Fortifying The Right To Self-Defense

Posted on February 6, 2006

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"Law is order, and good law is good order," Aristotle said. Without doubt, Florida's recently enacted "Castle Doctrine" law is good law, casting a common-sense light onto the debate over the right of self-defense. It reverses the pendulum that for too long has swung in the direction of protecting the rights of criminals over the rights of their victims. Despite predictable howling from the anti-gun media elite that Florida was taking an unprecedented and dangerous action, in truth it joined 24 other states that reject "duty-to-retreat" laws.

Passed overwhelmingly in the state legislature--unanimously in the Senate and 94-20 in the House--;the new law removes the "duty to retreat" when citizens are outside of their homes and where they have legal right to be. It says that if a criminal breaks into your home or occupied vehicle or a place where you are camping overnight, for example, you may presume that he is there to do bodily harm and use any force, including deadly force, to protect yourself from a violent attack. Floridians who defend themselves from criminal attack are shielded by the new law from criminal prosecution and from civil suits brought by their attackers.

In testifying for the bill, Marion P. Hammer, executive director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida, said: "No one knows what is in the twisted mind of a violent criminal. You can't expect a victim to wait before taking action to protect herself and say: 'Excuse me, Mr. Criminal, did you drag me into this alley to rape and kill me or do you just want to beat me up and steal my purse?'"

Florida's "Castle Doctrine" law does the following:

One: It establishes, in law, the presumption that a criminal who forcibly enters or intrudes into your home or occupied vehicle is there to cause death or great bodily harm, so the occupant may use force, including deadly force, against that person.

Two: It removes the "duty to retreat" if you are attacked in any place you have a right to be. You no longer have to turn your back on a criminal and try to run when attacked. Instead, you may stand your ground and fight back, meeting force with force, including deadly force, if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to yourself or others.

Three: It provides that persons using force authorized by law shall not be prosecuted for using such force. It also prohibits criminals and their families from suing victims for injuring or killing the criminals who have attacked them. In short, it gives rights back to law-abiding people and forces judges and prosecutors to focus on protecting victims.

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