Oklahoma City —
The law removed a duty on the part of citizens to retreat in the face of an attack and authorized them to use force, even deadly force, to protect themselves when they believe they are in danger in any place they have a legal right to. It provides immunity from criminal charges and civil liability to a shooter.
Stand Your Ground statutes have come under new scrutiny following the July 13 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black high school student, in Sanford, Fla.
Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch coordinator in a gated community where Martin was temporarily living when he observed Martin walking through the community. Zimmerman exited his car and followed Martin, resulting in a violent encounter that ended when Zimmerman fatally shot the unarmed teen.
Shelton, who is black, said residents of his community have been expressing concern about gun violence long before the Florida case became national news
“Trayvon Martin’s case sure didn’t start the conversation in my community about this. These are conversations always held in my community at all times,” Shelton said. He said supporters of laws like Stand Your Ground may not understand the issues facing inner-city neighborhoods like his.
“We come from different areas. We come from different cultures. I think it’s important that everybody understands both sides of it,” Shelton said.
The verdict in the Zimmerman case has been condemned by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C., which has also worked against the adoption of Stand Your Ground laws in Oklahoma and elsewhere. John Lowy, legal director of the Brady Center, said he believes Oklahoma’s law should be repealed.
“Stand Your Ground was a very bad solution to a non-existent problem,” Lowy said. “There’s always been a right of self-defense in the law. There was no reason for any state to change the time-honored principles of self-defense that have adequately protected people from across the country for decades.”