Crosscut

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?

By Hubert G. Locke

May 31, 2012.

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.

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

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Printed on August 21, 2014