What’s more, the application of stand your ground laws appears to be uneven at best. In Jacksonville, FL, Marissa Alexander attempted to use Stand Your Ground as a defense for firing warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband. Instead, she received a 20-year prison sentence. The jury took 12 minutes to deliberate.
As President Obama poignantly questioned in a recent speech regarding Trayvon Martin, “If we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?” Similarly, United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. characterized these laws as senseless and noted that Stand Your Ground Laws undermine public safety “by allowing, and perhaps encouraging, violent situations to escalate in public.”
Just as the public outcry after Trayvon’s death pushed for the arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman, the public must continue to demand justice so that these troubling stand your ground laws do not get passed in more state legislatures, and the existing ones are expeditiously repealed. We must stand our ground.
Barbara R. Arnwine is president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The Lawyers’ Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963. For more information, please visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.
Yen Vinh Tran, Public Service Fellow for Lawyer’ Committee’s Public Policy Project, contributed to this op-ed.