SANFORD, Florida (Isabelle Zehnder reporting) – NRA member Dave Kopel said Friday that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law does not protect George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed Florida teen, Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman has claimed self-defense and said it was Trayvon who came after him, it was Trayvon who beat his head into the cement and broke his nose, and it was he – Zimmerman – who acted in self-defense.
Asked during a CNN Starting Point interview if the Florida law and others like it go too far and allow for the “no duty to retreat idea,” Kopel said, “No, I think the things that have been said, including by some people on CNN and other stations, saying that Florida’s self-defense laws have something relevant to this case either don’t know what they’re talking about or have been trying to mislead as the gun prohibition lobbyists have been doing on this.”
“Florida law is very clear. On self-defense the Florida law, the basic standard is the same as it is in all 50 states, that you can only use, when you’re in a public place, deadly force and self-defense if you are the victim of an eminent attack that could kill you or cause brave bodily injury or if violent forcible felony.
“Those are the only circumstances in which a person in a public place in Florida can use deadly force in self-defense.
“I think if you actually read what the law says, it doesn’t apply in this situation. The stand-your-ground law is about when a person who is a victim of a violent attack, under what circumstances do they have a duty to retreat rather than take action to defend themselves?”
Kopel said he knows media is trying the case on television, but the good thing about the American system is the actual evidence-gathering will be done by a grand jury. He said they’ll listen to all of the witnesses, look at all the facts, talk to the investigators, and they will make a determination if there’s a case worth prosecuting.
He said if Zimmerman criminally killed Trayvon, then the Florida law provides Zimmerman with no protection.
Fl. Rep. Richard Glorioso told the Tampa Times last week:
“As far as I’m concerned, that neighborhood watch guy was breaking the law as soon as he started following that kid. He was stalking him. That’s not standing your ground. If the law is applied right, it’s a fine law. But we worried about how people would interpret it, and how it would be applied, when we were discussing it.”
Asked if he shares that worry, Kopel said if you read what the law says, it doesn’t apply in this situation. He said:
“The ‘Stand Your Ground’ law is about when a person is a victim of a violent attack, under what circumstances do they have a duty to retreat rather than take action to defend themselves?
“If Zimmerman is the aggressor in this case then he wasn’t the victim. And since he wasn’t the victim, he had no right to self-defense at all, and the issue of whether he should retreat or not wouldn’t – has nothing to do with it.”
The night Trayvon was shot and killed
On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, 17, was walking to his father’s fiancée’s home from a convenience store after purchasing an Arizona iced tea and Skittles. Zimmerman started following Trayvon and called 911 saying he looked suspicious.
During the call, Zimmerman admitted he was following Trayvon and the 911 dispatcher said, “OK, we don’t need you to do that.” At some point the two allegedly got into a fight and Zimmerman pulled out his gun, shooting Trayvon in the chest at close range. Paramedics arived at the scene within moments but could not revive him.
There is question whether Zimmerman was the aggressor, or if it was Trayvon. Because Trayvon is black and Zimmerman is white/Hispanic, the case has become a racial flashpoint leading to a series of protests across the nation.
Dave Kopel is the author of “Firearms Law & the Second Amendment”
Share your thoughts in the Comment section below. Scroll down for more on this story.
Follow this National Unsolved Cases / Missing Persons news writer:
- Click on SUBSCRIBE link above for instant updates
- Visit my Missing Persons articles
- Visit my Blog
- Follow me on Facebook
- Follow me on Twitter