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Fears over Alaska's 'stand your ground' law are overblown

Brian Plummer

I think John Tetpon is looking to kill somebody. While not as flashy as using a gun or knife, causing a stroke or aneurism is just as deadly. It is the only reason I can think why he would pen his opinion piece "Beware, Alaska's 'stand your ground' law will soon apply." Surely a lifelong Alaskan such as John would know how well an article like that would be received here in the Last Frontier. Not only is the piece full of fallacies about the recent George Zimmerman trial, but his statement “life as we know it will be changed forever” takes it completely over the top. Things like this, coupled with his fear of “placing a bull’s-eye on my forehead or at my back” seem to show a point of view that is completely divorced from reality. It has to be a joke.

With so many other states leading the way with "stand your ground" (SYG) laws, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that any sort of bloodbath would have been reported. It hasn’t happened, and there is nothing out there that suggests Alaska will be any different. The crime rate is dropping all across the US. While the statistics don’t clearly show this is due to more people carrying guns, or the recent proliferation of SYG laws, they do show that more guns don’t equal more murders.

With all the hoopla surrounding the passage of the law, you’d think it was some sort of earth-shattering proclamation. In fact it consists of one line of text to the existing self defense statute "or in any other place where the person has a right to be." Hardly the kind of thing that leads to shootouts in supermarkets, don’t you think? All of the other criteria for a self defense shooting have to be present. All SYG does is clarify there is no “duty to retreat” (Alaska law didn’t specify there was).

What does “duty to retreat” mean? Well, the bastion of knowledge that is Wikipedia says “Some U.S. jurisdictions require that a person retreat from an attack, and allow the use of deadly force in self-defense only when retreat is not possible or when retreat poses a danger to the person under attack.”

That word, "require," is huge. Taken literally, that means option one is always run. The burden of proof is on the defendant to prove why he/she couldn’t run, and had to resort to self defense. There is a history of prosecutors charging traumatized victims of assault with crimes, after they were forced to defend their life or property. Perhaps the best-known case took place in England. A man shot two home invaders with a shotgun, and was charged with murder. There have been numerous cases here in the US as well. One would hope that any law that protected citizens from false charges filed by a prosecutor with an agenda would be celebrated.

I will not touch on the Zimmerman trial. I will simply link to a series of articles written by Massad Ayoob. Without exaggeration he is perhaps the most knowledgeable person in the U.S. when it comes to self defense shooting and the use of lethal force. So far he has written seven parts; they are all fascinating. Part one starts here.

In closing, I certainly respect John’s right to an opinion; however, I can’t help but feel there is another game afoot. Everyone knows pro-gunners will defend their rights, and are quick to rise to a challenge. I can’t help but see John’s opinion piece as an attempt to generate controversy. "Stand your ground" is nothing to be afraid of; judging by the comments below his opinion, the majority of Alaskans agree. I can only hope his comments about his own life being at risk were written tongue-in-cheek. Surely he knows his fellow residents better than that. Hopefully the next time he writes a piece he will bring some facts to the table, and perhaps start a real conversation.

Brian Plummer lives in Wasilla with his family. Growing up in Alaska, his association with firearms started at a very young age. He is a proponent of both open and concealed carry.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.