Stand Your Ground Laws: An Antidote for Baltimore-Style Riots

Raised Gun self-defense AP Photo/Seth Wenig
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Videos of rioters wreaking havoc in Baltimore and photos of them risking the lives of innocents by punching, throwing objects, and, in one instance, drawing back a knife with which to stab a bystander were reminders that Stand Your Ground laws are an antidote for brazen in-your-face attacks on city streets.

In a Stand Your Ground scenario, once an attacker has put an innocent’s life in danger, that innocent person may use lethal force to stop the attack. While these laws do not affect people peacefully protesting an incident or a situation with which they do not agree, the laws would affect rioters who physically attack innocents, if those attacks rise to the level of putting lives at risk.

These laws take the burden off the individual being attacked by removing his or her obligation to try to flee the aggressor. Once the attack begins, the laws in “at least 22 states” recognize “no duty to retreat” before taking action to protect one’s own life. Under the paradigm of these laws, an attacker gives up his right to life by threatening an innocent’s right to possess the same.

The National Conference of State Legislatures lists the states with such laws: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Not surprisingly, the destruction of property and risk to life that occurred over the weekend took place in Maryland–a state without a Stand Your Ground law.

Moreover, Maryland law actually requires innocents to show they tried to flee–tried to retreat–while under attack before using lethal force against the attacker. This scenario gives every benefit to the attacker instead of the victim.

UCLA School of Law Professor Eugene Volokh explains the legal interpretation of duty-to-retreat: “In duty-to-retreat states, the defendant is not legally allowed to use deadly force to defend himself if the jury concludes that he could have safely avoided the risk of death or serious bodily injury (or the other relevant crimes) by retreating.”

Clearly, duty-to-retreat laws give the upper hand to rioters holding knives, sticks, clubs, and bar stools, among other possible weapons. These laws force innocent individuals under attack to turn and run–to flee before an aggressor–although all the while, they may remain under attack by that aggressor.

Stand Your Ground is the antidote for this situation.

Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at


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