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Outrageous Laws: Revisions Overdue

Common sense and moral obligations should outweigh bad laws.

As I write this, my boys are with their neighborhood buddies (what we moms call the militia) down the street and through the woods playing fascinating war games—something I completely love about them. They may one day defend our nation. And they have missed it so considering their time in the woods has been limited this year partly due to wet weather and cold temperatures but also partly due to a confrontation last fall that had me quite apprehensive for them.

And this apprehension has remained patiently and quietly waiting deep in my consciousness but the Trayvon Martin case in Florida has propelled it to the forefront of my mind. My heart goes out to the Martin family who has endured what no parent should ever have to endure. It’s a nightmare that’s become a senseless reality all due to a law that actually protects people who might impulsively act before thinking.

Do you think the Stand Your Ground law needs to be revised? Tell us in the comments.

Last fall, I wrote about my research on which was fueled by an incident in my neighborhood. It is not an unusual sight to see a group of camouflage clad boys ranging in age from 7–15 running around my neighborhood playing airsoft games in the woods behind our house and neighbors’ on a daily basis. And there is one neighbor who has on occasion made a “stink” about the kids being near his property.

So for my son’s 15th birthday, he had planned a big airsoft party. Two new friends were here and made the poor choice to duck behind this neighbor’s trash can to hide from the others. That was without a doubt a poor decision on their part and I do not condone their behavior. I completely understand how this could upset anyone and I would completely understand scolding these kids and talking to the parents.

But the neighbor came out, pointed his gun at them and angrily told them he could shoot and kill them for being on his property. He then made them sit on his front lawn to lecture them, gun still in hand, and when two other kids came looking for their friends, he made them sit in his yard as well. The Sheriff was called by both parties. The Sheriff explained that he understood both sides but that the law would be on the neighbor’s side. Even more disturbing, when I got a copy of the sheriff’s report it stated “parents were upset at the MERE fact that a gun was brandished at the children”.  I couldn’t believe what I had just read.  This falls under the “Stand Your Ground Law”. I feel this law needs to be revised.

What is right about killing someone for being on your property who is not a threat but the law says you can “feel threatened and defend” yourself? As in the Martin case according to news reports, he was not on Zimmerman’s property and even if he was walking through his yard, how could he feel that he was in imminent danger of a young man with a bag skittles? 

Zimmerman called 911 and was instructed not to pursue Trayvon but he ignored that instruction and did so anyway resulting in a child taken from this world too soon. Trayvon wasn’t breaking into a house. And I personally feel that’s the only time one should feel threatened. If an uninvited stranger is in your house, then there’s a problem. Where did common sense go? Our society shouldn’t be so paranoid that we feel threatened by someone's appearance, race or that he takes a shortcut walking home.

Mark April 13, 2012 at 07:42 PM
WOW. So you are upset because you are a bad parent? If I saw someone dressed in camo hiding in my bushes with an airsoft gun (which mostly don't have an orange tip to denote that they are fake and very real looking) in my bushes. I'd grab my shotgun too. Not to mention your kids were trespassing on someone else property. The Zimmerman case is a different scenario. Wanting to strip my rights to defend myself because of your poor parental leadership is just another sign of how far America has fallen as a whole. Sad truly sad. Bring your kids to an Airsoft range, so there is no confusion.
Cindy Butson April 14, 2012 at 02:08 AM
WOW indeed - thanks for your opinion! You are right - this is a different scenario from the Martin/Zimmerman case and the point is to bring awareness about the law. I am a gun owner myself and I think that comes with tremendous responsibility. And to clarify, the kids' guns DO have orange tips and we are not talking about strangers - these are neighbors who know these kids. That's just not how I expect neighbors to treat each other. The kids do go to airsoft ranges on occasion but what I find sad is the suggestion that kids shouldn't play in their own yards and neighborhoods. Truly sad is that these kids can't feel completely safe around a neighbor.
noreply April 14, 2012 at 02:49 AM
The homeowner observes 2 people with guns hiding behind a trash can on his property. Sounds like the making of a home invasion to me. The homeowner only has a few seconds to decide if he will confront the intruders in his home after they bust in the doors or go outside to confront the threat on his terms. I'm all for the homeowner in this case. This is nothing like the Zimmerman case. This was on the homeowners property. Glad no one was hurt.
Cindy Butson April 14, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Barry, thanks for your comment. Again, I might agree if they were strangers; if these boys weren't playing this almost daily. This is just a case of a "grumpy" neighbor who I feel, as a neighbor, mishandled the situation. Thanks again for sharing your point of view!
noreply April 14, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Being a Mom, you probably know the first names of most of the kids in your neighborhood. We have no children, are in our early 50's, and have lived here for 14 years. I couldn't pick the neighborhood teenagers out in a line up if I had to. They truely all look the same to me. In your article you mention that "Two new friends were here". To have grabbed a firearm and call the sheriff, it sure sounds like the neighbor felt threatened. Kids do stupid things. Hopefully they learned a lesson.
Cindy Butson April 14, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Yes Barry I do know who my neighbors are including couples without children. One of my closest neighbors is a couple just like you. I think it's important to get to know your neighbors, some of whom will have a lot in common with you and some who will not. And yes kids do stupid things! And they all learned a lot that day. (By the way for argument's sake, yes 2 new kids were here but had been playing with the group - again a common sight here - and he also threatened a neighborhood boy not on his property as well as forcing 3 others, who walked down the street looking for them, to come onto his property and lectured them letting them all go before the sheriff arrived - he knew who they were). I just think it's a bit scary for a law to protect people who might act before thinking, act impulsively or otherwise act out of paranoia.
Lori Lohr April 16, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I just read this article. My oldest child was one of the kids at the party. However, he was not one of the kids held captive by the neighbor. Just for clarification, it was daylight when the kids were playing and the neighbor, who has lived here as long as we all have, knows these boys and has seen them dressed in their camp and playing airsoft in the woods on a regular basis.
Miles Baumen April 17, 2012 at 03:13 AM
The kids shouldn't have been on his property. Period. You knew from past experiences that he was a "grumpy" neighbor (since when does wanting privacy and no strange kids on your lawn make you grumpy?) So it seems to me that the kids (and their parents) are the ones at fault. Also, you (none of us) have any idea what actually happened in the Martin/Zimmerman case. All we know is what the media immediately reported (and that seems to be a situation of reporting without all the facts) and attempted to sensationalize. Let's wait for the facts to come out in the trial before we say poor little Treyvon or bad ol' Zimmerman.
Norm April 17, 2012 at 02:12 PM
I am a gun owner and I have a license to carry, so I am very pro-gun rights. Having said that, *if* (and that's a big IF) the deputy wrote up his report with that exact language, I believe he was wrong. The stand your ground law in Georgia is very specific that you must believe that you or another person is in danger of great bodily harm or death. If the guy came out of his house and knew they were kids (from the prior incident), he was wrong to brandish his weapon. I'm not excusing the kids from possibly trespassing...and I do know that airsoft guns look very very real, especially at a distance. But changing the stand your ground law is not the answer, it's already pretty clear.
Cindy Butson April 17, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Miles, I agree the kids shouldn't have been on his property. The previous experience I mentioned - they were not on his property. I used the word "grumpy" because that's the nicest way I could describe it. "Wanting privacy and no strange kids on your lawn" - I can understand that Why choose a home in a nieghborhood with kids though if you don't like them? Again, I know it's coming so I'll say, they have no right to be on your property. Forcing other kids looking for their friends onto your property - I have a problem with that but they weren't my kids so it's not my battle. I do not know all the facts in the Martin/Zimmerman case but I do know it's a fact that 911 was called (unless the media, as you say, is somehow mis-reporting) and Zimmerman was told not to pursue Trayvon. That is what sparked the writing of my article. I just don't want to see "shoot first ask questions later".
Cindy Butson April 17, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Thank you for responding Norm. I really appreciate your "voice of reason". This was an eye-opening incident for us and the kids in the neighborhood. There is definitely no excuse for the fact that they were trespassing - they certainly know better. No exaggeration "the parents of the juveniles were concerned about the mere fact a rifle was brandished at their children". Anyway, I just wanted to make the point that some people are NOT responsible gun owners. People do make mistakes.
Brian Saunier April 18, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Sounds like he is very responsible. He didn't shoot your child and he taught your child a lesson you should have taught him long ago.
Cindy Butson April 18, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Brain, I have to say I don't appreciate the personal attack on my parenting skills. Did you read the article? It was NOT my child. And I do not think it is responsible for an adult to point a weapon at a child for ANY reason.
noreply April 18, 2012 at 07:39 PM
"And I do not think it is responsible for an adult to point a weapon at a child for ANY reason." If someone under the age of 18 broke in to my home and was threatening my family with bodily harm, I would use the same defensive measures as if they were over 18. Age of the attacker does not matter when the victim is facing bodily harm. I don't care if they are 12 years old.
Brian Saunier April 18, 2012 at 08:11 PM
A 15 year old in full cameo with a gun that looks realistic can easily look like a adult and frankly who cares if it was an adult or a teen, I am not going to ask someone how old they are if I feel my life or the lives of my family are in danger. The laws in Georgia support the homeowner, you freely admitted this neighbor had made a "Stink" before you should have told all teens to stay away from that house and property. His "Stink" before was probably a warning to stay off his property, he apparently got feed up from multiple offenses committed by your child and his friends. Post the Sheriff's report please.
Angela Chao (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Hey guys, we appreciate all the comments and your willingness to share your opinions. We do want to kindly remind everyone that Patch is s community platform, and we'd like to keep things civil and respectful. We all have different views, and it's a great thing we're voicing and sharing them, but no need to turn the conversation into personal attacks. Thanks again for all the input! Let's be respectful to our neighbors, even in the cyberspace.
Cindy Butson April 20, 2012 at 12:21 AM
If there is anything else you guys want to take out of context and argue over, you can have the last word. My final statement is that I think this is a gray area (feeling threatened) and I think most juries would see this as a gray area. Maybe you'd like to give your opinion on other "mom column" topics like "Encouragement in the Midst of Defeat" or "We Are a Work in Progress" or "Make Time for Breakfast". Though, seriously, warn me because if it is anywhere near anything positive, I'll be floored! May you find something better to do than personally attack the writer of a mom's column because her opinion differs from yours.
noreply April 20, 2012 at 03:00 AM
The only reason I found this article was because it was a Tweet from acworth.patch.com. I don't subscribe to any patch tweets anymore. I can't think of a more opinionated subject in the Kennesaw / Acworth area than "Moms, children, firearms, and self-defense" I did find some stats at teenhelp.com "Violent crims are committed by teens every year. The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center (1) provides these statistics on teen violence regarding violent crimes:  In 2000, about 1,561 youth under the age of 18 were arrested for homicide.  In 2000, nine percent of the murders in the United States were committed by persons under the age of 18.  One in ten teens arrested has been engaging in a violent activity that could have resulted in the serious injury or the death of another person."
Bruce Guercio December 24, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Way back in the late 50's and early 60's, as kids, we used to walk from our street to the main drag where the local stores were located. Our normal path took us across the front lawn of this very old lady's house/ small farm. Of course we always made it a point to walk on her lawn. Simply because she would yell at us from her window to get off her property or she would shoot us with salt pellets. We would walk on her grass, and she would fire off the salt shot at us. We thought is was great fun, even if we were to get some pellets in our skin which would burn/sting for days after. When our parents found out about our actions, we were always yelled at and punished for bothering the lady. Never once did any of our parents blame her. We were always made to go and apologize to her for our bad behavior. As I got older, I realized how wrong our actions were, and have always tried to respect other peoples property after then. I truly believe, that the escalation of violence is partly the result of parents, attacking others for their children's wrongful actions. Teachers are blamed for "Johnny's" bad behavior in class, or his failing grades. Adult neighbors are accused of being mean/grumpy just because they don't want kids running over their yards. Therefore, these kids feel they can act, do or say anything disrespectful to adults because their parents will take their side and defend their actions.

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