Shoot First (“Stand your Ground”)…in Virginia?

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    (Thanks to Lori for sharing her thoughts on this horrible situation, and on the broader problem of these crazy “shoot first”/”stand your ground” laws.   – promoted by lowkell)

    The terrible shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida has understandably caught everyone’s attention-and rightfully so. For a teenager to be gunned down while walking home from the convenience store is incomprehensible, but sadly, somewhat predictable in a state like Florida. At the urging of the NRA, legislators in Florida enacted a Castle Doctrine bill in 2005 that included “Shoot First” (aka, “Stand Your Ground”) language permitting a person to use deadly force under a much broader set of circumstances. Trayvon Martin’s family is now painfully aware of the consequences of this law.

    Alarmingly, “Shoot First” laws seemingly allow a person to chase down a target (a young black man perhaps?), engage them in a confrontation (verbal only perhaps?), shoot them dead, and then claim self defense because they somehow felt threatened!   “Shoot First” legislation completely removes the long-standing premise of a duty to retreat in public places.

    Of note, it has been reported that the number of “justifiable homicides” has increased at least three-fold in states like Florida that have these new laws, while the majority of people using these laws as a defense in court have been shown to be criminals themselves.

    For the past four years, Castle Doctrine bills have been successfully defeated in Virginia by the state’s gun violence prevention community. Rest assured, though, the Castle Doctrine bills will be back in 2013 in Virginia and, as we have learned, after that the next stop on the gun lobby’s slippery slope is likely pushing “Shoot First” bills here in Virginia.

    For a detailed look at “Shoot First” legislation and its repercussions, please read the excellent blog post, “Arming Zimmerman,” by Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

    It should also come as no surprise that “Shoot First” legislation is being pushed by none other than the NRA and ALEC, to which the NRA made a sizable donation for (bought) an elevated seat at the table. For an excellent post on the legislative ties between ALEC and this type of legislation, please read this post from Media Matters or this post from People for the American Way.