Retreating from Danger: Misconceptions on Stand Your Ground Laws

Retreating from Danger: Misconceptions on Stand Your Ground Laws

We see it in the mainstream media on a seemingly weekly basis: another “Stand Your Ground” case from Florida. Two fallacies are almost always present in such headlines: First, the media would lead you to assume that Florida is a rogue state with such a law. The fact is that a majority of states are “Stand Your Ground” states. Even California is a stand your ground state. The second fallacy is this: most high-profile incidents turn out to have nothing to do with Stand Your Ground policy. Many people have a misconception as to what Stand Your Ground law actually is. While all of the legal considerations can get complex, and I am not an attorney, and I am not giving any legal advice, the principle of Stand Your Ground law is actually quite simple.

What is Stand Your Ground Law?

In states without Stand Your Ground law, as a self-defender, you are required to retreat from a confrontation if you can reasonably do so safely. As an example, if you are in a public restroom with only a single exit, and a dude wearing a ski mask and holding a machete blocks that exit and points to you and screams “I am going to kill you!” then you are not required to retreat as you cannot safely do so.

In this example, where would you go? Even in a state lacking Stand Your Ground law, you are not required to put your life in jeopardy to avoid a fight if you cannot reasonably do so safely.

However, if you are in a parking lot, getting into your car, and the same machete-wielding guy screams at you from 100 yards away, yet all you need to do is get in your car and drive in the opposite direction, you are most likely required to retreat, because you can do so safely. In a Stand Your Ground state, you are technically NOT required to retreat under any circumstances in which you have a legal right to be on the premises. Therefore, if you legally mind your own business in the parking lot of a public place, and machete guy threatens you, you are not obligated to retreat from the situation.

Stand Your Ground law only changes this single aspect of self-defense law. Are you required to retreat if you can safely do so, or are you not required to retreat at all? That’s it. The George Zimmerman case had nothing to do with Stand Your Ground law, even though the media would have you think otherwise.

The more recent Micheal Drejka parking lot shooting in Florida was not about Stand Your Ground, either. Why, then, does the media assault Stand Your Ground law at every opportunity? Simple. The mainstream media supports an agenda that is thoroughly opposed to the individual right to self-defense. They oppose civilian ownership of firearms, and they equally oppose the right of the individual to defend one’s self. That is the sole reason for the attack on Stand Your Ground law because such law removes one additional legal burden from the self-defender.

Read More: Have You Ever Backed Down From A Fight While Carrying Concealed?

Should We Retreat from Danger Anyway?

So, even if you live in a state that has Stand Your Ground law, should you retreat from a violent threat if you can safely do so, even if exempt from the legal requirement to retreat? My argument, in this case, is an absolute, unequivocal, “yes, always retreat from a threat, if you can safely do so.”

The obvious exception to this would be if the threat was targeting other innocent people, such as an active shooter, and your interdiction would save lives. Such a situation is not what I am referring to here at all. A threat that is specifically targeting you, for a personal, pre-meditated reason, or even in random street crime, should be retreated from, if possible, as long as it is reasonably safe to do so.

You must be cognizant of the possible aftermath following the use of force. Even if you are entirely justified in your actions, picture a prosecutor telling a jury:

“ladies and gentlemen, the defendant had every opportunity to walk away from this fight, but he was an armed vigil anti, just looking for a chance to use his gun!”

Or, would you rather hear a defense attorney be able to state:

“the defendant desperately tried to remove himself from the scene, but the attacker blocked his exit and left him no choice but to defend himself.”

Obviously, this may be quite the over-simplification, but you get the point.

There is always the possibility of a negative legal outcome following a self-defense incident. By retreating from a potentially dangerous situation, if possible, even in a state that has Stand Your Ground law, you add another layer of legal protection to your actions.

Beyond just the legal aspect, I believe that having the mindset to walk away from trouble, if at all possible, is how people should typically conduct themselves anyway. Why would you not leave a violent situation if you can do so? The gross ignorance among some concealed carriers regarding self-defense law is apparent in some of the incidents we see play out. Bad decisions, or simply decisions made in the ignorance of the law, can cost people their freedom or their financial future. A bad outcome is always possible, but ignorance of self-defense law is a sure way to compound that possibility. Maintaining your innocence, and being the non-aggressor in any encounter, goes a long way towards your legal defense.

The attack on Stand Your Ground law is fostered by a media with an agenda. But also by the ignorance of the masses. As a concealed carrier, you should not be among the ignorant. I have urged this point before in my writing, and I will repeat it here: if you carry a gun, read the book The Law of Self-Defense by attorney Andrew Branca (#ad). It is perhaps the best single resource on all things related to self-defense law. Another great resource is Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self-Defense by Massad Ayoob (#ad). These books should be in your library.

With the law, ignorance is no excuse. And understanding what Stand Your Ground is, and how it should, or should not, influence your decision making is a must. I am of the strong opinion that the self-defender should always take the opportunity to retreat from a threatening situation if in public if it can be done safely, whether you are legally obligated to or not. This will further protect you under the scrutiny of the law. The use of force should always be the last resort. Force that can result in severe injury or death should be used only if absolutely necessary. And if you can remove yourself from a situation safely, then, by all means, do so.

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Salvatore is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter, and life-long practitioner of the concealed carry lifestyle. He strives to serve as a conduit of reliable information for the ever-growing community of armed citizens and concealed carriers. You can contact him at his website Reflex Handgun.
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