Here's what Americans know about Stand Your Ground laws: Not only are they a disaster waiting to happen, they are a disaster that has already cost an innocent boy his life.
Florida's foolish law was the reason it took so long for authorities to charge George Zimmerman with the murder of Trayvon Martin and almost certainly the reason Zimmerman felt empowered enough to carry a gun in his needless confrontation with Trayvon.
These dangerous laws are in effect in 24 states and, if Sen. George D. Maziarz has his way, New York will become the 25th. In fact, that is unlikely to happen, since there is no similar bill in the Assembly and even Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says there are no plans to take up the bill.
Still, Maziarz, R-Newfane, stubbornly defends this legislation. Opponents across the state have called on him to drop it, but he won't.
Maybe he thought the bill made sense when he first introduced it four years ago. More likely -- since the bill makes no sense -- it was a favor to the National Rifle Association, which has pushed for these reckless laws around the country.
Stand Your Ground laws are a pointless expansion of the right to self-defense. They have nothing to do with gun ownership or with reasonably protecting yourself or your family. What they say is that armed people have no duty to safely retreat if they fear for their safety in a place they are entitled to be. They are allowed to shoot first.
Zimmerman was where he was entitled to be, but so was the 17-year-old Trayvon. As a neighborhood watch captain, Zimmerman should not have been armed, but he was. He claims the teen attacked him. The state of Florida says Zimmerman committed murder.
A law like this has no place on the books of New York State and, fortunately, there is no real prospect that it will find its way in. But we expect legislators to be responsible in the laws they recommend. Maziarz has been a strong and effective senator for Western New York, so his devotion to so terrible a law is as puzzling as it is troubling.
Maybe he just sees it as a freebie. Since it is all but impossible for the law to pass in New York, perhaps he thinks the greater risk to him is to let down those who unaccountably support the measure. It makes a certain strategic sense, as long as you're willing to disregard the fact that Stand Your Ground laws are both dangerous and unnecessary.
Here's what one former prosecutor told a Florida newspaper about the state's Stand Your Ground law, even before Trayvon was slain: "It is an abomination," said former Broward County prosecutor David Frankel. "The ultimate intent might be good, but in practice, people take the opportunity to shoot first and say later they had a justification. It almost gives them a free pass to shoot."
That is what Maziarz is endorsing, whether he knows it or not. He should rethink his position.