Obama: Would Martin Be Justified Shooting Zimmerman under Stand Your Ground Law?

July 19, 2013 - 2:41 PM

Obama

President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CNSNews.com) – In his first speech on the matter since Saturday’s not guilty verdict, President Barack Obama asked if supporters of Florida’s “stand your ground law” believed Trayvon Martin would have been justified in shooting George Zimmerman.

“For those who resist that idea that we should think about something like the Stand Your Ground laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?” Obama asked.

“And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmermann, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened. If the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me we might want to examine those kinds of law,” he added.

On Saturday, a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder. Zimmermann, 29, admitted to shooting and killing the 17-year-old Martin, but said it was in self-defense.

Though Obama issued a written statement the next day, he did not speak on the matter during a week of protest and media coverage scrutinizing the case.

This week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department would investigate the case further and voiced opposition to the Florida “stand your ground law,” that says a person may justifiably use force in self-defense if there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat.

More than 30 states have some form of this law on the books, according to press reports.

Obama said Holder would be investigating this case further, but said such cases are largely the domain of state and local law enforcement. Thus, he said, he would like to assemble a task force of state and local law enforcement with the Justice Department to address matters to prevent similar incidents.

“I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case rather than defuse potential altercations,” Obama said.

“I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the Stand Your Ground laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case,” the president continued. “On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there is a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we like to see.

“For those who resist that idea, that we should think about something like the Stand Your Ground laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?” Obama added. “And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmermann who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened. If the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me we might want to examine those kinds of law.”