Stand Your Ground vs. Duty To Retreat

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) wants the country to know that “Stand Your Ground” laws are not fair. In response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, she has decided to introduce federal legislation that would seek to coerce (read: blackmail) the states into dropping their “Stand your ground” laws.  “Under the Justice Exists proposal, states that didn’t amend their stand-your-ground laws and require a ‘duty to retreat’ would face a 20 percent cut to previously allocated funds.” In addition, states would be required to register community watch programs with their local law enforcement.

What Representative Lee must not realize about her proposal is the inherent danger it poses to law abiding citizens.

First, stand your ground laws exist to take the worry out of the mind of people who are the victims of violent behavior. Concerns over the legality of self-defense could cause victims to hesitate when action is needed, creating more victims of violent crimes. For example, consider a person accosted on the street by a knife wielding criminal looking to rob them, or worse. The intended victim has a gun but is worried that they will be prosecuted if they defend themselves, so instead they are robbed, beaten, or even killed.

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Secondly, duty to retreat laws inherently creates more danger than they do away with. Under stand your ground laws, the victim faces no penalty for retreat, and in fact retreat may often be the best route. However, under duty to retreat laws, victims may be forced to attempt retreat, even when the situation may be made worse. How can someone who knows that a duty to retreat law exists not hesitate to defend him or herself when they know they may face criminal charges for doing so? It is barbaric to ask someone to “take every opportunity” to retreat when they have not been trained to judge when it is appropriate.

Under “stand your ground” laws, no training is necessary. If you feel that your life is being threatened and you face imminent violence – force is understood.

Sheila-Jackson-LeeThirdly, the extra red tape this measure requires to create a community watch organization is ridiculous. It creates more red tape for local communities to join together to keep crime out of their neighborhood. The reason that neighborhood watch programs exist is because they work to deter crime. It’s why police departments are more than happy to work with and train these community volunteers. Jackson Lee’s proposal would mean that fewer communities would have community watch programs.

It would not surprise me at all if Representative Jackson Lee’s proposal actually served to increase crime and violence throughout the communities that were affected by the legislation. It’s a dangerous proposal that was obviously not well thought out.


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