Scranton Times Tribune | March 25, 2012
Whatever the result of the investigation into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., the case should lead gun-happy state legislatures, including Pennsylvania's, to review "stand your ground" laws.
Martin, 17, died Feb. 26 after being shot by a neighborhood crime watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, who had deemed Mr. Martin to be suspicious. Mr. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, but 911 tapes indicate he followed Mr. Martin even after the dispatcher instructed him not to do so.
Florida's "stand your ground" law, passed in 2005, is similar to the Pennsylvania law passed last year. It vastly expands the ability of people to use deadly force away from their homes, thus inviting violence. It vastly diminishes the "duty to retreat," encouraging confrontation instead. Prior to 2005, for example, Florida averaged 12 cases of justifiable homicide a year, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Since then, the average has zoomed to 33 cases a year.
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere pandered to the gun lobby when they passed these needless encouragements of gunplay.
Self-defense always has been a component of the law. These new statutes, however, hold that the best defense is a good offense, thus encouraging people to shoot first. They should be repealed in favor of the traditional standards.