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Miami Herald Editorial Board: Florida’s ‘Shoot First’ or ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law is More Than a Legal Matter, It’s An Attitude

February 10, 2022

Yesterday, the Miami Herald published an editorial on Florida’s culture of violence, cultivated by lax firearm legislation like the state’s “Stand Your Ground” or “Shoot First” law. The piece highlights a number of incidents where disagreements between state residents devolved into instances of  preventable gun violence. These shootings, the Miami Herald wrote, could be “the result of a culture that teaches citizens to think of their fellow citizens as potential threats to be neutralized with the exercise of our Second Amendment rights.”

From the piece:

“Stand Your Ground is more than just a legal matter… Stand Your Ground, coupled with the state’s lax regulations on guns and background checks is an attitude. It’s the message that anything goes in your exercise of your constitutional rights, whether it be vigilantism or recklessness.”

Florida’s “Shoot First” law was first passed in 2005, removing citizens’ duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter a threat if they “reasonably believe” their lives are threatened, even if they knew they could safely and easily get away. Since its initial passage, the state legislature has made it easier for defendants to claim protection under the law, and leaders like Governor DeSantis have expressed interest in further expanding it. Florida’s Shoot First law has created a culture of violence – giving armed extremists the green light to shoot anyone they fear or unfairly suspect, call themselves “vigilantes,” and claim self defense. It’s time to repeal this deadly law that gives people the right to seek out dangerous situations, shoot first, and ask questions later.

What to know about Florida’s ‘Shoot First’ law:

  • Research shows Shoot First laws are linked to an increase in homicide rates and that these laws resulted in 150 additional gun deaths every month. States with weak gun laws, especially those with Shoot First laws on the books, have higher rates of gun deaths. After Florida’s law was enacted in 2005, studies show that homicide rates increased between 24 and 45%
  • Florida’s Shoot First law even limits the authority to arrest and prosecute someone who claims self-defense under the ‘Shoot First’ law, meaning shooters go free without ever having to present evidence that self-defense was justified.
  • In Shoot First states, homicides in which white shooters kill Black victims are deemed justifiable five times more frequently than when the situation is reversed.

Read the full editorial here.

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February 10, 2022