Communities of Color Need Stand Your Ground Laws

by Sarah Cade

Stand Your Ground
Stand Your Ground
Sarah Cade is a competitive pistol shooter and a volunteer Team Leader for the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus.
Sarah Cade

Minnesota-(Ammoland.com)- Minnesota desperately needs common sense gun laws – just not the ones you might think. Bills HF238 and HF188 sought to remedy unreasonable components of the current system, but were not included in the public safety omnibus. These bills should be included as amendments.

HF238 included a provision commonly known as “stand your ground.” Stand your ground laws serve an important purpose for communities of color: they defend the innocent from overzealous prosecution. Ideally, a self-defense claim should center on whether your use of force was reasonable under the circumstances, not on whether you could run faster than your attacker or whether you memorized the blueprints of the building before making the split second decision to defend your life.

Stand your ground removes the requirement to prove you could not retreat in court. Rather than forcing you to prove a negative, it places the burden of proof where it belongs: on the state. The concept that a person is innocent until proven guilty is a cornerstone of American justice – or at least it’s supposed to be.

In reality, exercising your right to self-defense leads to further victimization by the legal system. As a person of color, I know that racial stereotypes make a judge and jury less likely to give me the benefit of the doubt than my white peers. I also know that the legal system will attempt to intimidate me into taking a plea bargain for a crime I didn’t commit. These problems are compounded if I’m poor, don’t know my rights, or can’t obtain competent defense. Stand your ground laws help protect me from a system that chews up and spits out people who look like me.

Contrary to the misinformation put out by Minnesota’s leading gun control group, stand your ground does NOT allow you to shoot people for wearing a hoodie, it does not allow people to “shoot first,” and it does not allow people to shoot anytime they feel subjectively threatened. In fact, it’s hard to repeat those statements with a straight face if one has even a passing familiarity with Minnesota’s byzantine web of self-defense laws (although they helpfully make the point that our laws need simplification and reform so laypeople can understand them).

Stand your ground would not change the requirement to act reasonably.

Just like under current precedent, in order to present a valid claim of self-defense, a person must have BOTH an “actual and honest belief that he or she was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm,” AND “the existence of reasonable grounds for that belief.” (State of Minnesota v. Baker 1968)

“The lack of a duty to retreat does not abrogate the obligation to act reasonably when using force in self defense. Therefore, in all situations in which a party claims self-defense, even absent a duty to retreat, the key inquiry will still be into the reasonableness of the use of force and the level of force under the specific circumstances of each case.” (State of Minnesota v. Glowacki 2001)

Despite overblown claims of racism, stand your ground is not in itself a racist law — mostly because there’s nothing to enforce. Instead, it is a DEFENSE that is invoked to protect the rights of an individual in court. It helps people of color defend themselves successfully from a predatory legal system that is stacked against them at every level, from arrest to sentencing.

According to data collected by the Tampa Bay Times, stand your ground provisions are more likely to be used to successfully defend black people than white people. Black people are 16.8% of Florida’s population, but make up 33% of SYG acquittals, while white people are 77.7% of the population, but account for only 56% of acquittals (note that the homicide rates for blacks did not increase, so this discrepancy is NOT due to the myth of suspicious whites shooting first. Instead, it means more blacks are avoiding unjust prosecution).

As a person of color who is also a gun owner, I know that HF238 and HF188 would help me, and people who look like me, to protect ourselves. I know similar provisions are common in other states (the majority of states have some version of stand your ground; over ten have permit-less carry), and that the hysteria about these laws is fueled by fear rather than rational analysis.

I also know that our justice system is plagued with racial inequality at every level. Stand your ground doesn’t change that, as it’s outside the scope of one bill to solve such pervasive problems. However, it does help defendants of color avoid unjust persecution, and that’s a step in the right direction.

About Sarah Cade:

Sarah Cade is a competitive pistol shooter and a volunteer Team Leader for the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus.

7 Comments
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Pete
Pete
4 years ago

Part of Gil’s first comment is obviously tongue-in-cheek.

“Stand your ground” along with the castle doctrine should be universal in America. The original castle doctrine held that anyone who entered an occupied dwelling in the night without permission did so at his own risk of life. (Ironically that was part of the English common law.) That it be occupied at the time was key. That’s the reason set guns in unoccupied properties are illegal.

The Revelator
The Revelator
4 years ago
Reply to  Pete

For those who do not know, I believe that the “Set Guns” Pete is referring to are also known as “Booby Traps”, such as the common Shotgun wired to fire when a door is opened used by Hollywood.

He may have an entirely different meaning, but I doubt it as set guns should be correctly referenced to as a trap.

Heed the Call-up
Heed the Call-up
4 years ago

Gil, your take on this story is a bit odd. From this article, “[N]ote that the homicide rates for blacks did not increase, so this discrepancy is NOT due to the myth of suspicious whites shooting first. Instead, it means more blacks are avoiding unjust prosecution.” That completely rebuts your post.

dj
dj
4 years ago

At gil,
Well its obvious you have never had to deal with a violent criminal creeping down your squeaky stairs into ur basement in the middle of the night. Or having “things” go bumpin ur mommysh ouse in the dark
Becuz if you ever do, ur asinine comments WILL cease.
Until then,more gil stoopid commentary as usual.

Gil
Gil
4 years ago

Aw shucks crooks don’t have to worry about imminent threats so why should the good guys? Waiting until the crook is threatening enough may be too little too late. It sounds like the bad guys win again.

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
4 years ago
Reply to  Gil

@Gil, What do you mean by crooks exactly? How soon is imminent in your mind for the purpose of your vague statement? Good guys? Do you mean the victims, the responding police, EMTs, close proximity neighbors that gathered to to render assistance, what? What scenario, specifically, are you contemplating? I think that there is a lot going on in your head that you have not put down on paper.

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
4 years ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

Waiting until the crook is threatening enough? Do you write for Hollywood?