“Stand Your Ground” Laws Deserve Careful Assessment

Posted on Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Stand Your Ground’ Laws Deserve Careful Assessment
Mary Sanchez, The Kansas City Star, Mar. 25, 2012

Commentary from the Kansas City Star suggesting that “shoot first” statutes cause dangerous results and should be reexamined following the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.

“Stand Your Ground” Policy Summary

Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2013



The Death of Trayvon Martin

“Shoot first” laws (also known as “stand your ground” laws) gained national attention following the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012. That evening, Trayvon was walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s house after buying candy and a drink at a nearby 7-Eleven when 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman began following the unarmed teen, telling police in a 911 call from his car that Trayvon looked “real suspicious” because he was “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman had been issued a state license to carry a concealed weapon – even though he had been previously arrested for battering a law enforcement officer and had been the subject of a domestic violence restraining order – and was carrying a hidden, loaded handgun. Zimmerman pursued Trayvon, despite the 911 dispatcher’s statement that Zimmerman did not need to do so, ultimately shooting and killing him.

When questioned by the Sanford police, Zimmerman claimed he was acting in self-defense, invoking Florida’s extreme shoot first law, which allows a person to use deadly force in a public place in self-defense, even if such force can be avoided by the person’s retreat. After much delay, and amid a nationwide call for justice, George Zimmerman was finally charged with second-degree murder on April 11, 2012. On July 13, 2013, a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty. The court had instructed the jury on Florida’s shoot first law and one of the jurors subsequently stated that the jury had found the law applicable to Zimmerman.

The Trayvon Martin case demonstrates that shoot first laws threaten public safety, particularly when combined with permissive laws governing the carrying of concealed weapons (like those in Florida and in most states). Shoot first laws encourage people to take the law into their own hands and act as armed vigilantes, often with deadly consequences. The laws also have a profound impact on the criminal and civil justice systems, tying the hands of law enforcement and depriving victims of remedies by providing blanket immunity from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits to individuals who claim they were acting in self-defense.

Unfortunately, the gun lobby has aggressively promoted shoot first laws and a majority of states now have laws similar to the law in effect in Florida. In the aftermath of the death of Trayvon Martin, however, there has been a nationwide call for the reexamination and repeal of such laws.

In his remarks to the NAACP in the wake of the verdict on July 16, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder observed that as a nation it is time to “question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if – and the ‘if’ is important – if no safe retreat is available.” The Attorney General went on to encourage America to “examine laws…eliminating the common-sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety.” Finally, the Attorney General stressed that “we must stand OUR ground to ensure – we must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.”

Florida’s “Shoot First” Law and Its Deadly Aftermath

Under centuries-old legal principles, when a person is confronted with a possible threat to his or her safety in a public place, the person must retreat as much as is practicable before using deadly force in self-defense. Florida’s shoot first law radically departs from these traditional principles, providing that a person who reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm has no duty to retreat from a confrontation outside the home before engaging in deadly force.

As a result of Florida’s law, law enforcement agencies are prevented from arresting a person who used deadly force in self-defense unless the agency determines that probable cause exists that the force used was unlawful. The law may also be invoked by a criminal defendant in a pretrial hearing or at trial to avoid all criminal or civil liability.

According to a March 26, 2012 statement of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), shoot first laws “give the killer immunity from prosecution. This blanket immunity is greater than the legal protections given to police officers who are involved in a shooting in the line of duty. This grant of immunity, both civil and criminal, can sharply undermine the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to protect the public by prosecuting acts of gun violence.”

The APA has consistently raised concerns about shoot first laws, arguing that they inhibit the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to hold violent criminals accountable, may encourage vigilante behavior, and, in some circumstances, may put law enforcement lives at greater risk.

The Tampa Bay Times has analyzed the Florida law extensively. The Times’ 2010 investigation found that the Florida law had been invoked in at least 93 criminal cases involving 65 deaths, including “deadly neighbor arguments, bar brawls, road rage – even a gang shoot-out – that just as easily might have ended with someone walking away.” A follow-up investigation in March of 2012 increased the total number of cases in Florida to 130, finding that “[i]n the majority of the cases, the person who plunged the knife or swung the bat or pulled the trigger did not face a trial. In 50 of the cases, the person who used force was never charged with a crime.” That investigation also found that “justifiable homicides” reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had increased threefold since the law went into effect.

Another Tampa Bay Times report, released June 1, 2012, found that Florida’s shoot first law had “stymied prosecutors and confused judges,” and been used “to free killers and violent attackers whose self-defense claims seem questionable at best.” That report found that nearly 70 percent of those who had invoked the law had gone free.


“Today” Investigator Talks Gun-buying

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012

‘Today’ Investigator Talks Gun-buying
WDTN (Dayton, Ohio), Feb. 9, 2012

This brief blurb from Dayton, Ohio’s NBC affiliate notes Ohio’s lack of a background check requirement for a gun purchaser involved in a private-party transfer, a dangerous loophole in federal law known as the private sale loophole.  This item links to video of an NBC Today show investigation on private party and internet gun sales.

10 Myths About Gun Violence in America

Posted on Saturday, August 1st, 2009

The gun lobby has perpetuated a myriad of myths about guns and gun violence in this country, successfully thwarting efforts to enact common sense laws to reduce gun deaths and injuries. In this publication, the Law Center exposes ten of the gun lobby’s myths, providing evidence that regulating firearms is a necessary and effective way to curb our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

Click here to download a PDF of 10 Myths About Gun Violence in America

18th Anniversary Dinner — July 14th 2011

Posted on Monday, June 4th, 2012

JULY 14th, 2011

6:00pm Reception
7:00pm Dinner and Program

Every year we come together at the Law Center’s Anniversary Dinner, a special and meaningful event attended by hundreds of our supporters.  We meet TO HONOR the dedication, leadership and commitment of our community to gun violence prevention, then and now.  We meet TO REMEMBER not just those killed and injured in the 1993 event at 101 California Street in San Francisco that began the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, but also the 100,000 of Americans killed and injured by gun violence every year.  We meet TO ACT TOGETHER to promote smart laws, fight dangerous litigation and advocate for the majority of Americans that want our communities to be safer from gun violence.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Mayor Villaraigosa is a charismatic speaker and a leader within the gun violence prevention movement. His efforts toreduce crime and gun violence in Los Angeles through gun buy-back programs as well as other cutting edge legal approaches have been highly successful. During his first term in office, he oversaw the steepest reduction in crime in Los Angeles since the 1950’s. Moreover, his work with the bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns has demonstrated his commitment to tackling the epidemic of gun violence in America.


Dr. Peter Rhee,
Chief of Trauma at the University Me
dical Center in Tucson

Dr. Peter Rhee, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ trauma surgeon, will accept the Law Center’s Distinguished Leadership Award and speak at the dinner. As the Chief of Trauma at the University Medical Center in Tucson, he confronts daily the devastating effects of gun violence on individuals and their families. Understanding the impact of stronger gun laws, Dr. Rhee spoke out after the shooting in Tucson, asking for others to join him in the effort to fix background checks.

We thank our 2011 sponsors!

Front Runner
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP

Bingham McCutchen LLP
Farella Braun + Martel
Morrison & Foerster LLP
O’Melveny & Myers LLP

Bartko Zankel Tarrant & Miller
Hemming Morse, Inc., CPAs,
– Litigation and Forensic Consultants
Jenner & Block LLP
Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
John and Michelle Scully Fund
in memory of John C. Scully 
Keker & Van Nest LLP
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Helen Hilton Raiser

Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP
Ross Bricker and Nina Vinik
Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
Cooley LLP
Covington & Burling LLP
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Evolve Discovery
The Focal Point LLC
Dr. Joel & Maria Fort Fund
James T. Fousekis
Goodin, MacBride, Squeri, Day & Lamprey LLP
Hanson Bridgett LLP
John Heisse and Karin Grace

The Herbst Foundation
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
Latham & Watkins
Littler Mendelson P.C./Littler Mendelson Foundation
The Mark Mosley & David Newdorf Fund
The Morrison & Foerster Foundation
Moscone Emblidge & Sater LLP
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP
Schiff Hardin LLP
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P.
Robyn and Ryder Thomas
Trucker Huss
van Löben Sels/ RembeRock Foundation
Winston & Strawn LLP


Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory
& Natsis LLP
Black Letter\Discovery
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP
Owen Clements
Crowell & Moring LLP
Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP
Susan and Sidney Goodwill
i.e. Communications, LLC
David & Linda Kapnick
Larry and Doreen Low
Roderick and Deborah Thompson
George Tuttle and Ben Cushman
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation

Kathryn McQueen Barnes
The Clorox Company
Alan J. Cox, NERA Economic Consulting
William and Iris Edlund
Hosie Rice LLP
JAMS, The Resolution Experts
Don and Sheri Joseph
Carol M. Kingsley, Kingsley Mediation Services,
in memory of Jack Berman
Nixon Peabody LLP
Gail and Dick Odgers
Rogers Joseph O’Donnell
Shartsis Friese LLP
Sideman & Bancroft LLP
Somach, Simmons & Dunn APC
Rebecca A. Speer, Speer Associates
Radha Stern & Gary Maxworthy
Amanda and Nick Wilcox


Douglas and Amy Boxer
Ellen French
William and Ilse Gaede Charitable Fund
Alden Harken, MD
Edward E. Kallgren
Juliet Leftwich and Daniel Rapaport
Major, Lindsey & Africa
The Mizel Foundation
Cari Napoles and Bradford deCaussin
Walter Pettit
Amanda and August Roth
Paul Segalini
Youth ALIVE!

19th Anniversary Dinner — June 14th 2012

Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Did you miss our Anniversary Dinner? Check out some of the highlights from this year’s event.

Photos from our 19th Anniversary Dinner are in!  Thank you to all of our wonderful sponsors and supporters for making our 19th Anniversary Dinner such a success. We are so honored to have you in our corner.

There are more photos on Facebook – tag yourselves!

All of the speakers were outstanding in every way, and touched us with their perspectives on the personal and political realities of gun violence.

“The 19th Anniversary Dinner reinvigorated my dedication to the gun violence prevention movement. The night truly captured what Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence does best – getting out the real story about gun violence in America, providing credible research and facts, and giving hope that through legal and policy advocacy, we can implement common sense laws that keep guns out of the wrong hands.”

~ Margaux McFetridge, Dinner Attendee

We hope you also came away feeling more educated about the epidemic of gun violence in America and inspired by our important work preventing further tragedies.



Thank you for joining the more than 70 law firms, corporations, and foundations that express their support for the Law Center’s mission to prevent gun violence by sponsoring our Anniversary Dinner. There is still time to donate — showcase your commitment to using legal resources to create safer communities.


2003 California Report: Recent Developments in Federal, State and Local Gun Laws

Posted on Wednesday, May 21st, 2003

Information about the epidemic of gun violence in California and nationwide, with an update on firearm-related legal developments at the federal, state and local levels.

2004 California Report: Recent Developments in Federal, State and Local Gun Laws

Posted on Wednesday, December 1st, 2004

Information about the epidemic of gun violence in California and nationwide, with an update on firearm-related legal developments at the federal, state and local levels.

Click here to download a PDF of The 2004 California Report

2008 California Report: Recent Developments in Federal, State and Local Gun Laws

Posted on Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Information about the epidemic of gun violence in California and nationwide, with an update on firearm-related legal developments at the federal, state and local levels.

Click here to download a PDF of The 2008 California Report

2009 California Report: Recent Developments in Federal, State and Local Gun Laws

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009

The 2009 California Report contains the latest statistics regarding gun deaths, injuries and crime in California and nationwide. The Report also discusses the previous year’s firearm-related legislative and regulatory activities at the federal, state and local levels, and describes pending federal, state and local legislation. In addition, the Report features a discussion of the effectiveness of firearm-related laws and highlights local ordinances to regulate ammunition sellers.

Click here to download a PDF of The 2009 California Report