Who can claim self-defense in shootings? Airman’s death raises debate over race and gun rights

For the last ten years, gun owners have repeatedly invoked “Stand Your Ground” laws, using them as a defense when involved in shootings. These laws have faced criticism for being perceived as “shoot first” laws, contributing to a climate of vigilantism and the unjust killing of predominantly Black individuals.

The dynamics were different last week when the concept resurfaced following the killing of Senior Airman Roger Fortson in Florida.

A young Black servicemember became the victim in this incident. He had his legally owned handgun with him when he approached the door of his apartment. He had heard banging noises, which turned out to be a sheriff’s deputy. However, it was the officer who opened fire within seconds, not Fortson. According to his supervisors, the officer claimed he acted in self-defense.

Fortson’s legal team wasted no time reminding the world of his Second Amendment rights in a state that played a significant role in popularizing “Stand Your Ground” laws following the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin over ten years ago.

“At a press conference with Fortson’s relatives last week, civil rights attorney Ben Crump emphasized the importance of the home as a safe haven and castle, a concept taught in law school to highlight its sanctity in the United States of America.”

Brian Barr, co-counsel to Crump, highlighted the natural instinct for individuals to defend themselves when faced with an unfamiliar intruder in their own homes. “We have laws like Stand Your Ground and the castle doctrine, as well as staunch supporters of the Second Amendment in Florida,” Barr explained. “Therefore, it is well within his rights to protect his home.”

The killing of Fortson ignited a complex discussion regarding race, gun laws, and self-defense. Specifically, it raised questions about who is usually given preferential treatment when it comes to using guns in self-defense and who is not.

Read More:  'Never forget our cowards and weaklings!' Trump fumes at Republicans leaving the House, narrowing the GOP's majority

According to Lauren Krasnoff, the president of the Miami chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, it is impossible to separate Fortson’s race from the conversation when considering the castle doctrine and Stand Your Ground.

According to Krasnoff, law enforcement is utilizing the law as a weapon and a protective measure against individuals belonging to Black and brown communities.

The speaker expressed her belief that the airman was not necessarily “standing his ground” but rather acting lawfully. She emphasized that if an individual is acting within the bounds of the law and not committing a forcible felony, they do not have the right to invoke the “stand your ground” defense.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law offers protection to individuals from being charged with homicide if they can provide evidence that they believed there was an immediate threat of harm or death to themselves or others, regardless of their location. This law eliminates the requirement for individuals to retreat if they anticipate the use of force against them.

According to David Weinstein, a criminal defense attorney at Jones Walker LLP in Miami, the castle doctrine, a common law principle often linked to such laws, enables individuals to employ force that is equal to the force employed against them, provided they have attempted to retreat during an attack on their home.

According to Weinstein, the identity of the person on the other side is irrelevant.

On May 3rd, a sheriff’s deputy shot Fortson following a report of a domestic disturbance at an apartment complex in Fort Walton Beach. According to sheriff’s officials, the deputy, whose identity and race have not been disclosed, acted in self-defense.

Read More:  Trump urges for immunity as Supreme Court deliberates on presidential powers

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently under investigation by the authorities.

Fortson’s death sparked immediate comparisons to the killings of other Black individuals who have lost their lives at the hands of the police in recent years. These tragic incidents have involved officers either arriving at the wrong address or responding to service calls with unnecessary and deadly force.

MaCharie Dunbar, a retired Air Force member and board member of the Black Veterans Project, believes that the death of Fortson brings attention to a troubling truth experienced by Black Americans who proudly serve their country.

According to Dunbar, the ongoing and avoidable loss of Black lives at the hands of police is a source of deep sadness and anger for many. The question that arises is how many more instances of police misconduct and injustice will it take before they take collective action to rectify the situation.

The Fortson case brought attention to the conflict between the constitutional right of Black individuals to carry firearms and the right of law enforcement officers to protect themselves against perceived threats.

According to Crump, last week he stated that the second amendment granted Roger the right to possess a firearm and use it for self-defense in situations where he was uncertain about the identity of the person at his door.

Danielle Campbell, the southeast regional director of the National African American Gun Association, believes that what Fortson experienced represents the most dreadful situation that Black and brown law-abiding gun owners can face.

According to Campbell, she believes that Fortson was essentially killed in his own home without any warning or instructions. She argues that his death serves as a reminder that Black gun owners are constantly at a high risk and face unique challenges.

Read More:  GOP suffers blow as House fails to pass procedural vote on FISA

She argued that laws like Stand Your Ground, which Crump has been advocating for, are not the solution as they can protect gun owners who acted within their rights when using their firearms.

According to her, there have been instances where individuals from Black and brown communities have effectively utilized the Stand Your Ground or the castle doctrine to their advantage. However, she points out that the issue lies in how people of color are perceived and treated when they have encounters with law enforcement while carrying weapons. They are automatically viewed as a threat and subsequently treated accordingly.

Several activists from the Black Lives Matter movement expressed similar feelings.

According to Chelsea Fuller, a communications leader for the Movement for Black Lives, the death of Fortson highlights the issue of people perceiving Black individuals as threats and resorting to violence. This incident goes beyond Stand Your Ground laws and sheds light on the racial biases that exist in our society.

“I can’t stress enough how many research reports have already highlighted the deep-seated fear of Blackness in our country,” she expressed.

Fortson, a 23-year-old native of Georgia, joined the Air Force right after completing high school. His body has now been returned to Atlanta, where a eulogy will be delivered on Friday.

Read More:

Leave a Comment