Florida made history in 2005 when it passed the first “Stand Your Ground” law in the United States. The law allows anyone who reasonably believes they face an imminent danger of death or bodily harm to fight back with deadly force. The threatened person also has no duty to retreat when faced with a violent or threatening situation, as the Sun-Sentinel explains. They can respond with force right away, without first attempting to back away.
Gun rights advocates have backed stand your ground laws, often with the support of groups like the National Rifle Association. But the laws are controversial, with opponents arguing that they are linked to an increase in murders and that they are particularly harmful to people of color. (Research has found that when a white person kills a black person in a stand your ground state it is more likely to be ruled a justifiable homicide than if a black person kills a white person.)
These states have Stand Your Ground laws
Half of states have laws saying that a person has no duty to retreat if they are attacked in a place where they are legally permitted to be, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. They include:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Even if they don’t have Stand Your Ground law, most states have laws on the books that permit people to defend themselves if they are being attacked. California, for example, doesn’t have a stand your ground law, but does permit people to use deadly force if someone breaks into their home and they believe they’re in imminent danger. (This is a kind of law is commonly known as a “castle doctrine.”) In California, a homicide might also be justifiable if it’s committed in self-defense.
What’s the future of Stand Your Ground?
Stand your ground laws have been controversial from the beginning, and they’ve been back in the news recently. On August 13, a Florida man was charged with manslaughter after shooting an unarmed black man in during a dispute over a parking space.
Initially, the Pinellas County sheriff said he wouldn’t arrest Michael Drejka, who fatally shot Markeis McGlockton after McGlockton shoved him to the ground, because his actions were protected under the state’s Stand Your Ground law. But State Attorney Bernie McCabe later announced he would file charges in the case. Video of the incident appears to show that McGlockton retreated after he shoved Drejka, which could mean that Drejka’s claim that he felt imminently threatened won’t hold water.
Democratic candidates for Florida attorney general said the state’s stand your ground law should be repealed. Even one of the Republican candidates for governor said that the sheriff’s decision to not pursue charges wasn’t correct and that he stood by the state attorney’s decision, though he supports Floridians’ right to self-defense.
However, efforts to repeal stand your ground laws haven’t found much success. A 2017 attempt to repeal North Carolina’s stand your ground didn’t advance. Backing away from stand your ground laws is likely to prove difficult. Despite concerns over the laws, past polls have found that the majority of Americans support Stand Your Ground legislation.