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May 6, 2012

Georgia to keep ‘Stand Your Ground’ law?

Measure under scrutiny after Fla. case

A spokesman for a grassroots organization who believes citizens should have a right to defend themselves in public said Georgia — like Florida with its “Stand Your Ground” law that has been used as a defense in a racially charged shooting case — should not repeal its own Stand Your Ground measure under political pressure.

“If you’re taking your family to a football game or to a party downtown or whatever, and you have no control over what neighborhood you’re in, you should still be able to protect yourself,” said Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.Org. “In my opinion, the Stand Your Ground law places the criminality where it belongs — and that’s on the aggressor and not on the victim.”

The case in Florida, where a man named George Zimmerman who was on a neighborhood watch patrol and shot and killed a black teenager named Trayvon Martin, has thrown the spotlight on Stand Your Ground laws. The measures allow individuals to use force in self-defense if they believe their life is being threatened or that another type of felony may be committed upon them.

Zimmerman claims the Florida Stand Your Ground statute covers his actions since he said Martin was threatening him.

Markel Hutchins has challened Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law in a federal lawsuit, and said in the suit that some courts have “accepted the race of a victim as evidence to establish the reasonableness of an individual’s fear in cases of justifiable homicide,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on April 9.

Henry said Stand Your Ground law goes back to colonial days in Georgia, even though the principle was only codified in 2006. He also said around half of the states have some type of similar statute.

“I think that if I’m walking down the street with my family and my kids, or grandkids, and somebody comes up to me and sticks a knife to my throat, that I should not have to cower and beg and run off to keep from going to jail when he’s the one that’s committed the act of violence,” he believes. “To me, that’s just not the way to be. There are several states that, if a guy comes up to you and threatens you with a gun — and you kill him — you’re going to be facing murder charges, which is very difficult for me to put my arms around.”

Maj. John Gibson of the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office said he could not recall an instance of Stand Your Ground being used locally.

“That law has been used for defense in the county since it’s been put into place,” he said. “(But) I don’t remember it ever being used in the county ... Personally, I feel it’s a good law from my perspective. If citizens are properly trained with their firearms, by all means they ought to be able to defend themselves. But it’s been a moot point for us because we haven’t had any dealings with it, not that I can remember.”

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