With the increased media attention surrounding the February shooting of Trayvon Martin, many states’ “Stand Your Ground” laws have become the new target of the left’s objective to demoralize the conservative cause and steal individual liberty. In New Hampshire, we experienced our own tragedy when a lone gunman, Myles Webster, shot police Officer Daniel Doherty five times in the legs and torso. Officer Doherty is now in critical, but stable, condition. Webster, a parolee with a lengthy criminal record including assault and battery, armed robbery, and owning a weapon without a permit, is in court custody. Between the shooting of Trayvon and Doherty, many are questioning the legitimacy of a bill that legalizes lethal violence; but Stand Your Ground laws are not responsibly for the death of Officer Doherty, and it has yet to be proven if the law is at fault for the death of Martin. The realistic question to ask is how Webster obtained a gun despite his extensive list of felonies. We cannot penalize the Stand Your Ground law without first examining the cause in which it can be utilized.
As a resident of New Hampshire, the live free or die state, I am familiar with our gun laws that happen to be blessedly liberal. We recently moved from a Castle Doctrine, in which deadly force is permitted against an intruder in one’s home, to a Stand Your Ground state. With Martin’s death, people across the country have grown increasingly more paranoid regarding the belief that an accidental shove could cause open fire, but this is not the case. The law in New Hampshire explicitly states that deadly force may only be used when one is not the initial aggressor. The initial aggressor must have a desire to cause death or bodily harm. The New Hampshire law reads,
“nor is the use of deadly force justifiable when, with the purpose of causing death or serious bodily harm, the person has provoked the use of force against himself or herself in the same encounter.”
A shove would therefore not hold up in court as a reasonable cause of hasty gun use. To call for the repeal of the Stand Your Ground laws would not only endanger citizens of New Hampshire, but the twenty other states that adopted the law as well.
Examine the recent case of a young woman, sexually assaulted while walking home in the city of Boston. Although she was able to fend off her attacker and escape, each scenario is different and none are uncommon. Despite police efforts, attacks in that area of Boston are not the first of their kind; residents have already stated they avoid the park in the early mornings and late nights. At some point, we must be able to take responsibility and ensure our own safety. Whether it’s a gun or pepper spray, having the ability to employ self-defense is inherent in American law and it’s our responsibility to protect ourselves through laws like Stand Your Ground.
While many will point to the Second Amendment to advocate Stand Your Ground, history provides its own defense. From Lexington and Concord to World War II to the War against Terror, Americans have always proved themselves worthy and displayed the ability to protect their property. What if the British military marched into Lexington and the minutemen did not use defensive weaponry but instead allowed their community to be pillaged and their armory to be ransacked? Would history be different had the Civil War not allowed the use of lethal weaponry? Outlawing and prohibiting guns is not the answer, but will only facilitate a larger problem when attempting to combat crime. Responsible education and ownership will not only create greater precautionary methods, but will promote safety and freedom.
Caitlyn Jarvis | St. Anselm College | Manchester, New Hampshire | @CaitlynJarvis