One month ago today, George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But Zimmerman has not been arrested in the case because he says he shot in self-defense. Since then, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law — allowing use of deadly force if there is a “reasonable belief” it is necessary to “prevent death or great bodily harm” — has come under fire. The National Rifle Association lobbied heavily for the Florida law, which passed in 2005, and has continued to push for similar laws across the nation.
So far, 25 states have approved Florida-style “Stand Your Ground” measures, and the NRA is not backing down from its support for such laws even after Martin’s tragic death. This legislative session, legislators in another five states are considering turning the self-defense legislation into law in their own states:
ALASKA: After the state House approved the bill, the Alaska Senate is now debating the measure that would expand the right to use lethal force as a means of self-defense — just like the Florida law. An assistant district attorney spoke out against the bill during a hearing earlier this month, telling senators that it is a “bad idea.” “It will do nothing to enhance the safety of law-abiding gun owners,” said James Fayette. What it will do is make it more difficult for me and my colleagues to convict violent criminals.”
IOWA: The state House has approved a Florida-style bill that’s now pending in the Senate. Before the House passed the bill earlier this month, Democrats fled the Iowa Capitol ahead of the vote to protest Republicans bringing the bill up for a vote. It’s likely the legislation will be blocked on procedural grounds, but state Rep. Matt Windschitl (R) says he will reintroduce it.
MASSACHUSETTS: A legislator in Massachusetts introduced a self-defense bill that would allow people to use “guns, knives, baseball bats or other deadly force if they feel threatened or think someone else is endangered.” Sen. Stephen Brewer (D), who introduced the bill, said it’s a matter of allowing people to protect themselves, but another state Democrat, Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, said he fears it would become a “shoot first and ask questions later law.”
Along with the NRA, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has pushed for these “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country. In response to ALEC’s role, a coalition is pressuring the organization’s corporate sponsors to stop funding ALEC’s “reckless agenda” that harm communities.