When George Zimmerman invoked Florida’s Stand Your Ground law after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin on February 26 of this year, the nation was introduced to a group of self-defense laws adopted by 20+ states that give folks the right to use deadly force without fear of arrest.
Outcry regarding the way it has been applied in prominent cases (including that of Marissa Alexander, who was denied the protection) prompted the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to open an investigation into the way it is being enforced around the country. As we await their report — which isn’t due until next year — we turned to the experts to debate whether or not there is racial bias in the way these laws are enforced.
Sam Fulwood III, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is on the pro side, that is, he thinks the enforcement of Stand Your Ground laws is racially biased. On the other side of the discussion, we tapped Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the American Civil Rights Union and visiting professor at Liberty University School of Law.
We asked both the exact same questions; their answers have been edited only for clarity and space. Give it a read, then head to the comments to tell us where you fall in this debate. Let the discussion begin:
[Man aiming gun image via Shutterstock]