Opinion: Tragic murder may spark political change

Kent Vashaw

Chelsey Fisher

Kent VashawA 17-year-old African-American named Russell Davis was murdered in Florida late November.

The Atlantic reported that 45-year-old Michael Dunn shot him after Davis refused to turn down his loud music in a gas station parking lot.

The incident shares many similarities with the Trayvon Martin case – the reportedly unarmed 17-year-old who was also killed in Florida.

Both Dunn and George Zimmerman were charged with their respective murders, and both chose to use the Stand Your Ground law.

The law allows citizens to use deadly force in self-defense if they feel their life is threatened.
But at what point during an argument for loud music causes Dunn to fear for his life? Since when does that justify homicide?

If Dunn does not have the support of the law, does this event say anything at all about Stand Your Ground? Perhaps. What this case may indicate, although not proven conclusively, is that the culture that is promoted by Stand Your Ground laws may encourage this kind of aggressive self-defense when it’s unnecessary.

If a person knows that they can claim “self-defense” with a reasonable chance of success, they’re naturally going to be more likely to turn to violence to solve problems and disputes.

The Stand Your Ground laws may have the unintended side effect of encouraging a culture of violence, but this doesn’t mean we should necessarily repeal them, at least not solely on the basis of this case or similar ones.

But what it does mean is that we should take a hard look at these laws, and, preferably through comparative studies, determine whether they do more harm than good. It could be that they promote more violence than they prevent; it also could be the opposite.

What happened to Davis and Martin was tragic, and, while it may be indicative of a larger problem with the Stand Your Ground law, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

Vashaw, a sophomore mathematics and creative writing major from Apex, is an opinion writer.