Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: Learning The Limitations Of Stand Your Ground Laws

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

Stand your ground laws in many ways are a good thing, as it establishes a person’s right to defend themselves from an attacks by violent persons. In an ideal world, no one would ever have cause to fear for their safety, but since we live very differently from how we should, that isn’t the case in real life. There are bad people out there.

In the states where such statutes exist, the general gist is that a person can defend themselves anywhere they are attacked, with lethal force if necessary. Granted, the exact wording and mechanisms of the law differs from state-to-state; some give a person wider latitude than others. Some states also have a stand your ground law established by case law, rather than by legislation.

However, these laws do come with limitations, just as “Castle Doctrine” laws do, so it behooves a person to do their homework and familiarize themselves with the appropriate laws in their city and state, especially if they plan to put on a concealed carry holster and carry a gun. Knowing when you can or can’t shoot is just as important, if not more so, than knowing how to.

Just like almost all states’ self-defense laws, “Stand Your Ground” laws require that any use of force be preceded by a reasonable fear of death or severe injury prior to initiating force on anyone. A person therefore would have to have a reasonable fear that they will be killed or severely injured prior to acting.

For instance, retired police captain Curtis Reeves, 74, was involved in a shooting at a movie theater in 2014. Reeves began arguing with another moviegoer, one Chad Oulson, about texting during the movie. When the other patron threw his popcorn at Reeves, Reeves drew his pistol and shot, killing Oulson. He claimed that he was acting within the purview of the Florida Stand Your Ground Law.

Unfortunately, the court did not agree and in March of this year, Reeves was scheduled to stand trial for second-degree murder. The judge didn’t buy the argument, according to the Tampa Bay Times, as evidence (including video surveillance of the incident) didn’t corroborate Reeves’ version of events or that anything worse than a bit of popcorn was sent his way.

While Florida’s law has been criticized for being too permissive, there have been people convicted in that state for acting outside the bounds of the statute. Cases from that state tend to be the most widely disseminated as the Sunshine State’s law was one of the earliest examples as well. For instance, one Michael Dunn was convicted of first-degree murder as well as other charges in 2014 as a result of a Nov. 12, 2012, incident in Jacksonville that involved Dunn.

Dunn, according to NBC Miami, got into an argument with several teenagers in an SUV over their playing music too loud. Dunn claimed he saw something resembling a gun as one of the young men in the car rolled their window down. He fired 10 shots into the car, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn never called police to report the incident, instead heading straight back to his hotel room with his fiancée.

Clearly, both incidents would appear outside the bounds of what could be called “self-defense.” In both incidents, the law was invoked after both parties initiated a conflict with the parties that became deceased. In both incidents, there was nothing that could reasonably be considered a legitimate threat to life or limb.

In both incidents, someone is now dead over something incredibly stupid.

These laws exist to confer legal protection for a person who responded to a real threat on their life or limb, not as a means to shoot people over trifles. A responsible citizen knows not to get into such situations, as quibbles with others over such ephemera is never worth it, and certainly knows not to draw their gun unless facing a serious threat.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.