Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Stand your ground" or.. what, exactly?

I don't get the "controversy" surrounding "stand your ground" laws.  I can't even understand why anyone thought it necessary to make it "legal" to use deadly force against an imminent threat rather than running away "like a bitty little bug".

Basically I think it comes down to people who feel sorry for those who choose to attack others (or those who have a habit of acting in an aggressive and impulsive manner*), and those who don't.  Some feel that there is some "appropriate level of response" to being attacked-- a "proportional response", as they call it.  I give the defender a much wider latitude.

Sure, there is the potential that a bully could goad someone into approaching him in an aggressive way, and then shoot the person; claiming self defense.  Or, maybe they could just shoot someone dead and lie about the whole incident.  Nothing is to prevent the targeted victim of a scam like this from using deadly force in his own defense.  I'd rather 1,000 thugs "get away with" this than see even ONE defender be punished for defending themselves from an aggressor.

("But what about cops shooting those they stop?  Aren't they defending themselves legitimately?  Shouldn't they also get to stand their ground?"  They are defending themselves as legitimately as any other aggressor who shoots a person who resists and fights back.  Because in almost every single instance, the cop is the one who made the first aggressive move or threatened to do so.  I don't believe a bad guy gives up his right to self defense- I just hope he loses.)

Let arbitration or shunning sort it all out as well as possible after the fact.  Nothing is perfect, but that's as close as you are likely to get.

"Stand your ground" doesn't mean chasing a fleeing bad guy down the street and shooting him in the back.  But in some cases... like if he is running off with some of your property, or you have reason to (credibly) believe he is running off for now, but knows where to find you or your loved-ones and plans to "finish this" later.  And I believe only the defender can accurately assess that threat.  But that has nothing to do with "standing your ground", while still being self defense.

I can't see any sense at all in "requiring" people to flee from a threat.  That only rewards the thugs, and demands that people act like cowards.  It's not a sustainable strategy for a civilization.  Or an individual.

*Now, "acting in an aggressive and impulsive manner" stops short, in most cases, of initiating force.  I get that.  However, if that is how you are in the habit of acting, you run a high risk of being misinterpreted and having a situation escalate out of your control at some point in your life.  It might be OK to act that way in some situations, or around certain individuals, but I don't see it as a good survival strategy in the long term.  But think for yourself and do what you want.

And please don't forget.



  1. I certainly agree that "requiring" people to retreat from a threat is absurd. It is probably often a very good idea to avoid an unpredictable and violent situation if at all possible-but that is a subjective determination only the folks actually involved in the situation can make.

    Yes, "aggressive" behavior often stops short of actual physical force-that certainly does not justify it. If it did, taxation would be legitimate in all but a very few cases.

    There is also the question of wrong assumptions-you chase someone you THINK just robbed your house...but you are wrong, and went after the wrong guy-that doesn't justify your aggression either. If the situation is sorted out with no injury, it probably wouldn't be too big a problem...an "I'm sorry" sort of thing...but if there is injury, you are without question the bad guy.

    I also give the defender a great deal of latitude in determining the appropriate response to aggression. I'd hope for restraint, but nothing justifies initiating aggression.

    It really isn't that difficult to not start s$#!. I think it is both terribly inconsistent, and just wrong, for so many folks to rationalize aggression in the way that I've seen in the past few weeks.

  2. The "stand your ground" rules remove double jeopardy.

    For example, in Mass when I lived there, it was my "duty to retreat". That is, in a self-defense situation I had to prove my case three times over.

    1) That it was, in fact, a legitimate act of self defense.

    2) That I could not retreat from the threat.

    3) That my response was "proportionate". No shooting someone who wasn't using a gun, for example.

    Anyway, all the "stand your ground" laws do is remove the second-guessing, double jeopardy, 20/20 hindsight prosecutions of people who have already proven that it was legitimate self-defense.

    It's not so much a progress in the law, as it is trying to repeal the absurdities created by decades of decisions against people who successfully defended themselves against a member of a politically protected group.