The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Columns

April 30, 2014

Primus Mootry: Stand your ground is a question of values

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” - Malcolm X

Remember Trayvon Martin. Of course you do. He is the African-American teenager who was shot to death by a Florida block watch volunteer who, although he followed the boy and accosted him, was acquitted of all charges in the widely publicized case.

Although the state’s stand-your-ground law did not specifically apply, I believe it confused jurors enough to let the man, George Zimmerman, go free based on a self-defense judgment.

In another more recent and highly publicized Florida domestic violence case, an African-American woman, Marissa Alexander, fired a warning shot into the wall to fend off her abusive husband. Even though the case has many wrinkles to it, the bottom line is that Alexander was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon.

Her hopes that Florida’s stand-your-ground laws were her best defense were dashed (she declined a plea bargain deal that would have resulted in a lesser sentence) when her action resulted in a 20-year prison sentence for assault with a deadly weapon. Under the circumstances, the harsh sentence has caused a national outcry from various civil rights and other groups.

In the past decade, from Alabama to Alaska, stand-your-ground laws have been enacted in more than half the states in this country. Though they vary in certain aspects from one state to another, the gist of these laws is that, if you feel threatened by someone, you have the right to use deadly force against them. I guess the main problem in such cases is that the best witness gets dead.

At the same time, due to ginned up fears of violence in schools, playgrounds, theaters, shopping malls, churches, military bases, and other public places, right wing hate-mongers are succeeding in getting legislatures to enact laws that allow ordinary people to carry guns wherever they go. This madness is draped with Second Amendment rights so that, like that farmer in Nevada who snubs his nose at the United States government, they feign patriotism.

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