George Graham

How Can Stand Your Ground Laws be Constitutional?

I didn’t hear it on TV and I had to Google it to find out, but, yes, Stand Your Ground laws are being challenged in the courts. It’s puzzling that I heard none of the pundits mention that in the aftermath of the Michael Dunn case. Clearly, the laws, which have so far been enacted in more than 30 states, violate the United States Constitution.

Surely, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis had as much right to equal protection under the law (as specified in the Fourteenth Amendment)  as any other American?

There is no provision in the United States Constitution for the “justifiable use of deadly force.” The Second Amendment only confers the right to “bear arms” not to use weapons wantonly. And although the right to self-defense is enshrined in common law, Stand Your Ground laws go quite a bit farther.

And, as the law is being applied in Florida, there are troubling signs of racism.

As all the world knows, Martin and Davis were black teenagers. Martin was shot to death by a lighter-skinned man named George Zimmerman. Davis was killed by a bullet fired into an SUV by a white man named Michael Dunn.

The defense in both cases was based on the shooters’ feelings. They said they felt afraid. They said they thought their lives were in danger. Dunn even said he thought he saw a gun in the possession of the teenagers in the SUV. No gun was found in the SUV. And Martin was armed with nothing more deadly than a bag of skittles and a can of iced tea.

Are a white man’s “feelings” enough to justify the death of a black teenager? Apparently that’s what the law is being interpreted to say.

I see that as a slippery slope. In this paranoid society, lots and lots of people feel threatened for no real reason. Does that mean they can legally kill anyone they “feel” afraid of? Or does the law apply only if the threat comes from a black person? Especially a young, black male?

There is an implication that young, black males are inherently dangerous. It is an implication that taints the entire American judicial system but it was most blatant in the recent Stand Your Ground trials in Florida.

In the year 2014, in the world’s leading democracy, such an implication is totally unacceptable.

It is time for the US Supreme Court to examine these laws.

The world is watching.

(Photos above show, from left, Dunn, Davis, Martin and Zimmerman.)

Click for efforts to change the Florida law.

Click for one of the Constitutional challenges.

Click for the Fourteenth Amendment.

More on Stand Your Ground.

Click for one university’s views.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for