STAND YOUR GROUND, or “Defense of Dwelling and Person Act of 2017”, or HF0238/SF0292, is a “hair trigger gun bill.” SYG eliminates common law duty to retreat in case of self-defense outside of home. It creates a “presumption…and expectation…that an individual will use “imminent” deadly force. Therefore, a person in self-defense “may meet force with superior force” against any one except a peace officer. I submit these bills create a “hair trigger mentality”.

There are many problems with this thinking. First, it lessens the need to “think”. Reason for using deadly force becomes subjective and not necessarily based upon fact. “I felt threatened” is the reason for shooting. Backing away, crossing the street or other evasive actions are not necessary. This fosters a “hair trigger mentality”.

A second problem is the significant data that opposes the validity of SYG laws. Currently, 24 states that have SYG laws have an increased rate of gun deaths compared with Minnesota. Minnesota has a gun death rate of 6.6 per 100,000 people, whereas SYG states have a rate of 14.3 per 100,000. In Florida, since passing its SYG bill, homicides have increased 24.4% and 31.6% in firearm related homicides. On average, SYG states have an increase of 53% in homicides deemed “justifiable” compared to a 5% decrease in states without SYG. Finally, in SYG states, white killers are 354% more likely to be found innocent if the victim is black than if the victim is white. (The above data are from JAMA, Frontline/PBS, FBI, and Protect Minnesota) The “hair trigger mentality” is statistically clear.

A third problem is theological. Even besides the Fifth Commandment against killing/murder, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus addresses retaliation in Matthew 5:38-42. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also….” Jesus’ point was that of restraint, of NOT retaliating, or of responding differently, nonviolently when one is threatened. Yes, there is a difference between the threat posed by a fist rather than a gun. Yes, by law one has the right to defend themselves. BUT, the element of restraint and pause and retreat are evident in Jesus’ ethic and in the Fifth Commandment. The “hair trigger mentality” is opposed in these texts.

SYG bills are dangerous to life. Our present laws are adequate in providing a restrained pause before legalizing killing another person in self defense. Life is too precious to be relagated to a “hair trigger mentality”.

Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes