First enacted in Florida last year, “Stand Your Ground” bills are being considered in 21 states, the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence tell the Christian Science Monitor. The South Dakota senate approved one last week. The new measures would push the boundaries beyond existing self-defense measures. Twelve states already allow citizens to shoot intruders in their homes, and 38 states permit concealed weapons in public places. “Stand Your Ground” laws allow people to defend themselves with deadly force even in public places when they perceive a life-threatening situation for themselves or others, and they would not be held accountable in criminal or civil court even if bystanders are injured.
“These laws send a more general message to society that public spaces belong to the public – and the public will protect [public places] rather than trying to run into the bathroom of the nearest Starbucks and hope the police show up,” says David Kopel of the Independence Institute in Golden, Co. Critics say such “Wild West” laws are vigilante justice, and commonplace confrontations and more likely turn to violence. “You don’t just broadly paint a new statewide law saying, if you’re in doubt, go ahead and shoot and kill the other person,” says Peter Hamm of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Florida’s law is being tested for the first time. In Tampa, a tow- truck operator who shot and killed a man he said was trying to run him over used the “Stand Your Ground” law as a defense. A prosecutor is evaluating other forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony that the shots came from behind, and therefore were not in self-defense.