‘Stand Your Ground’ laws promote violence

Zoe Sissac, Opinion Editor

Committing simple errors has become a death sentence thanks to “Stand Your Ground” laws. 

Throughout April, three shootings have made national news due to the victims’ harmless mistakes. Sixteen-year-old Ralph Yarl received critical injuries after arriving at the wrong house to pick up his younger brothers. A shooter killed Kaylin Gillis because she pulled into the wrong driveway in New York. Texas cheerleader Payton Washington spent two weeks in the hospital after her teammate mistakenly entered the wrong car. 

Each shooting occurred in states where Stand Your Ground laws protect a citizen’s right to use force in self-defense. Rather than protecting endangered citizens,  Stand Your Ground laws are killing innocents. States need to rewrite these laws to protect citizens, not promote vigilante justice. 

Florida passed the first Stand Your Ground law in 2005. Since then, 28 states have established self-defense laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. While the wording of each law differs slightly, the states share a common goal—protecting the right to bear arms. 

Citizens should be able to access firearms for self-defense, but Stand Your Ground laws are unclear and often misinterpreted. 

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law states that a citizen “has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm.” The law does not explicitly define force or bodily harm. These words are up to interpretation. 

As a result, young adults are being fatally injured in the name of self-defense, with the shooters being hailed as heroes. 

The cases of Yarl, Gillis and Washington resulted in the shooter facing criminal charges. But think about the other victims who have never seen justice. 

Authoring a study with Southern Poverty Law Center, Ari Freilich researched the roles of Stand Your Ground laws in the justice system. 

“They encourage a trigger-happy culture of anxious vigilantism that cheapens the value of human life,” Freilich said. 

States should amend self-defense laws to include clearer wording and detailed explanations. The laws should specify the type of situations that fall under the protection of Stand Your Ground laws. I know every situation is unique, but states should institute guidelines for Stand Your Ground laws.

Although Stand Your Ground laws aim to save lies, look at what happens when people take matters into their own hands—innocent people die.