On Thursday, Mother Jones published an interactive infographic that illustrates just how quickly ‘kill at will’ laws have spread through the United States. The infographic also shows who was behind the effort that took Florida’s 2005 ‘kill at will’ law and replicated it in 23 states by 2011.
Below is an excerpt from Adam Weinstein’s story on Mother Jones that looks at the roots of ‘kill at will’ aka ‘stand your ground laws.’
The Florida law made infamous this spring by the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was conceived during the epic hurricane season of 2004. That November, 77-year-old James Workman moved his family into an RV outside Pensacola after Hurricane Ivan peeled back the roof of their house. One night a stranger tried to force his way into the trailer, and Workman killed him with two shots from a .38 revolver. The stranger turned out to be a disoriented temporary worker for the Federal Emergency Management Agency who was checking for looters and distressed homeowners. Workman was never arrested, but three months went by before authorities cleared him of wrongdoing.
That was three months too long for Dennis Baxley, a veteran Republican representative in Florida’s state Legislature. Four hurricanes had hit the state that year, and there was fear about widespread looting (though little took place). In Baxley’s view, Floridians who defended themselves or their property with lethal force shouldn’t have had to worry about legal repercussions. Baxley, a National Rifle Association (NRA) member and owner of a prosperous funeral business, teamed up with then-GOP state Sen. Durell Peaden to propose what would become known as Stand Your Ground, the self-defense doctrine essentially permitting anyone feeling threatened in a confrontation to shoot their way out.