Forum

Stand-your-ground law must be re-examined

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Last month, a jury of six women acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter, after claiming self-defense against 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. on Feb 26, 2012.

The ruling prompted protests, rallies, and marches on the issue of race across the United States. Although racial issues have surfaced amid the Zimmerman trial, U.S. citizens need to look at the nation’s future, rather than its past, to ensure that similarly tragic events do not occur again.

President Obama questioned the public in a surprise speech on July 19, asking, “How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction?” One of his best responses was to have governors, the Justice Department, and mayors work with law enforcement to examine if certain state and local laws encourage incidents similar to the Zimmerman and Martin confrontation.

When considering the future, Florida’s stand-your-ground law and similar laws need to be revisited. Zimmerman did not directly use the stand-your-ground law in his defense, but it was cited during the trial. Essentially, this law allows people to defend themselves with a firearm if they believe someone is trying to harm them. Some organizations, such as the Dream Defenders — a student-led group occupying Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office to protest the stand-your-ground law, according to CNN — have already begun requesting change, although the group ended the occupation of his office on Aug. 15.

Similarly, Brooklyn dance group Dancing for Action (DFA) successfully held a flash mob outside of Senator Chuck Schumer’s New York office on Aug. 14, requesting an end to the law, according to NewsOne.com.

If the stand-your-ground law and similar laws are not repealed or reconsidered after this catastrophic event, society will believe that it is still acceptable to use firearms even when a confrontation can be avoided by a perpetrator. Citizens should not be able to initiate a confrontation with the knowledge that they have the upper hand already, such as legal and personal reasons to fire a gun.

Society must now learn from this devastating event by executing appropriate actions, such as reconsidering controversial laws, to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. As Obama stated, the most efficient and effective action that can now be taken is to have federal, state, and local lawmakers work together to investigate whether certain laws allow behavior comparable to that exhibited in the Zimmerman and Martin incident.