By Teresa Welsh |
The basis for "stand your ground" laws is that individuals should be able to use deadly force when they believe their lives might be in danger instead of seeking to avoid conflict at all cost.
"Duty to retreat" is a fundamental principle of the law which asserts that if individuals are physically confronted with a clear and present danger while outside of their homes, they have the obligation to remove themselves from harm's way if at all possible, thereby avoiding the need to use deadly force in self-defense.
In fact, in many instances, "stand your ground" laws may actually encourage retaliatory acts through the use of deadly force.
The burden of proof for someone to use deadly force under this doctrine simply requires that a person believes or imagines that he or she is danger. All too often, perceived dangers are arbitrary and rely on an individual's subjective reasoning. By allowing such a rationale for the use of deadly force, "stand your ground" laws are inherently flawed and have the unfortunate potential to increase violence and wrongful deaths based on misunderstandings, miscommunication, misconceptions, and racial and ethnic prejudices.
With "stand your ground" laws eschewing the fundamental duty to avoid conflict, their enactment runs the risk of creating a Wild West mentality when it comes to mitigating violence and gun deaths. In states that have enacted "stand your ground" laws, individuals who evoke this defense are, in effect, acting as judge, jury, and executioner. With Illinois already suffering from high incidences of violence, I believe a "stand your ground" law is the wrong policy choice for Illinois.
About 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