The “stand your ground” laws in Florida — the same template used for almost identical laws in Ohio and other states — resulted in the not guilty verdicts that many see as unjust in the trial of George Zimmerman.
At its most basic level, Zimmerman armed himself and ignored police when he killed Trayvon Martin, who was walking home unarmed after buying a bag of Skittles and a soft drink at a neighborhood store. That’s what happened. Florida law — and Ohio law — make it legal to kill, but not right.
These laws provide vague and codified terms to the intensely complicated act of killing and render almost any outcome in such cases — and potentially in less similar cases — the same as the verdicts that found Zimmerman not guilty on both manslaughter and murder charges July 13.
Ohio and 24 other states have “stand your ground” laws modeled after the same legislation Florida lawmakers used to enact its state law that provides a path to justifiable homicide with the weakest of circumstances. Trayvon was a teenager, who was walking home to his father’s house when he was killed.
At its most intense center, these laws are derived from good, if fearful, intention, wrapped into the always difficult American system of courtroom justice. The national GOP successfully pushed the legislation inside state capitals across the country, but the outcome is not what these lawmakers likely intended.
“Stand your ground” laws are emotionally opportunistic, destructive, and create situations to kill and glory in the killing.
The president of the Sandusky chapter of the NAACP offered readers his reaction after Zimmerman verdicts were announced.
“Try to imagine the situation reversed, if a black man shot a white teenager on his way home in his neighborhood,” Jim Jackson said. “There would be outrage among everyone. What it comes down to is the question: ‘Is racism dead in America?’ Obviously it’s not.”
We’re hard-pressed to see any plausible argument to refute what Jackson, and others, have said. We hope the Sandusky branch of NAACP, other Ohio chapters, the national NAACP, the ACLU, residents and legislators unite for repeal, to remove these laws.