So get this: 28 states have legislatively adopted "Stand Your Ground" laws - meaning:
"individuals can use force without retreating, in order to protect and defend themselves or others against threats or perceived threats. They may use any level of force if they reasonably believe the threat rises to the level of being an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death."
Another eight have adopted it "in practice" - not legislated, but it exists as a result of precedent or jury instructions.
That's 36 states whereby people - based solely on their own perception of threat or danger - can murder with impunity. And, to the great surprise of absolutely no one, the adoption of these laws has yielded the following stats:
- In stand-your-ground states, the use of the defense by whites in the shooting of a black person is found to be justifiable 17% of the time, while the defense when used by blacks in the shooting of a white person is successful 1% of the time. (The Urban Institute)
- Following the passage of its SYG law, Florida saw a 24.4% increase in homicide and a 31.6% increase in firearm-related homicide when compared to states with no similar laws. (Journal of the American Medical Association)
- In the 204 cases in Florida where SYG was cited as a defense against homicide or some other violent act, juries were twice as likely to convict the perpetrator of a crime against a white person than against a person of color. (Nicole Ackerman, Melody Goodman, et al)
Put another way, SYG is a frighteningly dangerous policy with a clear racial bias. People can shoot to kill, comforted in the knowledge that the courts are overwhelmingly on their side... provided they're, you know, white.
But OK, so they're cleared of criminal wrongdoing. Surely they'll be bankrupted by high legal fees and court costs, right? And then get sued again in civil court, costing them even more?
Yeah, not so much.
The National Rifle Association recently announced a innocuous-sounding product called "Carry Guard". Starting at the low, low price of just $13.95 a month, any self-appointed, twitchy, trigger-happy law and order guy can now be insured for $250,000 of civil protection and $50,000 of criminal defense costs. (Of course, the NRA and insurance underwriters being who they are, there are more expensive plans offering more coverage.)
The insurance policies might have a slick marketing campaign behind them, and the laws were probably drafted by respectable-looking people in suits, but make no mistake: this creates fertile ground for modern day, dressed up vigilantism and lynching.