A Florida court of appeal recently ruled that Florida’s “stand your ground” law allows a crime victim to use deadly force against an attacker who is “retreating.” Allow me to explain why this ruling is ever so correct and reasonable:
Florida passed its “stand your ground” law out of recognition that the old law favored criminals at the expense of their innocent victims. When the law may impose a severe penalty upon crime victims who defend themselves against criminals, those victims will hesitate to act. Those crime victims who thoroughly know the law will stop to double and triple check whether their self defense action will perfectly meet the law’s intricate requirements for justified self defense. Those crime victims that don’t know the law will also hesitate, often not shooting when they should, out of fear that they might end up prosecuted for murder. That hesitation gives the ruthless criminal, who doesn’t care about the law or the victim’s life, an opportunity to harm that victim. Florida’s “stand your ground” law is a solution to this problem: it eliminates many of the complexities that plague self defense laws in other states, allowing a law abiding person who is doing nothing wrong to know that they won’t be criminally or civilly liable for saving their own life from a violent criminal.
As far as allowing the shooting of “retreating” criminals, those opposed to self defense will portray this as an invitation for vigilantism and wild west shootouts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, the purpose of extending this self defense right to “retreating” criminals is to ensure effective self defense, and to favor the crime victim over the aggressor. Doing otherwise would undermine the purpose the “stand your ground” law. I believe that concrete examples will help illustrate this point:
- Firstly, criminals may act as thought they are “retreating,” only to turn around seconds later and continue their attack. For example, an armed robber acted as though he was leaving his victim’s barber shop, only to turn around seconds later and come back to attack again. In another example, 3 armed criminals ran away when a woman’s home security system went off, but one of the criminals circled back a few moments later and began to advance on the woman again. Criminals, by their very nature, are dishonest. They are more than willing to fake retreat or surrender in order to lull the victim into a false sense of security – then attack that victim again. It just doesn’t make sense to demand that a crime victim risk their life and trust the criminal’s supposed “retreat.”
- Even if the criminal does “retreat” many feet from the victim, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the victim is no longer in danger from that criminal. Criminals are quite willing to violate gun control laws, and as a result are often armed. Those criminals are quite capable of harming a victim at a distance. For example, a man returned home after work and was ambushed by a home invading criminal. The man took off running for his neighbor’s house, hoping to find help. The criminal shot that man in the back. In another example, five friends were standing on the street on New York, when a criminal approached and announced that he intended to rob them. One of the friends took off running, only to be shot in the back by the criminal. The fact is that criminals at a distance can continue to pose a deadly threat. It is not reasonable to expect a law abiding citizen to endanger their life by ceasing to defend themselves when the criminal beings to “retreat.”
It is possible that allowing a “retreating” criminal to be shot in self defense will result in more dead or injured criminals who really were trying to retreat. As someone who doesn’t believe in capital punishment, I find the death of any human to be regrettable and tragic. However, every law abiding citizens has the basic human right to defend themselves – and it would be morally wrong to impair that right to benefit violent criminals. At the end of the day, if either the violent criminal or the innocent victim must suffer death or bodily harm, it is far better that the harm befall the violent criminal.