Black Swan Alert: Stand Your Ground Laws and Trayvon Martin

April 16th, 2012

Ken Jost, citing Meghan’s Law as a good example, calls on society to use the tragedy of Martin’s death as a motivation to repeal the Stand Your Ground Laws.

  Megan Kanka, seven years old, was raped and murdered on July 29, 1994, by a next-door neighbor, who unbeknownst to anyone in her suburban New Jersey neighborhood had two previous convictions for sexually assaulting young girls. Just one month later, the New Jersey legislature passed a law requiring convicted sex offenders to register with a state database and making that information available to the public.
Washington State passed the first such law four years earlier, but the measures are now universally known as “Megan’s Laws” and have been enacted in various forms by Congress and by legislatures in every state. One can question the wisdom or the effectiveness of the laws, but they are firmly established as a lasting legacy to an innocent victim of a senseless crime — an attempt to show that Megan Kanka did not die in vain.
Trayvon Martin, an innocent victim of what is now officially alleged to be a senseless crime, deserves no less. Even as state attorney Angela Corey and her team of prosecutors prepare to try George Zimmerman on a charge of second-degree murder, legislators in the 20 or more states that passed so-called “Stand Your Ground Laws” in the past seven years should begin the task of rewriting or repealing those measures — so that Trayvon Martin, in some sense, not have died in vain.

The groundswell of indignation at the killing could now be turned to the broader purpose of restoring the law of self-defense to the sensible balance that had obtained for most of U.S. history until the NRA-led drive of the past decade. Anglo-American law had long recognized the so-called “Castle Doctrine” that permits the use of force, even deadly force, in self-defense within one’s home. Expanding that doctrine to public settings has made the streets not safer, but less safe, according to law enforcement officials.

In this case, opposing the repeal of the laws would be Burkean (however that is defined), and libertarian (as the law being supported is quite libertarian).