Gun control and violence in the United States has been a controversial topic, particularly in recent years. Some citizens and politicians push for gun control, while others believe that the country’s laws surrounding guns should remain the same. Gun laws vary by state, including regulations on purchasing firearms and concealed or open carry permits and laws. One particularly controversial law is the “stand your ground” law.
Stand your ground laws allow a person to use force if necessary if there is a threat of harm. Many self-defense laws state that a person that believes they are being threatened with personal injury has a duty to retreat. If there is a continued threat after leaving, the threatened person is permitted to use force to defend themselves. In stand your ground states, there is no duty to retreat.
For example, a robber comes into the home of a person who is sleeping. The person awakens and investigates the noises and is met by the robber holding a gun. In states with stand your ground laws, the threatened person could respond with force – including using their own gun, if one is owned – if necessary. A person that defends themselves in such a situation would not have to worry about criminal prosecution.
Opponents of stand your ground laws often believe that such laws can be dangerous. For example, a person could shoot first when there isn’t a real threat. One such instance was the case against George Zimmerman, who faced criminal charges following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was later acquitted of the charges.
Several states have adopted stand your ground laws. Those states are:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Some states use stand your ground in practice, such as through jury instructions or case law. These states are:
- New Mexico
Some states have also adopted stand your ground laws, but these laws only apply when a person is in their vehicle. These states are:
- North Dakota
Finally, there are states with castle doctrine, which allows a person to defend themselves using force while in the home or their vehicles, but have a duty to retreat in public places. These states are:
- New York
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island