What is contemporary Jewish thought or interpretation of the Stand Your Ground law?
[Administrators note: As in the Florida law that grants the right to use a gun without retreating if there is a "reasonable" fear for your own life - note the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman incident and the court case that followed]
At first glance it seems that the answer is simple. In these kinds of matters "Dina d'Malchuta Dina" the Law of the Land is Law. There are several directions to go using this principle
1. Aggressive: Jewish Self-Defense can be Pre-emptive. "Habba l'horg'echa, Hashkeim v'horgo!" If a [murderer] seeks to kill you, kill him first! How pre-emptive? In this day and age that's tough to be specific.
2. Non-Confrontational: Jews by nature, temperament, etc. are non-violent. Certainly walking around vigilante style with a gun is highly discouraged - unless perhaps in a "war zone". Standing one's ground would usually be construed as the case when, for example, a burglar invades one's home or attempts to hijack one's car.
In normal circumstances, standing one's ground would apply to protecting one's home and family and no more
In extenuating circumstances - the Middle East comes to mind - perhaps a more pro-active or pre-emptive response makes sense.
For More information I Googled Stand Your Ground Law + Jewish Law
Here is one "hit"
To Stand or Not to Stand Your Ground (Leviticus 19) | Odyssey Networks
Jewish law certainly recognizes that people are entitled to use force to defend their own lives against assault. We are even enjoined not to be uninvolved by-standers, but to use force to save the innocent from victimization by criminals. Don't be a sap. If someone is coming to kill you, wake up early and kill him first, says the Talmud.
But in every such case, the ethical use of force demands that we use only the minimum amount necessary. You cannot shoot someone in the head if shooting him in the foot would stop the assault and save yourself. If you can disarm a criminal with a tackle, but instead you kill him, says the Talmud, that's murder. Of course, in real life, we cannot always be sure just how much is enough. It is conceivable, God forbid, that a person might misjudge a threat and end up dying as a result.
But in America today we seem overly ready to pronounce situations worthy of violent force. Being frightened is not the same thing as being lethally threatened. And even feeling lethally threatened does not mean that one is trained to handle weapons.
As a general and abstract rule, using violent force in self-defense is an absolutely legitimate right. But in practice, people are not expert in evaluating such threats, and not expert in using the right amount of force to defuse the threat. That's what the police are for. Call them and ask for help.
It’s difficult to determine specifically just what Jewish law (let alone “contemporary Jewish thought”) would have to say about the “Stand Your Ground” laws adopted in Florida and some other states. As is often the case, there would likely be a variety of opinions to one side or the other, and we would have to wait and see whether one of those opinions achieved the status of consensus. But I think we can make a few general comments.
Like other legal systems, Jewish law includes a doctrine of self-defense: a person whose life is threatened by an attacker may protect him- or herself through the use of use deadly force, if necessary, against the attacker. On the other hand, there are limits to this doctrine: one is permitted to kill the attacker only if that is the only way to stop him. Suppose that one could have defended himself by wounding or injuring the attacker but kills the attacker instead. According to the halakhah (Jewish law), this is an example of excessive force that is not justified under the self-defense doctrine. On the contrary: the threatened person who resorts to excessive force is judged to be a murderer (Talmud Sanhedrin 74a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Rotze’ach [Laws Concerning Murder] 1:13). True, says Maimonides, this individual is not to be executed for his act, possibly because this is not a case of premeditated murder: the victim was forced into this situation by the attacker. In the heat of the moment, moreover, it may be impossible to measure one’s actions with precision, to insure that one merely wounds – but does not kill - the attacker. The point, though, is that it is in principle forbidden to use excessive force even against an attacker who threatens one’s life.
Let us try to apply this discussion to the Florida statute which, as I understand it, permits the person under attack to use a gun on his attacker and does not require the person to retreat so long as he has a “reasonable” fear for his life. One could argue that this statute is a justifiable application of the doctrine of self-defense under Jewish law. After all, the intended victim can always claim that he or she had a “reasonable” fear that the attacker was bent on murder. And as for the possibility of excessive force, can we ever be certain that the victim could have successfully thwarted the attack by use of less-deadly means? In this view, we should give the victim the benefit of the doubt and not punish him or her to punishment for having acted in self-defense.
My own view, however, is that the “Stand Your Ground” law is faulty because it encourages the use of deadly force. It is stated on numerous bumper stickers that “guns don’t kill people; people do.” But guns happen to be more deadly than most other means of self-defense. By guaranteeing in advance that the person will not be prosecuted for shooting an attacker, the statute makes it more likely that more unnecessary violence and deaths will occur. There is nothing wrong with the right to self-defense, and Jewish law permits an individual to do what is necessary – but only what is necessary – to save his or her life in a situation of attack. But Jewish law would counsel against measures that, however well-intentioned, make it easier and much more probable that individuals will cross the all-important line that distinguishes justifiable and unjustifiable homicide.
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