Iowans debate Stand Your Ground bill

The Iowa Senate referred a “Stand Your Ground” bill to a judiciary subcommittee headed by Gene Fraise in early March. If eventually passed, the bill will legalize the reasonable use of force, including deadly force, to defend oneself or a third party from someone who the defender thinks has criminal intent.

If it becomes law, the bill would allow Iowans to fully defend themselves and others from suspected criminals without fear of prosecution.

However, the bill protects people defending themselves not only from actual crimes, but also from possible crimes. A person could wrongly suspect someone of being murderous and act accordingly. The bill says, “A person could be wrong in the estimation of the danger or the force necessary to repel the danger as long as there is a reasonable basis for the belief of the person and the person acts reasonably in the response to that belief.” Although this segment could protect a people who have no idea they were doing wrong, it also could have deadly consequences.

In Florida, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26. Zimmerman may be protected by Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Zimmerman claims Martin attacked him, which many people do not believe. There is also considerable controversy over whether or not Zimmerman reasonably defended himself from what he thought was a threat, as according to Florida’s law. Despite the controversy, there is very little evidence that can determine whether or not Zimmerman defended himself reasonably: “I respect both sides, Zimmerman and Martin’s family because nothing concrete has been released yet.” sophomore Shane Goetsch said.

The Iowa House approved the bill, sending it on to the Senate, three days later.

Many people’s anger at Zimmerman stems from the belief that he did not shoot Martin out of self-defense or reasonable suspicion. Many people believe this was a hate-crime against African American Martin. Whether or not they are correct, they illuminate a reasonable fear  of what crimes might happen if the Iowa “Stand Your Ground” bill becomes law: “I feel like it’s not very safe because you can say anyone was being violent and just kill them,” junior Beth Lavenz said.

Despite its flaws, the bill’s only goal is to allow Iowans to defend themselves. Some people think that the bill could work if revised.  According to social studies teacher Robert Schmidt, the bill could be improved by changing other laws controlling weapons: “I think if we’re going in that direction, we need to take a look at who is allowed to have weapons. For example, in the case in Florida, we have a neighborhood watchperson who has a firearm. I think our standards have to be higher on who can have a firearm legally,” Schmidt said.

Others think the problem with the bill is how it would allow people to defend themselves against people that were not actually going to harm them. “I think they need to be able to prove the person was actually going to hurt them,” Lavenz said.

Some find that revised or not, the bill should not become Iowa law. “I do not support the bill. To me, it’s justifying violence,” science teacher John Black said.

No matter what the decision of the judiciary subcommittee is, the odds are against the bill passing in Iowa’s predominantly Democrat Senate.

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