We need to rid this state of its 'Stand Your Ground' law

Such a law and such tolerance for guns might be expected in Florida, but what is such a legal interpretation doing in the Evergreen State?
Under fire: a GOP Senator takes aim at the Supreme Court.

Under fire: a GOP Senator takes aim at the Supreme Court. Cacophony/Wikimedia Commons

In my waning time on this planet, I’ve become a snowbird. I count it as one of the smarter things I’ve done in my dotage; by spending the summers and fall in Seattle and the winters and spring in southern Florida, I get to enjoy and appreciate the best of two worlds.

The choice of Florida – rather than Hawaii, Palm Springs, or Arizona as most other Seattleites are inclined to do – is dictated by two compelling realities. One, my two daughters live an hour’s drive from where I’ve chosen to make my abode on the edge of the Everglades. One daughter has produced a grandson who, together with his delightful wife, has presented me with two great-grandchildren, the likes of whom, of course, there are no other!

That’s quite reason enough to spend half my year in Florida but the second has its own attractions as well. I find myself at almost the southern tip of Interstate-75 that starts out in my home state of Michigan. As a consequence, I have the good fortune of finding a half-dozen of my oldest friends who are Michigan snowbirds who spend the winters within a few miles of my cherished new  home.

One of the several experiences for which I was not quite prepared was the political climate of my new, part-time home-state. Florida suffers from a cultural case of schizophrenia; it can’t quite decide whether it wants to be part of the progressive 21st century or continue to cling to the worst habits of the old South, of which it is geographically still a part.

Consequently, in this land of palm trees, soft ocean breezes and unending golf courses, one gets anomalies like a Stand Your Ground state statute and tragedies like the Trayvon Martin murder that has the entire nation in an uproar.

I was prepared to attribute the Stand Your Ground legislative madness to Florida’s unfortunate proximity to the Deep South and its cultural backwardness until I made the horrid discovery that Washington – where I spend the other half of my waking moments – has a Stand Your Ground law as well! So much for geo-political stereotyping!

More to the point, in the wave of the idiotic shootings that have plagued Seattle over the past several weeks, it’s only a matter of time before some trigger-happy lamebrain tries to invoke Washington’s Stand Your Ground law in his or her defence.

It will bring the NRA roaring out of its chute frantically waving the Second Amendment to suggest such but isn’t it time for some of its more enlightened members to recognize that allowing people to wander around the streets of cities with lethal weapons in their pockets is a recipe for a continual spate of unmitigated disasters?

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that Washington’s Stand Your Ground law is not a matter of state statute; it’s an interpretation that the state Supreme Court has consistently made of our state Constitution. That means a deftly worded amendment to the Constitution could expressly forbid such nonsense.

It would provoke one rousing public debate but it would be well worth it.

Hubert G. Locke is Dean Emeritus of the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington and former Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. Until recently, he was a regular columnist for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, May 31, 6:29 a.m. Inappropriate

More to the point, in the wave of the idiotic postings that have plagued Crosscut over the past several weeks, it’s only a matter of time before some trigger-happy lamebrain writes and article and tries to revoke Washington’s Stand Your Ground law in defiance of common sense.

I fixed it for you Mr. Locke, enjoy your retirement.

Cameron

Posted Thu, May 31, 7:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Floridians and the rest of the culturally backwards Deep South are fortunate to have such a progressive missionary working for their heathen souls.

The taxpayers of Washington are fortunate to have such arrogant surety employed at their institutes of higher learning.

BlueLight

Posted Thu, May 31, 7:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Zimmerman is being held accountable for his actions through the Florida criminal justice system. His use of lethal force is no reason to revoke the right of a homeowner in Washington to defend his or her family when a burgler or worse attacks them.

Anecdotes make very bad law and the plural of anecdote isn't data.

Posted Thu, May 31, 8:28 a.m. Inappropriate

What? Are you nuts? Gun violence in Seattle, not Washington at large, has nothing to do with "standing one's ground." Washington's laws regarding the use of deadly force permit one to use whatever force one needs to stop the comission of a felony. They don't allow you to kill someone walking towards you and they don't allow you to kill someone in an empty-handed bar room brawl.

If folks truly appreciated how "generous" our laws are regarding the use of deadly force and truly appreciated how practially non-existant our restrictions on posession of firearms are, they'd be amazed at what a decent and civilized people we are in Washington State.

The recent spurt of gun violence is a statistical fluke andm from what information has been available, 100% comiited by people for whom the mere posession of the firearm they used was already a crime.

If we need any kind of new law, it should be one that forbids the prosecutors from folding a gun charge in with another crime and bargaining it away.

Goforride

Posted Thu, May 31, 8:46 a.m. Inappropriate

The writers at Crosscut display a pronounced tendency. They describe people here in condescending and patronizing terms:

Roger Valdez, on March 29:

“After all this is Seattle and we are all fleece-wearing, Subaru-wagon-driving, Al-Gore-believing environmentalists. We like our way of life here in this region, and we want it to get slightly better over years, not change radically in a short period. And we don’t like crockery-throwing debates over the civic dinner table.”

http://crosscut.com/2012/03/29/urban/22110/Are-neighborhoods-too-privileged-in-Seattle-landus/

Anthony Robinson, on May 30:

“As a nation we are not, sadly, strangers to horrific events of gun violence or mass murder. Columbine, Colorado; Blackburg, Virginia; Oakland, California and a dozen other locations come to mind. But Seattle? Land of lattes, joggers, and people so polite it may be hard to decide who should go at a four-way stop?”

http://crosscut.com/2012/05/30/crime-safety/108869/tony-seattle-gun-violence-shootings/

Hubert Locke, on May 31:

“I was prepared to attribute the Stand Your Ground legislative madness to Florida’s unfortunate proximity to the Deep South and its cultural backwardness until I made the horrid discovery that Washington – where I spend the other half of my waking moments – has a Stand Your Ground law as well! So much for geo-political stereotyping!”

http://crosscut.com/2012/05/31/law-justice/108883/we-need-rid-state-its-stand-your-ground-law/

Why all this broad stereotyping?

Stereotypes are at the heart of all propaganda efforts. Their purpose is to create the perception that a clique’s actions are always ethical and honorable, while those of its opponents are always unethical and dishonorable. For that reason the government heads around here both encourage this kind of stereotyping and wish it were true. One of the ways a polite-to-a-fault and complacent citizenry can be abused is financially.

One thing’s clear: the writers selected for regular publication in Crosscut come across as unapologetic tools of the government heads around here.

Can anyone identify any Crosscut article where the people of Seattle (or Bellevue) are not painted with a broad and patronizing brush?

crossrip

Posted Thu, May 31, 9:05 a.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Locke's opinion piece is notable for its vapidity. There is not even an attempt made to couch this as analysis. It's simply an exercise in "This is what I feel, and those who disagree are idiots" ranting. Why is it wasting 1s and 0s here?

dbreneman

Posted Thu, May 31, 6:53 p.m. Inappropriate

Absolutely. This guy didn't even know about this? Why should we be interested in what he thinks?

Posted Thu, May 31, 9:11 a.m. Inappropriate

Perhaps it would be more acceptable if the "Stand Your Ground" law were re-baptized the "Right of Self-defense By Any and All Means Available Against Threat of Grievous Injury or Death to One's Person and Others". "Stand Your Ground" has a connotation of in-your-face hostility regardless of the nature of the threat.

Perhaps, if someone in the cafe were carrying, the carnage would have been mitigated. Of course, the onus is always on the defender to show that he/she was really in serious jeopardy, which is, I think, what the trial in Florida is all about.

I also think that there is a distinction between the SYG and the "Castle Doctrine", which says that you get a pass on whacking anyone who enters your home with perceptible malevolent intent. But even then, if you shoot the perp in the back while he is going out the door, you are still on very shaky ground. Depends on which side of the bed the prosecutor got up from (which).

The legitimate gun-owner community is among the most pained by the recent events, as it always evokes an attack on our prerogatives that would really only affect the "law-abiding citizen". You know, "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns", or at least knives and baseball bats.

Unfortunately, "the gat is out of the bag" and it won't go back in, so we have to deal with it. My parents sent me off the the "Y" to participate in a target shooting program, where I learned proper respect for and handling of guns. Schools should have such programs, elective except for known gang-bangers, for whom it should be mandatory, and the course should include lectures by police and/or defense attorneys. Hey, you can't beat 'em or eliminate the availability, so get real and join 'em.

Oh, the heresy!

kmeyer

Posted Thu, May 31, 9:30 a.m. Inappropriate

You're a little late Hubert. Rick Anderson already wrote it.

http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2012/04/stand-your-ground_shootings_se.php

Blackie

Posted Thu, May 31, 9:31 a.m. Inappropriate

I believe it is theoretically correct that you can shoot (or otherwise harm) anyone in the act of perpetrating a felony, but stealing your car's expensive radio is a felony (is it not?) and people go to jail for whacking someone in the act of doing so. In a good course of gun training, one will learn that juries are unpredictable and that, at the very least, a shooter is likely to be in for a very expensive and enervating ride. Caveat Emptor!

kmeyer

Posted Thu, May 31, 9:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Yep. Some crazy person shoots up a coffee shop, so lets repeal a law that protects a normal person engaged in self-defense.

You did the University of Washington a favor by retiring.

Posted Thu, May 31, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Those commenting on this article, and on recent postings regarding violence with guns, seem to uniformly take the position that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Just for the record, the silent majority do not agree with this view, nor with the cheap and personal shots taken at the author.

Posted Thu, May 31, 4:57 p.m. Inappropriate

The last person I remember who claimed to speak for the "Silent Majority" was Richard Nixon.

dbreneman

Posted Sat, Jun 2, 5:24 a.m. Inappropriate

Sir, I challenge your silent majority statement. Stand your ground is policy in a MAJORITY of states since FL started this trend many years ago. The policy even has basis in Black's Law which is HUNDREDS of years old!
If there is a silent majority on this subject, it is reflected by the wide ACCEPTANCE of the right of self defense (aka stand your ground).

Explorer1

Posted Thu, May 31, 11:37 a.m. Inappropriate

Snus,

Cite your record where the silent majority feels that by only allowing criminals, who will not obey the law, to operate with full confidence that those who they will prey upon will be unarmed, is the best course of action going forward.

Cameron

Posted Thu, May 31, 11:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Actually, the entire Second Amendment community should be grateful to Mr. Locke. The more loquacious of the anti-gun hysterics invariably reveal the fanatical purpose behind forcible disarmament: not just the confiscation of weapons and the elimination of our right to self-defense, but the confinement of us all in the prison of mandatory pacifism and thus our reduction to compulsory victimhood.

Compulsory victimhood is of course the ultimate refuge of cowards. The cowardly neighbors who abandoned Kitty Genovese to the savagery of Winston Moseley would now have the perfect excuse for their cowardice: "we were just obeying the law." Likewise anyone else who cannot bear the thought of unfavorable comparison to those who would dare fight back. The craven would now be upheld; the brave reduced to criminals; the citizenry thus (further) schooled in the responses essential to (intensified) slavery.

Posted Thu, May 31, 12:22 p.m. Inappropriate

"....the Deep South and its cultural backwardness...."
Real classy Locke.

“……until I made the horrid discovery that Washington – where I spend the other half of my waking moments – has a Stand Your Ground law as well!.....”

The Dean Emeritus of the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington was not aware of the state’s gun law. So he's both arrogant and ignorant at the same time. No wonder he was in academics.

And anyone who defends the law is a “trigger-happy lamebrain”. His words.

If there’s anyone taking "cheap and personal shots", it's Hubert Locke himself.

Posted Thu, May 31, 4:01 p.m. Inappropriate

I currently live in the "Deep South and its cultural backwardness" (well, Tennessee--that's deep enough for me), and the General Assembly was able to hit just about every hot button issue this session, including the gun issue. Under debate was whether employers should be required to allow employees to keep guns in their cars when in the employers' parking lot. A curious measure to split elements of the Republican base--pro-gun vs. anti-regulation--and anti-regulation won with the measure failing.

The measure was heated of course, as is anything involving guns. The Tennessean was forced to modify its online commenting policy when a restaurant owner who wrote against the bill was barraged with death threats.

If nothing else, though, the statistics should give pause to people who would otherwise push gun measures too stridently. With a declining portion of the population that owns guns, as well as the confining of that population into a narrow demographic group, it will take more than shouting and death threats to convince people that Stand Your Ground laws are helpful.

Posted Thu, May 31, 5:27 p.m. Inappropriate

Florida didn't adopt the 'Stand Your Ground' (also known as legalized murder) because they are in the South. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provided this legislation to Florida and other legislatures for passage. Wal-Mart was one of the members of ALEC and pro-gun laws are very good for business.

Mr Locke seems to confuse laws regarding gun possession with laws that legalize pursuing and murdering people you argue with.

The reality of the Trayvon Martin killing is that had Trayvon been the one who shot and killed Zimmerman, he would be in prison right now. There's no conceivable way the police would have treated him in the same 'kid gloves' fashion as George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the aggressor in the case, not Martin. He ran after Martin when the police EXPLICITLY told him not to. He was carrying a gun as part of his neighborhood watch when he was EXPLICITLY told not to.

There can never be justice in this case because the innocent teenager is dead.

Posted Thu, May 31, 8:58 p.m. Inappropriate

Richard Borkowski writes: "The reality of the Trayvon Martin killing is that had Trayvon been the one who shot and killed Zimmerman, he would be in prison right now."


But the irony is that if anyone in this case was due the protection of the so-called "stand your ground" law, it would be Trayvon Martin, not George Zimmerman. So why decry the law that would have protected a victim from his assailant? These laws can protect innocent kids from self-appointed gated-community wish-I-could-be-a-cop vigilantes, if only a kid like Trayvon had known he was in a dangerous psycho-yuppie neighborhood and prepared himself appropriately. By condemning the law, you're condemning the victim to his fate.

dbreneman

Posted Thu, May 31, 9:44 p.m. Inappropriate

dbreneman -

You're making what I would say is a very flawed assumption that carrying a gun makes you safer. I couldn't disagree more. What makes you safe is being able to deescalate a situation, NOT escalate it. That why cops shoot relatively infrequently. They are taught to negotiate and deescalate situations.

In this situation, you had 2 guys who both seemed to have some temper problems. 1 had a gun, 1 didn't. The fact of the matter is, if Zimmerman didn't have a gun, he would have stayed away from Trayvon or kept his distance. But since he had a gun, he stalked this kid, chased him down and felt A-OK shooting him.

I condemn this stupid law because it gives people the stupid assumption that they're safer toting a gun. I hope Zimmerman gets life in prison for what he did. That's a just penalty for hunting down a kid who was doing nothing wrong, about as innocent as you can be. People who murder innocent pedestrians should be severely punished.

Posted Fri, Jun 1, 6:36 p.m. Inappropriate

As a collector of weapons in general a guns in particular I'd like to lend my support to the author's thesis. I don't understand why these laws are enacted without requiring owners of these deadly instruments to take the training necessary for them to understand how to properly exercise the use of deadly force. All it takes for a gun owner to obtain a concealed carry permit is a single class in basic gun safety. Had Mr. Henderson taken the time to be properly trained in the use of his weapon and the tactics needed to properly tail a suspect without engaging them, Travon Martin would still be alive.

So, bottom line is this... If you wnat to be a responible gun owner, get the training in the proper use of your weapon as well as the tactics involved to protect yourself and others if need be. In Seattle there's a class called MAG40 that will get you on the right path to responsible gun ownership. It's 20 hours of classroom and 20 hours of range time that will open your eyes to just how much you didn't know. I support the 2nd amendment, especially the part that says a militia should be well trained. Training and practice are everything when it comes to responsible gun ownership. Guns by themselves may not kill people, but an ill, or untrained person with a gun is just a trigger pull away from a life destroying accident.

L8tely

Posted Sun, Jun 3, 10:20 p.m. Inappropriate

...a sober reflection providing an alternative to the vitriolic views of the ready-shoot-aim crowd and the predictable potshots pointed at an otherwise reasonable commentary by Professor Locke. But obtaining a concealed carry permit is far easier than you state, at least in Yakima County; all that is required is an application and payment of license fee to the county sheriff. Now a hunting license granted to minors requires passing a hunter safety class.

dmark

Posted Sat, Jun 2, 5:20 a.m. Inappropriate


What do you expect? You want the people to be unprotected sheep in the land of wolves (criminals) that our so-called justice system refuses to deal with???

The seminal case establishing the general rule that police have no duty under federal law to protect citizens is DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services (109 S.Ct. 998, 1989). Frequently these cases are based on an alleged ``special relationship'' between the injured party and the police. In DeShaney the injured party was a boy who was beaten and permanently injured by his father. He claimed a special relationship existed because local officials knew he was being abused, indeed they had ``specifically proclaimed by word and deed [their] intention to protect him against that danger,'' but failed to remove him from his father's custody. ("Domestic Violence -- When Do Police Have a Constitutional Duty to Protect?'' Special Agent Daniel L. Schofield, S.J.D., FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, January, 1991.)

It is a LEGAL FACT, the purpose oflaw enforcement is NOT to protect citizens! Even when they do bother to show up, they 1) normally arrive well after the fact and 2) serve as fact collectors to fill out a never ending stream of paperwork. The crime victim then becomes a victim of our legal system and probably will end up with a huge attorney bill on top of what ever damages they thug created, assuming the victim is still alive.

A read of the Federalist Papers will provide a solid background of the attitudes surrounding and the real meanings of the statements in the US Constitution.

A reading of 10 USC § 311 - Militia just may show many, many liberals that they are in fact part of the militia.

— Explorer1

Explorer1

Posted Sun, Oct 7, 9:54 p.m. Inappropriate

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that Washington’s Stand Your Ground law is not a matter of state statute; it’s an interpretation that the state Supreme Court has consistently made of our state Constitution. That means a deftly worded amendment to the Constitution could expressly forbid such nonsense.

You are not correct, Mr. Locke.

State v. Redmond described the reason for the lack of "duty to retreat". It's state law, not the state constitution. The state Supreme Court described the text of the state statute as not requiring retreat, so no retreat is required in nearly all circumstances.

Good luck trying to get the legislature to do what New Jersey does (which is the only state which requires this) and put a general duty to retreat in statute.

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