Gummess: ‘Stand your ground’ not that black and white
By Glen Gummess April 23, 2012 7:10PM
Updated: May 25, 2012 8:05AM
It’s common knowledge that you have the right to defend your home with deadly force against an intruder. Twenty-five states have made that right portable with “stand-your-ground” laws, and if Republican Illinois legislator Richard Morthland has his way, Illinois will join their ranks.
In a “U.S. News” op-ed piece, Morthland said, “Stand-your-ground laws do not exist to allow ordinary citizens to live out Dirty Harry fantasies.”
Surely he did not mean that to include George Zimmerman, the neighborhood vigilante who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, a teenager wearing a hooded sweatshirt, thinking he was a “punk” about to burglarize the gated community that he supposedly protected.
And Morthland admits that not all the facts are in with this case that has become a lightning rod for racial stereotyping, gun control, gun rights and a horde of other hot-button issues.
And, yet, it’s Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law that initially kept police from arresting Zimmerman.
This takes me back to an incident about five years ago, when I was riding a bicycle at night in the Cathedral area and was accosted by four young men.
As I rode past I was verbally assaulted with vile names and threats, and one of them came out of hiding from behind a tree and rushed at me. The guy held up just before he would have hit me and laughed his fool head off.
The response in such situations is fight or flight. I had the wheels so I took flight, just as fast as my adrenalin could carry me.
And I would suggest it’s the adrenalin that makes “stand your ground” such a bad law to consider. When you’re alone at dark, and a stranger is walking the same side of the street toward you, with his hands in his pockets, it’s tough to make a rational judgment. And if you have a gun, well, it may not matter if the other person is carrying a knife, a gun or a bag of Skittles. Somebody could get killed, for the wrong reason.
Morthland says “stand your ground” belongs in our laws to protect good people over bad people. But things are not that black and white.
I might have shot the kid who rushed me. I might have even been wearing a hooded sweatshirt with a pouch designed to carry a concealed firearm, the kind that’s marketed by the National Rifle Association, that supports “stand your ground.” What macabre irony that would have been.
Contact Glen Gummess at