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History Of The Stand Your Ground Law

The struggle for freedom and human rights are woven into the very foundation of the United States. Based on this struggle, we built a society that we have today, which many believe is the society of freedom and justice. Although the modern political and philosophical thought and ideals have set the axiom that refers to the limitlessness of human freedom, which is actually true, we can see throughout recent events that also the freest society in the world has some objections regarding this topic.

Stand Your Ground Law ImageThe whole story has begun 2012, in Florida, as we learn from the media, as a young man named Trayvon Martin was taking a walk in the neighborhood or going home after a sports event when he ran into George Zimmerman, who was a member of a voluntary, but armed civil patrols. As Zimmerman was patrolling in their neighborhood in Sanford during the night, he conflicted with a seventeen-year-Tryvon, thinking that he was one of the robbers with which Zimmerman and his neighbors have had problems with. The argument went wrong, Zimmerman’s gun fired and Trayvon Martin was killed. This event is almost immediately characterized as racist, because Trayvon Martin was black skinned (he was born in Miami), Zimmerman was declared as someone who returns racism through the big gate into the American society (although he had a Cuban mother). Of course, the situation has escalated after the verdict of his release, in which the court, in the case of Zimmerman, is referring to Stand Your Ground law. The situation was followed by a series of protests, and even President Barack Obama commented on this matter. All of this we could have seen in the last few months in the media. As in the case of Dunn, before this, ghosts of canceling Stand Your Ground law, were awaken, who are convinced that it encourages racism, bloodshed, etc. even though they are forgetting about the benefits of the law, which was adopted in good faith and serves to provide a basic right to life and property to a man and a citizen.

To understand the point of Stand Your Ground law, we must investigate its origin and its benefits. Stand Your Ground law is based on the Castle Doctrine and in the last ten years has been adopted in many countries on the territory of the United States. In fact, it is the law relating to self-defense and the very act of defending his personal, private property rights. Every person has a duty to the right to self-defense, "In general, a person is allowed to use force to protect himself, or another, from the use of force by a third person '(qtd. in  J. P. Neyland 3). In order to preserve the inviolability of property and life, in order to preserve personal freedoms of man and citizen shall, indeed to stand up for themselves. Of course, the possibility of which was given to man to defend himself, certainly must not be misused. It rests on the man and the law to determine whether indeed anyone is acting with the intent to protect what is his, which belongs to him or acting to deliberately hurt each other, which is clearly intent to be sanctioned. In her work, Cristina Catalfamo dealt with the history of Stand Your Ground law and its roots in the Castle doctrine. She says ' The now-familiar concept of the right to stand one's ground against an attack is a doctrine of modern law, and its roots in medieval English law were slow to develop '(Qtd. 721). Thus, the defense which involves the use of any type of weapon is not something that was invented to be furthered war, religious or racial conflicts, already existed in English common law, centuries ago. It is well known that the British have their own laws and regulations adopted if they had any specific needs, ie. to prevent consequences of events that have already happened.  Hence the famous saying that a man has a right to defend his home as a castle (Megalet 112). English common law implied and obliged those who are attacked to retreat and take action only when they are in mortal danger inside their home, however, it is often a header to the attacker. So the attacked were seriously injured, and, not a few times, killed. This claim is found in the survey conducted by Cheng and Hoekstra (7). 'This English duty to retreat doctrine was rejected in a majority of states across the United States in the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century' (Qtd. Catalfamo in 722). Because of this the duty to retreat doctrine is retained only in some states. At the beginning of the 19th century when law began to develop as a science in this area, as we have said many states in the United States have refused to accept the duty to retreat doctrine, and history says that it was at because of the honor people felt. For them it was not dignified and honorable to flee from the attackers or robbers, or to withdraw, but they directly confronted them, later in the post-war phase, ie. due to the serious consequences that the war left in the South, confrontments were somehow a part of a legal system (JP Neyland 13).

CATI AmericaThe first time the Supreme Court officially recognized human right to defend himself against the attackers was in a process that is driven in 1895, Babe Beard vs. United States. Michael R. Walford describes this event in his post. The story is that Babe Beard was on his property when the three brothers came to ask Babe for a cow, which apparently remained in his estate, and belonged to one of the three brothers. Babe refused to give them back the animal and one of the three began to threaten him with one hand in his pocket. Babe warned them to leave his property and when they didn't, Babe shot and killed one of them ( Babe was arrested and charged with murder, but the court cleared him of charges, just because of the moral and natural principle of the inviolability of life and property. '... If that danger was real, coming from the hands of Will Jones, or it was apparent as coming from his hands, and as affecting this defendant by some overt act at the time, was the defendant called upon to avoid that danger by getting out of the way of it if he could?  The court says he was. The court tells you that he was. There is but one place where he need not retreat any further, where he need not go away from the danger, and that is in his dwelling house ... '(Qtd. from). This is the original quote from the judgment of the court in the case of Beard v. United States, affirming the right of a man to defend himself against attackers. Later, during the 1920's Castle doctrine is increasingly getting affirmation in the United States, and in particular the expansion is experienced in the state of Texas (JP Neyland 14-15, Catalfamo 725-726). After Florida, which first adopted the Stand Your Ground law, ie, with certain modifications of which I already wrote, followed by more than 30 countries. Duty to retreat law is in force in approximately ten other.  And in the opinion polls of the United States, in the opinion of the citizens of the largest democracy in the world, it is a good law. So where is the problem?

If we look at the history of civilization, the history of democracy and the struggle for human rights, not only that a man has the right to defend his life, his  family and his property, but it is his obligation and responsibility.

In the following paragraphs we shall explore a few views and reasons why I think the Stand Your Ground law is  needed in our society and our community.

Let's start at the beginning of the Bible. If God created man free, and that it is man's freedom and his ability to choose, that his will can be directed where he wants, is what distinguishes him from other creatures. What makes a man himself  is the basic and first human freedom, the right to live, a right to be a person. It is something that nobody can take from him  threaten it. However, not everybody uses all their freedoms for doing good and noble things, but some people use it from  base motives, bringing benefit to  themselves and doing wrong to others. The Bible also speaks of this: ’’ 14 Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17).

On this basis, after obscure Middle Ages famous theorist and philosopher Thomas Hobbes  said that man is wolf to a man:’’Homo homini lupus’’ (Rossello 1). Although he was a great liberal,  he felt that something must limit human behavior that interferes with  the freedom of others. And there may lie the answer to the question that we are considering in this paper. There must be something else to take a man as an individual and provide him with protection, to preserve his freedom and independence. The state is the one that operates at a higher level and through police and military guards  its citizens, but in order  to really act democratically, it must allow its citizens to protect themselves in those borderline situations when it can not protect them.

These are well predicted by the Founding Fathers, especially James Madison, who understood the essence of the problem and the Bill of Rights gives the opportunity for solution of the problem: 'A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed '(Amendment II).  James Madison, one of the most important people in our history, a man who is the most responsible for the society that we have, anticipated and it is accepted that no one dares to hurt the right of citizens to own and carry a weapon.This was not for the reason to provide people with an excuse to kill each other, but to defend them from possible aggressors or burglars.

I would add one more benefit that we have from the Stand Your Ground law. How many times have we all had a chance to hear that a girl in self-defense killed a rapist or a murderer and was convicted. Or that a group of thugs break into a man's house, start to harass and disturb him, then, also in self-defense, to protect his family, property and himself, killed someone and was acclaimed as the murderer. Stand Your Ground is protecting the innocent, the helpless and oppressed. We had the opportunity to read in the press about cases of mass rape in India, even that in some cases the victims were found guilty. This question in general should not cause a dilemma in society, every man deserves the right to defend himself and to live.

Also, Stand Your Ground protects minorities. This perspective of the law is ignored. Minorities, especially in territories that are loaded with racial, social or religious reasons, where there are often conflicts of different social groups, can reliably protect themselves with the help of this law and be sure to keep the intensity of the conflict declining, if rambunctious masses had in mind that they can no longer terrorize innocent citizens.

I'll finish with the extract from the transcript of the conversation that took place between the 61 year old Joe Horn and the dispatchers from police. The conversation took place in late 2007 in Pasadena, when burglars broke into the building in which he lived ’

Horn: I have a right to protect myself.

Dispatcher: I’m, I’m right there with you.

Horn: And a shotgun is a legal weapon; it’s not an illegal weapon.

Dispatcher: No it’s not. I’m not sayin’ that.

Horn: Alright.

Dispatcher: I’m not wanting you to, you know, make a mistake.

Horn: He’s, oh, he’s coming out the window right now, I gotta go,

buddy. I’m sorry, but he’s coming out the window.

Dispatcher: Don’t, don’t—don’t go out the door. Mr. Horn? Mr.


Horn: Goddamn it. They just stole something. I’m going out the window.

I’m sorry’’(Rice Lave 828)

How would most of us react to find themselves in such a situation? Would we warn the  intruders or would we fight for our lives?

By : Vladimir Milojevic -