'Stand Your Ground' Hasn't Led to More Shootings, Just After-the-Fact Legal Semantics

Was George Zimmerman acting in self-defense when he shot and killed unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin during their Feb. 26 encounter in a Sanford, Fla., residential subdivision?

That is the question. The question is not if Florida's seven-year-old 'Stand Your Ground' law contributed or, somehow, is directly responsible for Martin's death.

But you wouldn't know that by the mainstream media's coverage of the incident, which has been hijacked by gun control zealots determined to spin the unfolding firestorm into an example of what happens when people are "given" the right not to retreat, and "given" the right to use deadly force if threatened with death or serious harm.

The specifics leading to the fatal shooting are being examined by federal and local investigators. They will present their findings on April 10 to a grand jury convened to determine if Zimmerman was acting in self-defense, or if he should be charged with a crime, up to and including manslaughter or even second-degree murder.

Until these findings are presented to the grand jury, it's uncertain how -- or if -- Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' law applies. Until then, everything you read, see, and hear regarding this incident is speculation.

Here are some facts:

* Contrary to rampant blather, there has not been an increase in confrontational shootings in Florida since it adopted the law in 2005. There has been, however, three times as many attorneys claiming their clients' actions were "justified" under the expanded definition of self-defense in the 'Stand Your Ground' law.

It's after-the-fact legal semantics, not a causal factor. None of these laws gives anyone the pre-emptive right to shoot anyone else -- contrary to the media blitz orchestrated by gun control zealots that confuses facts with ideology.

* According to the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, at least 33 states "give" people the right to use deadly force in self-defense in their home, defined as the "castle doctrine." Sixteen of those states, including Florida, have laws that extend that right beyond the home to "a place they are legally allowed to be."

And as in Florida, the rate of actual confrontational shootings has not increased in any of these states, although attorneys have increasingly tried to use the expanded definition of self-defense to justify in court proceedings the reactions of their clients' in shooting incidents. Again, legal semantics, not a causal trigger for pre-emptive shootings.

* While it's difficult to statistically prove something that didn't happen, there is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that 'Stand Your Ground' laws, such as Florida's, deter crime.

"At some point the people catch on," Mitch Vilos, a Utah lawyer who has written books on the nation's gun laws, told BBC News Magazine on March 20. "You don't mess around with somebody who has a gun."

* This incident is a grim warning to gun owners to check, recheck, and check again any and all federal, state, and local laws regarding the use of firearms in self-defense.

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