The fatal shooting of a Florida teen earlier this year has trained the spotlight on stand-your-ground laws.
George Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch participant in Sanford, Fla., shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed and committing no crime, on Feb. 26. Mr. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was suspicious of the black teen, who was walking through the gated neighborhood, and pursued him. What exactly happened next is being examined in court, but Mr. Zimmerman is accused of killing Mr. Martin.
Since the shooter claimed he acted in self-defense as Floridas stand-your-ground law allows, he was not charged initially. The law says that a person does not have to retreat in the face of danger and can use deadly force if he fears death or serious harm.
But now federal and state officials are re-examining such laws to see how race affects their enforcement.
John Roman of the Urban Institute found that homicides were twice as likely to be deemed justifiable in states with stand-your-ground laws. Often police cannot arrest shooters or question them thoroughly.
The FBI found that 34 percent of cases in which a white shooter kills a black person were judged justifiable. When the shooter was black and the victim was white, the homicide was found justifiable only 3.3 percent of the time.
The numbers are so different, its absolutely worth doing a study to figure this out, Mr. Roman told USA Today.
That is true. Meanwhile, Mr. Martins parents and civil rights groups are pressing Florida and other states to repeal stand-your-ground laws.