Krugman’s Silly Stand

Paul Krugman has a strange take on the Stand Your Ground law:

Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law may or may not be crazy — the devil is in the details — but Krugman’s description of it misses by a mile. The legal principle that lets you “shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution” is plain old self-defense.

Krugman tries to make this sound sinister by using the deceptive phrase “consider threatening” which implies that the standard for opening fire is weak and highly subjective. In general, the standard is stronger than that: It’s not self-defense unless a reasonable person in the same situation would fear for his life. Typically the defendent would have to prove that the person he shot had the means, opportunity, and intent to do great bodily harm. Also, the shooter has to have clean hands: You can’t generally initiate a confrontation with someone and then shoot them if they fight back.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, and there is a lot of state-to-state variation in the details of how these laws are written and interpreted. For all I know, Florida law may enact a frightenly broad definition of self-defense. But that’s not what Stand Your Ground laws are about:

The distinguishing factor of “Stand Your Ground” laws, which have been under renewed debate since George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, is a simple concept: The rule was that a person had the duty to retreat if he can safely do so rather than use force against an aggressor in proportion to the force being used against him. “Stand your ground” laws eliminated this duty.

You may or may not think that’s a good idea, but in either case, you’d be thinking more clearly than Krugman was.

Also, I don’t know enough about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to know if Krugman’s description is accurate, but Krugman’s link to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) sounds like nonsense:

But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture? In part it’s the same old story — the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It’s neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along.

I’m not saying that CCA doesn’t participate in ALEC — it does — but it’s hard to see why a private prison corporation would back a law that puts fewer people in prison.

Update: And then there’s this line:

And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.

So, Trayvon Martin was shot to death…but there’s still a “silver lining” because some semi-shady public/private thinktank will get bad publicity. Good to know.

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