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LETTER: Chairman's comments on 'stand your ground' divisive

According to the Rockdale County Probate Court, in 2013 there were 1,722 applicants for a Georgia Weapons License (GWL) in Rockdale County. The highest number of applicants in 12 years. Considering the number of applicants from 2010 to 2013, it’s fair to assume that 5 percent of Rockdale County’s population has a GWL, and that falls in line with the percentage estimated for the entire state of Georgia.

“Stand your ground” laws seem to be a hot topic in today’s politics. Unfortunately, our local politics are not immune.

Stand-your-ground means there is no duty to retreat before using force, including deadly force, in self-defense. However, a person who is at fault, in initiating violence, must retreat and does not have the right of standing his or her ground. This premise is based on common law that dates back to the days when Georgia was still an English colony, and was affirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court in 1898 in the case of Glover v. State, 105 Ga. 597.

In 2006 the Georgia General Assembly codified the common law of Georgia and merely maintained the status quo. Today, Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 16-3-21) clearly states “a person is not justified in using force if he initially provokes the use of force against himself….” “Stand your ground” under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 16-3-23.1) states that a person using force in self-defense has “no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground.”

And that brings me to the closing comments of the Board of Commissioners meeting on Feb. 18 when Chairman Richard Oden issued a warning to “his” young folks about stand your ground laws. He said; “Be careful. Be careful out there. It’s an attempt to challenge you so someone can stand their ground.”

I will agree with the chairman that young folks do need to be careful out there. I was a young folk once myself, and yes my chest bowed out a little too much, too. But it didn’t take me long to learn my actions have consequences, and I learned a very valuable lesson in courtesy, respect and honor.

So while the chairman is warning young folks, I want to plead to the parents of those young folks to teach their children courtesy, respect, honor, and that actions have consequences.

But the chairman’s assertion that it’s open season on young folks and the idea that people who are interested in protecting themselves and their loved ones from violent crime will go around challenging others just so they can “stand their ground” is ludicrous at best.

While there are many types of self-defense, the phrase “stand your ground” is often associated with firearms. Let us not forget; to legally carry a firearm outside your home, car, or place of business, one must have a Georgia Weapons License (GWL). In order to get a GWL, one must pay the appropriate fees, pass a criminal background check, and in some counties like Rockdale pass a mental background check. In other words, one must be a stable law-abiding citizen to get a license to carry a firearm.

The chairman’s comments seemed to be designed to put young folks in fear of law-abiding citizens. The very citizens they should try emulate. And I, for one, wish he would stop trying to divide our community with such erroneous comments.

Arthur J. Kidney

Conyers