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Northampton Community College students debate merits of stand-your-ground laws
The Lehigh Valley Express-Times ^ | March 1, 2014 | Sara K. Satullo

Posted on 03/01/2014 4:00:10 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet

Northampton Community College students debating the merits of so-called stand-your-ground laws were so convincing, audience members seemed to forget the teams had flipped a coin to decide which position they'd take.

Members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the college's Student Senate tackled the thorny issue Thursday as part of the college's celebration of Black History Month.

The three students on the honor society team were deemed the victors by a panel of three judges. But as the judges deliberated in the hallway, the teams took audience questions and also were corrected a few times.

Professor Vertel Martin said both teams performed admirably but Phi Theta Kappa put forth a more compelling argument and addressed whether such laws improve public safety. The senate team dismantled some of its opponents but relied more on anecdotes, she said.

Stand-your-ground laws came into the national spotlight in 2012, when neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, a black teenager. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and, under Florida law, was acquitted on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Zimmerman did not mount a stand-your-ground defense but it prompted national discourse on the law.

Laws in 32 states

Much of Thursday's debate focused on what the law has meant for Florida, since its law was the template for more than 31 states that passed variations of it.

New Jersey has no such law and allows few private citizens to carry concealed weapons. Pennsylvania expanded its castle doctrine law in 2011 to include a stand-your-ground right outside the home, but allows deadly force only if an attacker has a gun, replica or other lethal weapon.

On the honor society team, student James Mautz noted that before Florida enacted the law in 2005, its murder rate had been steadily declining. The rate jumped after the enactment of the law and while it's been falling, it never again reached 2005 rates.

The laws breed a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality, Mautz said.

It also makes it easier for race to cloud your mind, student Marcus Katynski argued. Just because someone perceives a threat doesn't mean they're actually threatened, Mautz said.

"They have ended up with busier morgues, not safer streets," Katynski said.

Stand-your-ground laws cannot be used as a scapegoat for crime rising, Logan Paff countered.

"Correlation does not equal causation," she said.

Need seen for defense

The Student Senate team emphasized that there are real threats -- such as rapists and murderers -- from whom citizens need to be able to protect themselves. How can another person determine when Paff, an 18-year-old female weighing 125 pounds, feels threatened, she asked.

She asked the audience to imagine how a Texas father felt when he found a man raping his 5-year-old daughter after hearing her screams. The father beat Jesus Mora Flores to death but was not charged.

"This law was invented for extreme circumstances such as this," Paff said.

The judicial system is a check on such laws, since each case is decided by a jury of peers, Paff said.

Student Sydjea Linton, of Allentown, who is a passionate opponent of such laws, enjoyed the debate. But the teams stumbled over some facts a few times, she noted.

Stand-your-ground laws make it easier for someone to resort to fatal violence and current self-defense laws are protection enough, Linton said.

"There's a lot of lives being lost unnecessarily," she said.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: banglist; syg; trayvon; zimmerman
"Young skulls full of mush."
1 posted on 03/01/2014 4:00:10 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet


2 posted on 03/01/2014 4:15:13 PM PST by DonaldC (A nation cannot stand in the absence of religious principle.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

What’s striking to me is their heartless inhumanity in the name of humanity. These people have hair-trigger offense claims literally down to the micro level, but when it comes to lethal defense for a lethal attack they throw out their own standards in order to protect the attacker from harm. What can be said in the face of such cold-blooded hypocrisy? It’s like they literally have no hearts.

3 posted on 03/01/2014 4:22:55 PM PST by Talisker (One who commands, must obey.)
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To: Talisker

Want to watch their heads explode?

George Zimmerman’s Black Ancestry is Revealed

George Zimmerman: the black, Hispanic, Peruvian, kind-hearted non-white, not-racist poster boy

George Zimmerman Has ‘Black Roots’

4 posted on 03/01/2014 4:23:40 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (I will raise $2M for Sarah Palin's next run, what will you do?)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

“Zimmerman did not mount a stand-your-ground defense but it prompted national discourse on the law.”

Impressively accurate reporting on this detail. Kudos to Sara K. Satullo at The Lehigh Valley Express-Times, this is rarely reported correctly.

5 posted on 03/01/2014 4:31:58 PM PST by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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5 Words A Former Supreme Court Justice Wants To Add To The Constitution To Destroy Its Meaning
6 posted on 03/01/2014 5:02:39 PM PST by RedMDer (May we always be happy and may our enemies always know it. - Sarah Palin, 10-18-2010)
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