The New York Times weighs in on Florida’s stand your ground law, which is at issue in the controversial shooting of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch participant. Florida prosecutors say the number of defendants who claim self-defense — even when it should not apply — has jumped noticeably since the law was passed in 2005. Sometimes, it was clearly self-defense. Other cases have left prosecutors scratching their heads. The law also prevents a person shooting in self-defense from being sued. “Self-defense is now used more widely than it was under the old law,” said William Eddins, Pensacola's state attorney and president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association. “It is a very broad law in terms of the availability of the defendant to try to take advantage of this law. It has created more litigation for the state in cases involving violence and in murder cases, in particular.”
The state attorney in Tallahassee, Willie Meggs, who fought the law when it was proposed, said: “The consequences of the law have been devastating around the state. It's almost insane what we are having to deal with.” It is increasingly used by gang members fighting gang members, drug dealers battling drug dealers and people involved in road rage encounters. Confrontations at a bar are also common: someone looks at someone the wrong way or bothers someone's girlfriend. Under the old law, a person being threatened with a gun or a knife had a duty to try to get away from the situation, if possible. Now that person has a right to grab a gun (or knife, or ice pick, as happened in one case) and use it, without an attempt to retreat.