Tennessee's "Stand Your Ground" law being debated - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Tennessee's "Stand Your Ground" law being debated

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Tennessee is one of 25 states with the "Stand Your Ground" law that says in certain areas, you can use deadly force in self-defense. It's a law many activists are pushing to repeal, following the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.
   
Channel 3 compared Tennessee's law with the one in Florida and found they are very similar. Both include one major detail that's at the center of debate.

"You can't approach a person and draw your gun. I just think there are too many wannabe cops," Sally Petersen says.

Sally Petersen is a gun enthusiast, but not when it comes to carrying it around for self-defense, and she doesn't support neighborhood watch volunteers doing it, like in the case of George Zimmerman.

"No valid neighborhood watch program, including ours, ever advocates participants to go armed and do the job of police," Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond says.

Shooter's Depot owner John Martin says the number of people buying guns for self-defense has dramatically increased in the last few years.

"I don't think I've ever seen a period in my life where there was a greater interest about personal protection," John Martin says.

The question is, when, and where can you use that gun, and not be held liable?

Tennessee's "Stand Your Ground" law allows gun owners to use deadly force if they believe they're in danger of death or serious injury. The threat also has to occur in areas surrounding your home that are habitually used by your family, a structure on your property with a roof, like a porch or tent, in your residence or vehicle.

Those locations appear the same in Florida's law.    

"We train the people to be the eyes and ears of the community, to observe what's going on and report it to the proper authorities and let us do the job," Sheriff Hammond says.

Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman claims he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense. Neither Tennessee nor Florida's laws allow the gun owner to pursue the person. That means if they're not coming toward them, they can't shoot.

There's a national outcry for Zimmerman to stand trial.

If he does, he'd have to prove he's covered by the "Stand Your Ground" law, as it would be in Tennessee, by shooting in one of those areas, believing his life was in danger and that Martin was coming at him.

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