Quick definition to get on the same page: "stand-your-ground law states that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense without an obligation to retreat first" (wikipedia)

This question is interesting because of Mill's ideas on Liberty and the government's limitations. One of the questions that I feel will need to be answered is: Does the government have the right to impose an obligation to retreat?

Mill's utilitarian views are also interesting because objectively their is a lot of unhappiness that has come from having or not having the law. In states without the law people may have been killed who could have survived, in states with the law people have been killed who could have survived had the other person retreated, etc. While both of those statements may be debate (don't) the important part is that there is a lot of unhappiness surrounding the laws.

Also I know that King would argue that a law that discriminates is inherently an immoral law. Does Mill have any reservations about discriminatory law? (please assume it is discriminatory)

Edit: Removed several pleas to remain civil basically equating to: this is not a debate on stand-your-ground laws. Thanks @iphigenie

  • I don't think your question is subjective, it fits here quite nicely. Do you mind deleting the repeated appeals not to debate? It's not part of your question but a standard rule here...
    – iphigenie
    Apr 28 '14 at 15:29
  • 1
    "Removed several pleas to remain civil ..." -- Can't have any of that around here!!
    – user4894
    Apr 28 '14 at 17:35

First, stand-your-ground laws actually protect the right to not retreat; they're codifying that a person need not attempt retreat from a situation in order to have a valid self-defense argument. Basically, they're deliberately throwing out any argument based on an individual having an obligation to retreat.

Second, the necessary statistical work to make an argument from utility for these laws or against them is hard to get. We can catalog deaths in locales with the various rulings, but any attempt to say "X deaths would have been prevented" solely from statistics is an assumption. This is because you would have to know the consequences of a different choice in a complex situation with multiple actors in order to make a factual statement that the death could have been prevented.

Third, if you replace "obligation to retreat" with "obligation to attempt de-escalation", you have the basis of civil society. The precise extent of de-escalation one is obligated to do is the crux of the question - the "retreat" phrasing implies that one is obligated to attempt all possible means of de-escalation before using lethal force in self-defense.

Last, assuming these laws are discriminatory is a tricky position to hold. The law, as defined, does not specifically bar anyone from anything outside of a conflict. I could still literally walk around with an arsenal regardless of whether this law is on the books, legality unchanged. The law only applies to measures taken to avoid the use of lethal force - it does not affect the means by which I might use lethal force.

  • Your first point doesn't really answer a question, you sort of reworded the quote from wikipedia. Could you provide more information for why that change is significant? I like your second point. In your third point are you arguing that Mill would say that is the basis of a civil society? Lastly I wasn't trying to hold that position I was wondering if that would affect Mill's view of the law as it might King's.
    – wesman16
    Apr 29 '14 at 3:50
  • I can't tell which parts of this answer directly relate to Mill's work, and which are the conclusions of the reponder.
    – Dave
    Apr 29 '14 at 19:53

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