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“Stand your ground” reduces court system inefficiency

BY GUEST OPINION | MARCH 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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Tuesday’s editorial against the proposed “stand your ground” bill made me wonder just how many of the members of the DI Editorial Board have guns in their possession, let alone permits to carry a concealed weapon.

There were a few statements made that let the strong criticisms of the writers bleed through, but I’m only going to address one because of space limitations:

“As it stands now, Iowa law allows the use of deadly force to prevent a violent crime, without requiring an attempt to escape, if one is threatened in one’s home. House Study Bill 36 expands this protection to cover any place in which a person is legally present. Additionally, the bill presumes that deadly force is justified when it is used against anyone attempting to ‘unlawfully and forcefully’ enter a home, vehicle, or workplace.”

Intentional or not, this statement indicates a belief that if you are attacked in your home, you should run. Where to, exactly? If someone knows that you’re home, it would be logical to conclude that you’re a likely target when they break in; thus, you may get shot in the back if you run.

Now, the purpose of the bill seems to have escaped the writers on the Editorial Board. I shall outline it briefly: Every year, law abiding, permit-carrying individuals are targeted by criminals. When these criminals are engaged and sometimes killed, the law takes into custody any surviving criminals as well as the victim. In some cases, the law is inefficient to society as it creates social costs associated with the wrongful imprisonment of the victim, their loss of property, psychological burden created after being wrongfully accused, and the court costs (including appeal, and suit against the state for wrongful imprisonment).

This new law seeks efficiency by making it explicitly legal to engage criminals (in a highly responsible manner) “any place in which a person is legally present,” replacing the former doctrine that specified only for home defense. Reductions in the legal and social costs could be tremendous.

For the sake of argument, we’ll create a scenario in which a criminal is targeting an individual. The location is the parking lot at the Coral Ridge Mall (this is random location, but there was a case at Westroads Mall in Omaha that resulted in the deaths of eight people). The potential victim is almost to his car when suddenly an unidentified person begins attacking him. Our victim throws his bags at the attacker and attempts to get away from the criminal. At 20 feet, the criminal begins pursuing, this time with a knife. It’s at this moment that our victim places his hand on his concealed weapon.

Do you draw? I would, provided there were not a group of people behind the criminal. Do you fire? At that point, it’s up to the criminal to run away, listen to your commands until the police arrive, or try to attack you. Only in the last case would I engage the threat.

The negative reaction to this bill is premature: How much the law will affect the survivability of being in or around an attack has yet to be determined. If the new law does not improve society, then change it; this is still a democracy. With or without the law, permit holders will still be faced with the same decisions. The law will just improve the ability of the victim to be recognized and reduce the ability of any surviving criminals or their families to file suit against the victims to recoup monetary compensation for “pain and suffering” after being shot.

Ryan Garrison is a UI junior andconcealed carry permit holder.


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