Reality of Self Defense Laws

Posted Apr 29, 2012

I have resisted commenting on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman shooting case on purpose. There was too little public information and too many issues that folks try to combine together. However, I wish to focus now on one of those subjects. The issue of "stand your ground" and other self defense laws.

I will not discuss details of the above mentioned case. As the Philosophy of Reality recommends, it's not wise to try to state opinions as facts when I simply don't have enough inside information to feel that I know the Truth of what happened. Better to wait and learn more. However, that case has brought a lot of discussion about the Stand your ground law that was cited as reason for not initially charging Mr. Zimmerman with anything. It is this and similar laws I wish to discuss here.

Or more accurately, the stupidity of making such laws.

That there are actually laws written about the issue of defending yourself from attack amazes me on a certain level. I can understand the desire of those in the governmental persuasion to try to draft laws concerning physical attack. It's well within their assumed "role of authority". However, the problem is that laws are almost always written in such narrow, self defining scopes, that they simply can't cover what they're intended to cover. (I discuss more about this in my article Too Many Laws.) And no more so is this fact presented than in self defense laws.

Also the most annoying factor of self defense laws to me is this: These laws, if you read them, are often written as if the governing body (Federal government, Parliament, etc.) is granting their people these right. The truth is the exact opposite:

Defending yourself and those people/places/things you care about is among the most basic animal right to try to stay alive possible. It ranks right up there with eating, etc. If you (or those you care for) are in danger, you have the right to remove that threat (or escape harm's reach) however you feel is best. If you feel running away is your best option, then do so. If you think you must "return fire", do so. Generally, humans have a good ability to gauge appropriate levels of defensive retaliation. Most of the time, someone will not try to break the offenders neck just because they were called "an idiot".

Yes exceptions occur, and some folks do overreact to a specific situation. However, if morals, rules and laws are properly made, then exceptions are already accounted for. In this case, if a possible overreaction occurs, (The above mentioned shooting for example) then the situation should be investigated, preferably in the manner I mention in my post about justice systems. (I.E. trying to determine the truth, not assign guilt.)

Another problem I have in the realm of laws/rules trying to cover self defense involves how businesses handle training their employees. I'll pick on 7-11 as they are among the oldest and most well known convenience stores. But the truth is, basically every retail company follows this practice. The company policy is if an armed robber holds up the store, the employees are instructed to offer no resistance, and let the robber take what they want. The theory being that they report the robbery with as much detail as possible and let the police handle it.

Well this policy has been in place for many decades now. Let's examine the results. Have convenience store robberies decreased or increased? Are the robbers acting more violent or less? Are the stores losing less money or more? Are the criminals being caught more often? The truth is that passive acceptance of theft is tantamount to encouraging it. In trying to keep their employees safe (and avoid risk of lawsuits from angry relatives) retail companies actually encourage the problem, not DIScourage it.

Imagine instead if employees were taught apprehension and restraint techniques. Imagine that each time someone wanted to rob a store, they knew the employees would actively try to stop them.

As a thought experiment, imagine someone waved a gun and forced entry into the White House. What if the staff and security guards all followed the same "let them take it. It's not worth your life" philosophy that pervades the retail world? Would this work? Unlikely. Fact is, anyone dumb enough to try this would be forcefully restrained, and maybe even killed. And since this fact is well known, how often is this attempted?

I'm not saying that convenience stores should train to that level, or employ Secret Service staff. What I'm saying is that offering no resistance at all does not reduce crime. What's needed in the realm of self defense is not more laws and rules, but more personal training. However coming from a martial arts background, I'm obviously biased about that opinion.

The case of Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman is a sad one. Someone died and family/loved ones on both sides are forever affected by this. Hopefully folks will learn more about this so we can form more educated opinions. But as I said before, do not let exceptional situations tempt you into trying to deny or regulate basic rights from everyone else.

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