On October 1st, Florida passed the new “Stand your ground” law based on House Bill 0249. This law has received recent media attention because a group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence based in Washington has been handing out leaflets to tourists entering Florida to warn them that they may not be safe. The law is also known as the “shoot first” law.
Previous Florida State law gives the right to an individual to use deadly force on somebody who breaks into his or her home. This mentality originates from the castle doctrine, which is a common-law doctrine of ancient origins, which declares that a person’s home is his or her castle. The new law extends to a person’s vehicle, giving people the right to kill without a duty to retreat.
This law has sparked my interest because 2 nights ago I was sleeping in an apartment and we inadvertently left the door unlocked. Overnight somebody entered the apartment and stole a camera and went through a purse looking for cash. It made me wonder what would have happened if I woke up to find the thief. If the scenario were slightly different and the door had been locked, under Florida state law, I would have the right to shoot and kill this individual, even if this individual had no intention on harming me or anybody else in the home and I would be immune from any criminal prosecution or civil action.
So I started thinking about another scenario: What if I discovered there was a burglar inside the apartment in another room, but I had an opportunity to retreat from the apartment through the front door without confronting the burglar. If this were the case, even though I could safely retreat, I would still have the right to hunt down the burglar and kill him in cold blood.
Another disturbing part about this law is the fact that you have the right to use deadly force on somebody if they appear to be attempting to break into your home or your car. An example where this could backfire is the scenario where a student is breaking into a teacher’s car in order to play a prank on that teacher such as filling it with crumpled newspapers. The teacher has the legal right to kill the student in this scenario.
To me, all 3 of the above scenarios are murder and should be dealt with as such. Self-defense isn’t mentioned at all in this law, which is baffling to me. It’s just another example of how much power the National Rifle Association has on the Senate. The NRA had been pressing hard to have the bill passed through legislature.