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Can the Ring of a Doorbell Justify a ‘Stand Your Ground’ Shooting?

by Michael Nguyen
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Andrew Lester was in bed when the doorbell rang late at night. He grabbed a gun and went to see who it was. When he saw a Black man by the front door, police say he shot at him without asking any questions first.

Lester told police that he thought somebody was trying to break into his house.

Lester faces charges for a shooting incident where he shot 16-year-old Ralph Yarl, an honor student who was at the wrong address while picking up his younger siblings. He believes it was wrong, but this could be used as a defense. There were also 3 other separate shootings that happened where people faced some uncommon reactions due to mistakes they made. Lester pleaded not guilty and in Texas there were cheerleaders who got shot after one of them said she got into the wrong car.

The person who shot Kaylin Gillis was very upset about people entering his property without permission, according to his neighbor. This incident has made many people angry. It might cause us to look more closely at a law that is in place in the US to protect people from being attacked in their own homes. Most states give permission to homeowners that they don’t have to get away or run when they feel threatened while they’re home but instead they can fight back with physical force if necessary.

Missouri is one of around 30 states that have laws allowing people to protect themselves without running away, no matter where they are.

Missouri’s Balanced Self-Defense Approaches

In 2007, Missouri passed a law that lets people protect themselves by using deadly force if somebody tries to unlawfully get inside their home, residence or vehicle. This law got supported by the National Rifle Association and had lots of votes from the Republican-led group in power. Then Governor Matt Blunt was very proud of this new law and traveled around the state to share it with everyone.

In 2016, people in Missouri won the right to protect themselves and their families with no limit. This means that when faced with a dangerous situation at home or in their car, it is permissible to use force for self-defense without worrying about being punished. Governor Jay Nixon tried to block this law from happening, but lawmakers voted and overruled his veto. By doing so, people now can defend themselves in any place they have the right to be.

Robert Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York, Cortland, who studies and writes about guns has said that Missouri has a law that allows people to use lethal force pretty freely. He wrote a book called ‘Guns Across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights’.

Even though nobody got hurt, the self-defense laws in Missouri were very important news for 2020. For example, Mark and Patricia McCloskey from St. Louis showed guns to people who were part of a Black Lives Matter protest that was passing through their house. They both admitted they had done something wrong by pleading guilty to minor offenses, but the Governor Mike Parson let them off with a pardon.

Last year, the state of Missouri discussed a law that would assume people who shoot in self-defense must have been reasonable. This idea was given the name “Make Murder Legal Act” by a prosecutor who did not agree with it. Unfortunately, this bill was not passed.

Lester’s Attempt to Use ‘Castle Doctrine’ In Court May Fail

Lester went to the police on Tuesday as he was charged for shooting Yarl. He didn’t have a lawyer to help him and it is not clear how he will defend himself in court. The papers that the authorities had filed show that Lester felt he needed to shoot Yarl because of some kind of danger.

When Lester opened the interior door, a tall black man was trying to open the exterior storm door. Fearing a break-in attempt, he quickly shot twice and told the police afterwards that he was very scared.

Yarl went to the man’s house, but there was no talking before the shooting. Yarl pressed the doorbell, and then suddenly he got shot in the head and arm. As Yarl tried to leave, he heard the man telling him not to come back again.

Experts said on Tuesday that Lester might try to use the ‘castle doctrine’ as an excuse, but prosecutors could argue he did not really think Yarl was trying to get into his house.

No law says that it’s ok to shoot someone who innocently rings your doorbell like for example when UPS delivery drivers, or kids selling Girl Scout cookies come to knock. This is why Ari Freilich from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence thinks we have to make our laws more strict so guns don’t get used in a careless way.

“Stand Your Ground” Laws

In 2012, a 17-year-old Black boy named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Florida. George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “neighborhood watchman” felt suspicious of Trayvon and was taken to trial. The stand your ground law which had been in place in Florida for six years was used by him as a defense, eventually leading to his acquittal.

In the last twenty years, more and more states have started to create laws like this. Even though folks like Zimmerman sometimes say they were just defending themselves, some people have been found guilty for what happened.

Three men – Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were put on trial for the 2020 shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The men argued that they chased Arbery because they thought he was a burglar, and also used a self-defense argument to defend themselves. They claimed that Travis had pointed a gun at Arbery to try and stop the situation but ended up shooting him when he moved towards them as if he wanted to fight. However, all three were still found guilty of murder.

On Saturday, two days after someone got shot, a woman named Kaylin Gillis was killed while she looked for her friend’s house in New York. She was in a car and they drove into the wrong driveway. The homeowner, Kevin Monahan (who was 65 years old), came onto his porch and shot two times. Monahan has been charged with murder and New York doesn’t have a law that gives people the right to protect their property or themselves like some other states do.

Heather Hollingsworth, a writer from the Associated Press news company, wrote something related to Mission, Kansas.

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