Ever since the verdict was announced at the conclusion of the George Zimmerman trial, the consistent flurry of media attention and outcries for stricter gun control have yet to subside. This is largely due to the fact that the case hinged upon one controversial factor – "did George Zimmerman, under the law, have the right to bear arms outside of his own home?" This topic has been the subject of much debate, as some have looked to challenge the interpretation of Florida's stand your ground law, as well as the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Since Zimmerman had been acting as a member of the neighborhood watch at the time of the incident, both sides are left wondering whether or not the law actually supports his rights to carry a weapon and subsequently use it to defend himself.
According to Kenneth Novak, a criminologist at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, "Barring guns from civilian patrols is a legal gray area since most U.S. citizens have the right to bear arms." While a neighborhood watch organization may not issue guns to its members, or even condone their presence on the job, it could be argued that they would be inhibiting a person's constitutional rights if they were to completely disallow it. Since the Second Amendment clearly states that a person has the right to not only bear arms, but to use a weapon with fatal capabilities to defend themselves against a personal attack, some agree that Zimmerman was well within his rights to utilize his weapon outside of the home. Even so, the Supreme Court has yet to address this issue on a broader scale.
For this reason, it now stands that this issue will be dependent on the scope of state and local laws. While all 50 states maintain concealed carry laws, they vary greatly in their detail. When examining Florida's state-specific laws, however, the root of this debate is based significantly on the "stand your ground law"—which essentially states that one has the right to defend themselves with a reasonable amount of force when they have been threatened in their home, car or any other place that they have a legal right to be. That being said, it could be argued that Zimmerman was exonerated of his charges under the assumption that he acted in self-defense in a place that he had the right to be.
If you have questions about the ever-changing laws that regulate gun control on a state and national level, do not hesitate to speak with a St. Augustine criminal defense lawyer from our firm. You can reach us toll-free at (888) 387-9958.