In a horrifying case that has drawn national media attention, George Zimmerman, a self-appointed community crime watch volunteer, shot and killed the 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed A-student who was returning to his parents’ home from a local 7-11 with Skittles and iced tea.
While the crime is horrific enough, the fact that Zimmerman is still free and has not been arrested or charged for the shooting, has drawn public outrage. Zimmerman claims he felt threatened by Treyvon–despite the fact that Zimmerman chased down Treyvon, who was 100 pounds smaller than he. Zimmerman’s claim that he felt “threatened” has allowed him to claim immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law:
The law, called Stand Your Ground, is one of 21 such laws around the country, many of them passed within the last few years. In Florida, it was pushed heavily by the National Rifle Association but opposed vigorously by law enforcement.
It gives the benefit of the doubt to a person who claims self-defense, regardless of whether the killing takes place on a street, in a car or in a bar — not just in one’s home, the standard cited in more restrictive laws. In Florida, if people feel they are in imminent danger from being killed or badly injured, they do not have to retreat, even if it would seem reasonable to do so. They have the right to “stand their ground” and protect themselves.
NY Times March 20, 2012
What are North Carolina’s laws on self defense?
NC House Bill 650 essentially duplicated Florida’s laws, stating clearly that there does not exist “a duty to retreat in any place he or she [the person acting in presumed self defense] has the lawful right to be.” NC House Bill 650 became law in June 2011, passed with the unanimous support of House Republicans, and nearly complete opposition of House Democrats (with the notable exception of Democratic Governor Candidate Bill Faison).
Six months before HB650’s passage, the hyper-conservative Civitas Review, part of the Civitas Institute and funded by the Tea Party multimillionaire Art Pope, specifically called on North Carolina to make their laws more like…you guessed it…Florida. They called creating legislation modeled after Florida a “realistic plan to include more rights for citizens who want to defend themselves.”
To Civitas, Art Pope, and George Zimmerman: what about the rights of Trayvon Martin? How can we support legislation that puts the right of men like Zimmerman to chase down teenagers they find suspicious and then shoot them over the right of everyone else not to be shot and killed?
Florida needs to rethink its Stand Your Ground Law — and so does North Carolina. Otherwise, what happened to Trayvon Martin could happen here.
What should we do moving forward?
Got ideas about how concerned Carolinians can protest NC House Bill 650 and call for its repeal? Post your ideas in the comments.
Check out a planned protest by Duke students called “Skittles for Justice“