confrontative attitudes, we're moving away from civilization not towards it.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.


  1. Tell me Mike, if you and I (armed of course) were sitting in a restaurant and a man walked in and announced that he was going to kill you and that everyone else should leave, what would you prefer happen? I defend you and go to prison for it since I was given the opportunity to retreat or I defend you with no threat of prosecution or being sued by the criminal's family? Of course the third option is for me simply to abandon you so that no harm would come to this criminal.

  2. FWM, legally you can only defend yourself and your property.

    You also assume that being an unhealthy, fat person, that you might be able to defend yourself against someone who is a whole lot more healthy than you are.

    The other case, is that the person sees you going for your gun and blows you away.

    Ever think of that?

    I asked a criminal about using a gun for self-defence and he replied "26 feet".

    I said "what do you mean?"

    He replied, "if I am closer than 26 feet, I can disarm someone before he can draw a gun."

  3. When state after state is abandoning the common sense of using "every reasonable means available to retreat prior to using deadly force.

    Typical anti-gun distortion of facts. Stand Your Ground laws are not "shoot first" laws. They don't give me criminal immunity. If I commit a crime (for example murder) then Stand Your Ground doesn't apply, since murder is not self-defense.

    The only thing these laws do is remove the legal burden which REQUIRES the victim of a violent crime to run away from his attacker.

  4. FWM, legally you can only defend yourself and your property.

    Oh Laci, wrong again as usual. You can legally defend a 3rd party.

    If I see some nutjob holding you down and repeatedly stabbing you I can legally draw and fire my firarm to stop the attack.

  5. Laci,

    Once again you are wrong. You can defend a third party the same as if it were your self. If you are justified in using deadly force, you are also justified in using it to defend another. Further, depending upon what state you are in, you can not necessarily use deadly force to defend your property.

    Of course then Laci prefers once-great Britain where they will throw the victim in jail and let the criminals run free

    per Mike W: "If I see some nutjob holding you down and repeatedly stabbing you I can legally draw and fire my firearm to stop the attack."

    Or, you could just keep on walking, duty to retreat and all. You could also just stand there and video record it like disarmed onlookers in Chicago.

  6. I can defend myself quite well and have done so.

    You are under no legal obligation to help me if you see me being attacked.

    Actually, you can defend me if you have a reasonable belief that I have the right to use force in self-defence, but you would be legally liable if you are incorrect.

    Again, you assume that deadly force is the acceptable method.

    I would have dodged the person with the knife and then broken his arm in several places.

    NO need for you to pull a gun to save me.

  7. I am correct in my justisdiction, you can only defend against attacks on yourself, immediate famuily, or your property.

    Third parties:

    The right to defense of others turns largely on the reasonableness of the belief that the victim deserved assistance. A minority of jurisdictions require that the rescuer be a member of the victim’s family, or the victim’s superior or employee. Similarly, a minority of jurisdictions require that the rescuer’s belief be correct, reasoning that the rescuer ‘merely steps into the victim’s shoes’, while the majority requires only that it be reasonable. Pennsylvania law imposes no such restrictions. It does, however, require the additional showing that the rescuer believed that his intervention was necessary, and that the rescuer retreats if the victim would be required to do so.

    If in the course of intentionally defending himself or another, a defendant recklessly or negligently injures or kills a third person, self-defense will not bar liability, but it will reduce the gravity of the charge from an intentional crime to a reckless or negligent crime.

  8. http://www.ittendojo.org/articles/general-4.htm

    The law, and the facts underlying a cause of action are rarely clear-cut. Statutes and case law vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Lawyers are skilled at recasting the facts in their client’s best interest. Juries are given broad discretion with respect to determining guilt or innocence, and may feel the need to compensate an injured party regardless of fault. And even if a defendant successfully raises one of the defenses discussed above, litigation is costly both in terms of time and money.

    It would be foolish to try to rely on a general understanding of the legal principles at work in these situations, in order to engage in behavior which falls just within the realm of legality. Rather, the wise martial artist will attempt to avoid any hint of liability or criminal conduct. The following general principles may be of value in this endeavor.

    • Avoid physical confrontation. If there is a safe avenue of retreat, use it (regardless of jurisdiction). At a minimum, retreat to the wall.

    • If confrontation is inevitable, give a warning when defending property, unless doing so would be dangerous or futile (which is often the case). This does not mean that you should list your qualifications, as the samurai of old were wont to do. Rather, you should simply give the aggressor notice that you intend to use force against him, in order to allow him to reconsider his position.

    • Ensure that you are not seen as the aggressor. This does not require ‘taking the first hit’, but it does require being certain that physical contact is imminent prior to reacting (for an in-depth examination of the danger here, see the Goetz case).

    • Be aware of the aggravating and mitigating factors. Is there a size, age, or ability differential? Are you or the attacker armed or trained? All of these factors will help you determine the appropriate level of force.

    • Use only the amount of force necessary to deter the attack. This does not require the use of ineffective technique, but rather mature reflection prior to a confrontation about what technique (including flight) is appropriate in which situation. It would be wise to introduce this as part of training.

    • Once the initial threat is neutralized, stop. This does not mean that you must give your opponent a fighting chance. Rather, you may immobilize the attacker while awaiting the police, but do no further damage.

    • When intervening on behalf of a third party, ensure (as much as possible) that the intervention is justified and necessary. As a rule, interference in domestic disputes is unwise. Reconciliations can mean trouble for the would-be rescuer.

    • Remember that, in this country, human rights are superior to property rights. The use of force in the protection of property is very risky.

  9. The general common law principle is stated in Beckford v R (1988) 1 AC 130:

    "A defendant is entitled to use reasonable force to protect himself, others for whom he is responsible and his property. It must be reasonable."

  10. I did a detailed post several weeks ago on self-defense and the common law. CSGV is either misunderstanding common law or deliberately misrepresenting it.

    Also, what Laci is referring to is the Tueller Drill, which is 21 feet, not 26 feet, but that's really not gospel or anything. It doesn't take a whole lot of physical prowice or fitness to learn how to draw a gun quickly an effectively. Police officers have to deal with the Tueller Drill as well, so it's not an unknown problem. It's also not an insurmountable problem.

    If I were a criminal armed with a knife, I'm not going to bet my life that I can disable FWM before he shoots me, and most criminals, not surprisingly, don't want to risk being shot. There are easier targets out there.

  11. FWM is refering to Munir Hussein. The Judge in that case said:

    “If persons were permitted to take the law into their own hands and inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.”

    Yes, FWM, I do prefer that to seeing prople like you and MikeW running around with guns.

    Also, FWM aren't you "pro-life" why are you so keen on using deadly force if you ascribe to that belief? Shouldn't you be investigating non-lethal forms of self-defence.

    Also, you do not understand the law. Self-defence does not give you carte blanche to defend someone. You are only able to defend someone if they were in a position to defend themselves.

    So, to be quite honest, I would prefer you keep your gun to yourself.

  12. We should be investigating non-lethal force, and many of us do. But non lethal force is for non-lethal situations. When someone presents a credible threat of deadly force, you don't respond with non-lethal force. Even police officers will go to the gun if someone draws a deadly weapon on them. Tasers and chemical sprays are compliance tools, and will work in most situations against opponents who aren't committed to the fight. But they aren't end all be all, otherwise police wouldn't still carry firearms.

  13. I would have dodged the person with the knife and then broken his arm in several places.

    I lol'd, then I lol'd some more. Actual fights are a lot different from your YMCA Self-Defense classes, princess.

  14. Actually, Sebastian has hit the nail on the head.

    Criminals for the most part don't want to deal with the public which is why they burgle rather than rob.

    It is also why identity theft is such a popular crime (little involvement with the victim).

    A psycho who is going to shoot someplace up isn't going to care if you have a gun or not, which is why we see cops shot and mass shooters shooting defenders.

    The real issue is that these laws are a pain in the ass for prosecutors. Why I should care is beyond me since I do criminal defence.

    If the US wants to allow for criminals and others to skirt the law of self-defence: go for it.

    Personally, I agree with the Judge.

  15. I am correct in my justisdiction, you can only defend against attacks on yourself, immediate famuily, or your property.

    Well yeah, you live in the UK, where Self-Defense has been criminalized.

    You can't even defend yourself or you property, particularly if you use a gun.

  16. Well, you know what bothers me about all this? It's that moment of decision. When you as a gun holder think you see a situation which requires your intervention, you may have to act quickly, and you may be mistaken. In fact, I would imagine you'd be much more likely to be mistaken than to make that once-in-a-lifetime, perfectly timed interference which saves the day.

    I don't feel safer with guys like you around. You can mock the word "feel" all you want, but the fact remains. And it comments on Caleb's TV appearance, the video of which I just saw yesterday on his site. I'd want to know if my neighbor carries a gun. In case we get in a fight over raking the leaves or taking out the garbage cans or something, I think that's information I need to know. Gun owners aren't the only ones with rights.

  17. Well using that logic we should disarm all law enforcement, since they make the same kind of on the spot decisions and are just as human as CCW holders.

    And yes, I LOL'd at Laci's "Oh, I'll just dodge the guy with the knife. Must be nice living permanently in la-la land.

  18. What is reasonable? If you are at a carryout or a bus stop, and a criminal demands that you leave, else he will commit violence against you--Must you obey or forfeit your right to self-defense? That is basically what a duty to retreat asks for.

    The civil aspect is probably the most important in the real world--Prosecutors are usually reasonable in legitimate self-defense cases even if they could make a case that retreat was possible. Ambulance chasing civil lawyers are another matter, because even if 95% of them do the right thing, the criminal's family only needs to find one willing to litigate. Under what circumstances should you be required to defend yourself against a criminal suit for defending against an attacker?

    Even with stand your ground, the majority of criminal attacks of law abiding armed men will end like Caleb's--Victim fights back, and by the time his gun is drawn the attacker is running. (I'd have liked to see the police capture a man with a coffee stained shirt and soiled underwear a few minutes later...) I'm near certain that if Caleb had shot, he'd have been found justified.

    The majority of the legal risk should be to the criminal, benefit of the doubt to the defender.

  19. Sevesteen asks what must you do "If you are at a carryout or a bus stop, and a criminal demands that you leave, else he will commit violence against you."

    Well, unless you're an ego-driven macho man who has something to prove, you step aside or just leave. Whether you have a gun or not, that is the only sensible response. The problem is many people, whether they carry guns or not, can't do that. It's some combination of insecurity and fear that drives men to get into these pissing contests. They recall their father's teaching them all the wrong lessons when they were kids and they're powerless to resist. That's where that crap comes from and so many men are warped by it that adding guns to the situation is bad news.

  20. The correct answer to Sevesteens is that you do whatever ensures you the best means of survival given the situation at hand.

    Is the guy 30+ feet away from you screaming for you to leave "or else?" If so then you most likely have the opportunity to remove yourself from the situation without suffering immediate harm.

    Is the guy at contact distance with a knife pressed to your gut? if so then your ability to retreat from the encounter without serious harm has changed considerably and thus your options are different.

  21. The key problem with duty to retreat is this.

    It REQUIRES the victim of a violent crime to take a particular one size fits all course of action.

    As the victim of a violent assault the law should not burden me, rather it should burden my attacker.

    In some states you have a duty to retreat from your own home. I'm sorry, but if I lived in such a state I would take action to defend myself, my family and my home regardless of what the law requried of me.

  22. It is not a "one size fits all course of action." If the worst thing happens and somebody gets shot, wouldn't every detail be examined? Of course it would.

    The problem is not a problem at all but a benefit to the courts and law enforcement in determining when somebody took the law into their own hands. If they could have fled, they should have. When you say "not from my own house," you seem to be the one with the pre-determined one size fits all approach. In some cases even from your own house you might be able to safely flee and notify the cops. In cases like that you should.