By Phillip Morris, Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 1, 2018
Where do you stand your ground on guns? Here’s where I stand.
I believe that self-defense is a constitutional right as well as personal responsibility.
I believe that armed law-abiding citizens should have the right to own and carry guns after they have passed all applicable federal background checks.
I believe that armed law-abiding citizens should have the right to defend their property with a gun when facing an active threat from criminals.
I believe that armed law-abiding citizens should have the right to defend their lives or the lives of others when facing a dangerous criminal threat.
That being clear, the stand your ground laws are where I draw a big red line. These reckless self-defense laws are dangerous for America. Stand your ground laws, now active in nearly two dozen states, exempt gun holders from a requirement to attempt to retreat from escalating violence before resorting to deadly force.
Why are these laws dangerous? Simple. As an increasing number of states jump on the stand your ground bandwagon, more violent provocateurs, bigots, cowards, or haters of any stripe are now reasonably emboldened to use the cover of law to spark dangerous encounters and engage in violence.
Such a scenario is now playing out in Florida. Michael Drejka, a 47-year-old Florida man, shot and killed Markeis McGlockton, 26, after the two engaged in a brief confrontation in a Clearwater convenience store parking lot last month.
Drejka initiated the conflict. He aggressively approached McGlockton’s partner, who sat in a car with two of the couple’s children, while McGlockton and a third child went into the store. Drejka angrily approached the woman’s car and profanely demanded that she move the vehicle from a parking space reserved for disabled motorists.
According to the store’s owner, Drejka routinely took it upon himself to cruise that particular parking lot and to self-police the disabled parking spot.
When McGlockton noticed the confrontation involving his girlfriend, he hurriedly left the store, approached Drejka and forcibly pushed the older man to the ground. He then tried to take a step back to assess the situation.
It was too late. His execution was already underway. In the time it takes to draw a gun and aim, Drejka shot McGlockton in the chest, fatally wounding him in front of his family. The father of three died before he could be transported to a hospital.
The next day, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said that there would be no charges brought against Drejka. He said the shooting was ruled justifiable under Florida’s stand your ground law.
It didn’t matter that Drejka had initiated the confrontation. It didn’t matter that McGlockton only engaged Drejka after it was clear that the man had frightened McGlockton’s girlfriend and their children. The only factor that appeared to matter in this stunning prelude to a homicide was that Drejka feared for his life.
“The law on ‘stand your ground’ is clear,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
“The Florida legislature has created a standard, that is a largely subjective standard. This is not an objective ‘what I would do, what you would do, what the public would do, what somebody else would do?’ This is more of a subjective standard, and the person’s subjective determination of the circumstances they were in.”
The NRA and the Republican lawmakers who drafted Florida’s stand your ground law strongly disagreed with Gualtieri’s interpretation of the law.
“‘Stand your ground’ uses a reasonable-person standard. It’s not that you were just afraid. It’s an objective standard, ” said State Sen. Dennis Baxley, who sponsored the law in 2005.
That’s the problem with stand your ground laws. What is a reasonable person? What is a reasonable person when it comes to guns, fears, and possible racial animus?
Ohio lawmakers are considering adding Ohio to the growing list of states that have adopted stand your ground laws. Legislators should proceed with extreme caution, while keeping a close eye on what just happened in Florida.
A wanna-be parking lot vigilante killed a man because of a fight started over a parking space. The maximum fine that Florida charges for illegal parking in a handicap space is $250.
Drejka made it an instant death sentence.
VoxFairfax Editors’ Note: Many of us were horrified by the existence of “stand your ground” laws, such as in Florida, when we heard about them a few years back in connection with the Trayvon Martin case. Another shooting in Florida has again raised the issue, with the defendant claiming this as his defense. Ohio is currently considering its own version of the law. What do you think? Stand Your Ground is now law in 24 states. Virginia has resisted legislation introduced to establish this defense.