Should Iowa make "stand your ground" law?


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In a recent legislative push  by Republicans, Iowa has moved one step closer to passing a stand-your-ground law proposed by Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley.

For those unfamiliar with these laws, they exist in 25 states, and a number of states (including Iowa) are looking to join their ranks.

What these laws do is allow individuals to legally employ deadly force if they feel that they are in danger. According to language of the bill being considered in Iowa, this would allow an people to kill someone they perceive as a threat, "even if an alternative course of action is available."

Perhaps worse, this law would allow an individual to legally take the life of another human being, even if though that "person may be wrong in the estimation of the danger or the force necessary to repel the danger."

Defenders of this proposed legislation, and laws like it, appear to have come to the conclusion that neither common law nor criminal codes extend adequate protections to law-abiding citizens who might be required to defend themselves. This could not be further from the truth.

Under current law, people under attack can claim self-defense by simply proving that they reasonably thought their lives were in imminent danger, that each forceful action — even deadly force — was necessary, and that the only reason they acted was to thwart the danger they were exposed to. If they can prove those three things, they will be found not guilty.

The stand-your-ground laws do not change this, save for one key thing: People who perceive a threat, wrongly or rightly, get to be judge, jury, and, in some cases, executioner.

Current law extends protections to people who reasonably employ deadly force when confronted by a perceived threat of serious injury or death. Stand-your-ground laws remove the requirement that the action taken, and the perception of threat, be reasonable.

Defenders of stand-your-ground laws have argued that cases in which such laws have been used to absolve people who unreasonably employed deadly force represent a flaw in the application of the law rather than a flaw in the law itself. I do not know how many incidents like the one most recently witnessed in Florida — in which a 17-year-old young man carrying Skittles was shot by a 28-year-old man who was not arrested at the time because he cited Florida's stand-your-ground law — have to occur before they can be persuaded that the problem is in fact the law itself.

But I hope that Iowa is never provided the opportunity to supply the case that sways their minds.

— Daniel Taibleson


I often wonder if it's even possible for me to take a human life, even in self-defense.

My mind starts to spin, and I eventually conclude I could never do it. Can I be really sure?

How many of us really know what we would do to preserve our lives or the life of a loved one? How many people have been in that situation?

Obviously, I never have, so it's hard for me to speculate what constitutes the proper amount of fear I would have to be in to feel my life was in danger. A man chasing me? A group of people beating me? A single flash of a gun?

As I understand the stand-your-ground laws, it gives a person in danger the ability to fight back. If someone pushes you, you can defend yourself; if a gun is thrown in your face, you have the right to disarm the person; if you feel that you are in danger, you can take action.

The average Joe does not have time to think about elaborate, alternate strategies to subdue an attacker: If you are under attack, you have the right to defend yourself.

As I understand them, these laws are protecting the rights of defense. As nothing is perfect in human kind, there are accidents — innocent people get caught in the mix. And these cases should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I don't have a J.D. or Ph.D.; I have the common-sense knowledge that I should be able to defend myself if I feel that I am in danger. And I should be protected if my inexperience in self-preservation leads to the death of my perpetrator.

You have the right to defend yourself — stand-your-ground laws simply secure this right in writing.

— Benjamin Evans

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