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ScissorTales: Don't like Stand Your Ground laws? Use process to effect change

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: July 27, 2013

THE many Americans who are upset about the verdict in the George Zimmerman murder case continue to focus on the motives of the defendant or insist that racism played into the killing of Trayvon Martin. Protest marches last weekend had a common theme: Justice absolutely was not served.

Actually, it was. Focusing on race is a sideshow. Even one of the prosecutors — who tried to convict Zimmerman for second-degree murder or manslaughter — said race wasn't an issue in this case. What was at issue was Florida state law and whether Zimmerman broke it when he shot and killed Martin during a scuffle. A jury, after hearing the testimony and weighing the evidence, and spending 14 hours in deliberations, determined in acquitting Zimmerman that the law had been followed.

Efforts are percolating to change or repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws. Oklahoma is among about two dozen states since 2005 that have approved such laws, which allow citizens to defend themselves, with deadly force if necessary, instead of retreating if they feel they're in danger. We support the laws. Nevertheless, a debate about their worthiness is not inappropriate. Legislatures approved them; legislatures or voter referendums can get them changed.

Working to change Stand Your Ground laws, either through legislative or voter repeal, is following the democratic process. Using race as a basis to protest Martin's death and to demonize the laws is not.

Reverse brain drain? has released its latest Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates list. Oklahoma City ranks seventh-best in the nation. Given that job competition is fierce — the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 11.7 million unemployed persons in April and just 3.8 million available jobs in March — the website prioritizes cities with low unemployment. Since new graduates' income is limited, gives high ratings to cities where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment costs no more than 25 percent of a graduate's gross monthly income. Oklahoma City fared well on both counts. The ranking also took lifestyle and social scene into consideration, giving priority to cities with a high population of young single adults, especially those in their late 20s. Oklahomans once worried about a “brain drain” of college graduates leaving the state. Now, other states have reason to fear that their graduates will decamp for Oklahoma.

A 70-30 split

Phil Mickelson got into a pickle earlier this year when he complained about high taxes in California. Mickelson had to walk back his remarks about relocating because the tax-and-spend crowd thinks the Golden State's high income tax rate isn't excessive. For winning the 2013 British Open this week and the Scottish Open a week before, the professional golfer earned $2,167,500. “Earned” is a relative term here. It's more apt to say Mickelson “grossed” that much money. Forbes magazine says the golfer gets to keep only 39 percent of the winnings. The rest will either stay in the British Isles or be sent to Washington and Sacramento. “We assume the British government's share,” wrote the USA Today's Nate Scott, “will go directly to the Royal baby's binkie fund.” High taxes are par for the course in the world of high-paid athletes, but if Mickelson were to move to Texas or Florida, he would at least get to keep the 13 percent of his winnings that will go to California. After paying his agent and his expenses, the golfer actually “earned” an estimated 30 percent of his actual winnings.

Standing against repeal

Since George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, those upset with the verdict have argued for repeal of “Stand Your Ground” laws. Those statutes, including one in Oklahoma, allow the use of deadly force when an individual believes his life is threatened, with no obligation to first retreat. It appears there's little public appetite for repeal, however. A new Rasmussen Reports poll found 45 percent of American adults favor having a stand your ground law in their state. Just 32 percent are opposed. Another Rasmussen Reports poll found just 34 percent of voters think the federal government should be responsible for gun ownership laws. Thirty-six percent believe state governments should have that responsibility; 17 percent feel that local governments should be in charge of gun laws. The findings suggest strong public support for defensive use of guns — not an outcry for stricter federal gun control.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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