Recently, two separate shootings have prompted many questions about a person’s right to protect themselves in the United States. Unlike mass shootings, unlike people protecting themselves from an absolute deadly threat, these incidents occurred because a young boy went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings. In contrast, a young woman searching for a friend’s home pulled into the wrong driveway. Both unarmed. Both were instantly shot.
Neither shooting can at this time be labeled as “self-defense,” and thus far, there is no proof there was cause to use deadly force.
By now, most readers are familiar with the stories; 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot twice after ringing the doorbell of the wrong home. At the same time, 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis died after being shot accidentally entering the wrong driveway.
Some states have instilled a “Stand Your Ground Law” enacted at a state level that permits individuals to protect themselves with the use of reasonable force, including deadly force, to prevent death or great bodily harm. Also dubbed “Make My Day,” or “shoot first” this law does not carry a “duty to retreat,” which refers to requiring a person to retreat when they can do so safely without harming another individual in self-defense.
However, when defendants use a stand-your-ground law to defend their actions, the case must be proven on whether or not the use of force was reasonable. Which means, “You cannot just pull the trigger.” The stand your ground law is in place in Missouri, where young Ralph Yarl was shot, and now, the law is at the forefront of this case. Andrew Lester, who faces charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action, says he heard the doorbell ring, grabbed a gun, and checked on things. He later told law enforcement he believed someone was trying to break into his home. However, he pulled the trigger, no questions asked.
In New York, where Kaylin Gillis died after being shot, they do not have a stand your ground law, but do impose a general duty to retreat. Unfortunately, there was no retreat, and she was killed as a result. According to mynbc5, Kevin Monahan opened fire as he had become increasingly bitter about people driving onto his land by mistake. Monahan was arrested on a second-degree murder charge.
The following states adhere to the stand your ground law: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia Wyoming.
While Eight other states - California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington - permit using deadly force in self-defense. However, deadly force must have reasonable proof that it needed to be used.
While the 2nd Amendment does give us the “right to bear arms,” it does not interpret those words as “just pull the trigger.” And as in the states that adhere to the stand your ground laws, and although it may sound as if anyone can just shoot, it must be proven in a court of law that the person did not simply pull the trigger without critically reasonable cause.
For many Americans, the wide berth given to defendants who say they acted out of fear was the 2021 case of Kyle Rittenhouse, who claimed he acted in self-defense when he shot three men, killing two. The incident occurred following the police shooting of a black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020. However, in 2013 George Zimmerman also put “stand your ground” laws in the spotlight when he was found not guilty of the murder or manslaughter of Trayvon Martin because Zimmerman proved he feared great bodily harm.
Once again, this law is being put under the microscope, as a 16-year-old who went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings was shot. Although he was not committing a crime, and neither was 20-year-old Ms. Gillis, who made a wrong turn, thus far, the justice system states they do not believe the homeowner feared for his life, implying he “simply pulled the trigger.”
This journalist advocates for the 2nd Amendment and believes today, we should continue to have the “right to bear arms” to protect our property and families. However, no matter what laws stand in your state, I implore you to look at these unfortunate cases and remember that it is not lawful to pull the trigger simply because you own a firearm.
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