- Site Feedback
- IDEA Sites
- Digital Freedoms
- International Justice
- 2012 Presidential Debates Guide
- Asia Youth Forum
- Big Apple Cogers
- Debate Changing Europe
- Debate in the Neighborhood
- Debating and Producing Media
- Debating the Future of Youth in Africa and Europe
- Dialogue without borders
- Digital Debating Blog
- Free Speech Debate
- Global Youth Forum
- Global Debate and Public Policy Challenge
- International Public Policy Forum
- Online Mentoring
- Securing Liberty Series
- Youth and Sports Mega-Events
- League of Young Voters
DiN Debates: This House does not support stand-your-ground laws
DiN Debates: This House does not support stand-your-ground laws
More than half of states in the USA have a law known as "stand-your-ground". This law means that if someone is attacked and is in serious danger, they will be allowed to fight and even kill their attacker without being prosecuted themselves. Other countries' self-defence laws allow people to fight back against attackers, but people who defend themselves in this way may be prosecuted if they kill an attacker who they could have escaped from.
Stand-your-ground laws normally apply if a person was not breaking the law at the time they were attacked. i.e. if someone broken into a house, the law would protect the owner of the house and not the burglar.
Most studies show that in states with stand-your-ground laws more fights and injuries occur and fewer of these fights lead to people being prosecuted for violence. However, some studies have shown that criminal are less likely to violently attack people if they believe that their victims might fight back.
Anyone trying to debate this motion should be careful how they use certain arguments and words. Explain a particular argument in the wrong may and it is possible to cause offence to people or to cause people to mistakenly believe that the argument is prejudiced.
Remember that the best way to be sure that an argument is not offensive or inaccurate is to research it thoroughly, using a library as well as Google, and to ask an adult in a position of responsibility, like a teacher or youth leader, to share their opinion of the point.
- Don't try to say that racism doesn't exist or that it does not affect people's actions. A good debater may try to say that normal people are not racist, but there are clearly a small number of people who do have racist views and who act on them.
- Don't try to say that people who live in high-crime areas or who are from minority communities are more violent or commit more crimes than people who live in other places. This is not true and the real explanations for high crime rates in some minority areas are very complicated.
- Don't deny that women are often the victims of violence, but do not describe women or girls as "weak". Anyone who tries to discuss domestic violence during this debate should take the time to carefully explain why it happens, what makes women vulnerable to it, and the part that social factors and male behaviour plays in encouraging violence against women.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Everyday arguments are more likely to become violent||People are less likely to commit crimes if they know that their victims will not be afraid to fight back|
|The law is meant to protect honest people, but stand-your-ground laws protect criminals||Laws of this type protect women from domestic violence|
|Stand-your-ground laws are racist||Victims of crime need to be protected|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Everyday arguments are more likely to become violent
Arguments and fights often take place in social situations when teenagers and adults have been drinking. Alcohol lowers people's inhibtions, meaning that as they drink they lose the ability to think about the consequences of the their actions and to use their will power to stop themselves from acting impulsively.
Every time an argument occurs in a social situation, and especially when alcohol is involved, one person or another can claim to feel in danger. Sometimes, when someone is drunk, a fight may break out for no good reason and with no warning. Sometimes, a person may act aggressively- by using insulting language, say- but will not intend to attack anyone. People can even feel that they are in danger without knowing why.
If people know that they can defend themselves and that the law will protect them, they are less likely to try and calm down or back away when an argument turns violent. They are more liekly to siumply fight, even if the person who they see as threatening has not yet attacked them. Stand-your-ground laws mean that a person who does this can claim that they felt threatened and may avoid being punished for their violent bewhaviour.Improve this
People don't sense danger for no reason. If an average person feels that they are in danger, it is because something is worrying them. In those situations, they should have the right to defend themselves. This doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want, but it does mean they can attack, injure and – in extreme cases – kill the source of danger without having to wait to be attacked themselves. It is dangerous and unreasonable to expect a person to wait for their attacker to try and injur or kill them before they are allowed to defend themselves.
Also, arguments don’t turn violent because people sit down and think, “the law will protect me, so I’ll be ok.” They turn violent because people lose control. So this law doesn’t actually affect the number of violent arguments.Improve this
The law is meant to protect honest people, but stand-your-ground laws protect criminals
Stand-your-ground laws were created to protect people from criminals. But criminals are now trying to use these laws to protect themselves – for example, they might be selling drugs and get into a fight with the buyer, or they might be chased by rival criminals. In these cases a criminal with a clever lawyer could use a stand-your-ground law to escape conviction or to avoid giving the police details of his criminal activities.
There are also examples of people without criminal backgrounds who have tried to use the law but not been believed. A woman called Marissa Alexander was threatened by her husband and fired a warning shot in the air (she did not hit him), but the judge decided there had been no real danger to her and convicted her (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/17/stand-your-ground-marissa-alexander).
When a law is helping criminals and not helping victims of domestic violence like Marissa Alexander, something is wrong. We should get rid of the law, or change it, and concentrate on helping the people who actually deserve its protection.
Just because someone is a criminal doesn’t mean they don’t have rights and can’t defend themselves. If someone's life is in danger they should always be allowed to defend themselves. A court might later decide they were a criminal, but that’s a separate question - people should not be punished for trying to protect their own lives. Self defence is a basic and instinctive behaviour.
In the case of Marissa Alexander (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/17/stand-your-ground-marissa-alexander), a court held a trial and made a decision. Maybe it was wrong, but a single poor decision should not be allowed to weaken an important and useful law. In other cases, the court would believe the woman – and in fact, that’s happened in some cases.
We mustn’t decide who we want to protect and who we don’t: for the law to work everyone must be treated as equally deserving of its proctection and everyone should be treated the same. The law that we have does that.Improve this
Stand-your-ground laws are racist
Stand-your-ground laws seem like a good idea, but we need to look at what happens when these laws are used in the real world, and in the real world, some people are racist. They are more likely to think a black person is dangerous than a white person, so they might attack a black, asian or Latin-American person even though that person didn't pose any real danger. Witnesses might also say there was danger even if there wasn’t, helping someone who had carried out a racist attack to avoid being prosecuted. The police might not believe a black person who claims he or she was attacked, because they’ll think it was a gang war, a fight over drugs or something similar.
A study of Florida's stand-your-ground law found that in 59% of cases where the victim was white, the person who killed them was freed. But when the victim was black it was 73% (http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/criminal/race-plays-complex-role-in-floridas-stand-your-ground-law/1233152). The courts were more likely to believe that the actions of black individuals who were killed by people seeking the protection of stand-your-ground laws were threatening or harmful. Florida courts' use of stand-your-ground laws was racially biased.
So in the real world, the law protects white people more often than black people. This isn’t fair, and we should abandon the law.Improve this
Read the report by the Tampa Bay Times report more carefully and it shows that there was no significant racism or bias in the Flordia courts' decisions. White people were convicted just as often as black people. White people who killed black people were convicted just as often as black people who killed white people. And the people who were killed by someone who claimed the protection of Florida's stand-your-ground laws were more likely to have been carrying weapons and committing crimes, so there was a real danger.
We need to be careful to make sure that the law is fair. As long as we do that, however, the law will work well. Even if it was true that Florida's stand-your-ground laws give more protection to white people than black people, the best thing to do would be to keep the law and make sure that it was used in a fairer way, by working to give judges, lawyers and police officers better training and by encourageing the press to pay more attention to criminal trials. In this way, everyone will get the protection they are entitled to.Improve this
People are less likely to commit crimes if they know that their victims will not be afraid to fight back
Many crimes only take place when criminals think they have an advantage over the victim. Sometimes, the criminal is hidden. Sometimes, they’re too strong or fast to be caught (or at least, they think they are). Whatever the reason, crime can’t happen unless criminals think that they have an advantage that they can exploit.
All victims of crime can fight back against their attackers. Many people will instinctively try to fight someone who is assaulting them. But just as many vioctims of crime may be afraid to fight back, or may hold back from taking steps necessary to make themselves safe because they are worried that they will be prosecuted if they harm their attacker. Stand-your-ground laws make it clear that ordinary, law abiding people will not be sent to prison for acting to protect themselves and other against criminals. This means the victim always has an advantage over the criminal. We don’t think this will stop all crimes, but it will at least make them less common.Improve this
It’s true that a handful of criminals would be deterred by stand-your-ground laws. But crime happens for a large number of reasons, and these laws don't do anything to change them.Criminals who are concerned that their victims may be carrying guns or may be willing to kill them will not stop committing criminal acts. Instead, they will opt to carry more deadly forms of weaponry and will be more careful about picking their victims, targetting only the most vulnerable. If a criminal sees their victim preparing to fight, it is likely that they will try and kill them quickly. So stand-your-ground laws may reduce crime slightly, but they will also cause a rise in violent crime and the use of weapons by criminals. Overall, this is worse.Improve this
Laws of this type protect women from domestic violence
Many women are attacked at home by husbands and partners. They can be subjected includes everything from threats and intimidation to physical and sexual violence. Even in highly developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, large numbers of women will experience domestic violence at least once in their lives. This is a terrible thing which must be stopped.
Stand-your-ground laws allow women to defend themselves against men who are harming them, without fearing that they will be prosecuted for doing so. When women do attack abusive partners it is frequently the result of desperation and abusive actions that have taken place over many years. If we repeal this law, we expose women who have already been the victim of violence to the possibility of being imprisoned, so we should keep the law instead.Improve this
Domestic violence is a terrible thing, but this law does nothing to stop it. To start with, America has this law at the moment and domestic violence still happens. Also, in some cases when women have tried to fight back and been arrested for it, the court has not believed them, so other women will be scared that the same will happen to them.
Domestic violence continues to exist in wealthy, stable societies is because men and women, families, teachers and other authority figures refuse to discuss it. Some victims are scared to report domestic violence, because they are scared it will get worse, and sometimes they think violence is normal and that no-one will help them. Violence is most likely if the man is much older than the woman. In most of these cases, a woman is unlikely to fight back even of she is aware that the law permits her to do so.Improve this
Victims of crime need to be protected
Becoming a victim of crime can change a person's behaviour and change their view of the world. When someone becomes a victim of crime, they find it harder to trust people and they will also find it difficult to feel safe and confident in public areas. The least we can do is make sure that we treat the of crime victims well and provide both the victims of crime and people who are at risk of becoming the victims of crime with the means and the confidence to defend themselves.
Remember that in these cases the person who did the killing is not the criminal, they are the victim, because they were in danger. Killing someone, even if you had no choice, is very stressful. If we make them worry about whether or not they will get arrested, it will be harder for them to recover. We need this law to make it clear to them that we will support them and help them through it.Improve this
This argument assumes that the person who did the killing is the victim. This is true in some cases, but not in all cases: murderers will sometimes pretend that they were just defending themselves, even if that’s not true. Sometimes, the court will listen to what happened and decide that actually this person could have defended themselves without killing the other.
If someone is definitely innocent then of course we should help them. But if it’s not clear whether or not they’re innocent, we can’t just let them off – we have to investigate them, because otherwise criminals could cheat the system.Improve this