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Why is the “Stand Your Ground” law so controversial?

An argument at a gas station escalated, and in a matter of moments a shove to the ground lead to a bullet in the chest. Sound like an overreaction? Well, that’s what Florida law aims to find out.

In late August, Michael Drejka was none too pleased with Markeis McGlockton occupying a handicapped parking spot outside a convenience store in Clearwater, Florida. McGlockton had with him his wife and two small children. Drejka shared his displeasure with McGlockton’s parking. Later, McGlockton left the store and pushed Drejka to the ground. McGlockton took a few steps back, but Drejka pulled his gun and fired a bullet right into McGlockton’s chest.

McGlockton was brought to a hospital and pronounced dead. Drejka was arrested three weeks later. At the trial, the court assessed the incident under the terms of the Stand Your Ground law.

What is the Stand Your Ground law?

“Stand Your Ground” is a law put into place in 2005. It allows people to resort to deadly force before retreating. Under the law, they can only use deadly force if they “reasonably believe” that their lives are in danger.

In 2017, this law was given the added caveat that the defendant no longer needed to provide evidence that they believed their life was in danger. Rather, it was now up to prosecutor to prove that the defendant didn’t have this belief.

So, the question was, did Drejka have reason to be believe he was in danger? The case divided the community and brought many back to the infamous Trayvon Martin case.

Why this law has received backlash

The controversy over the law is due to the escalated nature of confrontation. In the moment, with adrenaline running, panicked thoughts come a lot quicker. A study from the University of Pittsburgh shows that anxiety can thwart reasonable decision making. So, while a jury might review footage and see an overreaction, the perpetrator’s brain chemistry may have made a mountain out of a prospective molehill.

Opponents to the law call Stand Your Ground “legalized murder.” This is why many are fighting to have it repealed. “Self-defense” has long been a phrase used in criminal cases, but stand your ground has taken the application to controversial heights. Whether or not this law has a long future ahead of it, it will likely be the subject of debate for years to come.

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