Political Editors / July 25, 2018

Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ Case: Self-Defense, or Murder?

Despite the Leftmedia narrative, one questionable incident doesn’t undermine the law itself.

Florida has experienced several high-profile shootings involving concealed carry permit holders — the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin being the most notable of them. Another recent shooting death is slated to join the state’s most conspicuous cases involving the much-maligned “stand your ground” law.

Last week, in Clearwater, a man whom ABC News describes as a “gun-toting gadfly” shot and killed another man “who was apparently trying to protect his girlfriend from being hassled over a handicapped parking space.” As ABC goes on to report, “[Markeis] McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britney Jacobs, said … that she was sitting in her car waiting for McGlockton to come out of [a] convenience store when [Michael] Drejka came up and began ‘harassing’ her about being parked in a handicap space. … Surveillance video showed McGlockton exiting the store and shoving Drejka to the ground. Drejka then drew a handgun and shot and killed McGlockton, who appeared to be retreating.”

That last part — “appeared to be retreating” — is particularly significant. In fact, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri opted against charging Drejka with a crime. According to the sheriff, “The law in the state of Florida today is that people have a right to stand their ground and have a right to defend themselves when they believe that they are in harm.” Whatever “in harm” means, the law is actually more meticulous than that. After calling the sheriff’s reasoning “an inexcusably bad misstatement of the law,” National Review’s David French explains:

The statute contemplates two very different circumstances, one where a person is authorized to use “force, except deadly force” and the other where “deadly force” is authorized. So, no, not every punch, kick, push, shove, or fear of “harm” grants a person the right to pull his gun and shoot. It just grants him the right to punch or push back. That’s it. It would be utterly absurd if every physical altercation immediately granted the victim a license to kill. That’s not the law. … The question isn’t whether Drejka believed he was in imminent danger of death, but rather whether his belief was reasonable.

As emphasized above, video evidence depicts McGlockton withdrawing once he saw the weapon, which, without knowing what was said by the two men, doesn’t seem to be a reasonable justification to shoot. French also observes, “Compounding the injustice is Drejka’s own absurd conduct. An armed citizen should not be mall-copping his way through life, initiating confrontations. And that’s especially true if you’re a grown man interacting with a young woman. There are many, many men who (quite reasonably, I might add) will react physically if they see a strange man confronting their wife or girlfriend.”

This entire episode is tragic for all parties concerned — each behaved poorly. But contrary to the Leftmedia narrative, the simple fact is that “stand your ground” laws don’t legalize murder. For example, Jacobs’ attorney Benjamin Crump claims “this is a law that gives people a license to kill black and people of color with no consequences despite having no objective fear or no justification.” That’s not true, even if laws are occasionally abused. Just like most police offers aren’t racist and trigger-happy, most concealed carry permit holders are actually model law-abiding citizens.

The important thing is holding people accountable and administering justice when necessary, not using incidents to boost a narrative any which way someone chooses — like demonizing every “stand your ground” law. The bottom line is that prosecutors would be wise to reevaluate the sheriff’s questionable decision.

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