“Have we really fostered a society that fears going outside without a firearm? Can we instead carry non-lethal weapons such as Tasers?”
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Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
I’ll start with a full disclosure: I don’t own a gun. And here is another one: I’ve never been in a potentially life-threatening situation. Sure, I’ve come close to hitting a car on my longboard, but I’ve never been threatened by another person. I cannot imagine the fear; I cannot imagine the rationale. So, in some sense, I am in no way qualified to comment on the legislation that permits a person to use lethal force when they feel threatened by another person. Nevertheless, here I stand totally and utterly opposed to laws supporting anything that involves “standing your ground.”
This legislation has, for the past few years, been the driving force behind numerous landmark cases in which someone took the life of another because they felt threatened. Trayvon Martin is the most notable of these instances, but more recently, we can look to the altercation between Curtis Reeves and Chad Oulson. Sitting in a movie theatre, Oulson pulled out his phone to text the babysitter about how his child was doing. Seeing this, Reeves, a retired police officer, started an argument over the use of the phone. Things escalated, and Oulson threw popcorn at Reeves. Reeves responded by pulling out his gun and fatally shooting Oulson in the middle of the theatre.
I like to poke fun at political events. Watching others get heated and argue over legislation is funny if you come at it from the right angles. I cannot find a single way to poke fun at this, just as I cannot see a single reason for a person to respond with a bullet to popcorn being thrown at them. Here is the most difficult part: Reeves claims a punch from Oulson was thrown, and most importantly, Reeves felt as if he was truly in danger. This is is where “stand your ground” laws complicate things, by allowing the use of deadly force in the protection of their property or their body. This is different than, say, self-defense cases in which a person is only allowed to use lethal force if there is no other option. Instead, stand your ground laws permit that should you genuinely feel that you are being threatened, you are justified in killing the aggressor, even if you have the option to flee.
A recent article in the New York Times by Firmin DeBrabander responds to the proliferation of these laws very succinctly: “I believe that Stand Your Ground has already done damage to civil society by encouraging gun owners to carry their weapons in public, and reach for them quickly, instinctively. It promises to escalate minor altercations into deadly conflicts. And the law will surely motivate others to be armed, too, if only to protect themselves from trigger-happy citizens like Reeves … Stand Your Ground propels us into the worst kind of armed society.” Compared to self-defense laws, these new laws promote a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality, in which we naturally feel use of deadly force is permissible whenever we feel threatened.
Speaking of which, thresholds for feeling threatened remain a vague and abstract concept. If my initial instinct when I start to get uncomfortable is reactive or even preemptive, and I grab my concealed weapon and fire, what does that say about my expectations going into any social situation? Have we really fostered a society that fears going outside without a firearm? Can we instead carry non-lethal weapons such as Tasers?
As stated before, I cannot attest to what it feels like to be threatened, but is it too much to ask for cooler heads to prevail in these heated situations?
“Stand your ground” laws have emboldened citizens to believe the most real form of freedom and autonomy is carrying something that has the power to end the life of another human being. It then provides the legal justification for anyone who “feels threatened,” a loose term that can be defined and used in too many ways. And so far, it has resulted in the unintended escalation of confrontations into murders. Zimmerman got off because of these laws, and so did Michael Dunn, a man who thought he saw a shotgun (even though there wasn’t any weapon to be found), and fired his pistol into a car full of teens, killing one of them, when he could have just driven away.
He could have just driven away. He could have just moved to a different seat. He could have just left the boy alone. But he didn’t.
This is Zachary Antoyan, thinking that I’d rather you tase me, bro, than shoot me. Have a safe week everyone.