Op-Ed: Focus is on the wrong law

by John Lott

On Sunday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg knew what was responsible for Trayvon Martin's death: Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Or, as Bloomberg calls it: a "shoot-first" law.

According to Bloomberg: "'shoot-first' laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns. Such laws - drafted by gun-lobby extremists in Washington - encourage deadly confrontations by enabling people to shoot first and argue 'justifiable homicide' later."

Many others have taken the same line since Saturday's verdict. But they don't understand the law. Nor do they understand why it was completely irrelevant to the George Zimmerman trial. But on Tuesday night, Attorney General Eric Holder renewed his call for these laws in Pennsylvania and more than 30 other states to be overturned.

Prior to "Stand Your Ground," citizens had to retreat as far as possible and then announce to the criminal that they were going to shoot. The "Stand Your Ground" law drops the original requirement to retreat. But lethal force is still only justified when a reasonable person would believe that a criminal intends to inflict serious bodily harm or death. The law doesn't protect anyone who provokes a confrontation.

Apparently forgotten is the reason that "Stand Your Ground" laws exist. Delays in letting people defend themselves sometimes prevented people from defending themselves. Trying to define an "appropriate retreat" adds confusion. Prosecutors have sometimes abusively claimed that people who defended themselves could have even retreated farther than they did.

Click here to read the entire article at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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