Nonviolence And The Implications Of Stand Your Ground Law Essay

Length: 6 pages Sources: 8 Subject: Law - Constitutional Law Type: Essay Paper: #94823991 Related Topics: Deadly Force, Common Law, Malcolm X, Constitutional Law
Excerpt from Essay :

¶ … Peaceful Approaches to Human Interaction

Throughout history, conflicts over scarce resources or fundamental differences in political or religious ideologies have exacted an enormous toll on humanity, with the 20th century being perhaps the most violent in human history. It is therefore not surprising that during the 20th century, a number of advocates of nonviolence emerged to promote alternative approaches to resolving human conflicts, including Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Given the turbulent times, though, it is also not surprising that there have been some advocates of violent approaches to resolving conflicts, including proponents of so-called "stand your ground" laws. Using reading from Gandhi and King, this paper examines the peaceful approaches to human interaction and the challenges to this model exemplified by "stand your ground" laws. Finally, a summary of the research and important findings concerning these issues are presented in the conclusion.

The Peaceful Model

Both Martin Luther King Jr. And Mahatma Gandhi, working in different times and places, effected enormous social change in their societies on behalf of marginalized demographic groups through the use of nonviolence (Hefner 264). The peace model developed by Gandhi occurred over the course of his main work in India during the period 1915 until he was assassinated in 1930 while King worked mainly, but not exclusively, in the southeastern United States during the period from 1955 until he was assassinated in 1968 (Hefner 264).

Besides sharing a common untimely fate at the hands of assassins, both Gandhi and King also shared some common ground when it came to their views about the peaceful resolution of inevitable human conflict. For instance, Nojeim reports that King believed that, "Because of their unique role in history, black Americans could teach the rest of the country and the world all about the transforming power of nonviolence" (273). Likewise, King and Gandhi were both staunch nationalists who strongly believed that they were in a position to help guide their people to a peaceful outcome despite the profound challenges that were involved. In this regard, Nojeim points out that King believed that "by bearing the cross of others' shame, by acting out their resistance using nonviolence and self-suffering, black Americans could redeem the soul of the entire nation, which would then serve as a shining example for the rest of the world to follow" (273). Similarly, Gandhi also suggested this potential early on when he advised that, "It may be through the Negroes in the United States that the unadulterated message of nonviolence will be delivered to the world" in 1930 (cited in Nojeim at 273). Likewise, Gandhi believed that it was the duty of all people to respond to violence with nonviolence, even if it cost them sorely (41).

Indeed, King consistently cited the competition over scarce resources as being a source of conflict between humans, and argues that the starting point for a legitimate peaceful model must be a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's values as they relate to others. By prosecuting military campaigns against other countries over ill-concealed political motives, King maintained, it was impossible for America do fulfill its true destiny as serving as a "beacon on a hill" for downtrodden people everywhere. For example, in his essay, "Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam, King emphasized that, "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values" (122). Just as the so-called "military-industrial complex" encouraged two recent wars in the Middle East, King argued that American hegemony was the death knell for a peaceful model. In this regard, King added that, "When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of

...

For instance, according to Nojeim, "As religious devotees, both men insisted on living the totality of their lives informed by a single, unifying creed, nonviolence" (273). Moreover, both men shared some common sources for their nonviolent beliefs, with King having been inspired by Gandhi, among others, together with his firm Christianity, while Gandhi's nonviolent beliefs were acquired through his Hindu faith as influenced by European and American authors including Leo Tolstoy and Henry David Thoreau (Nojeim 273). As Nojeim points out, "In both cases, their religiously based adherence to nonviolence was a singular unifying theme [and] all aspects of their lives were filtered through the demanding prism of nonviolence" (273). These nonviolent beliefs stand in very sharp contrast to American laws that encourage the violent resolution of conflicts, and these issues are discussed further below.

Stand Your Ground Laws

In the 1983 motion picture, "Sudden Impact, Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) uttered the now-infamous catchphrase, "Go ahead, make my day, punk," and this attitude is reflected in the so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws that have been passed by 23 states to date States That Have Stand Your Ground Laws 3). In 2005, Florida passed the first stand your ground law that has since become a model for other states (Lave 831). The Florida statute was in response to the proliferation of looting and other property crimes that followed hurricanes and other natural disasters in the state (Fair 153). Since that time, almost all of the states have enacted various versions of Florida's Stand Your Ground law or other Castle doctrines, but there have been increasing demands to have these laws reexamined in light of several high-profile deaths in recent years (Fair 154).

The essential component of stand your ground law concerns the elimination of the common law requirement for a citizen to retreat from further confrontation when the element of danger has passed. In this regard, Fair reports that, "Stand your ground laws originated from the general right to self-defense, rooted in both natural law and the Constitution. While the laws vary by state, generally they abolish the common law duty to retreat" (154). In fact, many legal scholars have advanced the belief that stand your ground laws represent a fundamental departure from previous applications of the common law by eliminating this requirement to retreat. In this regard, Yu advises that, "The Castle Doctrine, which states that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat without an obligation to retreat first, is among the most important self-defense regulations in the U.S." (120).

The laws concerning self-defense vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in the United States, but are generally classified as follows:

Stand Your Ground: No duty to retreat from the situation before resorting to deadly force; not limited to property (home, office, etc.);

Castle Doctrine: Limited to real property, such as a home, yard, or private office; no duty to retreat (use of deadly force against intruders is legal in most situations); some states, like Missouri and Ohio, also extent the doctrine to include personal vehicles; and,

Duty to Retreat: Must retreat from the situation if you feel threatened (use of deadly force is considered a last resort); may not use deadly force if safely inside the home (States That Have Stand Your Ground Laws 2).

Prior to the enactment of stand your ground laws, citizens had the right to defend themselves against intruders with any degree of force necessary, including deadly force, but this right ended when the threat ended. Moreover, deadly force was never permitted to protect property only prior to the passage of these laws. By contrast, stand your ground laws encourage a "kill first and ask questions later" mentality that critics charge can result in deadly force being used unnecessarily (Fair 154).

The encouragement of the use of deadly force even tangentially in this fashion is directly opposed to the nonviolent resolution of conflicts espoused by King and Gandhi, but there are plenty of advocates of these laws in the United States today. For example, according to Fair, though, "Defenders of stand your ground laws applaud both the message of victim empowerment the laws send to potential attackers and also the message to crime victims that the state will stand behind their decisions to exercise their right to self-defense" (154). If the overarching objective of reducing crime is taken into account, though, the case can be made that stand your ground laws can actually serve as a means to an end in achieving a more peaceful society, but only if they are effective in curbing crime. The results of a study by Yu suggest that stand your ground laws are in fact effective in reducing crime rates in all of the states that have enacted them. For example, Yu reports that, "The results showed that the stand your ground law had a positive significant effect on the decrease in the violent crime rate; indicating that the law caused a decrease in the violent crime rate of around 3.5%" (120). These findings…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Fair, Madison "Dare Defend: Standing for Stand Your Ground." Law and Psychology Review

38: 153-159, Annual 2014. Print.

Gandhi, Mahatma. Selected Political Writings. Hacket, 1996.

Hefner, Philip. "Spiritual Transformation and Nonviolent Action: Interpreting Mahatma


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