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Repeal the ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

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Posted on Mar 27, 2012

By Eugene Robinson

Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News

The “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida and other states should all be repealed. At best, they are redundant. At worst, as in the Trayvon Martin killing, they are nothing but a license to kill.

Police in Sanford, Fla., cited the statute as grounds for their decision not to file charges against Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Martin, 17, was strolling home from a convenience store, armed with an iced tea and a bag of Skittles, when Zimmerman—a Neighborhood Watch volunteer and wannabe police officer—spotted him and decided he looked suspicious.

Zimmerman, who is 28, happened to be armed with a handgun. He followed Martin, despite instructions from a 911 operator not to do so. They had an encounter that left Zimmerman suffering from minor injuries and Martin dead on the ground from a gunshot wound. While we don’t know exactly what happened, we know that Zimmerman initiated the contact by stalking a young man who had done nothing more sinister than walk down the street wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

Police decided to release Zimmerman without charges because of the Stand Your Ground law. The relevant part of the statute says that “a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked ... has no duty to retreat and 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.”

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Zimmerman claimed self-defense, was given the benefit of the doubt required by law and released.

This was a shocking travesty, as we now know. The “person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked” was Martin. Under the Florida law, as I read it, he had every right to feel he was in “imminent peril of death or great bodily harm” from the stranger who was following him. He had every right to confront Zimmerman—to stand his ground—and even to use deadly force, if necessary, to defend himself.

Imagine that Martin, not Zimmerman, had been carrying a legal handgun—and that it was Zimmerman who ended up dead. It seems to be that the law should have compelled police to release Martin, a young African-American in a hoodie, without charges.

Somehow, I doubt that would have happened.

The consensus view, which I’ve heard expressed by supporters of Stand Your Ground, is that police were wrong to extend the law’s self-defense immunity to Zimmerman so quickly without a more thorough investigation—and that given what we have learned about Zimmerman’s pursuit of Martin, the law does not seem to apply.

But then why does Florida, or any other state, need this statute? State laws already allowed the use of deadly force in self-defense. By making explicit that the person who feels threatened has no obligation to retreat, all the state Legislature accomplished was to lessen the odds that a hot-tempered confrontation would be allowed to cool down without violence.

The Florida law took effect in 2005. Five years later, the Tampa Bay Times said that reports of justifiable homicide across the state had tripled. The newspaper found cases in which the protection of Stand Your Ground had been invoked by persons who felt—perhaps with good reason, perhaps not—that they faced imminent attack in their homes. Those incidents were at least in keeping with the intent of the legislation. But the paper also found the law being used to excuse violence committed during fights at house parties, disputes between neighbors and disagreements in public parks.

“Gangsters are using this law to have gunfights,” Tallahassee state’s attorney Willie Meggs told the Times.

Following Florida’s lead, about 20 states have enacted similar legislation. I doubt you will be surprised to hear that the National Rifle Association has lobbied hard to get these dangerous and unnecessary statutes approved.

These laws encourage hotheads to go into potential confrontations with loaded firearms. They give permission to shoot first and ask questions later. This may be good for gun manufacturers, funeral homes and the NRA, but it’s tragic for justice in America.


Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)washpost.com.
   
© 2012, Washington Post Writers Group


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Justin Case's avatar

By Justin Case, May 11, 2012 at 7:33 am Link to this comment

If the law protects the life of some then the refusal to prosecute properly - as in the case of not charging George Zimmerman - is the real problem. Too often police will try to let a black person be killed and in Zimmerman’s case are willing to let him go despite massive evidence showing he hunted a man to death in cold blood.
It’s dirty cops that are the problem.
Far as I’m concerned 80% of these cops are fit for execution for their crimes of organized murder.

Those cops should be put down by firing squad. Their families should be left NO MONEY by law from any retirement, pension, etc., because the cops are guilty of TREASON, plotting to murder various citizens as their purpose for being a police officer.

The victims’ families get no money for this. The officer’s family should STARVE.

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By Investment Fraud Lawyer, May 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm Link to this comment

Put yourself in the shoes of Martin or one of his surviving family, and you would feel enraged. It really seems like there is a problem with the Stand Your Ground law and racial prejudice, and the obvious bias against coloured men. I was hoping that such incidents would die down, but I still keep reading reports like this. Granted, the law is used to help preserve life by allowing the victim to have the ability to act in self defence, but it seems to be empowering people for the wrong reasons. Surely there is reason enough to look into changing this law.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, April 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm Link to this comment

Racism is the BEDROCK of US culture (sic).

Everything proceeds from it to justify white folks’ wanting everybody else’s land and someone to work it for them for free.

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Justin Case's avatar

By Justin Case, April 4, 2012 at 9:51 pm Link to this comment

Being lawfully allowed to defend yourself with lethal force is not the problem.

The problem is that Zimmerman was armed & hunting, told by 9-1-1 to stop hunting the other person, that other person wasn’t armed…

THEN POLICE COVERED IT UP. Zimmerman had none of the reported injuries (self-reported, and reported by police) shown by video. 9-1-1 tapes now show that Trayvon Martin was the one screaming for help.

The “stand your ground” law is not the problem.

Corrupt police covering up the murder of yet another young black man in America is the problem. Standard Operating Procedure: lie about the evidence, refuse to press charges, test the black person for drugs (even deceased & unarmed) and not the other(s) (Zimmerman, despite being the shooter).

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By Captain Steubing, March 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Get a room you two…

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 31, 2012 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

I apologize to other posters for the typos—but not to Imax.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 31, 2012 at 11:46 am Link to this comment

Imax:

1.  There is no such thing as a profiler.

2.  Show the proof that any of my comments have been removed from this or any other thread, fakeroo.

3.  67 year old Abenaki polyglot with PhD says you wouldm’t know an intellectual if he/she gave you the Bromx Cheer—which is what I am doing now.

4.  Your posture is doubly racist as it assumes and promotes the idea that non-whites and women cannot be smarter than everybody else posting here.  It is also obviously incorrect.

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 30, 2012 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment

Excuse me.  Profile(r).

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm Link to this comment

moonragin,

You’ve had four comments removed from this very thread, young man. 

I’ve been a professional profile for over 25 years.  I’m quite good at what I do.  You’re a young, public educated, white male suburbanite who has convinced himself he can empathize with “minorities”.  You erroneously believe that if you pass yourself off as something you’re not, this allows you an air of “moral authority”.

This is one Gringo who is not fooled by you for one minute.  I’ve seen dozens of your kind, kiddo. - Drop the hate, practice some humility, and know you are not the most gifted intellect everywhere you go.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

Moonraven is a female.

I have never had a comment removed from this board, nor have I been warned for “petulance”.

Fat projection there, racist patriot.

Moreover, not being a gringo, I have not been around the kinds of folks who have tantrum-throwing children.

Kids model the beahvior of their parents.

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Egomet Bonmot's avatar

By Egomet Bonmot, March 30, 2012 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

Al que nace para tamal, del cielo le caen las hojas.

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 30, 2012 at 6:02 am Link to this comment

MoonRagin has been warned against his petulance on these boards.  He has seen several of his comments removed by TruthDig editors.  Yet he’s still here carrying himself as a pent-up adolescent.

Who here can deny that this individual writes like your tantrum-throwing child acts at home?

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 29, 2012 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

Another 12 year old posting here because mommie blocked the triple X sites.

Even gringo kids are savages.

Report this

By Troy Davis, March 29, 2012 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

@moonraven

Okay, I will waste no more time with you. I will just say Fuck You, and be done with you.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 29, 2012 at 10:22 am Link to this comment

PS to troy:

Next time, try perdoname.  Excusame is not Spanish.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 29, 2012 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

Make that amigA, culito.

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By Troy Davis, March 29, 2012 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

@moonraven

Por favor, excusame, Besa mi culo, Amigo.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 29, 2012 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

Troy.

You are another one posting in a language in which you are not fluent.

It should be Besame el culo—or Besa mi culo.  In both cases the short e takes the accent, which this Arizona gringo keyboard will not put.

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By Tokin Lib, March 29, 2012 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

There is ONLY ONE reason to pass “Stand Your Ground”
laws: To give WHITE juries the means to avoid sending
WHITE PEOPLE to jail for killing/assaulting “scary”
brown and black people.
That’s it!
End of story.
Do you REALLY think they’ll EVER be repealed?

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By Calvin Raven Eagle, March 29, 2012 at 6:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

EARTH is FREE WILL ZONE, there ARE FEW REAL VICTIMS, MOSTLY
VOLUNTEERS…THE ABOVE EMOTIONALLY/POLITICALLY CHARGED cartoon I believe
is OVER REACTIVE..THERE ARE NUMEROUS FACTORS IN THIS CASE and BOTH
PARTICIPANTS OBVIOUSLY MADE SOME VERY POOR DECISIONS….TO SIMPLY
ATTEMPT TO POLARIZE A COMPLEX ISSUE IS IN VERY POOR JUDGEMENT… ALL
GENERALIZATIONS ARE UNTRUE…GENERALLY…

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By Troy Davis, March 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm Link to this comment

@Imax:

Amigo, por favor, besame cule!

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By Numbers, March 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute notes that recent data show black males age 14 to 24 commit homicides at a rate nearly 10 times higher than that of young white and Latino males combined

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment

Maxipad:

One person (singular subject) does not take the plural verb SON, but the singular verb ES.

Women are not males.

Native Americans are not white.

Your syntax is incorrect, too.

Like I said: Learn the language!  You have simply made a fool of yourself, as always.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment

tic,

The Sanford, FL police are the ones who decided not to press charges in a capital case, while I do believe police should have descretion in traffic or domestic cases, felonies are another matter.

Zimmerman should have been booked and a magistrate determine if the statute is applicable in this case or whether or not to grant bail until it is determined by the state.

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm Link to this comment

PHenry,

I set my goal and made it happen. 

Fini.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm Link to this comment

Give it a rest Maxipad, you don’t make sense in any language.

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

Moon,

Justo lo que pensaba. No tienes idea. - Deja ir el odio.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment

SON is now a singular verb form??????????  What happened to ES????????

Women are now males??????

Native Americans are now white???????

Like I said, illiterate gringo:  Learn the language!

Start with English! Second and third and fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh language skills are ALWAYS directly related to one’s first language proficiency.

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm Link to this comment

Moon,

He dicho que eres un niño pequeño blanco que pretende ser algo que no lo son.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment

Don’t bother with writing stuff that makes zero sense.

Learn the language!

Maybe if you started with English, first….

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment

Moon,

Deja ir el odio.

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By balkas, March 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm Link to this comment

it seems that trayvon did not call police after he saw that he was stalked.
perhaps he had no phone or if i he had, he decided not call police or 991 in
order to protect him from any further threat from his pursuer.
are blacks now losing faith in law, police, or even 911 to the degree that
some or most of them no longer call for help from such institutions?
==
interestingly enough, 911 operator merely admonishes zimmerman for
following/observing martin and does not command him to stop it even tho it
was zimmerman who was breaking the law.
if s’mone was following me in car or on foot, i wld call 991 or run to a
nearest house and ask s’mone to help me in some way!

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment

Imax/Hettie Hediondo:

Learn Spanish! 

There is nothing sillier than someone who tries to show off by writing in a language in which he or she is not even close to being fluent.

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By gerard, March 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

“Once the society becomes irrevocably lawless it will justify the introduction into the society of the military to “restore order” and thus facilitate the establishment of a military police state to oppress a population that has become lawless, and reckless and therefore needs to come under marshal law to restore law and order.”—Troy Davis.
  This is precisely the trap we are all in, called FEAR. Human life is precarious enough that humans easily become victims of fear and can be manipulated by it, without even knowing they are manipulated.
Fear can therefore be easily made into a permanent state of mind.
  The same fear that motivated Zimmerman motivates any person, group, tribe, city, country that feels threatened and insecure for any reason, no matter how unjustified. That’s why “terrorism” is such an effective weapon to turn people against each other, and why knowledge of “others” who are “different” in any way must be promoted if societies are to endure. 
  The more fear is promoted, the less secure the society becomes, the more fear takes over, and at some point the pattern becomes death-dealing.
  Making people afraid is one way of controlling them—by making them victims of their own fears, and then “entitling” them to destroy others by allowing easy access to guns plus twisting laws to allow, permit, encourage fear of others and tolerate retribution merely on the presumption that any fear is justifiable.
  The entire “surveillance state” is build upon the encouragement of fear of others, plus violent confrontation as the presumed-justifiable answer, then shaping the laws to fit that set of presumptions.  Florida is US.

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 28, 2012 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment

Moon,

El odio no se cura la mente o la facilidad de su queja.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 28, 2012 at 11:37 am Link to this comment

Racism is the absolute bedrock of the gringo value system.

Without the ongoing mission to kill all non-whites on the planet for their land and resources you folks would have died in the stinkhole of an east coast winter just like your predecessors in Virginia.

Which would have saved the planet and all living beings on it a whole lot of grief.

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Airborne855's avatar

By Airborne855, March 28, 2012 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

It is NOT necessary to go for a killing shot on the first round. Brandishing a weapon is sometimes sufficient and a warning shot into the air or ground is emphatic. Next, kneecapping or other incapacitating shot gains the upper hand. A kill shot is only for dire circumstance, and just getting your ass kicked is not dire unless you are ganged or weapons are used. Don’t draw unless you are willing to kill and don’t kill unless you are willing to face the charge of murder.

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By jimmmmmy, March 28, 2012 at 9:19 am Link to this comment

Where would one find good stats on how many shooting deaths in states with these laws are ocuuring and a ranking of the states. Mr. Robinson with your considerable access to data bases could you please find these stats? I think it might be helpful I’m betting Fla. is #1. Someone published a list of the states with these laws , but no other data last week.

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 28, 2012 at 8:41 am Link to this comment

Mr. Davis makes an interesting point.  A point that had not occurred to me.  We all need be cognizant of race and color and handle Mr. Robinson’s articles differently.

- Bravo, Troy.

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By jimmmmmy, March 28, 2012 at 8:21 am Link to this comment

The ever expanding gated community set won’t allow that to happen . Expect more of these incidents with increasing regularity as more and more gated communities are established. Read Margaret Atwoods “Year Of THe Flood” for a good view of the future in the U.S.

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By SarcastiCanuck, March 28, 2012 at 7:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Yes your honor,he threatened to kill me so I had to shoot him to death.I’m sure if he were alive,he’d corroborate my testimomy.Oh’I'm free to go.Thank you your honor”.

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By Troy Davis, March 28, 2012 at 7:16 am Link to this comment

Imax said:

“Good grief, Mr. Robinson.  A Pulitzer?  Really?”

Everyone who posts to this site please take note of the fact that Imax is offended that Eugene Robinson, a black man, is the recipient of the Pulitzer Price.

Racism is a pernicious evil.

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By Jeff McCurry, March 28, 2012 at 5:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a 50 year old white man I can say that the racism in this country is off the charts right now and here is why this is happening.  40 years ago President Nixon started a new phase of the southern strategy.  He called it the war on drugs.  My father was a police officer at the time and through him and his coworkers I saw first hand that the war on drugs was actually a war on the poor and dark skinned people.  With this new Civil War the police were used to get those scary dark skinned men off the streets and unable to vote. They then demonized minority areas because there were no fathers there to teach those dark skinned kids how to behave because we locked up all their male role models.  We then sent in the police to keep locking up as many dark skinned men to stop the violence.  Since most police are now cowards who like to brag about how dangerous their job is they were faced with a situation that required real courage.  This has brought us to the past few years of transition where a police officer who has shot and killed someone does not even have to leave a “drop” gun at the scene to show that they were justified in shooting someone.  I have been saying for years “don’t you see what has happened here, now a cop just has to say ‘I thought he had a gun’ to justify killing an unarmed American.”  This is why I get so angry when I hear someone refer to the police as “heroes and such”. They are cowards with a gun.  A hero would take a bullet to protect and serve, today’s police will kill you first then check for a weapon later.  This is why Trayvon is dead, he met a dangerous want to be a cop who has learned from watching his police role models that if he thinks he is in danger shoot first and just say I thought he had a gun. Is this the America you want to live in.  One full of hate and fear.  Or would you rather learn that those dark skinned men are just like you and only want to be happy and left alone to enjoy their children and lives.  The Second Civil War is being fought right in front of all of us and so few even notice.  This war is killing our kids, are you O.K. with that?  I am not and will continue to scream as loud as I can, THIS MUST STOP. Thank you for your time, Jeff McCurry

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, March 28, 2012 at 5:21 am Link to this comment

At worst, as in the Trayvon Martin killing, they are nothing but a license to kill.” Eugene Robinson

-

Good grief, Mr. Robinson.  A Pulitzer?  Really?

At this point no one knows what really happened.  All we (you) have is a distressing collection of disconnected facts.  Did you learn nothing from the Duke Lacrosse rape story?

Separately I would add two more things.  I saw you on Morning Joe refer to Mr. Zimmerman as a “white man” and, interestingly enough, you yourself carry a concealed weapon.

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By chinny, March 28, 2012 at 3:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stop killing innocent children (including American citizens) with drones…

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By balkas, March 28, 2012 at 3:35 am Link to this comment

yes, i also think the liberals such as moore, nader, hedges, chomsky and most protesters,
posters, et al, much underestimate what the top tiers, say, 20% of americans, are capable of
doing in order to remain the top tiers and thus retain or even expand their powers.

let’s face one fact: power is all! it had always thus far carried the day. power over others is
but a bad addiction; however, much more vitiating, harmful, perilous than any other we
know of. 
don’t, please, get carried away with liberty, justice, fairness for all, truth, laws [or ‘laws’] right
to life, pursuit of happiness and any of that prevailing.
don’t reefy them. such labels limn fictions. and no one can adapt to fictions, no matter how
intelligent and capable one is,—one can only adapt to reality—and often she’s magnificent,
butiful.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 28, 2012 at 3:28 am Link to this comment

I find it hard to believe that a stature, no matter how obscure, would absolve a victim of due process.

A jury should convene on any capital offense, review the evidence and offer a finding and if the statute is applicable then it is what it is.

This is far too important than relying on a police chiefs descretion of the law.

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By balkas, March 28, 2012 at 3:07 am Link to this comment

out of a barrel of gun comes the power. one can wave geneva conventions, bill of rights, any law, or
constitution all one wants, it will not protect you—only power does.
iraqis, palestinians, pashtuns, libyians, et al prove that such pieces of paper on which basic human
rights are written will not protect them from nato’s or US barrel of gun.
trayvon had no power and zimmerman did and that’s why trayvon is dead and zimmerman alive.
and democracy, justice, truth and the like nonsense is not power. money is! and money buys people
to manufacture armaments. and it takes money to pay the soldiers and fbi/cia/city police and
distribute those armaments among them and to train well such people in order that the payers be
protected or maintained in power.
no, no law will ever protect all people. broadly speaking, the less powerful one is, the less one will
enjoy protection of any law. OWS, et al are proving this daily.
in addition, no law can be known—it can be only interpreted. and in most case it is the rich people’s
interpretation that prevails and not that of a poor person or people.

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By Wildeye, March 27, 2012 at 11:08 pm Link to this comment

The irony of “stand your ground” laws is that they exacerbate the problem to which they purport to be the solution by increasing the likelihood that a public confrontation will end in deadly force out of fear of deadly force whether justified or not.

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Egomet Bonmot's avatar

By Egomet Bonmot, March 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm Link to this comment

How about repealing guns?

Anyone care to comment on the likelihood that this will be the first case of Twitter vigilantism?

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Gulam's avatar

By Gulam, March 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm Link to this comment

Right. America is going to vote its way out of the messes
that it is making at home and abroad. Thinking things are
going to improve before a major failure, either of the
financial system or the military, before the big crash—this
is a pipe dream. You just fuel the farce by pretending that
you can improve America by civic actions and voting in the
Democrats, when big money and those who traditionally blow these bubbles have
total control. Americans are going to think that they have to be armed to the
teeth, because these massive classes of military morons whom they have been
training in mayhem are coming home with night sweats and periodic killing sprees
guaranteed for decades to come.

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By Troy Davis, March 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm Link to this comment

It begs the question of why would any state dedicated to the creation of a corporate [fascist] state would enact legislation that clearly encourages lawlessness amongst and between citizens in the States that have enacted such Stand Your Ground laws.

If think of these laws in terms of a long term strategy, then perhaps these seemingly nonsensical laws make sense in terms of establishing a lawless society in which the Rule of Law is usurped by the Rule of Men and vigilante justice becomes the norm.

Therein lies the strategy. Once the society becomes irrevocably lawless it will justify the introduction into the society of the military to “restore order” and thus facilitate the establishment of a military police state to oppress a population that has become lawless, and reckless and therefore needs to come under marshal law to restore law and order.

On the surface this may seem far-fetched given the recklessness of such laws, but it would not be surprising as a long term strategy to eradicate democracy replacing it with corporatism [fascism].

I think that anyone who denies that America is moving steadily towards fascism on needs to keep in mind that the US Congress enacted the NDAA which gives the US President the authority to have any American killed based upon a suspicion of terrorist activity or aiding and abetting terrorist activity.

When the leader of a nation is empowered to make life and death decisions over the lives of its citizens without due process of law or any legal protections being afforded to those citizens, that is a definition of fascism.

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A Bird in the Hand's avatar

By A Bird in the Hand, March 27, 2012 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment

The ‘cartoon’ and this article are just more media fiction revolving around this MSM spin creation..Don’t let the truth get in the way..We have been once again hood-winked..

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