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Florida Airman's Death Prompts New 'Stand Your Ground' Debate

For the past decade, “Stand Your Ground” laws have been invoked by gun owners who claim self-defense after carrying out shootings. Critics have denounced them as “shoot first” laws that have created a climate of vigilantism in which gun owners operate with impunity in killing Black people. The debate has resurfaced over the killing of Senior Airman Roger Fortson in Florida. The victim was a young Black servicemember who carried his legally owned handgun to the door of his apartment after hearing banging noises that ended up being a sheriff’s deputy. The officer opened fire within seconds. His supervisors say he acted in self-defense.

Fortson’s legal team reminded the world of his Second Amendment rights in a state that popularized "Stand Your Ground” laws after the killing of Trayvon Martin more than a decade ago, reports the Associated Press.

“They teach us in law school about the sanctity of the home, in the United States of America, and how that is your safe haven. That is your castle,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Fortson’s killing prompted a complicated debate about race, gun laws and self-defense — namely, who is typically afforded deference when it comes to the use of guns in self-defense and who is not. Lauren Krasnoff, president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Miami chapter, said Fortson’s race cannot be disentangled from discussion of the case. “I think the point is that the law is being used as both a sword and a shield by law enforcement against Black and brown people,” Krasnoff said. “I don’t even know that I’d have to say that the airman was standing his ground. I think he was just acting lawfully. And if a person is acting lawfully and not committing a forcible felony, then you don’t have a right to stand your ground.”


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