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This essay suggests that the expressive impact of Stand Your Ground laws alters the shared norms governing our collective understanding of the moral limits of “self-defense.” The essay argues that the theory of Legal Expressivism can explain the widespread misunderstanding of the limits of self-defense, as demonstrated by the institutional and popular reactions to the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. To support this thesis, the piece briefly explains Stand Your Ground statutes and legal expressivism. It then details the nature of the expressive function of these statutes and asserts that Massachusetts, which recently considered the adoption of such a provision, should reject this change principally to rebuff the symbolic message these laws convey.

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