Under the law, American citizens used to have to back away from threats, but since 2005 many American states have radically expanded self-defense rights to allow people to meet threats with force, not just in their own homes, but in public places as well. Since 2005, over 30 states have passed so-called “Shoot first” or “Stand Your Ground” laws that make it harder to convict people of murder if they claim they killed in self-defense. Since Florida’s shoot-first law was enacted in 2005, justifiable homicide cases have tripled, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In the five years prior to the passage of Florida’s shoot-first law, 12 private citizens committed killings, but in the five years after the law’s passage, the average number of killings by private citizens in Florida jumped to 36. The national group Associate of Prosecuting Attorneys says “Stand your Ground” laws present a barrier to the prosecution of genuine criminals. Such laws have been spread in part through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-backed group in which corporations partner with legislators behind closed doors to promote conservative, pro-business bills.
Main source: OregonLive.com/Washington Post, April 7, 2012
By now millions of people know about of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Far fewer, though, know about the equally, if not more tragic killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. an elderly veteran with a heart condition who lived in White Plains, New York, who was killed by police in his own home last November. Around 5:30 a.m. on the morning of November 19, 2011, Chamberlain, 68, unknowingly triggered the medical-alert pendant he wore around his neck while he was sleeping. The medical alert company contacted Chamberlain’s apartment through a speaker box in the dining room to ask if he was all right. When Chamberlain didn’t respond, the company called 911 and told police they were responding to a medical emergency, not a crime. The police arrived at Chamberlain’s house and knocked on the door. Chamberlain woke up, went to the door and told the police that he was fine and that he didn’t call them. The police insisted on gaining entry to Chamberlain’s home, though, insisting that they wanted to see that he was all right. Chamberlain kept refusing to open the door and asking them to leave. Finally, after about an hour of this standoff, the officers, uttering racial slurs and expletives, broke down Mr. Chamberlain’s front door. Once inside, they fired a taser at Mr. Chamberlain. The taser prongs apparently missed Mr. Chamberlain and one of the officers shot Mr. Chamberlain in the chest, killing him.
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“Stand your ground” laws — also called “Shoot First” laws — are drawing greater scrutiny in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the 17 year old African American in Florida who was allegedly shot while simply walking home from a convenience store. Shoot First laws are versions of “Make My Day” laws that allow people who claim they fear for their life or bodily safety to freely shoot to kill someone who enters their home. Florida’s version confers a shoot-first right on people who are even in public places outside their homes. Many Shoot First laws were enacted starting in 2006 in large part due to the efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive collaboration between corporations and legislators that helps advance corporate agendas in legislatures across the U.S. ALEC composed and circulated Shoot First model legislation (pdf), which they then got into the hands of conservative legislators, helping to greatly advance their spread. ALEC’s “model” Shoot First law (which they dubbed the “Castle Doctrine Act,”) was composed by ALEC’s “Public Safety and Elections” committee. In 2011, the National Rifle Association was the corporate co-chair of this ALEC committee. The NRA is funded by gun manufacturers (pdf). ALEC apparently got the idea for the law from Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, taking the idea from him and adopting it as their “model legislation” in 2006, after which the laws spread across the nation.