But what exactly is stand your ground? In which states is it the law? What are its implications? Below, find your stand your ground cheat sheet.
Historically, the U.S has mandated a duty to retreat, which requires a person facing immediate danger to retreat before resorting to violent self-defense. Essentially, stand your ground revokes the duty to retreat, and instead allows the use of force without the initial attempt to retreat. The logic behind these laws is that it will clarify and validate the use of force in self-defense, even if no attempt to retreat was made. In many states, stand your ground law offers immunity from prosecution; a person could avoid trial all together under stand your ground.
People who feel stand your ground is just argue that individuals in a compromising situation should not have to worry about retreating before defending themselves for fear of how it will appear in trial later. Opponents, who often refer to stand your ground as “shoot first,” believe the law endorses unnecessary violence and results in erroneous injuries and deaths, like Trayvon Martin’s.
There are states whose legislatures have enacted specific stand your ground laws that absolve individuals of the duty to retreat. Other states have adopted stand your ground doctrines through interpretation of their self-defense laws.
The states with stand your ground laws that specifically articulate that the use of force without the duty to retreat is lawful and that though law enforcement can investigate the situation, no arrest can be made unless it is proven that the use of force was unnecessary. To look at the actual legislation of each state, click here. Below is a list of states with either stand your ground laws or stand your ground doctrines.
- Alabama (enacted: 2006)
- Alaska (enacted: 2011)
- Arizona (enacted:2006 )
- Florida (enacted: 2005)
- Georgia (enacted:2006)
- Indiana (enacted: 2006)
- Kansas (enacted:2006)
- Kentucky (enacted:2006)
- Louisiana (enacted:2006)
- Michigan (enacted:2006)
- Mississippi (enacted: 2006)
- Missouri (enacted: 2007)
- Montana (enacted: 2009)
- Nevada (enacted:2011)
- New Hampshire (enacted:2011)
- North Carolina (enacted:2011)
- North Dakota (enacted: 2007)
- Ohio (enacted: 2008)
- Oklahoma (enacted:2006)
- Pennsylvania (enacted:2011)
- South Carolina (enacted: 2008)
- Tennessee (enacted: 2007)
- Texas (enacted: 2007)
- Utah (enacted:2010)
- West Virginia (enacted: 2008)
- Wisconsin (enacted: 2011)
The law has its origins in a 17th century English common law known as the Castle Doctrine. The law was eventually brought to every U.S. state and it mandates that if an intruder enters a person’s home, the victim does not have to retreat before using self-defense.
Florida was the first state to enact stand your ground, writing it into law on October 1, 2005. Since then, the Sunshine State has used the law in over 200 cases to pardon or grant immunity to offenders. Other states jumped on the bandwagon soon after, adopting almost identical laws. Variations specify where individuals have the right to defend themselves. Some mandate that the person must be in his or her home or car, while others stretch it to the streets. The North Carolina interpretation prohibits the use of deadly force against law enforcement, bail bondsmen, and landlords. The Wisconsin version does not extend to public spaces.
Often, like in South Carolina, stand your ground can only be used if the person invoking it was not engaged in illegal activity. But this can be disputed. For example, a burglar in Columbus, SC who murdered the man whose apartment he invaded is trying to use stand your ground as a means of defense. His lawyers have argued he feared for his life while in the process of burglaring. As of now, a verdict has yet to be reached.
Stand your ground has certainly affected crime statistics. In 2010, five years after the first stand your ground law was enacted, justifiable homicides by civilians using firearms doubled in the states with stand your ground, whereas they fell or remained about the same in the states without it.
Most of the stand your ground states are Republican-controlled. Kentucky and New Hampshire have a split control, meaning one party controls the House and the other controls the Senate. West Virginia and Nevada have Democratic legislatures.
Unsurprisingly, of the ten states with the most lenient gun laws, seven endorse stand your ground.
In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, there has been a call to reevaluate stand your ground laws, but many states refuse to budge. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said, “I support stand your ground.” Brewer’s sentiment was echoed by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal who stated, “I do not see any reason to change it.”
Former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has made some promising remarks. The Arizona lawmaker said recently, “I can also see that the stand your ground law may be something that needs to be reviewed by the Florida Legislature or any other Legislature.”
Hopefully, as protests continue and dialogues are had, these lawmakers will revisit their harsh laws.