In his surprise appearance at the White House press briefing this afternoon, President Obama criticized Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law, among other comments on George Zimmerman’s recent acquittal. By way of criticizing the Florida law, Obama raised the possibility that if Martin had been armed, he could have shot and killed Zimmerman in self-defense (notwithstanding the jury’s apparent conclusion that Martin had attacked Zimmerman first):
I think it’d 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 kind of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than defuse potential altercations. 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. 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’s a way for them [sic] to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?
And for those who, who resist that idea that we should think about something like these 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? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.