16 July 2013

Would Trayvon be alive if he lived in Pennsylvania?

My home state of Pennsylvania has a "Stand Your Ground" law that was modeled after the Florida law. "Stand Your Ground" laws allow a person to use deadly force in self-defense against someone whom you believe presents a serious threat to you. I opposed the law when it first came before the State Assembly, and I oppose it now. It makes it too easy to kill or seriously harm someone who might not actually pose a threat at all, just because you might be paranoid enough imagine that they look suspicious.

However, I just learned that the Pennsylvania law contains a caveat not present in the Florida law, which might have made all the difference if Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman had lived in Pennsylvania rather than in Florida.

According to Philadelphia's CBS affiliate, the Pennsylvania law "requires that outside the home, a person invoking 'Stand Your Ground' must see a deadly weapon, not merely feel threatened."

So, since Martin was carrying nothing more lethal than a pack of Skittles candy and a can of iced tea, Zimmerman might have chosen not to shoot. Or, if he did, he might have had a lot more explaining to do.

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