A lot of comments on my post about stand your ground laws, in which I wrote “Gun ownership is much higher among White people than Black people, so stand-your-ground laws do not provide equal protection,” where suggestions that I forgot about all the Black people with illegal guns. My answers to those comments were that some people have a very inflated sense of how many Black people are illegally holding guns, and that those illegally gun-toting Black people don’t count towards what I was writing about.
The two reasons I felt the illegally gun-toting Black people didn’t count were because I was writing about how stand your ground laws unequally affect law abiding citizens (not criminals), and because stand your ground laws don’t protect people with illegal guns.
Well maybe I was wrong about my second reason. Apparently, somebody with an illegal gun can get away using stand your ground in Florida. 17 year old Tyrone Pierson will not be charged with murder for killing Julius Jerome Jacobs, who threatened him with a stick, even though he shot his assailant with an illegal gun. The reasoning, as explained on Talking Points Memo was
… even though the famed Stand Your Ground provision passed by the Florida legislature in 2005 prohibits those who are engaged in “unlawful activity” from claiming Stand Your Ground immunity, that another provision amended at the same time authorizes the use of deadly force in similar circumstances with no explicit exception for “unlawful activity.”
The primary focus of laws requiring retreat where possible is to protect innocent people. In Pierson’s case, there were witnesses, and perhaps evidence, to convince prosecutors that Jacobs was the aggressor, but without those witnesses or evidence all we would have is a dead guy and another guy saying, “He started it”. Requiring people to retreat where possible would reduce the amount of people killed, some of whom would be innocent.
Nobody says you can’t defend yourself if you have to. Most claims of self defense seem to go just the way the Zimmerman case went, with the killer being dismissed or acquitted because there isn’t enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the killer wasn’t in fear for his life.
Even without SYG, Pierson might not have been charged with murder, but he might have been charged with something related to his failure to retreat. The possibility of such a charges would save lives.