By Kira Zalan |
Yes, "stand your ground" laws are good and appropriate. These laws, on the books in nearly half our states, affirm the right of self-defense. "Stand your ground" laws do not exist to allow ordinary citizens to live out Dirty Harry fantasies. Nor are they in place to return us to the O.K. Corral. Rather, states are turning to these measures to uphold the principle that our laws must protect the innocent over the criminal, the peace-loving over the violent, and the law-keeper over the law-breaker. In a situation where a citizen is under attack, it cannot be incumbent upon that individual to take extraordinary measures to avoid the conflict that he or she did not initiate. Such demands serve only to give additional power and control to the assailant. Our laws must protect good people over bad people.
Regarding the Florida incident that has drawn national attention and launched this current debate, we are not yet fully familiar with the facts of the case, but the facts that surround "stand your ground" laws are clear. Nothing is more valuable than human life. Citizens must be able to protect themselves without fear that self-defense will be legally problematic. It is a tragedy anytime a young life is cut short, particularly by gun violence. These recent events are no exception. Our hearts go out to the family that is grieving its loss. If the man who did the shooting broke any laws, he should be prosecuted to the full extent of those laws, period. However, it is also possible for human actions to be simultaneously tragic, regrettable, undesirable, and fully appropriate to their exact situations. When ordinary peaceful citizens find themselves in unthinkable circumstances, our legal system must protect the good guys.
Sadly, we live in difficult, violent days. If states begin to repeal "concealed carry" and "stand your ground" laws because of the Florida incident, who will become safer? The answer, by definition, is those who defy the law. We cannot go down that path.
On the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives Monday, we opened with moments of silence for two shooting victims. The first was for the young Florida man. The second was for a Chicago child who died as the result of stray gang bullets. The bad people are armed. They stand their ground. Good people must be able to do so as well.
About Rich Morthland Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
Michael Zalewski Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
Dan Gross President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
Larry Pratt Executive Director of Gun Owners of America