'Stand Your Ground Laws': An Unfortunate Necessity

There was just an incident in Florida where, under the old standard, the shooter might well have had to defend himself against manslaughter charges. But because Florida has adopted a "stand your ground" law, he won’t be going to trial. This seems to be almost exactly the set of facts that I would want to see in every "stand your ground" case.

A 49-year-old man named Charles Podany had been concerned about speeders in his residential neighborhood. He was out bicycling and asked a man in a pickup truck to slow down. The driver, Evin Aguayo, took the request well. Someone else did not:

The encounter turned deadly after the driver's drunken friend began beating Podany, 49. As Casey Landes, 24, landed on top of Podany and readied his fist to strike again, Podany shot him in the head with a .40-caliber Glock.

Startlingly, Aguayo’s statement guaranteed that Podany would not be tried for the death of Landes, Aguayo’s best friend.

Aguayo, 21, told investigators that Landes was the aggressor in the confrontation and that Podany never hit back.

“You never saw (Mr. Podany) take a swing at him?” a sheriff's detective asked Aguayo.

"Never," Aguayo responded, adding, "Not one time. Not one single swing."

There was a large discrepancy in size and strength. Landes was 24 years old, 6’1” and 192 pounds; Podany was 49, 5’8” and 180 pounds. Even better for Podany, Aguayo described Landes’ stated goal: “Aguayo told deputies his friend thought it was ‘cool to beat up an old man.’” Landes was also very drunk (0.28 percent blood alcohol level) and had a prior conviction for aggravated battery three years ago, as well as other arrests that had not led to convictions. (I wish that I could say that Podany has a little halo and angel wings, but the article reports that Podany pleaded no contest to an aggravated assault with a weapon charge in 1999.) Still, at least as this story is reported, Landes is the sort of bully who needs to be afraid, not just for the benefit of Podany, but for others who might cross a bully like this.

I’m not happy about situations like this. I wish that Podany had the halo and angel wings that I want every gun owner to have. I wish that bullies like Landes could get some sense knocked into them by the age of 24, so that they didn’t think it was “cool to beat up an old man.” But in a society that has largely abandoned any effort to encourage civilized behavior, "stand your ground" laws seem to be an ugly but unavoidable necessity.