Tuesday, August 14, 2012

George Zimmerman and the Right to Violence (Conclusion)

This is the conclusion of a four-part series. Parts one, two and three are available here, here and here. A final, complete version with citations will be made available on SSRN.

The Right to Violence    

      The Martin incident provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge that it is not only life and liberty that this country protects as fundamental, but violence too. In Griswold v. Connecticut, Justice William Douglas found a right to privacy emanating from constitutional penumbras. Perhaps there are penumbras in this story too. A right to violence is writ large, not just in our common law and code books, but in our homes and streets. Those among us who would like the state to consolidate its monopoly on violence, or who at least hope to curb self-defense, must first recognize just how commanding the right to violence is.    

      With Zimmerman in the spotlight, Americans can take a hard look at their justice system. Though a confluence of factors has brought rates of violence down in the United States, we continue to lag behind countries close to us in political and economic development in homicide rates. The holy trinity of the right to violence–self-defense rights, the Second Amendment and the under-prosecution of assault–is as strong as ever.

      Among these, remedying the third represents America’s best hope at turning the tide. By ignoring most perpetrators of violence, our justice system simply encourages this country’s Zimmermans to get out of their cars and into conflict.

      Why back down, when you have the law on your side?