President Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, and a host of others may have doubts about stand-your-ground laws, but a majority of Americans in a new poll favor the controversial provisions.
With respondents dividing along racial and gender lines, voters back stand-your-ground provisions 53 percent to 40 percent, according to a national poll by Quinnipiac University. The laws, now on the books in about half the states, have drawn attention since the fatal shooting last year of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Florida passed the first stand-your-ground measure in 2005 with strong support from the National Rifle Association.
The laws generally allow individuals to use force in self defense—and without having to retreat first—so long as they reasonably believe they face a deadly threat. One of the paradoxes of the furious debate about the acquittal of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, is that his lawyers declined to invoke Florida’s stand-your-ground statute as part of his defense. Nevertheless, the statutes have become a flash point in a racially charged, media-fueled argument over whether the stand-your-ground ethos, combined with widespread laws permitting the concealed carrying of firearms, encourage violence or deter it.